“On July 1st, it’s Canada’s independence day! In fact, this year is the 150th year of independence for Canada. It is a really special event.” Radikha, my Indian co-traveling friend, spoke proudly in an excited voice. “We are in Ottawa, the capital city of Canada on this very special day. It looks like all of my planning hasn’t been for naught.”
It was the 3rd day in our road trip to Canada. We have driven almost a thousand miles to reach our destination. I looked wearily at her and lightly smiled. The Canadian flag dangled down vividly on the top of every light post. Between the intersections of the streets were huge concrete blocks cutting off entry from cars and trucks. Police officers guarded these posts in abundance.
Beyond the barricade was an endless stream of people flooding the streets wearing different shades of red and white attires. Even red maple leaf tattoos were visible on the faces of several native Canadians.
“Do you see all those people lining up in front of Parliament Hill?” Radikha pointed towards a long line of people that stretched onward for thousands of meters. “I guess we cannot go see the parliament up close on our trip unless we wait for hours. Apparently the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are also here. No wonder the security is so tight.”
Radikha sighed and shook her head. She no longer thought about seeing the famous parliament building. Instead, she grabbed Amy, another good friend of mine, and walked into the crowds of people. With their smart phones held tightly in their hands, they began to posture for pictures with the surrounding.
I stood to the side refraining from participating in their photography adventures. Instead I tried my best to enjoy the moment. I wanted to feel the spirit of the people who were here with me. I wanted to be fully present, but my mind was preoccupied with heavy thoughts and concerns.
I have traveled to a few places. No matter where I go, the scenery around me may change, but I stay the same. The irritation and emptiness that I felt within me sprout from the desire to belong. They stemmed from my unreasonable expectations of travel. I want travel to fulfill me by getting rid of my burdens. I want it to bring new experiences that overlap the boring ones in my life. I want it to bring me closer to fantasy.
Travel or Escape
Many people love to travel. Or at the very least glorify traveling as an amazing hobby that everyone must do. When people talk about traveling, we talk about the wonders of meeting new people, seeing new scenery, and experiencing different cultures. Traveling is amazing, but there are obstacles too. You must know where you are going, how to spend your time, how to budget your money, where to stay, etc, etc.
For me, I love traveling. Or at least that is what I have always told myself. But when I travel, I become depressed. The main reason is that I have made traveling a means to escape from reality.
Sometimes life isn’t happening the way that you want it to. There is repetition in everything you do. You feel as though your life is slipping away from you and you haven’t done anything interesting. You believe that if you travel somewhere far away, you can experience the world anew. Perhaps, this gives you the chance to reinvent yourself, to become a better you.
Truthfully I know all of this is nothing more than a disillusion. What you do instead is take away attention from where you must put it. Running away to a new place doesn’t solve anything.
Just because you’ve changed the content of what you see, it doesn’t change what’s inside your heart. You can travel far, go to new places, see new things, but some things never change. If you are always trying to get somewhere, you will never be anywhere. Sometimes the only thing you need to do is be here. Just realize where you already are.
Yes, traveling can expand one’s horizon or perspective. But this only happens when you are one with where you are, when you are open to all outcomes. When I traveled anywhere, I bring the same problems with me. I bring along series of high expectations, desires, and wishes that had to be fulfilled. I had to love what I am doing at every moment. I had to be at ease no matter where I go.
If none of these are fulfilled, which they rarely do, then I could no longer enjoy my trip. This created a huge burden on my mental health. But it made sense. When you eye for salvation elsewhere, does it really follow? It does not.
No matter where you go, if you carry the same problems within you, you will create the same problems around you. The main reason I want to travel is because I feel a big void within me at times. I want to fill up this void with adventures. I want to do something that is meaningful to me. I want to open my eyes and experience life beyond myself.
But the problems remain. The reason is you can only ever know yourself and nothing else. Everything you know, you know it through your mind. Any situation you encounter is interpreted through you. The world exists because you are. That is all there ever is.
Here You Are
You don’t have to be anywhere. If an amazing event occurred some thousands of miles away from you, but you are not there to experience it, can you still enjoy being where you are? If I don’t know of something’s existence because I didn’t perceive it, why would I be burden over it? Of course I would not.
No matter where you go understand that is where you are. If you were anywhere else that means that your body might be at one place, but your mind is wandering elsewhere. When this happens, you forgo the value of each moment by drowning yourself in thoughts and illusion.
This happens to me frequently and it is something that I am learning. You cannot run away from your problems or from yourself. Wherever you go, there you are.
If you are at work, there you are. If you are in traffic, there you are. If you are at home, there you are. If you love this moment, there you are. If you hate this moment, there you are. You can be nowhere else.
So don’t bother using travel as an option to open your mind or to experience life from yourself. You are always with you. The same pair of eyes sees all that you see. The same mind thinks the thoughts that you think. And the same you will create the same world no matter where you go.
The only thing that is certain is that you are here briefly. So enjoy this short moment before it passes you by.