Article by Luana Borges
It seems like there are two common questions in the 21st Century.
-Where have you been?
-How many countries have you been to?
As if your professional CV wasn’t enough, people also have this new quota of travelling as a filler for a standard “happy life”. We live, we venture, but this leads some to ask… what actually sets your standards for travel? Does any word come to mind when you choose the country, the city, the place you are going? What attributes make your trip interesting?
As children, we had many role models from movies and TV in regards to travel. Characters like Indiana Jones, or Laura Croft from Tomb Raider encouraged a desire for adventurous discoveries in some. For others, the luxury hotels and island adventures of 007 might have set the ideal of how their “adult life” should be. Watching documentaries may have instilled a desire for grand scenery, for silent high mountains where you feel small and insignificant for a while, or curiosity about the jungle animals in Africa and elsewhere. This brings back some of your own memories, huh?
As grown-ups, we each have very personal reasons for traveling. Each trip might have a different cause, or a different meaning to you afterwards. It might very well go completely different from what you previously expected! When we know little or almost nothing about a country, we can use a number of sources to find out more about it. Personally, I prefer the point of view of a person who had a strong experience at that place or someone who has written a novel about it. This compels me to understand a person’s point of view and compare it to what that place stirs in me. Also, if it comes from fiction, it almost brings some of the characters and stories to life, showing you some hidden details that only a person who has been there can feel. Your initial expectations will only occasionally be met … or, rarely, exceeded. How do we generate such expectations? Which books or movies might inspire us today?
One such occurrence happened to me when I was younger. My family decided to go to Italy and I was in charge of the itinerary. I was immediately brought back to the experience I had reading the book “Angels and Demons” by Dan Brown. I had read the illustrated version of it, and as I was reading, the images were helping me to understand better what the author was talking about (if you’ve read any of his books, you know what I mean), but at the same time that wish of actually being able to see the art, the churches with my own eyes emerged. Also, reading this book gave me an idea of what to look for when I went there. It gave meaning to my trip.
Another book that has changed my perspective about travelling, was “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Although the movie is a little silly and very oriented to a Hollywood conception of romance, the book is much more detailed about how she used a trip as a way of healing, her own grief process from a draining divorce, and her re-connection with spirituality. It is a beautiful description of her process, at the same time, it brings the reader the feelings that being in a different place cause, that usually we don’t share with everyone (at least not me).
In a different way, the movie “Into the Wild”, directed by Sean Penn and based on the book by Jon Krakauer, is very intensely relatable for backpackers and wanderers, through its display of a character that leaves absolutely everything behind in the search for himself (and it has the most amazing soundtrack, mostly played by Eddie Vedder). That, added to the fact that the main character rebels against the system (one of the iconic scenes being him burning a pile of money), makes every person sick and tired of the daily routine a fan of the idea of just running away.
Currently, we are in a moment where going here, there, and everywhere is not possible. The planet is facing a pandemic that has restricted us from the pleasures of travelling, at least for now. We need to be creative about the way we amaze ourselves with experiences. So, why not allow ourselves to travel through an author’s mind, and perhaps change the way we have been experiencing our trips and prepare for our next great adventure?
Luana is a writer, translator, student and occasional dancer from Brazil who is currently living in Xi’an. Teaching English has been her hobby for ten years. She also likes sarcasm. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org