The Perspective of Travel
If you’re feeling stuck in the same old rut of desiring change, but not knowing how to get started, perhaps you need a change of scenery.
Movement gives us greater objectivity
I remember as a boy, pedalling up the closest, highest mountain I could find and looking down at Cardiff, the city I once called home.
As I watched the glimmering windows and faint strands of traffic, the flashing of the light at the top of the highest building, and even the shore of England in the distance, I felt liberated.
All my problems and frustrations and crises came dislodged.
I could focus on bigger things: ideas, theories, priorities and principles.
These bike rides helped me to learn what really matters to me, what makes me tick.
Somehow when our bodies start moving towards unfamiliar territory, and experiencing unfamiliar things, creativity gets unleashed.
It cultivates humility and open mindedness
When we get exposed to new people and new stories, those things shape us.
We realise that not everyone looks at the world the way we do.
Not everyone perceives our motives as purely as we do.
Some friends of ours live in a village in Zambia, situated alongside the great Zambezi, several kilometres from The Smoke That Thunders (the Zambian name for Victoria Falls).
When they first moved in, they noticed that every village had hollowed out concrete blocks that were being used as tables, benches or were just abandoned alongside the path.
On closer inspection they realised that these concrete blocks were water filtration systems. The water passes through sand, and in the process 98% of the bacteria is removed.
These filters offered a solution to the stomach aches and illnesses that the villagers caught from drinking straight from the Zambezi.
But the people already believed they knew what made them sick.
Their ancestors were unhappy with them.
The water wasn’t causing their sickness, so why would filtering it prevent it?
This taught our friends, who were working closely with the villagers, the need for slow change that is combined with transforming world views.
Instead of trying to solve the villager’s problems directly, they began by forming relationships of trust.
Through those relationships, they could offer new ways of looking at things.
Over time, the villagers themselves can initiate changes based on their new perspective.
It gives us appreciation for what we have
When I first travelled Europe, I Inter-railed with my friend Tim.
We travelled from the Czech Republic to Rome, often sleeping on trains to avoid the cost of hostels.
I would stuff my backpack into the bottom of my sleeping bag, and my passport into my pants to avoid the fate of the many travellers we’d heard about: stuck in an unfamiliar place, with no ID, no money and no way home.
I lived off bread and McDonalds milkshakes, to stretch my budget as far as it would go. And I cut the trip short in Rome because I was so homesick I felt compelled to get back to my Sister’s birthday.
(She later commented on how gaunt my face was from my meagre diet during those weeks.)
Although it was a chaotic trip, it gave me fresh perspective on myself. I realised that there was pain ahead. There would be goodbyes. I realised that I would be doing much more travelling, and because of that I’d better get used to change.
Moving gives perspective in a way that staying doesn’t.
You see your family and friends with greater fondness, your workplace with new compassion, and sights and sounds that have become mundane spring back to life.
As I prepare to leave South Africa, its beautiful people, life changing experiences, and awe-inspiring scenery, I eagerly anticipate the new perspectives that await me.