So, really, why travel? What’s the point? Well, there’s the obvious answer: to experience something new. Ya, sure that’s true but the truth is, you can do that anywhere, including in your home town. You can decide to step out of your routine, go to a new bar, museum, park, and experience something different. And you should. Again, it’s obvious but something we tend not to do much. But, let’s face it, we’ve gone to a bar we’ve never been to, gone to see a movie alone, gone to an opera alone, or a concert. It’s great. The problem is, even if it’s different, it’s still the same. Somehow, a play, a bar, an opera, it’s still very familiar when it’s in your home town, home country, or even home culture. But traveling? It’s inherently different. You’re not home. You can’t just step out and go back to your couch at a moment’s notice if you’re bored. You can’t just return to you comfy apartment. Whatever happens in your day abroad, similar or different to an experience you had at home, it’s just a small piece of the fact that you’re life is not the same on the road. Now, I can wax poetic about why being a traveler is different, but that’s just conceptual. Instead, let me give you an example.
I’ve stepped out of my home, back in Montreal, plenty of times with the hope that I’d have an interesting night alone in a random bar, or park. I had interesting conversations, met new people, enjoyed myself then went back home, and fell into my late night routine. That’s happened many times. That’s the life I KNOW. But, traveling, that’s about a life I DON’T know. That’s the whole point.
So, tonight, after a few nights of being in my AirBnB apartment in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, working, and not doing anything out of the ordinary, I felt like maybe I should go out. It started as a simple walk to find some paperclips and post-its, some snack food to have at the house, and a cheap meal. Great. That was all accomplished relatively easily and quickly despite my broken Spanish. But, having done all that, and not having left my apartment for 2 days prior, I wanted to be outside and see what the night would bring. Normally, back home, it’d be hit and miss, potentially having a good night with some random experiences or it could turn out to be completely uneventful. Why would it be any different here? But, whether back home or not, I never have high expectations, because, what’s the point?
But, when you travel, something different happens, and it may not be a daily thing, and it generally isn’t, but somehow the world prepares randomness for you. So you may start the night going to get some food and a few random items, and that may motivate you to just walk around, explore and see what happens. Then, you might find yourself close to a hostel that has a rooftop terrace that you had heard music coming from days before and were curious about but never visited. Then, you might, after having walked for 30 minutes, decide, “fuck it, I’m going to check that terrace out”. So, you might get up to that rooftop terrace and find that there are only 10 people there. But, but, you might randomly hear your name yelled out when you walk onto that terrace. And when you hear your name called out, you might think to yourself “this is impossible, I’ve been in Mexico for less than 2 weeks and have met almost no one, I can’t have heard my name”. Then you turn around and see someone you met in a completely different city, a few days earlier. And THAT, might set your night off to something completely unexpected. All of a sudden, a random walk, a random night, might turn into something exhilarating, different, exciting and inspirational. You might find yourself meeting a bunch of random people, getting into clubs for free and having a couple free drinks. Then you might find yourself paying $50 for an open bar with 4 other people you hardly know. But then, you might find yourself loving the company, the music and the vibe and thinking the $50 was totally worth it. A couple hours later, after some dancing, some conversation, some improvised language lessons, you might find yourself diving into the open air club’s small pool wearing your jeans, socks and long sleeve shirt with a couple other people who are also enjoying the same night’s randomness. You might find yourself wearing a ridiculously large smile while the night’s breeze strokes your face and you might find yourself thinking that this would have never happened back home. And in that moment, you just might remember why you started this whole thing to begin with. Traveling isn’t about finding what you’re looking for, it’s about finding what you have no idea you want. Tonight, starting with a random encounter with a random acquaintance, and ending with many more acquaintances, a pool adventure and a walk home in wet socks with new French friends, reminded me of what traveling is supposed to be about. The unknown, the unexpected, the coincidental beauty of life. I could not ask for more, and I in fact, I refuse to.