In 1968, Robin Lee Graham achieved the recognition of being the youngest person to sail solo around the world. In 1965, at the young age of 16, Graham had embarked on his extraordinary mission. His book, “Dove”, published in 1972, described his exhilarating journey, a journey that would forever change the way he saw the world.
As a parent of two children, Graham’s journey got me thinking of how many travelling opportunities I have provided my children to enlighten themselves. Admittedly not many, at least not of the scale and the challenge that Graham had experienced. However, I adore travelling and have always been delighted to show the world to my children. I’ve believed that the learning we encounter while travelling is unparalleled in terms of the opportunities it provides the traveller to evolve and grow.
Travelling provides an individual with a holistic education, fresh perspectives on life, culture and the world we are a part of. The first change that can positively impact us is the awareness that we are a part of a world that is full of wonders. Through this awareness, we can also recognize that we are invariably linked to the world through the responsibility we show to those around us. Whether it is climate change, poverty, violence or any other global issue, an issue that faces people anywhere is an issue that concerns us too. Our existence is not complete unless we awaken to this universal truth.
The second factor that positively affects us as an impact of travelling is learning tolerance. During travel, we come across people with different beliefs, religions, languages, lifestyle and living in other climatic conditions. I still remember my first trip to Japan more than 26 years ago and my exposure to the healthy Japanese diet. Though I was missing vegetarian food options, I was undoubtedly intrigued by the creative and healthy cooking style of preparing meat and fish by the Japanese. During my first trip to Denmark, I was pleasantly surprised to observe that mealtimes are genuinely long and leisurely activities of the day where the company is savoured as much as the food. We had spent more than 3 hours at a restaurant with our Danish hosts! It was an enchanting Hygge experience for me.
Another experience that comes to mind fondly is my trip to Rome last year. The Italians are remarkable for their chivalry and their charm. During a trip to a restaurant, despite the noisy, talkative ambience, I pleasantly observed with just how much gusto and fanfare a waiter attends to a guest and welcomes them warmly for yet another meal. Each guest is celebrated during dinner and after! I’m sure we all have countless stories to narrate from our trips too —some pleasant and some not so satisfying but undoubtedly experiences that taught us valuable lessons.
Another learning we experience through travelling especially alone is getting to know the one person whom many often tend to take for granted – ourselves. There may be experiences that we never knew could be so joyous, like sitting inside a dark, cramped bus for a whole night but getting to catch the morning sun amidst a beautiful valley of flowers and lush greenery. This memorable visual experience was one of the highlights of my college excursion 28 years ago. Looking back, the happiness I experienced as I took in the glory of the dawn and the scene, after sitting in the bus till morning was worth it.
Travelling also can awaken us to the reality that we do not need to have heavy luggage to travel. Reminds me of one of my trips to attend a conference in Europe when I had to clumsily lug my heavy luggage most inconveniently on buses and trains. Determined to move the baggage on my own (sheer stubbornness I guess!), at the end of the journey, I realized with utter exhaustion that carrying a smaller box would have been the most sensible decision to make. Travelling sensibly is wise, trust me. As the legendary Graham had said when he found out after he had travelled around the world for more than three years,
“At sea, I realized just how little a person needs, not just how much”.