Why do you travel?
It’s a big question.
To experience another culture. Yes. To try new foods. Of course. To see the world from a different perspective. Absolutely.
All solid answers that ring true, in varying levels, for most travelers. Including myself. If I had to answer that question, however, none of the above would by my response.
A little background.
Music has always played a large role in my life. Despite my desire and daydreams to the contrary, I have never had the self-discipline to really learn to play an instrument. I have, however, always been a voracious listener. To everything. It is how I remember.
As Time Goes By from Casablanca and I am instantly reminded of my grandfather playing the piano and flooded with memories of him. Geraldine by Glasvegas and I am transported to the European railway speeding through Slovakia, a country to which my Eurail pass did not apply, but the stewards kindly let me transit for free. Pa PanAmericano and I can see myself bumbling down the Pan American Highway in Peru, stuffed in a 4×4 with the other WindAid volunteers on our way to the workshop.
I have always made specific playlists for every journey, and I listen to them over and over again. When I’ve returned home and many months after unpacking, coming back to those songs is better than going through a photo album. The memories become almost tangible as the music flows over me.
Understandably, I made a few playlists for New Zealand. One in particular has received more than its fair share of playtime. Filled with upbeat, inspirational songs, it’s what I’ve needed in this year of unknowns. Songs that play in the background of those sickeningly gorgeous travel vlogs of Bali and Thailand and Fiji. It is no coincidence, they do inspire. One of my favorites from that playlist, Final Song by MØ, also happens to appear on J’s epic travel playlist. It never gets old. We’ve heard it a hundred times traversing this country in Philben, sitting in airports waiting to board.
There is a point to this, I promise.
Wasn’t this post supposed to be about Bali?
During our month is Bali, we struggled a little bit. I had certain expectations that did not pan out, and our stumbles were not made any easier by me contracting possibly the worst illness of my life.
In a brief uptick in my wellness, we ventured off Bali to a smaller island to the East, Nusa Lembongan. Just a 30 minute fast boat. On our way out the boat was crowded and the waves were massive, rocking us from side to side as we sped through the water. Not a single person seemed to show any concern while I inflicted a death grip on the seat in front of me. Wondering all along when I became such a chicken. I used to be fearless. What happened to me? I told myself to relax and remember who I used to be. This mantra didn’t manage to sink in until our return.
We spent a lovely two days before heading back to the main island. The second time around the waves had calmed down a bit, and our boat was nearly empty. Mentally prepared, I was determined to enjoy the ride, that is what travel is all about, right?
The sun was out, the radio was blaring and it was going to be a lovely journey. Just as we were pulling off the reef and picking up speed that song, my song, came over the radio. [I told you I had a point]. My heart filled with joy. What can I say, music speaks to me. How could this moment get any better? I looked over to my left, across the aisle, and a fellow traveler was singing the words to herself, just as I was. We smiled at each other, acknowledging the beauty we were witnessing all around us. That was it. It made my day. The only way it could have been better is if J had been singing with me. He was napping.
So my answer.
I travel to feel connected. To the world, to humanity, to this great big mystifying life we all lead.
Nothing gives me more hope or happiness than brief little moments of intersecting lives that appear while traveling… and even sometimes when not traveling.
In my younger days, not that I’m that old, these moments seemed to fall into my lap more frequently than not. But in the past few years, I seem to have missed them. I worried, after traveling abroad in my late twenties as an attached adult, that this aspect of travel had retired, along with my riotous, raving single days. A common experience with those of us privileged enough to travel in our early twenties know to what I refer. Late nights spent at an [insert local watering hole here] having the most seemingly impactful conversations of our lives with near strangers, who become fast friends, only to part a few hours later.
Sharing a moment with someone completely unknown, whether it be a joke, a differing of opinion, or even just a smile somehow makes the world feel just a tiny bit smaller. And reveals what we all must know deep down, that we are all one in the same.
But this is why I love travel. No matter where I am or how different a place may seem, I am home.
Bali gave that back to me. My worry that those days were behind me dissipated just as the song ended… and the crew changed the radio station to some incomprehensible jumble of static and talk.