From my backyard I can see planes on their take-off paths from Pearson International Airport. My area seems to be the spot where they turn off their headlights after reaching a certain altitude because many nights I’ve seen this happen. Whenever I catch this I always wonder to myself “Where are those lucky bastards going?” Maybe it’s a business trip to London; maybe it’s a honeymoon in France; maybe it’s a spur of the moment decision to visit Peru. No matter where they’re going, I’m always jealous.
The thing that I love most about travel is its ability to inspire and awe. Unfortunately, it seems that the younger generation (did I really just say that?) isn’t as inspired to travel as us older folk (really, did I seriously just say that?!). I remember a project that my grade ten Geography teacher had us put together where we had to plan a travel itinerary based on a certain country. I chose Ireland and planned my route around the entire synopsis of The Hunter’s Moon by O.R. Melling; I based an entire itinerary on a fictional novel that starts in the Wicklow Mountains and follows a Faerie king. Do teens these days think the same way?
I’ve come to realize that the passion to travel isn’t as important to some as it is to me. For example, my aunt repeatedly visits Barbados (the little coral island plays a very important role in our family’s history), yet almost refuses to get on a plane and go anywhere else. Don’t get me wrong — I also have a soft spot in my heart for Barbados and try to visit as often as I can, so it’s not that I disagree with her wanting to go back to visit family. I just think it’s important to try new things and see new places.
On the other end of the age spectrum, I had a discussion with a younger co-worker of mine who has travelled a bit, but doesn’t seem to feel the urgency to do so any further for quite some time. At his age I had already been to Italy, France, Monaco, Guyana, Barbados, to the east coast of Canada, and different places in the States. Not only was I already hooked on travelling when I was the same age he is now, but I held a strong desire to add to my list of countries visited and held on to this desire like a child does their blankie.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m just so infatuated with the idea of foreign lands that it’s become hard for me to fathom how people cannot and will not travel. I really have a hard time understanding how the tools and resources to experience foreign cultures and landscapes can be within reach yet some refuse to go out into the world and see it for themselves. I know that it can be hard sometimes because of travel costs, and maybe I have it a little easier because I work in the travel industry, don’t have children to take care of or a mortgage to pay — but the fact of the matter is nothing is out of reach. If you want it bad enough you make it happen.
A few years ago I came across a quote by the great American author Mark Twain that has stayed ingrained in my mind since the moment I read it:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
That quote has become such a motto for me that I even got a “throw off the bowlines” tattoo on an epic road trip I took throughout the United States in 2009. Whenever I feel scared or unsure about visiting somewhere new I always say to myself “throw off the bowlines” and my anxiety dissipates. I am thankful that I have the gall to travel now because when I’m old and grey (and probably with joint problems) I know I won’t regret any of the experiences I’ve had while abroad.
So to those of you who have any sort of trepidation to travel – throw off the bowlines. Leave your safe harbor and sail the seas of this world. I can’t stress enough how important it is to travel; to not only visit a new country but to truly experience a new culture. It could be as “local” as flying to San Francisco from Vancouver to see the Golden Gate Bridge, or as far away as Australia to ride a camel in the outback. Just get out of your house and try somewhere new.
If you need any inspiration, read. Whether it’s a travel guide (Rough Guides, Lonely Planet, Frommers, Rick Steves), travel literature (Bill Bryson is hilarious), a travel magazine (Outpost, National Geographic Traveler) or a travel blog (well, hello there) – these pieces were not only written by those who were inspired by travel, but to inspire you, the reader, to set off on your own adventure and write your own stories.
My challenge to you is this: sit down, clear your head and forget everything that’s going on in your life at the moment. Envision a map of the world in your mind. Picture where you are on the map and let yourself wander to the other countries and regions you haven’t yet visited. Pick the country that calls out to you the most in that region. Imagine yourself visiting that country – picture the landscape, hear the different languages, taste the new foods, see the architecture and the sights. Really and truly imagine yourself in the cities and towns of that foreign land. After visualizing this, grab a pen and paper, pull up a map of that country and list the cities you’d like to go to within in. Create a wish list of what you’d like to do and see while you’re there. Then fold up that paper and keep it in a safe place. Whenever you’re having a bad day or feeling down, repeat this exercise but with a different country. Continue to do this until you have an arsenal of countries you’ve pictured yourself going to. Know what you have now? A travel bucket list. Whenever you feel the need to travel, go through this list and bring to life whatever experience works best for you. But you must ensure that you never cease to add to this list. The end of this list is the death of your desire to travel. This doesn’t mean that you absolutely must visit all of these places, but you must never lose your interest in at least imagining what they’d be like.
I’d like to end this post with another travel quote that also greatly inspires me. I hope it will have an impact on you as well:
“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Go forth, my friends.