At its most basic level, travel is about experiencing new places and cultures – exposing yourself to the unknown and discovering the world. This is the usually the main outcome of trips abroad, whatever the length or the destination.
But there are other motivations for travelling, especially long-term, that mean it’s usually about a bit more than just ticking that country off the list. While I’ve been away from England I’ve met a lot of travellers with interesting tales of why they left their homeland for strange shores. Some are dealing with family traumas; others are coping with heartbreak and a failed relationship; there are those that don’t know what to do with their life and are hoping to discover the answer on the road. Whatever the underlying motivations for travel are, it seems a lot of us are looking for something intangible, expecting a foreign land to provide us with an outcome we don’t believe we can achieve sitting at home. I’m no stranger to relying on travel to fix my life in some way. I too am pursuing my own intangible something, and I don’t think I can stop travelling until I find it.
In Pursuit of Love
We’ve all heard the stories of those couples that ‘met randomly in a bar in Thailand, fell in love and lived happily ever after’. I’ve even met some of these couples. Not many would admit it, but I bet a high proportion of travellers have considered the possibility of meeting their ‘soul mate’ on the other side of the world. That’s the way destiny works, right? It would be the most amazing coincidence, a beautiful fairy-tale story of love blossoming in the perfect setting. You can’t get more romantic than that. I started out my trip dealing with the end of an important relationship and unable to even consider the thought that I could meet someone special during my travels. Yet, eventually, I had to let men back into my life again – albeit in a purely transient way. That’s the problem with travelling: you’re moving all the time and never with a person long enough to actually get to know them, let alone fall in love with them. Realistically, meeting your life partner on the road is as inconvenient as it is unlikely. I’ve had my fair share of fun and I have learnt a lot about boys, relationships and love during my trip but I’m definitely no closer to finding ‘the one’. I’ve been hurt again since I’ve been away, made some bad choices and still struggle with the fact that these relationships don’t usually mean anything. It seems while you’re travelling it’s almost impossible to make real romantic connections – and as a close confidant keeps telling me, you don’t want to get tied down when you’re the freest you’ve ever been. Admittedly, I can’t help but hope that if I did bump into that perfect boy I would get my happily ever after, somehow.
In Pursuit of Answers
I don’t know why we are so convinced that when we’re away from home we can think more clearly about life and everything we want from it, but a lots of people use travel to find answers to the big questions. What are you going to choose for a career? Are you really happy? What type of partner are you going to end up with? Where will you live? I guess it’s easy to imagine being on a long train ride in the middle of a strange land and having a sudden epiphany – a moment of clarity where these huge decisions are made just like that. Honestly, I think for a lot of people it works. You have a lot more thinking time than at home, detachment from familiar people and places and it is easier to see what’s really important in life (especially when you’re visiting a developing country). I can’t say I’ve really had any eureka moments whilst I’ve been away. But perhaps I haven’t been asking the right questions. Much of my thinking time has been taken up with pondering my past, imagining my future and mostly living in the now more than ever before. However, I’ve definitely seen fellow travellers make big choices whilst away from home. The problem is – do they actually follow through and put their answers into practise? As soon as you get home, it’s too easy to laze back into the old ways instead of making any big changes in life. We might find answers on the road, but we ought to make sure we remember the answers when we aren’t travelling.
In Pursuit of Happiness
To be happy is the number one thing most people want out of life. Where they’re going to find that happiness is the difficult part. Often travellers are leaving behind a life in their native country that is boring, disappointing or not going the way they wanted it to. One of the best things about travel is how much fun it can be. You meet great people, have awesome nights out, try things you’ve never done before – every day is an adventure. This is what I love most about solo travel. You have the total freedom to do exactly what makes you happy, and bugger everyone else. That’s not to say that you are happy all the time whilst travelling. There are low times on the road just as there are when you’re sitting at home. It’s how you deal with these moments and get back to happiness that matters. Personally, I find it pretty damn difficult to be anything but happy and content when sat on a beautiful beach in the sunshine with a beer.
In Pursuit of Oneself
It’s the age-old, number one reason people tend to travel – they want to ‘find themselves’. Why, did you get lost on the other side of the world? It’s odd, but I guess when you’re away from your friends, family and your usual ‘role’ in life you can be whoever you want to be. The real you will come out, one way or another, and it’s pretty liberating just being yourself. I’ve always been true to myself in life generally and can’t be fake at all – but I have definitely come to know myself a lot better since embarking on solo travel. I’m more resourceful and confident than I realised. I like my own company. I’ve surprised myself with how adventurous I’ve been at times and done things the pre-travelling me would have balked at. But I’m a fan of the new, more outgoing me and I reckon I’m pretty good fun to be around. There’s no better feeling than being 100% yourself and making friends with people that like the real you. I’m going be me forever, whether travelling or not, so it’s a good job I like who I am and others do too.