Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Why do you travel?

Last night I was in a bar in Hoi An talking to a guy from Texas when he asked me why I travel. I opened my mouth to answer and realised: I don't know. It threw me for a loop because, as someone who has technically been travelling for a long time, I thought it would be easy to give a reason. Instead I laughed nervously and gave my stock-standard reply.

"Well, for the last two years I've basically been running away from my responsibilities."

He grinned and nodded, and said he always asks people who have been on the road for a lengthy period because he finds the concept fascinating. I thought for another moment, then retracted. Maybe when I first left Australia it was because I wasn't ready to dive straight into the industry where I'll likely spend the bulk of my adult life. But that's not why I travel. That was just the push I needed to get out. I stumbled around for a better answer - to learn, to meet people I wouldn't normally have the opportunity to meet, to see as much of the world as I can in the short time I have to do it - but every time I said something I immediately feel that it was wrong.

For me, travel is something I've always wanted, and because of that I never questioned my motives. But now I can't stop. In my case there is no hard and fast reason. Every answer I gave felt reductive. I do love all those aspects of travel, but that's not it. There's something ineffable that spurs me on to see more, to do things I've never done. It's why I never feel I've seen enough.

Can anyone give a straight answer? That's not a rhetorical question. Do some people have a simple reason for travelling? And furthermore, what drives some people to go out and see the world while others are happy to stay within a much smaller radius? Is my lifestyle as perplexing to them as theirs is to me? Horses for courses, I know, and I'm in no way implying that buying a house and settling into a stable life is a less valid choice than running off in search of adventure, it's just a concept I struggle to get my head around.

For me there was never any question of whether I would travel, just a question of when. There are probably deeper forces at play here than just a desire to see beautiful things. I'd rather leave than be left. I feel like I have to prove something, though I'm not sure who to. Maybe when I stop travelling - if or when I find something that is more important to me than riding a motorbike through Asia or trudging through the snow-blanketed streets of a European town - I'll know why I wanted to keep moving so badly.