“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” Paul Theroux
Last summer, me and my friend, a fresh graduate, were hanging around in a cafe. Between conversation, unexpectedly I posed the most disturbing question of all, his plans for future. He told me that he is not going to search for a job immediately as he wants to travel around for a year. Little taken aback, I requested him to make his point more clear. He said he wants to put the weariness of his graduation days behind and more importantly, post some pictures of himself in his motorcycle and attract some attention in social media like many of his friends. Wow! that is definitely some way to spend a year!
Nowadays it is difficult to find a non-traveller. Everyone seems to wander a lot. There is not one day that I can open Facebook without having to endure hash tags and photos with a motorcycle, shades and hand gestures that signifies victory and cheers. People who visit the unreachable destinations through formerly untrodden paths are increasing by day. The concept of journeying has come to a point of comical mass hysteria.
Call me an idiot but I am not a fan of moving around. Though I have travelled, I am not exactly travel material. My friends Msk (aka Manu) and Palakkad(a.k.a Akhil) used to say, “he cannot go beyond his threshold distance”. After lot of research and data acquisition, they almost accurately calculated my threshold distance to be 35 kilometres. Unfortunately past experiences have proven them right and I cannot contradict. The truth is that I feel cut off and lost when I leave my place. As a child, I used to be very home sick. May be I had a traumatic travel experience during infancy and it has affected my ‘travel nerve’. Hence wandering in an unknown land is very unsettling.
Sometimes I think that my feeling correlates with that of a tree. As a tree needs a stable place where it can exist and solemnly nourish itself, I need a familiar circumstance. I consider the relationships that I have acquired through years as my roots that run deep in the society and makes me prosper. Likewise, I feel the same pain as a tree would, when uprooted and moved to a different location. Even though some categorize this aversion towards travelling morbid, I can give some solid reasons for the anti-nomadic attitude.
Looking back at human history, our ancestors travelled only when it was necessary to find places with fertile soil and optimum climatic conditions, so that they can settle down and start cultivation. It was dangerous to wander in the open because of the weather conditions and predators. So, except for some few nomadic tribes, ancients travelled to next safest shelter only when it was an absolute necessity. Mostly in hope of finding enough food and resources. So it is de-facto not in our genes to travel for fun. Hence I can say with utmost certainty that you will not find a cave painting of a backpacking man with a thumbs up and a wink.
Secondly, I doubt how many people who dream about visiting distant lands have actually done that. If they had, they would know that travelling is an uncomfortable business. You have to be in a moving vehicle for long hours, enduring the harsh climate (assuming you are not rich enough to always travel in air-conditioned vehicles) and rough terrains. Those with motion sickness is guaranteed a hell of a time. Stomach cramps, headaches, dehydration and so on are just the some of the few distresses that will accompany to spice things up a little bit. Moreover, stay and food are always not as comfortable as you will find in travel programs. Cleanliness is a luxury in most hotel rooms and most of the native cuisines will make you sick unless you are I-will-eat-anything-that-doesn’t-bite-me-back kind of guy.
Third, travelling will empty your pocket really fast. You will be dumbstruck when you hear how expensive it is. Unexpected circumstances stem up every now and then, even if everything is thoroughly planned. Now, you may find many people in internet claiming to have journeyed to distant lands with few penny in their pockets. Well let me explain how they did it. They have sacrificed all their comfort by sleeping in the bus stations, hitch hiking, walking long distances, leaving their stomachs growling and so forth. Though these are not impossible, it is worthy to note that ‘these are stunts performed by professionals and attempting them can be fatal’.
The saddest part of all this is that, many people travel just to be part of a community that says “we are travellers”. Their enthusiasm will subside once they face the reality. Most would not venture to travel if they really understood the dangers they are up to. I recently had a conversation with an ardent traveller and my good friend Abin Joe, who recently went on a 70 day solo trip through the Northern provinces of India (to know more go to his website http://www.abinjoe.com/). He gave me insights into the difficulties he faced and of the lives that were lost in pursuit of Himalayas due to accidents and natural disasters. Many people are unaware of these dangers when they set off.
In fact, in the era of post modern media, you don’t have to physically go to any place to know about it. Everything you need to know is just a click away. Moreover, multicultural societies that we live in have taught us about cuisines and languages of people from around the world. Through movies and travel programs, we know about the culture in most remote places in the planet. Books and blogs are available which depicts the strange lives people lead in different countries. With all these sources at our disposal, what a waste of energy, time and money it is to be stubborn about you actually travelling to these places.
Nevertheless, I am not against the true travel enthusiasts who live for travel and adventure. If they are passionate about it, who am I to judge. I am talking to the aspiring travellers earning for the social media spotlight like my fresh graduate friend. Just be careful and don’t be fooled by the hash tags and hand gestures in social media. Or to be more subtle:
“Be careful what you wish for, Punks!”