Why do I travel?

Why do I travel? It will be hard to capture my sentiments in one blog post, but I will try.

I travel to see beauty. Beauty my senses are not yet accustomed to. Beauty that surprises the eyes. It could refer to a place that I’ve never seen or heard before, or a known attraction that far exceeds expectations (e.g. the Petronas Towers, whose grandeur and sheer beauty, for me,  could never be captured by mere photographs). Some attractions are photogenic. Some are not, and neither videos nor photographs would suffice to do them justice. Nevertheless, I capture these beauties with my lens, hoping that this will ensure that they are enshrined in my heart.

I travel to experience beauty. There is usually beauty where there is love. Love for loved ones. For country. For fellow humans. For a lover. When I was in Sofia two months ago, I stayed at a home of a Bulgarian couple — she was in her late 50s, while he was younger than me at age 32. But their relationship worked. I could see it — they complimented each other and they cared for one another. Both of them came from the same “lower” class, which enabled them to live a decent life during the communist era with everything they needed provided, she explained to me. “If we had come from the ‘upper classes'”, she explained to me, “we would not have enjoyed what we enjoyed during the communist years”.

I travel to make friends. I’ve met friends in funniest circumstances. When I was walking from Fira to Oia in Santorini, Greece, I came across a girl who was wearing *exactly* the same straw hat I had on. We naturally started speaking to each other, commending the other for her good taste (our hats were both from Primark, haha). We then made dinner plans for that evening and thus began a friendship. This ‘hat’ girl remains to be one of my good friends – she has taken me and my mom around her native Portugal two years ago, and next year she will be visiting  my native Philippines. Another instance – when I was on a bus tour three years ago, I sat next to a South African girl my age as we made our way from Paris to Interlaken (as you could imagine, this was quite long bus ride lasting nearly 10 hours). We became friends during that bus ride and somehow made a pact then: whoever gets married first, the other has to attend the wedding. As I said, the bus tour happened three years ago, and last year I made my way to South Africa to attend her wedding (wedding ceremonies actually, as she had more than one ceremony as per their custom).

I travel to see how people treat strangers. Foreigners, for instance. In Lisbon, my mother and I were blatantly followed by security people at supermarkets. My mother believed it was because we looked “different” and, to their eyes probably, appear suspicious. My mom was offended, I call it naive. In Sofia, where most people I found did not speak English, I experienced communicating simply by using body language. While at a tram stand one evening, I asked a lady (around my age) for help to buy a ticket for the tram. In that city, one normally cannot purchase a tram ticket inside the tram – you have to buy the ticket elsewhere (at a store nearby, for instance, which did not seem to sell them that time of the night – yes, I asked). She could not speak English, and I did not speak Bulgarian. She did not give up on me, though —  she waited with me until my tram came, and when it arrived she boarded it and spoke to the driver for me, and somehow I was able to procure a ticket for my ride. In a major train station in Budapest, I heard a group of ladie asking a local for directions to Szentendre (a Serbian village near Budapest). Since I was going the same way, I approached one of the ladies to ask help with directions. She told me what she knew. Then she eyed me curiously and asked, “Are you traveling by yourself?” I replied, “Yes”. She remarked, “You’re a brave woman”. I wondered if is she had wanted to add “foolish” as well?

I travel to see how people treat their fellow countrymen. In Japan, the Japanese I have met have full trust in their fellow Japanese. They would say things like, “Don’t worry about leaving your things there for a while, nobody will touch it”. In Croatia, you could feel Croatians’ pride in fellow Croatians and their beautiful country whenever asked – they always spoke how Croatians make the best host in the world. Romania reminded me a bit of a certain country — I’ve received a lot of kindness and warmth from locals when I was there last October, and I felt very welcomed indeed. But a local friend told me that Romanians are usually not as friendly to their fellow countrymen (save for family or people from the same town/village) as they are towards foreigners. Which is a shame, but based on my travel experience this sometimes tend to happen.

I travel to eat food I can only eat “there”,  wherever there is. Travel has destroyed me in this sense. Once you know that a certain kind of food exists, prepared a certain way, you constantly ache for it, the same way you’ve tried it. Once you know what “real” food taste like (e.g. “real” moussaka that you could only get in Greece), it will be hard to satisfy your palate without going back. I travel to tantalize my palate with new tastes and sensations, or reward it with tried and tested ones.

I travel to understand what people in other places value. What makes them happy. What makes them laugh.  To learn what people discuss in public places. 

I travel to hear how other languages are spoken, and try to have a feel for their rhythm. To feel foreign. To be a special snowflake (a reward you sometimes get for enduring being foreign). To revel how there is always a way to connect with anyone. 

But most of all, I travel so that I could return home. Whether I leave for a short time or a long time it is always the same for me — returning home is usually the most awaited part of the trip. This is when I get to reflect and “digest” every encounter, every experience I’ve had during the trip, and apply it to my “regular” life. Each time I go back home, though, I find that home is never the same, and that I am never the same. Because I see this “home” a little clearer each time, from lenses that corrects the vision just a little bit better.

They say the goal of travel is to leave in such a way that when you return home, wherever home is for you, you see it with new eyes. They never told me that that is not often a pleasant thing — but this deserves another post. Stay tuned. 😘

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