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What Does Travel Mean to You? (or, My Evolution as a Traveler)

by Carlo Alcos Mar 23, 2011
In which I attempt to capture my progression as a traveler, both physically and spiritually.

I JOINED THE TRAVEL CIRCUIT late in the game. I went on my first real travels abroad when I was 28 — a one-month Eurail tour of Western Europe. I followed that up with multi-month stints driving around Europe in a campervan, then traveling through Russia, Mongolia, China, and Vietnam, before settling for a couple years in Melbourne.

My last travels had me cycling in Cuba and Mexico, and before I came to Nelson, BC, I spent time on the East Coast in New York, Toronto, Montreal, and Nova Scotia.

As I get older and wiser my thoughts on travel changes. The most important aspect of it, I think, is the broadening of one’s perspective, the opening of the narrow mind. You really can’t know anything of the world unless you go out into it. Relying on other people’s accounts of what’s going on out there isn’t quite the same as experiencing it.

This isn’t to say that it’s “wrong” to not know anything of the world. Plenty of people are happy without ever leaving their hometowns. This is not a judgment call; I don’t feel a need to convince anyone to travel.

For me, though, this product of travel doesn’t have a linear growth. My mind doesn’t continue to expand at the same rate it used to when I’m in a foreign place. It was like there was an explosion when I first set out; my mind was literally blown. I started to look at life differently. I started asking more questions. Questions about things that we take for granted, that we couldn’t imagine otherwise. This is the gift that travel has given me.

The physical act of moving around has lost its novelty. Or maybe it’s just that I feel like sitting still for a while. To plant myself, insert myself into a community, and establish more solid connections. On the other hand — and this is something that travel has played a part in me realizing — I’ve also come to understand that things change all the time, and can change in an instant, when you least expect it.

So although I’m feeling like this right now, I’m open to the idea that life can take an unexpected turn at any moment. My travel these days has become an inner journey, a process in learning what life is about. A process in learning the art of vulnerability, of becoming happy within myself. Any physical act of travel nowadays becomes a method for me to learn more about myself.

I don’t know how selfish this sounds. ME. Thinking about myself. I feel, though, that when I am happy — when I love myself — that this is when I can better positively affect those around me. And in turn how that can affect others indirectly. Like a ripple that radiates from a rain drop.

So although the landscape has changed from the Mongolian steppe and the skyscrapers of New York, to the rocky and tumultuous (and often times precipitous) topography of my mind, the journey continues. And it always will.

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Your turn. How has travel evolved for you over the years?

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