Photo: Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock

The 7 Enigmas of Travel

by Karen Amato Schwartz Feb 8, 2008

Travel produces a special feeling – one that can’t be replicated by any other means. When a person anticipates traveling or is en-route, a different mindset begins to take form.

The “travel feeling” is as elusive as steam; we know it when we feel it, but it’s impossible to retain.

Traveling isn’t the same as commuting to work or school; there’s a lot more involved in the psychology of getting from point A to point B.

However, when people try to experience it upon returning home, the “travel feeling” is as elusive as steam; we know it when we feel it, but it’s impossible to retain.

This quirk probably occurred even back when young men were told to go West; in fact, the human condition, satisfied with familiarity, has always viewed the unpredictability of travel as bordering between thrilling and unknown. Some may consider that feeling an engima:

mystery: something that baffles understanding and cannot be explained

Here are 7 other engimas of travel that cannot fully be explained:

Enigma #1 – You must stay away for a day

The first enigma is that, if a person packs a suitcase, travels as little as 50 miles, and spends even one night away from home, it’s considered more “traveling” than a day trip that’s 100 miles round-trip that takes 15 hours total.

It’s probably because we’ll be temporarily removed from our usual environment, which, as such, makes it more of an “adventure.”

Engima #2 – Fear is your motivation

The second enigma is that wanting to conquer travel fears may be the motivation for some people to travel further, more often, and for longer durations.

There’s a realization that fate can play a part in any travel plans. For some, this is exhilarating (“I may meet the person of my dreams”) while for others, it’s nerve-wracking (“What if the weather turns bad? What if my luggage gets lost?”)

Perhaps it’s the sense of not having control when traveling; regardless of technology, there are still numerous unknowns associated with picking up and going somewhere.

Enigma #3 – Travel teaches patience

Travel requires flexibility, and even the most well-planned itinerary will likely need to be changed. A portion of travelers view this as fun-they’re the ones who see the glass as half full instead of half empty.

However, the remaining travelers may eventually acquire that outlook after a number of unexpected situations. Enigma number three is that, even while providing excitement, travel has a way of teaching patience. It’s nothing if not humbling.

Enigma #4 – How much or little to pack

After travelers decide what to take with them, the first problem is how to pack it. The next is how to store it when they get to where they’re going, make sure it’s safe, and then bring it all back.

Many people give up on the theory of traveling light. They think, “If it will make my trip more pleasant, why not take it?” This is not to say that bringing enough to cover any emergency makes the trip better or worse.

We’re forced to consider the possibility that we really don’t need as much as we think we do

Travel enigma number four is that there will always be a debate between how little to take to fill one’s needs, and what will increase the trip’s enjoyment. (Even cavemen traveling south for the winter probably thought twice about the number of animal skins they should lug with them.)

We’re forced to consider the possibility that we really don’t need as much as we think we do, even if we plan on buying more stuff at our destination…

Enigma #5 – Cheap plastic souvenirs

Which leads us to the fifth enigma: People spend a lot of travel time looking for souvenirs. Couldn’t the time spent searching for items to remember a trip be better spent in ways to make the trip even more memorable?

Buying souvenirs for friends or family makes this even more enigmatic, because recipients can’t possibly connect any memories with salt water taffy or T-shirt. Yet, just like sending postcards, this practice is a big part of many trips.

Enigma #6 – You Take Home With You

People want getaways, but they don’t want to get away from their unique forms of comfort-the sixth travel enigma.

One of the most interesting facts of travel is that, although people want new places and surroundings, they also want to bring “home” with them.

They prefer to sleep on the same side of the bed as back home. They like to arrange their toiletries just so, like in their own bathroom. They usually keep the same manner of dress, eating, and sleeping, give or take a little.

Enigma #7 – The value of the journey

The most intriguing travel enigma is that most people spend months anticipating and planning for a trip that lasts a week or less. That’s 1/52 of our lives.

Isn’t it funny how such a small amount time has the ability to bring focus, relief and even “meaning” to people? We must have an innate desire for a mental break from our normal situations, and travel’s rejuvenating properties offers just that.

It allows people to actually make some of their dreams come true, whether those dreams are based on luxury, roughing it, reconnection with family, or simply remembering what it’s like to be unencumbered by chores and work.

The seventh enigma is that, despite travel’s potential inconveniences, it’s always well worth it!

What do you think about the enigmas of travel? Any other traits you can’t explain?

Karen Amato Schwartz worked in corporate management and dance education before starting her freelance writing career. She has written for Agora Gallery, ARTisSpectrum Magazine, Blooming Boomer, Blue Diamond News, Worth Remembering and Keen Publications. She currently contributes to the World Learning Network, Revive Your Life, ARS Compendium and Article Authors from her home in Pittsburgh.

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