How To Truly Travel

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Being local has its benefits. If your particular locality has long since been developed, with plenty of accommodations, then there should be many places to go, and many things to see. And in the case of a not so developed locality, well, perhaps that may be for the best, as not everyone prefers an urbanized environment. Yet, depending on the personality of the person, any local environment can grow stale, like a familiar coat that needs to be aired out. Rather than a night out on the town, maybe the next best thing to do would be to travel.

Proponents of travel (a.k.a. vacation enthusiasts) have long since boasted of the benefits of the game. It is a unanimous belief that, when a person immerses themselves in a location far from their own locality, they feel unburdened by their usual worries. This sense of displacement can be attributed to psychological impulses: the farther we are away from familiar places, the more removed we feel from our sensations attributed to that place, which manifest in several ways (stress being one of the negative manifestations). The flipside to this belief is that travel can give a person an uncomfortable sense of displacement. This may prove to be the reverse effect of travel, where instead of feeling unburdened, a new burden emerges: anxiety. This can lead to homesickness.

Yet homesickness may speak more about the traveler than it does about travel. It is most often a natural side effect, and will wear itself out to any seasoned traveler. When approached openly and with little sense of fear, travel can be one of the most liberating experiences. To the cynical, local homebody, it may not seem like much; but fly from Wisconsin to the plains of China and a vast, previously unfelt sensation will convince even the hardest cynics otherwise. That grandiose moment of cleansing clarity is to be had exploring places not yet explored, and visiting locales vastly different from your own. Imagine, for instance, that most fiction books, of any genre, preoccupy their characters with mandatory travel. Even the very idea of voluntary displacement has become a creative symbol for enlightenment and as-of-yet undiscovered happiness.

Commonplace travelers keep to the white line. This ‘white line’ is an imaginary line drawn on tourist maps. A guide it may be, and helpful, too; but it is reserved for the tourist, and not the traveler. The difference, you ask? A tourist will visit new places the way a person may visit the local zoo: to arouse their curiosities from a safe distance. Travelers are not as spoon-fed, and so will visit a place according to their desires. To them, there exists no white line. They do not observe culture; they participate.

Because to travel, to truly travel, requires the utmost participation of the traveler. No one can be enlightened in what they do not participate in. As veterans have discovered, traveling is not merely about ‘seeing new places.’ It is about how ‘new places’ see you; enlightenment arrives in the form of your reaction.