The Definition of Travel

The Definition of Travel

What is Travel?

This might seem like a strange question. And yes, on one hand, the answer’s obvious. As Google helpfully informs us, travel means to ‘make a journey, typically of some length’. Not the most inspiring definition though, is it?

Though it isn’t particularly elaborate, Google’s definition feeds into the typical idea of what it is to travel: to explore new places and parts of the world, experience new cultures, see new things and meet new people; usually for a reasonable length of time and often squeezed into a gap year, or break from ‘real life’.

This is all true- travel does indeed encompass all of the above. However, travel is this and so much more.

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Perhaps we can read into Google’s definition a bit further. In fact, with some creativity and poetic license, there’s a depth that isn’t apparent at first glance.

 ‘Journey’ and ‘length’ are two key words that stand out to me.

Travelling is a journey in all senses of the word and if by ‘length’, we understand ‘magnitude’ or ‘size’, the definition takes on a different meaning.

Travel is a journey not just in the physical practice of moving from A to B, but in an internal, mental and emotional one too. It’s a transition, the extent to which is in large part correlated with the depth you allow yourself to enter into the experience.

The potential impact travel can have on you is huge.

It is the mind expanding process of experiencing first-hand what a tiny cog you are in the giant machine of the world. It teaches you how to really see, alters your priorities, shatters illusions, penetrates ignorance, demonstrates what’s truly important, and, where it was once a mystery, reveals you to yourself, like a blindfold suddenly lifted.

Travel’s an infectious, mind-altering, ego-humbling, life-changing practice that leaves an indelible mark on who you are. Travel matures you, schools you and ultimately comes to define you.
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The journey you’ve taken and the distance you’ve travelled are never clearer than at the end of your trip, when you get home. In the utterly bizarre and unsettling tumult of emotions that greet us upon our return, the process and power of travel are felt in full.

We may be unaware of all the internal changes during our trip, but the act of coming back to the place that was (and is meant to be) home confronts you with the person you once were.

Everything and everyone is the same, except you.

For a period of time you’re faced with the disconcerting feeling that you do not belong in this place any more. It is at this point that the allure of further travel is at its peak; when the same four walls that once felt safe and comfortable suddenly become confining and claustrophobic and there is nothing more appealing than heading back out into the wider world.

Here lies the addictive quality of travel.

Sure, moving around a country, visiting impressive places and meeting new people are all appealing acts in their own right. But, in and of themselves I’m not sure they could compel people to travel to the extent they often do.

The travel bug is a symptom of the power of the experience of travel. Any form of addiction is presumably connected to the effects of the drug, as much as to the substance itself- can the two be disentangled?

In the context of travel, the content of the experience is often inherently enjoyable, but without the effect it has on us, it simply wouldn’t be the same.  

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In the same way, there lies a distinction between travel as an act and travel as a philosophy.

Though it is unlikely you can explore new countries forever, it is absolutely possible to maintain its philosophy throughout life.

When I talk about the travel feeling in my blog, this is what I’m getting at: travel goes beyond the simple act of exploring new places. Instead, it becomes a lifestyle that you can carry around with you, even when you’re no longer visiting new countries.

Who is in control here? Google’s definition would suggest that it is the traveller who is in charge of their journey.

Yet, in the best way possible, I think a truer and more complete definition of travel, which incorporates all I’ve mentioned above, places the traveller at the mercy of their experience.

Though we may not step into our adventures with the intention of being changed, it is almost certain that we will be.

If you’re reading this as an aspiring traveller, I hope knowing what you’re getting yourself into will make it easier for you to glean the full rewards of your future endeavour.

However, though I’m sure travel will leave an impression on you however you go about it, I think it’s necessary to approach travel in a particular way to feel the full potential effects.

Indeed, adopting a definition of travel I’ve talked about here, I guess there’s a danger that any newfound expectations that it will simply ‘work its magic’ may stop someone approaching travel in the most lucrative ways.

Check out my thoughts on ‘how to travel’, to ensure your experience is as lucrative as possible!

How do you define travel? Let me know in the comments!