Writings by Eve Stenton
We travel to escape the familiar. We want to break the shackles of home, hit the road and find new stimulation, exotic scenery and fascinating people. We travel to find the reality of our dreams and the answers to our questions about this world, the most simple of these being: what is out there beyond the horizon, and how does it compare to home? On the way we might find out that home is where the heart is, that we can fall in love with a place and settle there and make a new home, making the exotic our own; or we might find that the pull of home is too strong to stay away, and we return with our eyes newly opened to the beauty of a place that had become lost to us through familiarity.
Deep in the excitement of planning a journey, it’s easy to believe that this new adventure you are about to embark upon is the answer to all your problems. It’s good to escape, but if your dissatisfaction with life is too deeply rooted, it will still be there when you come back. A journey can refresh the soul, you can find peace on the road, but it can also force you to confront your life and see yourself with greater clarity. This can be good. On your return, you can be infused with a new lust for life, a new love of home, and a new stimulus to be creative and find those answers that you travelled all those miles to find. To travel is to make a journey in the mind, which begins with that first itch to get moving, which you shouldn’t ignore. As Adam Seper says, writing on long-term, round the world travel, ‘If you’re waiting for every single thing in your life to fall into place, you’ll be waiting forever, and before long it will be tool late.’ What’s the worst that can happen? Perhaps the worst thing in life is regret for a dream not pursued.
The best of both worlds
For many people, the answer to that old dilemma of the traveller, the pull of home and of foreign places far away, is answered by the purchase of a holiday home. This may not be the dream of the round the world traveller, but it can provide the best of both worlds for those home-loving souls who only want a temporary change of scene. Of course, the expense of buying a holiday home and the practicalities of maintenance while you’re not using it can be prohibitive. A timeshare can be the perfect solution. The website SellMyTimeshare.tv puts it succinctly: ‘If you’ve ever dreamed of returning to a favourite vacation spot and setting down some roots, but are not able to afford a holiday home, buying a timeshare offers the opportunity to do it on a budget.’ You can also be flexible in your choice of destination with the use of timeshare exchange schemes or the purchase of timeshare points, which gives the advantages of a timeshare, the privacy and freedom of a home away from home, plus the ability to enjoy a wide range of exotic locations.
Another way of exploring different parts of the world, but to enjoy the pleasures of home—or somebody else’s home—is to sign up as a house sitter and exchange homes for a couple of weeks. This is one of those old ideas that have blossomed on the internet, with much reduced costs since the days when you would have had to pay expensive agency fees—now costing only around $20 per annum for house sitter membership. As the website mindmyhouse.com describes it: ‘Once home owners and house sitters have contacted each other, the process of selection and negotiating the terms of the house sitting assignment begins.’ It’s a two-way deal, enabling each homeowner to enjoy free holiday accommodation.
The pull of the exotic
The exotic, that image of a place so far from your everyday experience that you can lose yourself in the strangeness if it: down the ages, this has been the stuff of the traveller’s dreams; although for many dreamers, lack of money forms a formidable barrier to even making the first steps along that road. This is a failure of imagination. The writer and committed traveller on a budget Tim Ferris puts it like this: ‘When I ask people why they don’t travel as much as they would like, the most common answer is “because of money.” This is also the saddest and most frustrating answer.’ If you are prepared to do the research and rough it a bit, the world can belong to any of us.
Travel turns you into an outsider. The more exotic your destination, the more this will be true, not only in your eyes but in the eyes of the people you meet. You are forced to communicate, to find some common ground, and to find what makes us all human; to find those common and eternal values that were there to see back home, but you may not have been forced to confront. Travel throws you into the deep end of another culture, which previously you may have ignored. Today, the whole world is in motion. Wherever you live, there will be communities of immigrants from many parts of the world. You come up against them in the grocery store or in the street, although most probably any contact you make with them are brief, and these separate worlds exist side by side in ignorance of each other. Travel can remove these differences, and home can become just a microcosm of the larger world.
Travel changes you. On your return, those problems you left behind may not seem so great. If you began with an insular view of the world, putting your own little corner of it at its centre, that will have gone. When another country touches you, when you have not just passed through it, when you have bypassed the multinational hotel chains, the restaurants serving the same international cuisine, and the burger and pizza joints; when you have tasted what is special about the country and travelled away from the beaches and holiday resorts to immerse yourself in the differences, the landscape and the culture, you will carry with you a little marker in the mind that forever shifts your focus on the world, making you a citizen of the world.