I owe a debt of gratitude to a class I took at Uni. For two hours, once a week, I would join a half dozen or so fellow students to discuss travel writing. I don’t know if my lecturer thought much of my contributions, but I came away with two key points that have significantly shaped my approach to travel.
The first point was that there is a difference between being a tourist and being a traveller. The contention was that whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with either, the later mindset can potentially bear a greater impact on the significance of a journey — shaping what one takes away form the experience. The second point was that the mindset of ‘being a traveller’ can be embraced locally as much as abroad. There is so much to learn and see in our own backyard.
Several years after that course, I found myself in Rwanda with a small group, meeting many local people who have since become close and dear friends. I realised another truth about travel, that underlined the points the class had taught me: that travel is fundamentally about awareness and understanding — of ourselves and of others. Understanding comes from perspective, perspective comes from empathy, and empathy comes from experience.
This is who I choose to be: a traveller, actively seeking personal growth, change and understanding, expanding my perspective on the world. I have not been everywhere, but the places I have visited I have absorbed and appreciated for all that they have given me. I try to embrace walking, eating slowly, pausing frequently, and seeking out authentic experiences.
To be a traveller is to be someone who learns from the world as they encounter it. Life is about the journey; the journey about people; and nothing is more precious than human life.
Here’s to change, new adventures, old friends and new friends. Onwards, together.