Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A bee in my bonnet 2

On Travelling

The other day I heard someone say '...because travel expands horizons'. And I desperately wanted to ask 'really?'. I would've liked to know how travelling economy class, staying in budget hotels, complaining about local food/mosquitoes/toilets and having your photo clicked in front of the Eiffel Tower contributes to widening of perspective. The previous sentence is not to suggest that if you travelled business and stayed at star hotels you'd be any wiser. But I just don't get the wisdom that one is supposed to draw from having a few more stamps on your passport.

And as Indians we seem particularly fond of showing off how many places we've been to around the world. You need to look no further than any of the social networking sites to see desis posing in front of Statue of Liberty/Sydney Opera House/second-hand Toyota car in their profile photo. The inference that one intends for others to draw is clear. Look at me, I'm widely travelled and therefore I must be better than you. Sure, it is fun going to a new place and seeing new people. But is travelling anything more than that? Especially in this day and age when we seek to replicate the same atmosphere as home wherever we go. With holiday companies offering customers masal vadai and tea in Swiss Alps and some airlines offering Jain cuisine. Why is it any better than staying at home and watching the same on telly? Some of the most interesting people I know have never left their hometowns. In fact, they don't even have a passport. And some of the most peripatetic people I know are none the wiser for it. So why are so many benefits attributed to travelling the world? What's your take on it?

20 comments:

Kamini said...

It's not right to say that someone is "better" than someone else just because they have traveled. All sorts of factors come into play: time, money, inclination - and having more of these certainly does not a better person make!
Having traveled widely myself I can definitely say that it has enriched me tremendously. No matter how much you read (or watch TV or movies) about a place, there is nothing that can compare to actually seeing a place. And I don't mean rushing around, cramming in as many places as possible to go back home and show off about. The insights it can give you into another place and culture, the tolerance and acceptance it can build of other people, an appreciation for the underlying similarities between all humans even when outwardly there are so many differences - these are perspectives that can make travel, and a "well" (in the best sense of the word) traveled person a "better" one - better in terms of his or her own personal development.
Sorry for the long rant!
Kamini

Shirsha said...

Desis displaying photos before Eiffel is the same thing as jewellery on display at weddings... an urge to display how much wealth we have/can spend!
And such rigid travelling expands noone's horizons, except maybe localites thr who grow aware of your cuisine!

Premalatha said...

LOL at your take. :-)

//But is travelling anything more than that? //

Yes it is. If one pays attention to the culture, respect different cultures and understand many different things.

We do not do these things within our own place. Travelling does not have to be travelling Europe/America. it can be just your next town, a village, next state..

Travelling does expand horizons.


//No matter how much you read (or watch TV or movies) about a place, there is nothing that can compare to actually seeing a place//

True and I would add talking to the locals. Spending time with locals would be a better idea, but not every one can afford in terms of several things, mainly in terms of time and money

V said...

I write this as a person who enjoys traveling. I agree travel does not make me any more interesting and the pics I have does not make me better. But at times keeps conversation running when I am around some strangers with whom I have nothing in common. But more than anything else I love the preparation phase of any travel plans. To go to a different place, the reading involved, the planning is half the fun for me. And this is the time I learn more about history and relate what I learned in the classrooms years ago to different things. Yes at times it means you need to stray from the beaten path of tourists and that is what I enjoy the most.

Rangakrishnan Srinivasan said...

Travelling does indeed widen horizons. People that you normally encounter in atlases/encyclopaedias are there right in front of you. You realise that, we, all are the same; the very same thayir saadam iyer/iyengar, whose family once refused to go vishnu/siva temple respectively would go to a church in Italy or a mosque in Turkey. You would find a couple very much in love, wherever you go. Etcetera.

You can roam without any sense of direction and feel the pulse of the country. Morover, when you do get lost, how you go about doing things is an awesome learning experience. Finally, we travel because we love to, and not, because we want to show off that we have widely travelled. Like one of the previous commentors had said, it does give a good starting point for conversations with strangers.

