Friday 9th December.
It’s been over 10 months since I left humble Adelaide, nearly 11 months in-fact. To be honest, I hardly remember life as it was, back when my wild dreams were all talk. When my wildest dreams were just dreams. And then those dreams became plans, fluid plans became concrete and within 4 months those concrete plans unfolded into reality as I sat with the sardines on the first of many cramped economy seats destined for the world.
As the months flew by and the adventures rolled on, what used to be a dream of mine for 4 years truly became my passion as I wondered these roads and ventured into something that even those concrete plans couldn’t apprehend. Concrete plans started cracking – turning into rubble – when this hunger within me caught fire and burned with so much intensity there was no way I couldn’t keep going. This hunger for more adventure, a hunger for more experiences. And when the fire finally burned too brightly, the rubble crumbled into sand as my predetermined itinerary became a chaotic disorder of desires to continue travelling and the reality of having no money to fulfil those cravings.
December 4th was my original scheduled arrival date back into Adelaide. That was 7 days ago.
But something that I recognised I have not completely grasped is the understanding of why I do it. Why travel? This beautifully chaotic mess I’ve landed myself in has also confused me. A contradiction to the reason why most people travel – to ‘find themselves’. Perhaps the only thing I am certain of is my excitement to see this world. To experience what was fed to me through commercialism for 18 years, but to see it in the flesh. To see the differences that this world presents within each country and state. But is that really all I came to do?
Currently I’m in Seville. Sunny, warm Seville, southern Spain. After a few unexpected mishaps in Faro, Seville became an impulse decision when I discovered that it was only 3 hours away by bus. A decision made on the day, but possibly one of the best I’ve made in a long time. This city is home to some of the most beautiful architecture I have ever seen, preserved so perfectly from its historic days. The streets are cobbled and narrow, winding through roman ruins and gothic cathedrals, lined with vendors selling Spanish street food and constantly bustling with locals and tourists alike. As I write this I’m sitting on the rooftop of the hostel I am currently volunteering in, looking out over a skyline dominated with domes, bell towers and spires, each one lit up in all it’s glory, shining through the clear night sky. The stars are out, the moon is bright and the air is crisp, but today was one of the warmest I’ve had in a long time. I’m not so sure how I will face going back to temperatures in the minus degrees when I finally return to Amsterdam, but a few clothe-swaps in op-shops should sort me out for that.
Since I’ve been travelling outside of Amsterdam to the southern parts of Europe, I can’t help but notice the differences in the lifestyles of locals. Here where the sun is warmer and the beaches are closer, the people who are lucky enough to call this place home have a completely different perspective on life. In Amsterdam, locals seem to live their lives in a pattern that is very similar to that of back home and other western countries I’ve travelled to. They wake up, go to work, come home and relax in the comforts of their own personal spaces for the remainder of the night. Here, once work is finished, the city truly comes to life. I’ve walked a lot of these city streets at night since I’ve been here, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see families and youths gathered in their masses in public spaces, enjoying each others company and truly making the most out of their free time. Tonight I left the hostel again and my ears were filled to the incredible sounds of joy, laughter and happiness that radiated from nearly every plaza, bar and restaurant. The atmosphere is incredible, and I can only put it down to the fact that, here, people live and work to live, whereas back in Amsterdam or back home, people live to work. And when work is finished, their day is also finished. Whereas when the work day is finished here, the day has only just begun. Up until the small hours of the morning, locals and tourists alike enjoy the company of family and friends, to the point where it is actually difficult to navigate the streets because they are so busy. It really is something else, so beautiful to witness and so uplifting – something that all other western countries can take from. So in a sense, I can say that this is why I travel. Not only to see the incredible sights and witness the differences in landscapes, but to experience the changes in cultures and ways of life that each country holds.
Yet somehow I’m not content with this answer, because it only fulfils the countries desires, not mine. If it sounds selfish, it’s probably because it is. In a way, I think travelling is a selfish act. Before I left Australia my mind was filled with the thoughts of travelling to exotic places and uploading pictures to social media, not only to keep memories of each destination but also to show off this incredible lifestyle I now enjoy. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that a lot of people in this day and age use social media as a means to brag about their good fortunes. And in all honestly, I was one of them. But now, even as I keep people back home updated on my whereabouts through photos, I’ve come to the conclusion that this isn’t why I travel. There’s no point in bragging anymore. I’ll still upload photos, but it doesn’t fulfil my purpose of travelling, nor it should.
Earlier I mentioned that most people, at least those who I’ve crossed paths with, travel to ‘find themselves.’ Let me be really honest with you right now. Those people who travel for this reason always seem to ‘find themselves’ by the end of their travels. What that means, I don’t even know, but I honestly think it’s a load of bullshit and another way to show off to their friends. If you told me you’re travelling to find a direction in life I’d be more inclined to listen to you. I have nothing against those people, and really, I’m happy that they’ve ‘found themselves’, because they set out with a goal and accomplished it. But I know this is not why I travel. I’ve also heard stories of people travelling to escape the unhealthy lifestyle they lived back home, or to escape home in general. People travel to find a new life. To run away from their problems. None of that is me. I have a perfect life back home, an education and loving family and friends to go back to. I’m not escaping anything.
The more I go on with this the more I’m getting confused. I guess one thing I do know for sure is that I never really had a reason to travel, even before I left Adelaide. I knew that I could never face going to university immediately after completing high-school. In a way, I’m travelling to escape university. I also knew that I had a passion to explore the world, perhaps stemming from my childhood years where I grew up in Indonesia. I have multi-cultural family and travelled a lot to the neighbouring islands and Australia with them. I had a respect for this world that we’ve been blessed with, and a respect for the differences in cultures that I was aware of. And from that, I could only imagine the even bigger differences that I might find on the other side of the world. In this sense, I’m travelling to experience those differences. Still, I don’t think this is the true reason for travelling.
The one thing that I never could have anticipated before I started travelling is the amount I’ve been learning. About myself, about this world, about the people I travel with and about life. This journey I’ve been on has made me question the person I am and the person I want to become, somehow shaping me into something that I could never have expected.
Perhaps I’ll never truly know the reason why I’m traveling, but what I do know for sure is, though it may be confusing as hell, disorderly and chaotic, travelling has taken me to places that I could never have compacted into an itinerary with the travel agent 10 months ago. I don’t mean ‘places’ in the sense of countries or cities. More so in the sense of ‘mental places’ and the adventures that have led to the growth of my mind. And if this is the only answer I can offer myself to the question that started all of this, then I think I could be content with it. It’s confusing and somewhat unsatisfactory – we all appreciate a definite answer sometimes – but I’m beginning to think that there will never be a certain answer to this one.
And as I look out to this striking skyline of Seville and the bright stars in the clear sky, I‘m truly content.