This summer gone, I, along with hundreds of other students, escaped the windy clutches of Ireland. Unlike my peers though, it took me three plane journeys, several dodgy in-flight meals, one Ebola scare and a healthy dose of jet lag for me to reach my destination. Australia. Considering our love hate relationship as a nation with Australia, it was to be the most enlightening experiences of my life. Yes, it was wonderful and yes it was amazing but what it really was, was a learning curve. I discovered a lot about myself, other people and, most importantly, this wonderful thing we call travel.
For most of us, travel is just an idea that buzzes at the back of our minds. We talk about our great plans to travel the world and find that elusive missing piece of ourselves. We wonder if it’s hidden in the waters of Cottesloe beach or along the rugged countryside of Northern France. Personally, I’ve watched endless David Attenborough specials and wondered what it would be like trekking through the Nairobi desert or swimming in the Red Sea. Either way, the thought remains throughout our lives that only through travel will we become who we were always meant to be.
The older I get and the further away from home I travel, the more I find myself contemplating the reality of this word “travel”. What does it actually mean to me? It’s not as straightforward as I once thought. At the heart of it, travel is about the search for something. I don’t think anyone knows what that something is, just that it should be different and exciting. So, we move further and further away from home, searching for something we may never find.
Travel is not about how far we go or how many postcards we send or even how many sunset camel rides we take. Travel, as I discovered in Australia, is about people. It’s about the crazy adventures the strangers we meet bring us on. While it’s fabulous to tell people about the stunning beaches and the local cuisine, it’s the tales of the South African you kissed, the Queenslander who showed you how to roll out a swag, the old man who fed you fish in a caravan park; those are the stories that separate the word travel from holiday.
On holiday, we make memories. Travel gives us something far more precious; experience. So, the next time you find yourself boarding a plane or sailing to lands unknown, look at the people around you. Study them. Embrace them. Say yes twice as often as you say no. Talk to the people with the strange accents, kiss the boy from a faraway place, and go on that road trip with the people you just met. Listen, learn, live. Absorb anything and everything the people you meet have to offer. It’s within these stranger’s that you’ll discover the missing pieces of yourself. It’s within these stranger’s that you’ll discover what it truly means to travel. I know I did.