I’ve been reading The Handsomest Man in Cuba, a great memoir by Lynette Chiang, an Australian woman who traveled through Cuba by bicycle. In one passage, she states that “man will travel the world to find what he seeks at home,” which really connected with me as a traveler. Whenever I travel, I always find some element of home in wherever I go- sometimes it’s a group of people, a landscape, or a little detail of daily life that reminds me of home, but more often than not it’s the places that are least like what I’m familiar with that are the most evocative to me.
Unfamiliar places ignite my imagination. They force me to think, “what would my daily life look like here? How could I adapt to this environment?” Trying to imagine how I would make a living in Valparaíso, Chile or if I could build a shack on the coast north of Madang, Papua New Guinea are so far outside of the context of my usual life that these routines of life that seem so daunting and constrictive at home become filled with excitement and possibility.
Maybe that’s the heart of what travel is for me- to see myself in another context, to attempt to understand what life may be for those living under very different circumstances, and in that imagining comes the real transformative experience of travel. Travel and the imagination that it fuels offer a chance for reinvention and escape. I know the adage “wherever you go, there you are” rings true, and I’ve learned first-hand that one’s fears, assumptions, and priorities don’t just fall away when you cross a border, but by forcing ourselves to conceptualize life within a different context, we are reminded that our routines and conventions are not all that is, and there are in fact innumerable perspectives and ways of living one’s life.