What's the whole point of traveling?
Have you asked yourself that question? I certainly have. Before I take a trip, during the trip, and after the trip. I ask because I don't want myself to get lost in the motion of moving from one place to another, scanning through touristy sites, taking pictures, and dragging people along just to complete the full travel itinerary. I ask because I have gotten lost, only to realize how much I have missed out after the trip was done. I ask because I don't want to take this planet or the people that I travel with for granted.
My parents and I just got back from a 3-week, 7 cities, 4 countries trip to Scandinavia Europe. It was another amazing family trip for the books. I loved meeting friends who we haven't seen for a while in their native habitats and getting to know how they lived or felt about those places. I loved driving through farmlands with animals and fields of crops. I loved walking into local artisan shops and art galleries. I loved trying foods that I have never tasted before. I loved how cities in the same country can be so different. I loved how each city and country had its own personality. I felt lucky that I had the opportunity to take this trip. However, I did not like nor was I prepared for the ever-changing weather. I did not enjoy visiting one city for as little as one-day and then traveling to the next. I did not like unpacking and then packing for about 20 times. I did not like the invisible pressure of capturing architecture, nature, scenery, food, people, and selfies for social media and my own photo collection. I did not like that most of our conversations on the trip were about where to go and what to see next. I did not like how dispersed we were at times, when we were taking our own pictures at different spots.
I also have forgotten to observe the locals walking by who are carrying out their daily routines. I have forgotten to connect with them. I have forgotten to take a deep breath of the fresh air of a new city and country. I have forgotten to just stay still and soak in the culture, history, and soul of a new city and country. I have forgotten to savor the taste of a new cuisine slowly. I have forgotten to fully appreciate the people who I was traveling with. I have forgotten to hang onto those travel moments that happened then and there, and might not repeat again.
All of these feelings made me want to reflect on the question: "What is the point of traveling?" And when I look around, it seems like traveling has become something totally different in this day and age. For some, it's about collecting the number of cities/countries, passport stamps, experiences for bragging rights. Some travel to gather content for their social media platforms. Some travel mainly for photography. Some travel solely for business, moving from meeting spaces to hotels to restaurants. Some travel to specific places just to keep up with the trend and conversations. Some travel during certain holidays because others do. Some travel to hot places when their home turf is cold and to cold places when hot. Some travel just for specific sports and activities that they can do at certain places. Some travel out of obligations to visit certain people and maintain those connections in their lives.
I'm not saying there is anything wrong with those reasons for traveling. I'm simply pointing out that some of us might have forgotten the purest purposes of traveling: to connect, explore, and experience other parts of the world. We travel for selfish reasons and it's always about what we can get from other parts of the world, whether it be pictures or gifts to show off. Rarely do we think about how we can contribute to the places that we visit. We act as if this planet is at our disposal and we go wherever as we please. We want comfort and luxury with a hint of adventure when we travel. We don't consider the environmental impact that we make as we travel, from the fuels that airplanes burn to single-use items in the hotel. I myself am very much guilty of all of these.
I just want us to reflect on why, how and where we travel. I want us to try and hold onto the purest purposes of traveling. I want us to think about how we can contribute instead of what we can get from the places that we travel to. I want us to take a moment to be still and fully appreciate the places and people that we visit. Instead of stressing out about what outfits to wear, I want us to consider ways that will minimize the impact on our environment as we travel. This will definitely be a challenge for all of us, but without our planet, there is no point in traveling.