About a week ago, I was sitting in a cute little ‘homestay’ run by a gentle local on Gili Air; an idyllic, tropical island just off Lombok in Indonesia.
Just next door, I was overhearing a conversation between two German girls: complaining about the banana pancakes they had for breakfast. Complaining about how they’re not as good as at home; and that they probably don’t have milk in them; and generally aren’t that good; and why they would say offer banana pancakes when they’re not like the ones they know.
Listening, I thought:
“Please don’t leave your country. Ever. Again.”
If you want banana pancakes like at home, please don’t leave your home. The whole point of travelling, is to experience something new. To discover other cultures, others places and other breakfasts.
In Indonesia, for example, no-one traditionally eats pancakes. They just make them to accommodate your rigid, unwavering tastes, and your dollars. So they can charge you more than they would normally charge. Because you want your ‘at home feels’ when you’re not at home.
In which case; why are you traveling?
So, please don’t leave your country. Stay at home.
It saddens me to think how jaded I have become over the years. It is a side-effect of gypset-travel. I wrote about it once before, when I confessed that I hate tourists. “Most of all, I hate them for wanting to see the beauty of the world and for destroying the fragility of it all, without actually leaving their comfort zones, and thereby placing a veil between themselves and the place that they are visiting, through five-star hotels and inter-continental menus, never experiencing those exotic places in their full actuality.“
I admit that I am 100% part of the problem. I help turn the un-walked trails into pathways. I spread the message of the great benefits of travel. I share the exotic images of places once only dreamed of. And I encourage the wanderlust and wonderlost to escape the ordinary, and engulf themselves in the extraordinary worlds and cultures of other nations.
The caveat here however, is not what you do, but how.
I first recognised this passionate sense of anxiety about the human condition and the state of the world in general, when I was in Central America in 2012. It had been 8 years since I’d last travelled these shores. And well, comparison is a bitch.
Little bent over grandmothers, offering their spare rooms and hot chicken soup to wanderers for a few dollars, have been replaced by hostels filled with young people watching the same tv shows as at home, listening to the same music, doing the same things, only; for less money.
In fact, when I look around, hostels and hostels the world over, are now all almost exactly the same: all catering to the one unrefined compulsion to drink, fuck and be merry, so the sound of top 30 hits. If I sound grim, it’s because I am.
14 years ago, I wrote a paper for my Sociology professor, on the homogenization of our world. On how everything will become the same everywhere. Little did I know at the time, that I was predicting the future.
When I walk around, in any country, I can pick out the things that came from India, the things that were made in China, or Java, that are for sale in Morocco, or Mexico, or Bali, and then sold as their own artisan artefacts, because it’s cheaper than sourcing them at home. The world is becoming smaller and smaller; and also less, and less defined by its unique cultures and customs.
What does it mean?
Well, for me, it means that my reason for travel is changing. And the way that I do travel is changing.
Why do I travel now?
It’s something that I have been pondering myself recently. Apart from the simple fact that nowhere feels quite as home as the spaces between; the wide open road. I travel for climate. I travel to see friends. And I travel to stay curious, present, and appreciative of the world.
It’s too easy to become complacent and dismissive of the beauty of life, when we stand still.
But how I travel, is starting to change. I’m looking less for adventures in exotic places, and more for the beauty that’s closer to home. Instead of seeking out paths that haven’t been walked on, I am seeking out the paths that are well-trodden. So well trodden, in fact, that they are no longer new. I’m discovering the extraordinary, in the ordinary.
Because what I am seeking, is actually so much closer than I thought.
And while I don’t have a country that I “belong” to, what I do have is a culture, a community, and society, that’s more familiar than others.
I am learning that I need to escape it less, and less, to find what I am looking for: connection; inspiration; beauty; compassion; nature; love; open-mindedness; creativity; ambition; curiosity; adventure.
Perhaps things are coming full circle. Perhaps this means: It’s time to choose a home.