And.... the usual "patelji" snaps, is all right, I suppose. Just another fancy that is catching on to show that they got the best value for the money they had spent. Forget about these snaps becoming prominent features of their profiles on social networking sites. Forget about their vanity, for that is their favorite sin. These snaps could serve a deeper purpose; could be great memories, and for the sentimental lot, a good way to teach their children/grandchildren, geography.

Lastly, and most importantly, after all this, you would realise as to how much you love your own home.

Rupinion said...

There are people for whom travelling is a passion.
Just like we cannot explain the passion for books for some people, passion for food for others and passion for love for yet some others, this may have to be given its place.

S m i t h a said...

when u put it like that, it does sound tacky. but traditionally, traveling is synonymous with the number of people, different culture & contacts that one establishes on their travel.
meeting new people is the best way to overcome prejudice, bigotry etc... in fact any change in personality is not brought on by being with the same persons.

~ Ms. Cute Pants ~ said...

Yes I do agree that travel expands horizons. For example, my husband, practically born in Canada, for the first time visited India on a trip we made to visit my relatives after we got married. For someone who has been brought up in a First world country to have to be exposed to the poverty in Bombay is an eye opener, to how blessed his life has been. He looks at things differently now. So yes it definitely expands your horizons. (This was just one aspect of it). Others were the exposure to Indian culture & to the land of my birth, the places I grew up...

Sure, some desis like to brag about other countries they've visited, but I think it's because they come from India & most often are visiting places that are not third world countries. Perhaps, this is why 'they' brag...

chockalingam said...

Whether you travel from King’s Cross to Hatfield, Vishakapatnam to Vyasarpadi, or bedroom to bathroom for that matter, as long as you wear tantex, you can never go wrong. That has always been my guiding philosophy in times of pleasure and peril. Whenever my foundation is faltering, whenever my resolve weakens, knees buckle, speech fumble, whenever I come to that metaphorical fork on road, I recall those priceless Pulitzer winning commandments neatly typed in courier on a bumper sticker and pasted on my forehead "as Tiruvallur, Avadi and Vyasarpadi sped by in a blur of Tantex hoardings, I learned the intimate details of her family".

Those very intimate details keep me up at night, in my tantex ofcourse. Life is the train and we are all livers. All the livers are travelling. As the livers travel, Vyasarpadi speeds by in a blur. But we must always take the time to identify that tantex hoarding. That is what keeps the humanity alive. Otherwise stasis sets in. Whether we travel with our suttuval or munching the seedai, as long as we sport tantex, we will be alright. A most comforting thought, isn't it ? So come, fellow traveller, let us travel. Come, fellow liver, let us live. Let us all travel to that precious Vyaraspadi hoarding and collect beneath it as one large peaceful gathering of humanity united only by our common love for Tantex Banian and Tantex Jetti.

Shyam said...

Dunno about broadening horizons, but travelling is fun. I like visiting new places and seeing beautiful old things and cultures and lifestyles that are different from mine, and trying new food (although I tend to binge a bit on Indian food for a few days after prolonged exposure to "new food"!) :)

Also have to admit that I'd like to travel to offbeat places.

Shyam said...

Hm. That last thing I wrote - I guess it's a different way of trying to show off :)

Vidya said...

I am the kind that believes as Premalatha has already said, yes, travel does expand horizons. But only if you want that travel to. Eating/non-eating, cribbing/not-cribbing, flaunting/not-flaunting all that has nothing to do with expanding your horizons.

How much of yourself is open to assimilate the new stuff that you have seen and lived into your own stream and take the best from what you have seen and and experienced to build more tolerance in you towards everything. Thats the key. As you said, again, travel need not necessarily do this to you. If you are open enough, you can easily learn from your brothers and sisters and your neighbors without ever stepping out from the city you were born.

