I’ve had an epiphany.
I’ve finally realised why I’m so passionate about travel and why, after ten years of blogging (seven on this site) and 17 years of travel writing so far, I’m still pushing on with it, despite it barely making me a living some months.
You see, I set out as a wide-eyed 17-year old seventh former (year 13), from the small town of Hastings, New Zealand, on an AFS exchange program for a year to Maryland, USA. AFS (American Field Service) was born in 1915 by volunteer ambulance drivers from WWI. The mandate was all about helping young people gain a cultural understanding of other nations by living with a local family, which would foster tolerance and, ultimately, they’d be less likely to want to go to war with that nation when they become adults and leaders themselves. A lofty goal, no question, but one that I do believe is realistic if we immerse ourselves with an open mind and heart in and through the lives of others as we visit other countries.
So back to my epiphany…
While I’ve enjoyed travel writing for the last 16 years, contributing to newspapers, magazines, websites and blogs, I’ve always thought deep in the back of my mind that it’s all rather meaningless. That I’m not exactly saving a life or teaching a young person how to spell or arresting bad guys am I? I’m all about fluff and treats and how shallow is that?
I’ve questioned my career choice for years. What legacy am I leaving? Am I just flitting around on pixie dust while the rest of the world does the hard yards?
But hand in hand with this nagging feeling I was also fascinated, when I took a step back, by my passion, energy and focus on the travel industry. If it really is meaningless, then why am I so determined to pursue travel communication as a career? It would surely be easier to get another job, a normal job without the stress of an unknown, irregular income.
Then I started to unpack it a bit…
Last week I was out walking, talking to God, listening to God, thinking about my business and musing over the fact that while it’s tough some months, it’s also unquestionably my biggest passion work-wise… and I was reminded of the very thing that started my passion for travel: AFS.
I even teach this in my blog training courses! Often the very key to our success is right there under our noses and it’s sometimes so simple and so normal (even boring) to us that we overlook it and try and make something else our big lofty goal.
The idea that travel widens our horizons, opens our eyes to a bigger world view, challenges our subconscious thinking that the way we’ve always done it is the way it should be done, introduces us to different people with their own preconceptions about us and about the world and ultimately, if we let it, travel fosters understanding and from understanding we find tolerance and then acceptance. Every person aspiring to a political or diplomatic career should first travel. Travel long and travel far.
It was like a light bulb went on. I got a flutter in my tummy as I realised that THIS is the reason I love it and am so focussed on what I do. It does have meaning after all!
This week cemented the value of travel further for me.
I have been helping my husband’s side of the family downsize his great aunt from her apartment in a retirement village in Auckland into the rest home (via a stint on the hospital floor). It’s been only about a year since we downsized her from her three-bedroom home with the big section into this village, and now we’re doing it again.
A year ago we had professional packers, declutterers and movers come and help with the mammoth task of downsizing her life into boxes and parting with the rest. It’s confronting. She had to decide what was precious and what was not. It was tough. She kept some of her crystal, silver, china. Some amazing fur coats, her piano. The trucks took everything else to either be donated or sold.
Today I’m heading back over there to sell off the last few things, the fridge, a TV, some brand new occasional chairs that have barely been sat on. And I’ve been thinking about my own stuff. Who would want the art I have collected which hangs on my walls like a gallery? Who wants my stuff? The honest answer, at the end of the day, is no one.
So back to travel…
Here I am now, on a sunny Saturday afternoon writing this post and hoping that maybe if you’ve been thinking that you’d love to spend money on travel but don’t think it’s the “sensible” thing to do, that maybe you’ll reconsider and realise, as the saying goes, that you can’t take it with you, so why not spend it on memories and experiences with friends, family and loved ones and allow yourself to dance in a little of the pixie dust. Who knows who you might meet and who you might impact?
And if your kid has the opportunity to take part in a cultural exchange, do whatever it takes to make that happen.
I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below!