When I look at the map of a country, my intuitive sense toward a country is no longer its remarkable architecture or its splendid landscapes. Instead, looking at the perimeters, I start to see people, or more precisely, the people I know.
It’s strange, how one mere person can shape the whole way I look at a country. Before I went for my trip, London’s Big Ben was the first image that came into my mind when I looked at the map of the UK. That’s along with the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State and Mount Fuji, when my eyes shifted across the continents. My trip throughout Southeast Asia, the first training ground for my traveling, has taught me several things and, of course, expanded my horizons. Well, I hadn’t gone as far as I wanted to go, but it made a difference.
I’ve made friends with a lot of people. We started off the trip alone, spending our early twenties in what so-called a nomadic-lifestyle, in the hope that we would find ourselves. We met at a bar and quickly formed a temporary group to hang out with for a few days. When we were asked, ‘Where are you guys from?’ the awesome answer would be, ‘Dude! We’re from everywhere!’
Back to my very own studio apartment in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The trip was now behind me. I’m staring at the world map I had printed earlier on A4 paper. I’m replacing those buildings with names. My feeling—after the trip- says the names I’ve met: Heather, Matt, Thomas, and Racheal… Sometimes, it happens on hearing the names on the International News; I thought of Irina and Olga quite a lot, they’re not from Kiev, but still, their country caught global attention. There are many more: Casey, Steve and Max, instead of New York, London and Arizona.
This is one of the reasons why I love travel. I loathe the idea of spending money just to see the world. I’d prefer to feel the world. To come up with a reasonable excuse for travel, try not losing my head when I enter a new city, or when meeting up with interesting people. There’re risks for heartbreaking, indeed, when I get all too intimate with the place or the people I’ll soon have to say goodbye to. That’s a little secret price all travelers have to pay in order to feel all that feelings.
Because, when you’re traveling by yourself—the only one who’s responsible for the happiness, the sadness, the uncertainty, and what comes after, is you. Feel the place and get to know people but never settle seemed like damn good advice. But it, somehow, frustrates me when it came time to say goodbye to all these people. I knew that I was doing it right, even though I didn’t want to admit it. I would tell myself that this is what I was supposed to feel. This is how ‘I’ was supposed to travel, and how I decided to spend my year on the road. I decided that it would be my year of listening, in which I would listen –most of the time- even when no one was speaking; I would listen to the place. See what’s in store for the road I’m now on, and the road ahead.
So who do you think of when you’re looking at a world map?