The Essence of Traveling

I remember the first time I traveled that it wasn’t that big of a deal.

Going to Anaheim

I remember my parents telling me that they were going to take me to Anaheim Disneyland. My parents and I jumped on the highway, this was the Interstate 5 in Los Angeles, and we found ourselves in Anaheim. We found ourselves in the Magic Kingdom.

Sure enough, there was Mickey, Donald Duck and the whole gang. There were lots of artificial submarines. There were tons of rides. This was back in the day when Disneyland had specialized tickets, and the ticket that you wanted is the e-ticket because it gave you the right to ride on all the available rides. It gave you access to all the available rides.

That was my first experience as a tourist because as exciting as it was for a little fourteen-year-old to interact with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy and Pluto, it’s fake. It’s kind of like going to a cartoon terrain and seeing your favorite cartoon characters in 3D. At the back of your mind, it’s fake, and it’s really a shallow experience because as colorful as these characters are, all the rides, all the terrain, all the attractions came from a different place.

For example, Fantasyland featured this castle that was obviously patterned after a Medieval castle in the middle of Switzerland or some other part of Europe. So, it’s all derivative, and little did I know as a fourteen-year-old child that this is going to add tremendous ramifications as far as my experiences with travel were concerned.

Sure enough, my parents would take me to Vegas then we would go to other parts of the United States. We even visited Southeast Asia. When I got older, I would go to Mexico quite a bit, but I never was able to shake off this tourist mindset. I was always looking to go into some sort of postcard. I was always looking to validate what I thought I already knew about the place I was going to. All throughout these experiences, I would always label my activities as traveling.

It turns out that I discovered until later I wasn’t traveling. I was being a tourist. The essence of traveling is essentially leaving your old self behind. In other words, this is the antithesis of being a tourist. When you’re a tourist, you’re basically looking to consume an experience. You have a postcard in your hand, you have an itinerary on other hand, and you’re saying to the travel operator or whoever it is who’s showing you around, “I want to consume. I want to see what’s on this map.”

So, when you go to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, you see that Medieval building tilting to the side, and you check off an item on your list. You then go to the Colosseum. You look at the big hole in the ground where the ancient Romans actually held naval battles, and you check off your list. You check off one list item after another and, at the end of the process, you say to yourself, “I’ve traveled.” No you haven’t.

Real travel can be as basic as just going down the street, and you’d still be a real traveler. Why? It’s all about leaving your old identity behind and seeing the world consciously and purposefully with a fresh set of eyes. It is a very powerful way of getting a spiritual recharge instead of looking to consume experiences and validate things that you think you already know. You don’t have such an agenda.

Instead, you put yourself in a position where you’re able to connect the dots in different levels, and it’s no surprise that a lot of people who are creative in nature come back refreshed. They are able to tackle the world. They are able to get out from under the stuff that used to stress them out, and this enables them to become creative powerhouses.

So, do yourself a big favor. Even if you’re not an artist or a writer, travel. You don’t stand to lose anything except maybe your hang-ups, your mental obstacles, your emotional cobwebs. When you come back, it’s kind of like being born again. It’s kind of like seeing your world in its familiar issues with a new set of eyes. Believe me considering how chaotic and problematic our world is, this might just be the experience we all should look into.