A New View on Travelling

*Forewarning: there is some cussing. 

For most of my life, I truly believed that travelling was key to living a more fulfilling life. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the people on social media who often seem to be travelling…. seem to have it pretty good, right? Their lives look adventurous, fun, and… meaningful!

In general, I honestly, truly believed that by travelling, I was somehow more likely to become enlightened! I mean, why not?

You leave your home, saying a farewell to everything that is comfortable and familiar. You explore foreign lands, eat new foods, and engage with new people. You may even have to deal with a language barrier or two! On top of that, there are so many exciting, absolutely marvelous sights to see on this globe. Not even just the natural wonders, but the man-made spectacles and architecture are truly something to behold! It is a privilege to be able to call this planet home.

Sometimes, people really test their limits and go backpacking or couch-surfing for weeks, even months, at a time. They are pushed out of their familiarity completely and are otherwise absorbed in the experience. Surely, they must have discovered the key to enlightenment during their travels!

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Haleakala, Hawaii | October 2011

In My Travels 

In my personal experience, travelling has definitely made an impact on my life. But…. let me state now for the record that it was not a positive impact. No, it was more like…. MAYDAY, MAYDAY! BRACE FOR IMPACT! I was in for a rude awakening that…. all the bullshit you leave behind back home, manifests any and everywhere else in the world. There will be “good” times, and “bad” times, and downright atrocious times when…. literally all you want is to be back at home.

My first travel experience was to Maui, Hawaii. I had just turned 19 and was flying to the island, with my best friend of the time, to take part in my first (and only) ever WWOOF adventure! We were all set to stay with a family on their small, 1/4 acre organic farm. I was so excited and just…. so blinded by my expectations. When we arrived, things seemed promising… despite the flu that both my friend and I succumbed to. Our set-up on the farm was bare minimal but…. we embraced it. It was an interesting experience for me, living on the farm and being so involved in the upkeep. The three weeks we spent there made me realize just how badly I wanted to start a farm of my own, someday!

However, it didn’t take long for the family that we were staying with to unveil their true colours. Things went from promising to questionable real fast. They were hostile and they made me feel unsafe and threatened (I speak only for myself). To top it off, I was miles away from home and stuck on a volcanic rock in the middle of the fucking ocean. I was so young, so unprepared, and so afraid. One afternoon, the farmer’s son made some incredibly disgusting and damaging comments to us…. about hurting women, tying them up, abusing them…

That was when I knew I had to get the fuck out. Especially after finding out he had behaved the same way with other WWOOFers! I was in a state of fight or flight, and in the act of self-preservation, I told my friend that I was going to book a flight home immediately…. and that she should come, too. My “friend” didn’t comfort me or support me in the slightest, and upon hearing that I wanted to go home, she only got mad and invited someone new out to the island to join her and finish the trip.

I guess you could call that an enlightening experience, in of itself.

When I finally returned home, I was traumatized. I swore that I would never leave the country again. My Mom picked me up from the airport that day and I remember vividly running straight into her arms, bawling my eyes out. Not only did I feel unimportant and abandoned by my supposed “best friend”, but I was terrified of men after the incident; I couldn’t look at them in the eye or even talk to them without feeling like they were secretly plotting to hurt me. I had an impossible time holding a job, as my body became riddled with chronic, unexplained pain that would often leave me bed-ridden. I felt like a hollow shell of the person that I used to be.

Since real life scared the hell out of me, I turned to the Internet for support. I ended up meeting a kind stranger from England who I would later fall in love with. A year later, I found myself preparing to fly to new lands, but…. this time…. I felt like there was a safety blanket waiting to catch me on the other side.

My experience travelling to England was much different than Hawaii. I managed to make it to the country twice in the time that my (now) ex and I were together; both times, the weather was awful and I came down with impossible head colds. However, I was surrounded by love (well… for the most part) and my then boyfriend’s friends and family. It wasn’t my own, of course, but it was an improvement from sociopath farmers in Hawaii. The surroundings of England were entirely opposite to that of the islands; while Maui had been laid back (off of the farm), warm and open, England was colder and often impersonal. However, visiting England instilled confidence in me and made me want to travel again.

It was interesting to be able to visit such vastly different places, and obviously it made an impact on me since it happened to me…. but…. enlightenment? Nah.

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My perspective on many things has changed recently. Like…. a lot. Travel is definitely one of those things. For one, I see now that travel is mostly just entirely privilege. It has literally nothing to do with enlightenment or a spiritual journey. Sure, you can go visit “spiritual” places, walk the same “holy” steps, or take part in “sacred” rituals… but…. there is no guarantee that any of that will bring you any closer to Nirvana. You don’t need to go anywhere or see anything to become a “better”, more true person. Anyone who is telling you otherwise is simply trying to sell you…. I don’t know…. a vacation? It’s silly.

