VOICES: THE TRAVELLER
Tonight marks the beginning of my latest writing project, titled “Voices”. I decided a few months ago that I wanted to explore some of the most common identities, or hats that we wear in our twenties – The Traveller, The Long Distance Couple, The Young Mother, The Young Professional, The Quarter Life Crisis, The Gay and The Single Girl.
I approached eight very different twentysomething’s and asked them to share their insight into one of these voices, with the hope that readers would resonate with their words, maybe find some useful advice, or just take comfort in knowing that these experiences are universal.
The first voice is The Traveller, and this voice belongs to Emily.
My name is Emily, and I have recently returned home after two years abroad, travelling through almost twenty countries before spending the second year living in India, a country I fell completely in love with.
Before I set off on my journey I would see those quotes online saying, “Travel. Travel as far and wide as you can” and I found them obvious and unnecessary. I was pretty certain most people would travel if they could, no one was turning down free plane tickets? But what I came to realise is that this doesn’t just mean going to other places physically, but going to places that take you to a completely different realm mentally – in a way that only sightseeing in Paris can’t provide.
Places that are far away from home, not in distance, but in culture.
Places where not just the language is different, but the way of life is different.
Places where you can literally feel your mind opening up to new perspectives with every person you converse with, where your view of the world continually expands.
I had this realisation one night while I was living in Rishikesh, a town in the foothills of the Himalayas. So I decided it was appropriate to base this extract on a 2am diary entry that poured out when I came home. In hindsight, there was nothing especially out of the ordinary that happened that night, given the constant flow of random experiences I had while living in that spiritual mountain town. But it was a night where the meaning of travel came together for me.
A local friend had offered to show me a sacred cave up in the mountains. After driving for an hour, we took a lengthy walk into the dark jungle which he hadn’t prepared me for in his casual invitation that afternoon, and I started to question whether my current free outlook could actually be considered plain unsafe. But when we finally got up there, wow. It was a secret show of Sadhus all dressed in orange, chanting mantras in a rocky, open cave high on the cliff-face. This enormous natural cavern in the middle of nowhere, filled with an extravagant mix of holy decorations, was such an incredible sight it was reminiscent of a movie set. But this was real life for them, this was how they spent every night for no one but themselves.
After spending the night experiencing a sacred ceremony, meditating and exploring the surrounding nature, we rode our motorbikes back home through the elephant-filled jungle, in and out of valleys, with the holy Ganga River alongside us.
For some reason during the ride I started visualising that someone had temporarily thrown me into the jungle book cartoon for an experience, and I could feel its instant effects on my awareness of the world’s unique beauty. My thought process then compared it to the motion-master rides I loved as a kid, the ones with the moving seats and the big screen, where they make you feel like you’re part of a movie. I felt like this recent period of my life I’d been put in an adult version of this motion-master ride, one that had been designed by experts with the intention of opening up our increasingly conditioned minds caused by the modern matrix of western life. They could chuck you in these rides for a few hours for a brief awakening. Or if you wanted you could live in them, ride them daily.
So that’s when I realised. That is what travel is. That is what those quotes meant by “far and wide”. Travel is natural medicine for those who aren’t fighting the classified diseases, but those that need comfort in our structured society and it’s restrictions on our consciousness. This constant flow of surreal moments that I had just experienced is what we all need, and it is a more important use of our time than any course, study or treatment.
This is how we can open our minds and reconnect with true perspective.
This is how you really grow.
So my advice to other twentysomething’s is simple: Travel as far and wide as you can. On every kind of level.
Words by Emily Ruygrok