Notwithstanding the COVID19 pandemic shutting down travel in 2020, in this century travel has become more accessible than it has ever been before. Unsurprisingly, the fastest-spreading, fastest-growing types of travel were, of course, mass tourism and spontaneous weekend trips. The former, because it’s the cheapest; the latter, because it fits into the only leisure time full-time working people had.
This significantly changed the meaning of the word ‘travel’. Today, people understand ‘travel’ as being synonymous with tourism, i.e. the thing you have to do, to get to the tourism. But, in the entirety of literature before this, ‘travel’ meant something different, and the distinction is not just the snobbery of a travel writer.
When it was rarer and more difficult to come by, most people were not able to have the experience. Those who did travel, understood that it meant risk and uncertainty, and losing the ability to rely on your home community. Indeed, you wouldn’t be able to contact them at all.
A different psychology is experienced with travel in this sense, than travel-as-tourism. This kind of travel is invariably profound and meaningful, because of its unfamiliarity and because you savour it more. You’re more likely to find yourself ignorant, and therefore humbled. You pay attention, because this may be the last time you could come. (In older centuries, you pay attention, because maybe you can never return home.)
That’s the kind of experience that grows people. That’s the kind of travel that gave the genre its fame. You must face uncertainty and risk, to come to terms with your humanity and your inner resources.
You must go deep, to recover insight.
We live in a time of tremendous change. And we have no choice but to change quickly and well. Those who have mastered the skill of learning will fare well. And the fastest learners use the routes of insight.
You don’t have to travel to learn to see with insight. But it does make it easier. Like truths in myth and legend, it’s easier to teach insight when it’s couched within a story about a faraway land.