I have a book called the Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road. It is a book written by Paul Theroux and the reason I bought it was the title. It called my name when I saw it in the bookstore in Bratislava. Right now it sits on my desk at work, right on top of a pile of books behind my monitor.
Many times I have asked myself: Why do people travel? Or more precisely, perhaps, why do I want to travel. I was about two years old when I told my parents I wanted to travel the world, and from there this urge has just continued. At the moment we do not have any travel plans and I feel I’m going crazy. It is funny, really. Travel does not feel like a choice I have, rather, it has chosen me. Maybe that is the tao of travel.
The Tao of Travel – When Travel Is the Way
According to Taoism, the Tao is the Way. And maybe that’s what traveling is about – finding a way to follow. I guess most people have their own reasons to explore the world. At the end of the day, those reasons don’t matter. I have learned quite a few lessons from traveling and I’d like to share the most important ones with you. And maybe it is those very lessons that get this couch potato (aka the reluctant traveler) up and moving.
Lesson #1: Sometimes (and quite often) that road might be rocky, bumpy, and steep.
I once slept under a tree in Poland. It was right after someone stole all my cash. And it was about that time that I realized I had forgotten my debit card in Finland. Well, guess what? I survived to tell the tale. During that year in Poland – and all other times I have lived abroad – life taught me to be flexible. And it also showed me that a little bit of faith can take you very far.
These are attributes that have helped me in my daily life as well. There are very few things that disrupt my balance. Because, after all, things can always be worse. There is also a solution to most problems – even though it might not be the one you initially thought. Finding that solution might require time and effort, but you will find it when your mind is flexible enough. So, for me, one of the rules when it comes to the tao of travel is this:
A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.
Lesson #2: life is about doors that open, missed chances, goodbyes, and a lot of other stuff.
Sometimes life hurts. Travel, very much like living, is about arriving and departing. Many times when we travel – and lead our ordinary lives – we look for something spectacular. But what if the spectacular is the world we see each day, those tired faces we see on the bus every morning. People (yours truly as well) spend so much time searching for improvements and a better tomorrow. But, consider this: what if all we have is what is right here and right now? Should we strive for something better or should we appreciate the positive things in life?
Stop leaving and you will arrrive. Stop searching and you will see. Stop running away and you will be found.
Lesson #3: travel teaches humbleness
One of my greatest fears is the risk that I make bad decisions because of misinformation. What if I act like an idiot just because I imagine I’m right about something? I have done that many times in my life. Think about all the consequences such behavior could generate? However, stepping out of your box, listening to people, watching the world – that’s the way you learn. Suddenly you realize that you probably don’t know anything about anything. Maybe, just maybe, that extra ounce of humbleness helps you question your actions and attitudes. For instance, it’s very easy to see the world in black and white if you never step into the gray zones. You grow up thinking there is one particular way you should live. Leave that life for a moment, and you might well find out that grass indeed is greener on the other side.
The further one goes, the less one knows.