4 Years of Travel across the Seas of Opinions
Four years ago, I thought that travel was pointless, or at least optional.
It was nearing the end of my two years in National Service, and over two months till the start of university. But I was in no mood to travel. Those years after JC were my most socially withdrawn. I could not stop thinking, thinking in abstract ways about what I want to be, what I want to do, such that the process became a form of travel in itself, which is surely better than those aimless walks in shopping markets, and makes me wonder whether it is really necessary to travel to discover yourself, because I think I am doing it already without leaving my house.
Three years ago, I thought that travel must not be allowed to become tourism.
I had completed a module on the Sociology of Tourism, and was in Laos as a volunteer. The ideas of participant observation and volunteer tourism swirled in my head. I was still thinking in abstractions. I was too conscious of my own notions of what is right and not right, such that I could not immerse myself in the culture I was in, with the people I was with. I was too inwardly conscious, thus outwardly rather absent.
Two years ago, I thought that travel should be a project of accommodation.
I was needed to take on the mantle of planning family trips, and to my own surprise I was finally mentally ready for it. I was not socialized into the norms of planning trips, if there were any. I was a clean slate. And since travel was no necessity for me but an interesting extra, I opted for democracy in decisions. It proved extremely tiresome though, as no one would make the decisions. I scrutinized commuting routes and planned itineraries. I felt my efforts went unappreciated, and so the newfound excitement fizzled out.
One year ago, I thought that travel can indeed rejuvenate one’s life.
I was on a semester-long student exchange to Australia. I had essentially outgrown my mental obsessions, and travelled with intent to immerse more than I did in Laos. I spent less time thinking—except for the exciting coursework—and more time interacting with my Singaporean/HK cliques. I had to shop for groceries and prepare my own meals. It was a clean break from accrued frustrations in Singapore, and I felt free. Yet I found it hard to open up to my foreign hall mates, because that required conscious effort from someone trying to be less inwardly conscious.
Today, I think that travel is simply what we make out of it.
Do I like travel? Yes, I do. As much as I think freedom should be found within the constraints of everyday life, a temporary change in environment can greatly help. A hedonistic approach to travel is not ideal, but I cannot blame people for the daily stresses which make them want to escape. I do think that one should be accommodating when travelling in groups, though for ourselves we should learn to negotiate in advance the space for privacy or independent exploration. Travel should lead us into new possibilities.
What about you? Has your relationship with travel changed over the years?