But honestly, how many of us do it? But that is something expected to be done when travelling, but again as man always finds a way to get the real crux out of anything, its indeed sad but true that it has gone from travel too, so much so, I have come across my share of people too who can talk about the places they have travelled and keep flaunting it, which would make you wonder how can he/she have such an attitude or be so ignorant after having so much of exposure. But then you realize they did have the exposure, but did it get into them, sadly no. :) They just went through all the motions of doing something without gaining any experience from it. And more sadly do not realize it too.

avataram said...

maybe it is best said by pico iyer in an essay in salon...

For if every true love affair can feel like a journey to a foreign country, where you can't quite speak the language, and you don't know where you're going, and you're pulled ever deeper into the inviting darkness, every trip to a foreign country can be a love affair, where you're left puzzling over who you are and whom you've fallen in love with. All the great travel books are love stories, by some reckoning -- from the Odyssey and the Aeneid to the Divine Comedy and the New Testament -- and all good trips are, like love, about being carried out of yourself and deposited in the midst of terror and wonder.

http://archive.salon.com/travel/
feature/2000/03/18/why/index.html

Blur said...

Why would you think that the reason people post travel snaps is to suggest that they are better than the rest? Does it mean that people sharing snaps of their children are suggesting they are fertile than the rest!!
That dont make a lot of sense to me!
If Indians like to talk of their travels, so be it... no blood spilt there.

mumbaigirl said...

Love travelling-I guess because I enjoy, music, food, art, trees, sounds and smells, however pretentious that sounds. Also like exploring cities on my own. Haven't thought about why. Feel a sense of irritation when people travel only to try and recreate India at the destination and/or sit in their hotel rooms watching TV.

Madura said...

With his tantex thingy chockalingam (and avataram?!) has made me their comment fans ... in the jikku world ... :) ...

Feeling bad about making a serious comment in this happy world ...

I believe that "to travel" is different from touring ... To travel is to truly get into the system - culture or whatever it is ... It doesnt matter how long you live. I have never "traveled in USA" in that sense, I never could. Have toured ofcourse. Touring is a lot of fun, and I love it. Travel is completely something else - my idea is something very close to that of what avataram has quoted ... Traveling to a place where you dont speak the language and none of them speak yours, where you cant eat their food, where nobody dresses like you, where nobody you know lives or accompanying you ... Such a travel can actually make one significantly confused fakirs and when they get out they will never know anything for sure anymore about life, and themselves. They stop judging others too quickly based on limited notions of life. Such a person is easy to be with, I dont know if thats wisdom in any way! :) ... I personally know a few fakirs, and the strangest thing is they end up adopting children from different continents, and live in a different sense of definition for home! Better human beings is a judgmental statement on them and others, but I would say definitely well traveled fakirs are very interesting human beings.

Aqua said...

i agree 100% with what y're written. reminds me of something i read in 'the alchemist'. Santiago's father says something to the effect that no matter where or how far we travel, we're still the same persons we were when we return. He says to the boy 'Travel the world until you see that our castle is the greatest, and our women the most beautiful’.

The Practical Idealist said...

Travelling really expands one thing: the thickness of your photo albums; and if you're a good eater, maybe your waistline too. And these are certainly more important than meeting people in your travels, or imbimbing local customs, and other such meaningless things!

On a more serious note, travelling widely - to many people - is yet another way to display their superiority; to show how much farther they have come; to show how posh they have become by adopting practices like eating idli and dosa with knife and fork.

Yet another sign that we humans have not grown out of our childish tendencies to make silly comparisons.

yezdi said...

Sorry I'm late....I was travelling.

First I'd like to know how you define Horizon. As per MS Word (Version Unknown) some of the meanings are: Perspective, Scope, Sphere.
When we say "travelling expands Horizons", what we mean (also please notice the clever usage of WE. Its a cult, WE the well travelled ones) strictly in that sense. Where as "Wise" is a totally different concept....ummm I guess!!

Piscean Angel said...

I love to travel & most of the time it's not with the intention of "expanding my horizons" but to see new places, enjoy myself, relax, and of course, try out the local cuisine. Yes, I also get to meet some very interesting people on these trips ... which is an added bonus.
Happy travelling folks !!!