Virtually everybody travels at various times in their life, and for an enormously wide range of reasons. The word itself usually brings to mind recreation, or the desire and plan to go somewhere new for enjoyment purposes. Even in this type of travel, however, it can be seen that the experience itself provides limitless opportunities because a change of environment creates changes in perspective. New places, different people, and elements of unknown culture trigger responses in the individual which, even when relaxation is the goal, must have a strong effect on the individual’s ways of seeing and thinking. Then, the mechanics of travel often challenge people, just as assessing the experience afterward adds other dimensions. No matter the form or reasons, one factor is inevitably in place when people travel: in leaving their known environment, they are entering into others which will have many and diverse influences on them, but still have the effect of emphasizing the identity of the traveler.
In examining the multiple reasons behind travel, it is important to understand that all are significant because travel is rarely easy to arrange and actually do. As will be explored shortly, there are many demands that must be met, even when the travel is relatively unplanned. Consequently, what motivates people to travel are usually powerful motivations. Enjoyment is by no means the least forceful of these motivations. Whether it is the individual, the family, or a group of friends, this type of travel is both widely carried on and felt to be necessary. It very often happens that the sheer force of routine creates the need to alter it. The daily habits of work, school, and even social activities become stifling because they do not vary, and it is believed that a complete change of scene will refresh the mind and the body. How people pursue even this one type of travel may occur in very different ways. Some plan trips in which they will be engaged in sports or recreations not available at home, such as skiing and scuba diving. Here, the travel emphasis is on the physicality. Conversely, some arrange times and locations in which they are completely free to do nothing. In these cases, and whether the object is to be able to lie on a beach for hours or explore a foreign city, the impetus is more about breaking free from a known schedule while experiencing the unknown or different.
Connected to these types of travel, yet very specific in itself is the honeymoon trip. This is travel as a kind of ritual or celebration; the married couple, it is felt, should be away and in a place wherein they know no one but themselves, so that a greater intimacy may be gained. At the same time, honeymoon travel exists to provide the same pleasures as vacation travel; it is the “break” from the normal life linked to the opportunity to see the unknown. Less common but related to this is the traveling done after a divorce or life-changing experience. In such cases, the individual often feels an intense need to escape from the known environment and rely only on themselves, and in an arena in which no one knows them. It is a kind of self-therapy, in that the isolation of being a stranger allows the person to better know and investigate their feelings away from all that has been defining them.
More pragmatic is traveling done for business or for education. The first is, in fact, often not desired by the individual, for it is little more than an extension of their work. There are opportunities to take in new scenes and cultures, and it is ordinary for business travelers to do this as a means of making the effort more personally rewarding. The demands of the business trip come first, however, and it is equally ordinary that business travel is limited to nothing but work and the necessary accommodations in the new setting. This is as common with touring dance or theater companies as it is for corporate employees sent abroad to secure contracts, oversee operations, or conduct any other facet of commerce. This practical aspect is both present and somewhat different when travel is made for education. On one level, and whether the travel translates to the need to actually study in a removed location or investigate a subject, the learning is the primary concern. Education, however, is less confined as a pursuit than business. Consequently, many who travel for this reason set out to take in more experience of the new arena, for this will often assist in the acquiring of whatever education is desired. This type of travel nonetheless reflects the same ambitions of all travel, with the possible exception of travel done strictly for business or to attend to an event, such as a funeral; it is about experiencing elsewhere what is not available at home.
Not surprisingly, the type of travel dictates how it is to be arranged. First and foremost, arrangements of all kinds have undergone a radical change in recent decades, in that individuals now set up the transportation, lodging, etc., that was once often the responsibility of the professional travel agent. The Internet permits people to scout out schedules and pricing for every type of transport, from buses to international flights, and to then make the selections best suited to them. The same is true for accommodations and activities to be arranged prior to leaving; literally, hundreds of thousands of websites promote the attractions and offerings available worldwide, just as many services combine options and let the individual plan every element of the trip. Travel agencies still exist, but the enormous savings in money and convenience now have increasing numbers of people booking and paying for flights and hotels completely on their own. Equally important here is that, given the intense competition in the travel and tourism industry, every effort is made by these venues to cater to all budgets.
