“Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world” – Gustave Flaubert
(Kuang si Waterfalls, Luan Prabang, LAOS)
Although neither an inveterate back packer nor a preternatural traveler, I am completely in alignment with the thought expressed by Gustave Flaubert. Travel has the potential to broaden the horizons of perception, and bring about a paradigm shift in thinking. While a bout of travel might not leave us thinking about our infinitesimal place in the overall scheme of the Universe, it definitely nurtures an element of introspection and triggers a churn within. We are bestowed with the precious power of differentiating between the petty and the profound, material and memory and most importantly existence and ego.
Aristotle coined a term “Eudaimonia” (also known as Eudaemonism) which is Greek for referring to a state of having a good indwelling spirit or being in a contented state of being healthy, happy and prosperous. In moral philosophy, eudaimonia is used to refer to the right actions as those that result in the well-being of an individual. The experience, environment and emotions that are the very essence of travel symbolizes more than anything else, the very essence of Eudaimonia. The exhilarating sight of a waterfall cascading down a mountain, the experience of a slow meandering boat ride over a wide expanse of a tranquil mass of water, or a solitary spell spent nestled in the bosom of an imperious mountain range that regally rises up the horizon to kiss an azure bank of blue skies is sufficient to put to rest a crisis that is of an existential proportion even! Travel is not just a soul stirring experience. It is a very act of liberation!
However in an era characterised by infobesity (information obesity, a term first coined by Bertram Gross in 1964, before popularised by Alvin Toffler in the 1970s), excess of connections and insatiable status accumulating prerogatives, the very purpose of travel gets eviscerated only to be replaced by a mechanical purpose. We seem to travel, more for furthering exhibitionism than for a free and uninhibited spontaneity that is the very synonym of a journey. Experiences are sacrificed at the altar of selfies, the likes on Instagram take unfortunate precedence over the lambent nature of the location and ‘check-ins’ on Facebook trump the fascinating canvas put out by Mother Nature! The sights, sounds and smells which ideally should offer wings to the unending power of human imagination, become mere captions for photo albums. The greatest disservice that has ever been done to the art of travel has been the coining of the phrase “bucket-list”. A journey now is a mere process, a robotic performance whose sole objective is to ‘tick off’ a destination that forms part of a personal bucket-list. Nothing ticks off (no pun intended) a genuine seeker of truth more than this notion! This pretentious aspect of the bucket-list puts paid to the very meaning of a meaningful travel.
The likes of Alexander Von Humboldt, Herodotus, and Ibn Battuta rendered yeoman service to mankind by throwing open to us the hidden treasures of Mother Earth by undertaking selfless circumambulation of our Planet. It is for every one of us to protect, preserve and embellish their lasting legacy by paying obeisance to the rich bio diversity that we have all been lucky to have inherited. Such a preservation can be attained neither by smartphones nor by selfies, but only by the genuine voices that resonate from the soul!
The next time you embark on a travel, just stove away your cell phone (but for the occasional capture lest I come across as a whining hypocrite who posts his own picture of a waterfall before proselytizing restraint ), obliterate social media from your memory and carry just a notebook (not the digital ones) and a few functional pens. Record your memories on paper, and imprint the experiences onto your soul.
The difference, I assure you will be marked!