Travel is a State of Mind
Have you ever stopped to wonder why you have the urge to travel? To pack a bag and take off for a weekend, a week, a fortnight? Over time we have come to see it as our right to travel. But maybe travel is simply a state of mind.
Straight after university, almost 20 years ago, I spent 6 months travelling around South East Asia. I discovered new places, new people, cultures, language, food, wildlife, landscapes… I wanted to discover it all. Looking back all these years later, I now know that some of the experiences on that trip shaped my life from that point forward. I became a different person, a better person, because of that travel experience. It wasn’t a holiday. I didn’t stay in fancy hotels or go for extravagant meals. In fact, for those 6 months I lived on the tightest budget of my life! But it was the richest time I’ve ever had. Why was that?
And more to the point, does it really matter how far or where you travel to? Or could it be that travel is simply a state of mind?
We’re not going anywhere… for a while
Right now we’re living through an exceptional situation, the likes of which we haven’t experienced for generations. For the first time in our modern Western lives, our freedom to physically travel has been taken away. And lets face it, we don’t like it.
But it’s unlikely that this will change anytime soon. International travel as we know it isn’t expected to return for quite some time. No-one knows quite how long, but some reports suggest air travel won’t return to 2019 levels until 2024. That’s right, 2024.
We don’t have a crystal ball, As far as I know, no-one does. But what does seem certain is that we need to adjust the way we think about travel. Because whichever way you look at it, it’s going to be different for quite some time.
Why do we travel anyway?
We recently asked our customers why they travel and whether their priorities had changed during this time of ‘lockdown’. Interestingly, the destination didn’t feature once.
It seems that when we stop to think about what we truly want from our travel experience, it’s to experience a whole range of things, which seem to be connected by a desire to feel something rather than be somewhere. The feedback we received included things like:
- finding headspace
- recharging or re-energising
- reconnecting with friends and family
- making new connections
- cultural inspiration
- appreciating what you have when you return home
So does it matter where we travel to?
With all this talk of how we want our travel experience to make us feel and an absence of where we actually want to go, have we been getting travel wrong all this time? Looking back, almost every holiday conversation I’ve ever had has started with the words “Where shall we go this year?”. Maybe I’ve been asking the wrong question all this time!
Perhaps what I should have been asking is “What do we need from our time out?”. Maybe once we’d answered that question, we would have been better placed to choose a destination.
Is travel really about a change of scene?
So if travel is actually about the escape, the connections, the reconnections and the appreciation we have for what we know, it seems that the destination is just the facilitator. That new place, that change of scene, is the physical trigger that lets our minds open up to new possibilities and to new ways of being. Perhaps travel really is a state of mind.
This isn’t a new idea. Travel as a mindset has been explored and discussed for years. But until now it’s been too easy to dismiss the theories and carry on doing what we do: expressing our right to travel the world and visit new places. And we all believe travel broadens the mind, so it’s a positive thing to do. Right?
Of course it is. But it doesn’t mean that not being able to physically travel to far flung places is a negative. Or that you’ll lose your open-mindedness just because you can’t step foot outside your own country for a while. When I look back at my post-uni days travelling around SE Asia, it was the first time I’d ever encountered people, whole nations of people, who could not travel. The financial expense was far beyond their reach. Even the simple act of owning a passport was a privilege many knew they would never have. Yet they were some of the kindest, warmest, happiest and most open-minded people I have ever had the privilege to spend time with.
What does this mean for travel in 2020?
The conclusion I’ve reached is that we should shake off that feeling of missing out. Stop feeling sorry for ourselves that our plans are on hold. That we should stop seeing 2020 as the year we all want to write-off, while singing roll on 2021 so we can ‘get back to normal’!
Instead we should embrace the opportunity this dreadful situation has afforded us all. Yes, many terrible things are happening all around the world right now. People are losing loved ones. Countless jobs are being lost every day. Children are missing their school friends. But there are positives and we should actively seek them out, now more than ever.
And a great positive is to recognise what it is that we all love and crave about travel, adventure and exploration. We should recognise that we stand to gain so much more from it now that we realise it’s not just about flying to the far corners of the planet, creating giant carbon footprints and coming home to credit card bills that hang over us long after the suntan has faded. It’s about creating the environment we need to fulfil our basic instincts as the curious social beings that we are: learning, connecting, discovering and enjoying.
A staycation is as good as a vacation
So if you’re planning a staycation this year, don’t view it as a compromise. Don’t feel it’s second best, something to pass the time before you can jet off next year, or the year after or whenever it is we’re finally allowed to fly again. Take the opportunity to discover just how incredible the UK really is when you slow down and explore it in the way you would any other destination.
Remember, travel is a state of mind. And it’s to be enjoyed in any place where you can truly be yourself.