I’ve never really been a strictly religious person, although I have the greatest respect for those privileged enough to have found faith. Travel has always been the one constant in my life. Ever since my parents pulled me out of school aged 5 to spend 3 long months driving across Australia, me and sister bouncing along in the back seat of an old pink VW beetle—I’ve been hooked. Now however, travel has become something more to me than just a new adventure and, in many ways, it’s the closest thing I have to a religion.
Travel has this unique way of showing us what’s important again. In my normal life I’m slogging it in the rat race along with everyone else, saving my spare cash for the “Next Big Trip”. When I travel, it allows me to strip my life back to the bare essentials. Just me and my backpack—there’s nowhere we can’t go (unless it involves snakes, I hate snakes). Reducing my physical belongings to only the necessities (well, as much as I can carry on my back without my ankles giving out) is kind of freeing. “Goodbye hairdryer!”, “See you in a month platform boots!” The weight of material things lifted, left behind in my two bed apartment in the London suburbs that’s bursting at the seams with endless stuff that I can’t seem to give up… except when I travel! With no more possessions that I can carry, I do give them up—at least for a short while!
Travel reduces your world to the simplest of human needs. “Where will I sleep tonight?”, “Where can I eat?”, “Where can I get good coffee?!” And in this simplicity you can find space to remake yourself for the better. Being only able to speak a few words of a local language transports us back to child like ways—more simple, more direct. Not concerned with expressing oneself but simply being understood. (Insert flashbacks of me trying to haggle on the streets of Shanghai in Pidgin English (“Hey missee, how muchee?”).
There’s an anonymity that comes with being somewhere new and exotic. You can be anyone you want, the person you’ve always wanted to be. You can buy those Alibaba pants and that septum ring, and there’s no one around to judge you! You travel in search of yourself, and at the same time to lose yourself. In far and distant lands, we learn to trust our instincts, follow impulse again and surrender ourselves to chance. Travel teaches us to open our hearts and eyes, to shake away all certainties and preconceptions.
And I’m not the only one who feels this way. Many far smarter men and women than me (Lao Tzu, Wolfgang Mozart, Oscar Wilde and Helen Keller to name but a few) have happened across very similar ideas related to travel. The motivations for human movement have exercised the minds of philosophers across the centuries, and I’m sure will continue to for many more.
I arrived in India less than 24hrs ago, but already it’s boldly obvious to me how important religion is here. From my balcony on a busy corner in the city of Bangalore, I can see a Christian Church, two Hindu Shrines, a Sikh Temple and I can hear the Muslim Call to prayer floating in the air and into my guesthouse window. Faith hasn’t been something that I have been lucky enough to have bestowed in me yet, but I guess you could say that I believe in travel.