All inclusive packages are the worst and most of the tourism industry, around the entire globe, doesn’t seek to help out the local populations at all. Admittedly, this was another moment of enlightenment that I gained from my short time in Hawaii. Travel industries simply profit off of exploiting the locals and their culture. When I hear people talking about how wonderful it must be to live in a place like…. Indonesia, for example…. where the weather is beautiful, the beaches are incredible, and the produce is fresh and abundant…. I remind myself that most people living there are impoverished. They couldn’t leave, even if they desperately wanted to. There’s very little industry outside of hospitality, and even then… it’s hard to get a job if you cannot communicate with the tourists; instead, they hire non-locals to board at the resort and work. This same truth can be said for many places of the world…. places where the privileged flock to when they need “perspective”.

If you really want to immerse yourself in a culture, learn what you can about them with the resources that you already have (Hello? Internet??). Do your research before jet-setting off to unknown places. Figure out how you can make the most out of your experience, while still giving back to the locals. Otherwise…. why are you even going? Just so you can post pictures about it on Instagram and get a tan? You’re better off staying home, tanning at the beach or in your yard, eating what you want, and enjoying the comfort of your own bed… for way less. Seriously.

Get present within yourself and be grateful for what you have! 

The other day, I started to consider the world like a living cell. There are different organelles in the cell, different structures, which you could think of as the different land masses and different cultures of people. Even though human beings are said to be “all the same”, there are distinct differences between people based on their home lands. I think this has to do with the environment, climate, and foods that are available. There is obviously a nurturing element that shapes us, but there is definitely also a natural element that influences us, as well. This cannot be denied.

Do I think you need to stay exactly where you were born? No. We were given feet for the purpose of being able to walk, run, dance, and explore. However, I do think that you always should return home and remain in a climate and environment that is similar to that of where you were born. It all comes down to bacteria and biome.

The other day, I read a (rather heart-breaking) article about how the outrageously increasing North American consumption of avocados is not only environmentally detrimental but…. could potentially be causing numerous, unexplained gut issues. Why? Because they don’t grow here! They’re not in the climate (at least, not up in Canada-land) and therefore, they’re not in the biome and we probably don’t really need them in our system. Sure, they taste absolutely fucking amazing – I won’t even deny how much I enjoy eating them. But…. realistically…. by the time they get to Canada, they are lacking in most essential nutrients, anyway.

This is just one example, but it’s not hard to imagine many others.

Furthermore, when you consider bacteria – beyond the biome, and more so focusing on disease and illness – travelling is one of the most effective ways of spreading germs and contracting illness. When I think of the times that I have traveled, each memory contains a graphic week or more of full-blown flu-like symptoms. My body was in shock. Even in fucking Hawaii, while being showered with sunshine and picking fresh fruit right off the tree every morning! Travelling to places where the culture is similar (ie. a Canadian travelling to main-land United States, a German travelling to Belgium, etc.) and the environment is similar, usually won’t result in such an aggressive response. But…. honestly, every single friend that I have had who has traveled to vastly different places, such as countries in Asia or South America, usually returns home telling the same tale of inevitably getting too sick to even function. Parasites are a common souvenir people pick up while travelling (or eating imported food, in general) and…. may not even realize!

It’s almost like… maybe we don’t… need… to be there?

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This is not meant to fear monger or discourage people from travelling. This is simply my latest view on the matter. Some people may find it hard to believe, as I have often talked about travelling and exploring more of the globe. However, I don’t believe that travelling internationally will really serve me, not to the same extent of rooting in and celebrating my home land and soil. I don’t feel like travelling can really bring any more “meaning” into my life. But…. that being said…. I had to travel internationally, at least once, to realize… I am so grateful for what I have available to me, right here, right now.

Your “home” will support you. At least, it should. I understand that the industrialization of agriculture has ruined so much of our natural land and biome. If you live in a place that is degraded or only provides produce a few months of the year, as I do…. then, obviously this will take some careful planning. But I’m telling you! The secret is in the soil.

Bloom where you are planted, just like a flower or tree

Be there, totally. Stop worry about being elsewhere, because you are exactly where you need to be. I’m almost certain that the sunset is just as beautiful here as it is anywhere else…. simply because it’s a fucking sunset. Be grateful for what you have, where you are, and where you come from…. always. This will give you meaning.

Instead of wandering the globe aimlessly, searching for something beautiful…. have you even taken a good look in your own backyard? Instead of pouring your heart and soul into the endless causes around the world…. have you even stopped to offer a drop of love to your own neighbours and community? It is said that birds in flocks and fish in schools only ever focus on the several other animals immediately surrounding them… and this is a great practice for you, too. Focus on the people in your life, right now!

The Internet has brought people together from every inch of land on Earth. However, the question needs to be asked: what are you even doing with this connection? Are you consumed in it, spending more time invested in your phone than you are with your friends and family? Are you holding onto the idea that there needs to be more in your life, especially upon comparison with others? Are you so distracted with everything else in the fucking world that you can’t even enjoy the place you are with the people you are with?

I encourage you to get present with yourself, with your surroundings, and…. if possible… find things to be grateful for, all around you. Friends, family, community; connect with others and your environment. This is what will give your life meaning. Relationships are so important and you can search the whole world over, again and again…. but nothing will be as fulfilling as the love you share with others.

Adventure is anywhere, waiting for you right outside your door! All it takes is an open mind, a grateful heart, and loved one to share in the joy and beauty!

Melanie x

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