Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Reflections on why we really travel

This post is written by Lyn who blogs at Lil Blue Bottle. The fact that social media is first and foremost narcissistic is not lost on her, but despite that (or perhaps because of that), she still enjoys it so.

A while ago, I read this article by Henry Wismayer on whether "travel has become another exercise in narcissism" which was rather humorous.

Whilst this is a travel blog, I thought that article, whilst disparaging a certain breed of travellers, was a down-to-earth reminder to reflect at times, on why we really travel.

In particular, Singaporeans work so hard, and our favourite reward to self these days seems to be an extravagant holiday out of this tiny red dot.

Experience has become the new 'possession', and rather than spend money on things (that we have no space to store), some of our largest splurges are on long holidays. In fact, some people even declare that they work and live simply for the next holiday.

For our materialistic society, has travel has become yet another trophy to wave about, the more expensive unheard-of the locale, the better?

These days, it's become almost expected that everyone has some form of a travel bucket list. And the places on the bucket list are usually far-flung (read: expensive to travel to), exotic (read: so that you can say you've been where few people have), and/or possess some wonder-of-the-world reputation.

Going to some nearby beach resort is just too ho-hum, after all YOLO and all that jazz, no?

But I suppose the most insidious danger lies in how we begin to premise our self-worth on the number of countries we've visited (after all, who doesn't love listing them all out?), and feel that we somehow have not lived, if we haven't been to [insert current hankered-after destination]. The irony, as pointed out in Wismayer's article, is that such travelling "isn't making you interesting. It's just confirming your position as one of the crowd."

I would be the first to admit that I love travelling. There is a certain buzz in setting foot in a new place, full of people with their own unique culture, getting out of our tiny country, and experiencing a bit of life in the great big Out There.

But I have also become aware of the traveller's hubris of travelling for the sake of Facebook moments, of dashing from landmark to landmark, ticking off 'must-see highlights' without really being there.

Photo with the famous fountain? Check. Eaten at that renowned restaurant? Check. Which city was this again? Hmm... can't quite remember... we went to quite a few on that trip right?

So I suppose the article made me reflect on why I travel, whilst making me more self-aware, that travelling alone, does not a man make.

Beyond the place, what matters most is the people we travel with, I suppose. Most of us with petite travellers embark on trips so as to spend time with them, away from the usual distractions of work and school. It's amazing what we learn about our kids when both parents spend days on end with them. Regardless of location, the memories formed stay with us all, even after the photographs of the trip have faded.

For some of my friends, family trips are the only time when they have to handle their kids alone 24/7, without the omnipresence of their domestic helper. So that in itself is a precious and refreshing (or rather, dead tiring?) experience, that I think every family is the richer for.

Some travel stories are inspiring too. Recently, a friend's family took a trip off the beaten track, where her kids got to experience a vastly different world. Moving out of their comfort zone to trek through the Tonkinese Alps triggered many emotions and reflections, especially about the children they came into contact with. Such travel exposes our sheltered children to lives beyond their own, and a greater awareness of the world beyond our narrow shores.

So, which will your next travel experience be?

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