What is the essence of great travel?

I love reading historical travel books. I’ve read about the journeys Ibn Battuta

Battuta’s Journey

He is a North African, Islamic Muslim traveler who actually traveled the known world during the time when Islamic kingdoms straddled a large chunk of the planet. Since he was travelling within these areas under a pretty much unified government or a one religion government, he was able to get to parts of the world that were almost unheard of back then.

A lot of his stories were really mind blowing because he was talking about going to China and back then, there were very few western accounts of travelling in the Chinese courts. This was the time of the Ming rulers of China. In addition to an authentic account of the Ming dynasty, he also told stories of going to places like Indonesia and narrating how the Muslims there were formed of very small minority but they were confident that Islam will spread because of their Islamic zeal.

We got a snapshot of what it’s like to live in a different time and a different world. I relate this story because it really highlights the essence of great travel. You have to understand that back in those times, most people preferred to stay home. They drew their circle of concern and confidence so tightly that they basically just mean that most people were born in a town and they lived in that town. They barely ventured outside so everybody they knew, from relatives to friends, pretty much occupied a small geographic space.

Believe it or not, this is still the case. While physically, we can just hop on a plane and find ourselves in New York, Paris or Johannesburg in a few hours, the mental component of travel, sadly, remains the same. You can find yourself in the same mental and spiritual town for life. You don’t really go past town limits. You’re not interested in that. There’s no curiosity regarding what goes on outside those tight boundaries.

It really is too bad because real travel is all about spiritual boundaries. Long gone are the days where it costs an arm and a leg and it took forever to travel. Just look at Magellan circumnavigation of the globe. It cost the poor guy his life and it took forever. Not anymore. In fact, thanks to discount tickets, for as little as $1500, you can pretty much travel all over the world. We’re talking from Australia all the way to Europe. That’s one heck of a trip.

Geographically speaking, there are no excuses. Logistically, we can cover the whole world. The problem is we haven’t caught up mentally yet. We’re still trying to draw things in. We’re still trying to color between the thick boundary lines. A lot is lost in translation because the essence of great travel is your willingness to leave your old identity behind and see the world as it is. Not based on how you imagine it to be. Not based on other people’s expectations, but based on what you actually perceive on a human to human, heart to heart level.

It really is mind blowing because you’re not only forced to confront whatever stereotypes you have or a false education or false information, but it also involved you breaking out of your emotional and spiritual cocoon. You get an opportunity to debunk a lot of the stereotypes your mind snaps into.

This is not theory. You have to understand that when people get past the age of 13, they start thinking in stereotypical patterns. Part of this is due to the efficiency the brain demands. Instead of constantly looking at fresh information and coming up with principles based on those fresh relationship, we look for patterns. For example, if you’ve already seen something play out and has 4 elements, the moment you start seeing 2 elements, your mind starts thinking, “Okay, I’ve seen this before because it fits a pattern and the 2 elements are present, so I’m going to interpret this as that thing with the 4 elements.” You see how this works?

The problem is we do it for certain things in our lives that we shouldn’t apply it to. We do it for our relationships. We do it for our definition of ourselves. We do it for spiritual matters. It’s crazy. When you travel, you get a chance to break through that.