Some have questioned our decision to take a lengthy trip with the remnants of COVID still impacting lives around the world. The economic downturn driving the Australian dollar to its lowest for a long time makes travel more expensive. Interest rates are on the rise, as is inflation. Housing prices are dropping. Rents are rising. Bushfires one season and floods the next. Unthinkable war in Ukraine and continued threats against Taiwan following on from the crazy political sideshow of a destabilising US presidency1. Climate change and denial. If it weren’t so serious, it should be a song or a nursery rhyme.
Among all that doom and gloom, we are embarking on our first world tour. Some would have us think of it as a final world tour… or a world’s final tour. The threat of nuclear war, climatic catastrophes leading to a climactic2 Armageddon seem be all we have to look forward to.
Before we all burst into tears, let me explain why we are travelling now.
When we travel, we absorb with wonder and joy the experiences we are cast into. Even when we are tired, hungry, lost or in some kind of trouble – there is always something or someone that emerges to brighten up our life and give us a memory or a learning to cherish and enjoy over and over again.
We, as a family have been lucky enough to travel and live in a number of countries. Apart from the joy of those experiences, we have absorbed tolerance and respect by mixing with strangers, who then often become friends, very rarely enemies. We travel not only to experience, but to hopefully leave a reasonable impression with the people we meet, so they too think positively of the tribe we might represent.
The act of travel
Borrowing a line from Lao Tze in the Dao de Jing book, I added four more lines relevant to those who hesitate about the adventure of travel, the uncertainty, removal from comfort zones and came up with this…
The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step
Without motivation it will not even start
Without discipline it may lose its way
Without resilience it may never be completed
And without direction it may last for an eternity
If you can remember the times as a small child when imagination allowed you to travel to places far, far away – all from your backyard or under a sheet draped over some cardboard boxes or up a treehouse, this is what travel is about. Your return from a land of imagination uplifts your spirit, giving you those elements of motivation, discipline, resilience and direction which you discovered or brought with you from your journey – be it real, or imagined in your backyard.
I think my belief about travel and the effect on us all from an early age is why I use the following graphic of two children who believe they have found treasure. The real treasure is the imagination and thoughts in their heads.
Apart from making you a better citizen of the planet, it also imbues you with skills and experiences to help with whatever opportunities or challenges your workplace offers.
If you do not travel, could you become a “Mountain Tortoise” or Suaku to use a Hokkien term? There is such a thing as a real tortoise that lives in the mountains (I didn’t know that). A Burmese Mountain Tortoise to be exact. When I first heard the term “Suaku” 山龟 [ShanGui] or Mountain Tortoise, I thought referred to an old sagely person, a hermit or meditative monk. It actually refers to some who is a country bumpkin ( a terrible term as I come from the countryside ) and suggests that the person is ignorant.
So in a very long winded way, and by trying to introduce a foreign cultural tidbit of knowledge I am attempting to soften the assertion that if you do not travel or experience beyond your backyard, then you are at risk of becoming ignorant. You could live in a cave (with internet) and be in touch with the world digitally, as you are doing now with this post, but you will miss out on the smells of the marketplace and foods, feel of the cool breeze or dry heat on your skin and although you may be surprised and delighted by what you discover on the internet, it will pale against the adrenalin rush of participating in the adventure itself. I think the movie series called “The Matrix” embodies similar ideas. Are the humans wired into the matrix simply mountain tortoises and is travel for us our form of escaping to reality rather than from it? Before heading down that rabbit hole (pun intended)… A final visual travelogue of a relatively recent journey.
We didn’t find any Mountain Tortoises on our trip to the North Island of New Zealand in 2019 when Helen and I travelled with my Mum and Joe, our son. We had a grand time and created memories to last a lifetime. Little did we know that Covid was about to clip our travelling wings for a couple of years.
So why travel? Your future depends on it… and because you can. Catch you next time.
1. Just in case there is any doubt, yes, I am speaking of Mr Trump’s presidency.
2. English teachers, note my use of climatic and climactic in one sentence.