This modern convenience notwithstanding, arranging travel remains a demanding task. Except for those cases in which a business fully finances the travel, the first consideration is usually the level of expense. Travel inevitably means leaving the home environment to live, even for a short time, elsewhere, so the transportation, accommodations, and other necessary expenses do not figure into the normal budget or routine. It is thus essential that, even before the first arrangements are made, the individual has a good sense of what they can afford. A mistake or miscalculation here may have disastrous effects both on the travel and on the aftermath. For example, the benefits of a much-needed vacation at an expensive resort will not be long-lasting when the individual returns to face large debt created by it. A true understanding of what means are available, then, is vital if the travel is to be successful.
Once the travel budget is known, the traveler is then actually assisted in deciding on the transportation and lodging. The very limited budget may translate to no option beyond the bus, as it may require securing the least expensive room, hostel, or boarding house, or even the need to arrange for staying with acquaintances. Conversely, a larger budget enables the individual to select a luxurious flight and premium accommodations. The available funds also, and importantly, allow to both increase the distance and the duration of the trip. Less money typically equates to closer travel destinations, as more allows for a wider range of options in places. Similarly, the lessened concern over money allows the traveler to lengthen the trip, whereas others may feel the more pressing need to end the vacation expenses and return to work.
It is interesting and very common that, for many, a major concern in travel is determining what to bring, and how much of it. Some of this concern is generated by the airline restrictions in place today, wherein luggage once taken care of as part of the ticket price is an additional expense. This aside, however, people usually struggle with identifying their needs in this area. In plain terms, people tend to over-pack. They are fearful of being without clothing or items they rely upon, and they ignore some of the realities of travel itself. First, they do not take into account that most anything they could require will be available at the destination. Then, there is often a concern about changes of clothing in environments in which, as in vacation destinations, these things are unimportant. The sensible traveler follows one basic rule: take only that which is necessary, and/or cannot be had at the destination. As a general rule, it is always advisable to travel as lightly as possible, if only because there are fewer possessions to be responsible for while away from home.
In terms of personal experiences, I find travel both an exciting and challenging activity. As may be expected, the reasons behind my traveling greatly affect how I feel about each episode. For example, some years ago I was compelled to travel because of a death in the family, and this to me is an experience unlike any other. It is travel, but it does not offer the usual advantages or attractions of other types; it is travel as an obligation, with a set and unhappy objective to be met. Less extreme than this, but still reflecting a kind of lack of enjoyment, is travel I have done to investigate job and educational possibilities. On these few occasions, as with the funeral trip, it is all about structure, planning, and the specific goal. Times are fixed and arrangements are not made with any real sense of happy anticipation.
At the same time, I have found that even these highly practical trips have nonetheless reflected aspects of travel I have experienced during vacations. What happens, and even under the most strict circumstances, is that the travel brings to me a renewed sense of myself. No matter the purpose of the trip, the process of distancing myself from my known environment is occurring, and I feel this is the fundamental appeal and benefit of all travel. Even as I have scrambled to make an appointment in a strange place, there has existed still the excitement of taking in a new landscape and the challenges of making my way through it. Even as I have journeyed to pay my respects to a deceased relative, I have nonetheless had the feeling of being more myself, simply because everything that defines me in ordinary life was left behind. It is strange, but it seems to me that the greatest effect of travel is that reinforcement of who we are always. The strange place simply and inevitably underscores our own identity because we are compelled to react and adapt to the unknown. Put another way, I think the farther we go in travel, the nearer we come to ourselves.
This quality of travel as reinforcing the sense of self is, for me, most profoundly felt when I have gone places purely for recreation. At these times, with no obligations to distract me, I can be open to everything new around me, and this is as true of the actual scene as it is of the people and the different way of life. At a tropical setting once, I remember thinking how the people around me for whom this was the “regular” environment were different. Their behavior and speech were more relaxed, and everything seemed to move at a more leisurely pace. Even while this scene was within my own country, I nonetheless felt as though I were taking in another culture, simply because the place itself so powerfully affects the ways people live. As this happened, my own idea of who I was and how I myself lived was all the more emphasized, and this is the great and refreshing power of travel in my eyes.
As noted, a wide variety of reasons go to why people travel, ranging from the urgent need to attend to business to the equally urgent need to get away and do nothing. Equally varied are the means by which any travel may be arranged, although the guiding principle is budget. Travel, then, is as diverse an experience as any that human beings engage in, as it affects people in individual ways. Reasons may change during the travel, just as anticipated outcomes may not turn out as expected. In all of this, however, it seems that one element is in place, no matter how or why the travel is done. This is the element of the individual coming to a stronger sense or idea of themselves because the surrounding landscape is completely different. In traveling to the new and in leaving behind the known environment, people enter into areas which will have many and diverse influences on them, and yet also reinforce their own identities.