Recently I was part of an article in the New York Times (Oohhh get me), the premise being, why do people continue to travel given all the current disturbances and upheavals in the world?
The link to the article is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/14/travel/the-age-of-the-resilient-traveler.html?_r=2
I spoke to the journalist for about 45 minutes on the phone, plus some email correspondence too, and after it was actually set into print, I asked myself some of the questions that he’d asked me, as I’d never really considered most of them before.
I’ve had the goal for a long time to visit every country in the world, and with over 100 already done I’m well on the way. But why? What is it that drives me (for I am truly driven) to achieve this goal?
I was born into a military family, my dad was in the Navy so as a kid we moved to different countries as well as different parts of the UK. I can remember several different houses before I then too joined the military, where I was very lucky to travel widely, not always to obvious tourist resorts clearly,
but to places where very few others get to go. It would be logical to suggest that the wanderlust is almost genetic, certainly was foisted upon me at a young age, but then, my three sisters dont seem to have the same urges. I currently live in France, and whilst two of the three do take foreign holidays, they dont appear to have the overriding urge to travel.
I appreciate that not everyone shares my love. Last summer I drove the 300km’s from home to The Isle d’Oleron on the west coast of France. I was there in the company of some of my best friends, including a couple that were there for their first time. Over a few beers on the first evening, I found out that these 300km’s were the furthest these two had ever travelled from home in their lives. But, and here’s the rub, my incomprehension at their lack of travelling was mirrored by their own at my insatiable urge to leave the comforts of my own home.
So what drives me?
I’m not particularly someone who has a compulsive personality, I’m quite happy to allow things to go on around me without feeling the need to join in, I can start things without finishing them (there are at least four novels on this very computer in various stages of abandonment) and I dont really have a passion for what some may deem to be a “normal” pastime. And yet, the urge to see pastures new burns deep. I’m typing this in Mauritania in west Africa, and will be heading home to France for the new year celebrations before coming back early in January. During that time, I’ve worked out I’ve got 72 hours spare, and I’ve been desperately searching for a trip I could make to somewhere I’ve not yet visited. Why? I work abroad for four weeks before coming home for four weeks off. During my time off, one would think I’d be lounging around at home, tending the garden, catching up with friends and drinking too much. Whilst I do all of that, I always get at least one trip somewhere too, either a short city break or a longer holiday, depending on my partner’s work schedule.
Since I did that interview and read the piece, I’ve spent a long time thinking about it and have come to one primary conclusion. Although I’m happy for the world to pass me by without ever really feeling I need to join in, I have an insatiable curiosity for anything I dont know. If I dont know something, it gnaws away at me until I do. I think that above all, its nosiness that makes me pack my bags and head off to foreign climes to see things.
Buried deep within me is something that makes me want to know everything. A recent trip to Dublin (which I’d heard of) introduced me to Trinity College (which I’d heard of) and the Book of Kells (which I hadn’t). A beautiful thing, which, once I’d seen it, I researched in depth once I got back home.
In Ho Chi Minh this summer, a few hours spent talking to these gentlemen about the city, the country and their lives told me so much more than I’d ever have known about Vietnam otherwise.
The world is getting smaller all the time, and yet its huge. There is so much that I still dont know, and it niggles me, it makes me itch and in the end I need to scratch it.
The wonders of the world, I dont mean the seven that we’ve all heard of, but the definition of the wonders of the world are probably different for all of us. I’m at my happiest being in a dingy café somewhere, in a place I’ve never been, eating local food, often prepared in conditions that wouldn’t pass too many hygiene tests in the over sanitised west, talking to someone I dont know.
The last line in the NYT piece is important in my reasoning too. Although I grew up moving every few years, so do tens of thousands of others and they dont have the same desires as me. I really do believe travel, like most other passions, is innate. If you’re born with it, you get it, if you’re not, you dont. That innate need to travel, coupled with my inherent curiosity is why I travel. And long may it continue.