In my first blog post back in 2014 I promised to expand on my reasons to travel, so here goes.
I’ve hesitated to write this post because it seemed a little self-serving, perhaps even private. However, just recently I’ve started to see things differently. The truth is, until I start backpacking again I’m a little thin on material. But that shouldn’t matter. Unlike most travel bloggers I’m writing before my backpacking experience begins.
Right now I’m in a totally unique place.
I have a one-off opportunity to write about things from the perspective of a wannabe backpacker, rather than a seasoned traveller.
I’m savvy enough to know that once I go, things, including my own opinions will likely be changed forever. So why not embrace this time?
Childhood Reasons to Travel
From an early age I was passionate about the world. Long before the days of Google maps my favourite two books as a child were my atlases. The first was a topographic atlas of the world.
I would search for huge mountains and marvel at the names of tiny exotic sounding towns. Run my fingers around far away coast lines and try to imagine what they must look like in the real.
The other atlas was a picture atlas. It was for young children and I outgrew it fast but one page always stands out in my memory. It had a picture of a tiger staring out from behind a brush of bamboo. The title on the page said “The Kingdom of Siam.”
Despite my childhood fascination with the world, I don’t think I would ever have traveled at all had it not been for my friend Neil. Neil is an amazing guy. He exerted a huge amount of influence over me at this time and pretty much talked me into traveling to Asia with him at the age of 22. I’d go as far to say that I was fifty-fifty on the idea at best.
I had a good job, a girlfriend and a great lifestyle. I didn’t see the need to travel. Everything I wanted could be had right here at home, couldn’t it?
London to Chiang Mai in 72 Hours
We had such a huge send off with our friends the night before that I practically touched down in Bangkok with a hangover. Nevertheless holiday excitement gripped us pretty quickly and we were partying within a few hours of landing.
Cut to day two. Around sunset I found myself waking up in a strange bed and wandering back down the Koh San road to find my friend. After chastising me for disappearing the night before, Neil explained that he’d booked us on a coach to Chiang Mai in one hour.
We made our way to some Bangkok backstreet and swiftly after boarding the coach Neil and the other passengers went to sleep. I on the other hand had slept all day so I took to gazing out of the window.
For the next 12 hours I couldn’t look away. The lights were off and it was dark but there were objects and sometimes people moving out there in the shadows. Strange and wonderful smells permeated the cabin. Once in a while between gear shifts the engine would silence for the briefest time and the sound of cicadas would hiss through the top-sliding windows. Moths as big as my hand buzzed around neon lights at the roadside. Motorbikes whined past us and off into the distance. The bus rolled like a boat. All around me people slept but I had never felt so awake.
Looking back I think this was the last time in my life that I would experience true magnificent, awe inspiring wonder.
It was a hot steamy night bus ride through an alien world. I was a backpacker. It was 1999. I was a traveller in the Kingdom of Siam.
Hope or Something like It
Whilst I would have some wonderful experiences in the coming months nothing would come close to the all-out astonishment of that bus ride. By the time I got off at the other end, I was hooked. The happenings of that single night had changed me a little bit forever. It had been a glorious experience and chasing that feeling is still one of my top reasons to travel to this day. I think this feeling is hope or something like it.
Whether it’s the hope of having mind blowing experiences like my bus ride to Chiang Mai or the hope of one day walking out of your office cubicle and never looking back. Hope is a great thing to have and a great reason to travel.
No-One Gets It
Like it or not I’ve disappointed a few people with my life choices. My wife Navi has too. We aren’t the conventional couple. We have no children and no plans for children in the future. That fact alone is enough to disappoint our families and draw perplexed expressions from other people our age.
We are also “renters.” Preferring to rent apartments and move around whenever it suits us rather than living in a single “forever home” with a mortgage. While this behaviour might be considered normal in many societies, here in the UK no-one seems to get it.
I’m hoping that by traveling, renting apartments around the globe, doing housesits and volunteering, I’ll connect with likeminded people and stop feeling like a bit of an outcast in my ways.
Being Someone Else
Travel gives you another chance at yourself. On the road you can be the person you want to be. New friends won’t know about all the dumb or crappy stuff you’ve done until you choose to tell them. You can start with a clean slate and control the flow of personal information. You can also forge lasting relationships in total honesty without having to worry about politics or expectations.
I want others to know the person I am today not the person I was or the person I could’ve been.
Volunteering and Responsible Travel
I haven’t been a criminal. I haven’t physically hurt anyone and I haven’t been entirely thoughtless. I have however been young and reckless. I’ve been inconsiderate towards people and the planet. Just lately that has started to weigh on my mind a little more.
I really want to believe I can do something to redress the balance. That’s very important to me now. I guess I believe in karma. Sort of.
I Want to Feel like an Explorer
I know I’m not an explorer but I like to imagine myself as one.
When I was young I would commentate secretly under my breath while playing football. If someone caught me I would try to style it out with some laboured breathing. I think there is a childhood need to pretend in all of us that never totally goes away. Travel definitely brings it out in me.
Saving My Wife’s Spirit
Navi has had a stern eastern upbringing. She is the youngest of four sisters and has grown up on the mean streets of South London during the 1980’s. She has endured more than her fair share of bullying, harassment and racism.
She has had to fight hard for her status in life.
Our determination to follow our travel dreams has meant that Navi has sacrificed career fulfilment for money. Right now Navi has a well-paid job but its hard work. She commits very long hours and often comes home upset. I’ve wanted to be able to protect her from emotional stress. I’ve wanted to be able to say “forget it, don’t go in tomorrow” but for a long time I wasn’t brave enough.
My wife’s spirit is precious to me and it’s being eroded bit by bit. I’ve promised her a way out and I must keep that promise.
Fear of Regret
I’ve made some mistakes in my life and I have some regrets. Being quite an introspective person I tend to dwell on my regrets more than I should. This makes me a little sad, but it also makes me more determined not to continue to make mistakes and harbour these negative feelings.
The cosy capitalist democracy I have grown up in has given me an amazing opportunity to do anything with my life.
I do not want to be the guy that had the opportunity to travel the world but never did it. That regret might be too much to take.
Uncertainty Is Exciting
Right now in my everyday life with my comfortable job I know exactly what’s around the next corner or at the end of the metaphorical road. That’s nice, but it is also boring.
When you travel on the cheap you invite uncertainty into your life on a massive scale. That’s exciting.
Catching a one way flight with no return ticket is one of the most exhilarating feelings a person can ever experience. To taste that sensation even once is worth a lifetime of two week vacations to me.
Is This All There Is (Without Kids)?
I’ve tried the American dream. Much of what I wanted to achieve when I was young was measured in financial terms. But now I’ve bought all the stuff that I dreamed about buying when I was a child. That’s over now. I’m nearly 40 and without my own children to dedicate my energies to – what do I do for the next 20 years?
I can’t just sit here getting older, buying bigger houses and faster cars until I die.
I need to go out there and find something that I can dedicate myself to.
I understand that these aren’t the conventional reasons to travel, but they are honest ones. If you want to hear happy tales of hipsters searching for their inner self –that’s cool too. There are plenty of blogs on that theme.
Personally, most of my reasons to travel are a little more peculiar.
I’m certainly nervous. I’m sad for missed opportunities and part of me wishes I could just conform. But I’m also a dreamer and I have hope in my heart. I love this planet and its people. Whatever mistakes I’ve made, I’m determined to find my renaissance on the road.