Why We Travel

By Xue Feng

Or Why I travel?

First of all, let me give a big sigh. This is the fifth time I re-write the opening paragraph. I’d blame on my fever I just got as a souvenir in this not-so-cold season in Beijing.

I just flew back from Seoul, a city full of crazy shopping malls that open almost 24 hrs. per day. Before this, I was travelling in Taiwan for roughly two months. Actually this is the first time for me going on a half a year trip. My travel routine usually ranges from one week to one month.

Two months staying in a “small” island (Taiwan) is unbelievable to certain people (a.k.a. my mom, who complains my way of travelling is kinda like wasting time…). After a month of staying in Taiwan, after all the fresh, the strange, the new stuff are getting familiar and not-so-special to me, I started asking myself the question: Why I want to travel for this long, what’s left for me once all the visual excitement are gone.

Before buying the damn air ticket and flew all the way to Asia, I was super excited and kept talking about the places I want to go. Here, there and everywhere. The world is just too big to explore. I’ve made some routes and plans and right now I’m half-lying down on my chair, feeling all the dizziness and eyesore, drinking a large cup of coffee with used tissues spreading all over the table, only hoping that I can get well soon.

I’m super exhausted and don’t want to go anywhere for at least a month. I never expect this tiredness at all. But after two-month travelling, right now I really, really, just want to stay at one place, no more travelling and no more packing and unpacking. Also, no obligation to go out everyday.

Why We Travel

Ovi mentioned this question in one of the emails. What a coincidence. The other day My mom and me were in a café waiting for a nearby shopping mall to open. Out of nowhere we started to argue about why people want to travel and I was criticizing some people’s perception of travel. Till noon I still felt the whole process was so unreal that we were simply arguing this for about two hours at 7am in a café in Seoul.

Long story short, my mistake of mixing up the concept of traveller and tourist made this discussion really irritating. My complain came from the common phenomenon that I saw a vast number of tourists from mainland China coming over to Taiwan, only to take a few pictures and rushing to get on/off the tour bus. They don’t even take a close look at what they just took picture of. I was really, really, angry with this type of travelling. I don’t get it. What’s the point? What’s the point of just coming here and seeing “it”?

Travel to them simply equals to physically being there and taking some photos as proofs of being there. I think the essential part of travelling is missing, the interaction with locals, the feelings your heart generated about the city, about the people who habitat in here.

And this is what I learnt from my journey in Taiwan. I met so many super nice Taiwanese who touched my heart and makes me love Taiwan so, so, so much. This experience really broadened my concept of travelling. I haven’t travelled extensively but this is the first time that a place can grab my heart and make me fall in love with her all of a sudden.

People really makes a difference and the interaction with locals are indeed a major part to a complete travelling experience. To those who travel with a tour bus, hop on and off with time limitation, I really feel sorry for them not being able to experience the culture in a deeper and genuine way.

And here is where my mom’s anger came in. She really dislikes me judging others based on my own limited life experience. To me, if you cannot experience the genius stuff, why you are here. Don’t even bother to come here if all you want is taking pictures but not to experience, not to feel the nature and the people. Don’t stain the concept of travel.

My mom said I’m too aggressive on this point. Most people don’t have the time and money to travel as free as they can. They are mostly on a tight budget and scheduled time, and the main purpose is simply sightseeing. That is why they are called TOURISTS, NOT TRAVELLERS. That is also why such thing exists – the TOUR BUS.

It seems like I still didn’t answer the question “Why we travel” after mumbling for this long. I’m a person who’s always searching for new stuff. I need lots of visual stimulation as idea boosters in my life. Going to the unknown is exciting, and going alone makes it even more mysterious.

Traveling is addictive. The spontaneous and the unstable nature of traveling attracts me. Traveling is a process of learning. Learning about different world, and about oneself. Travelling is about training oneself to minimize the fear in one’s heart, to jump out of the comfort zone and to embrace the unknown.

So why do you travel?

Photo copyright © Xue Feng.