Why do we travel?

Arvind Mishra

WTO, United Nations reported that nearly 200 million people are living outside the country of their birth. Why do people move or migrate? What compels us to experience uncertainties, leaving familiarities behind? Why did Mother Teresa travel to India and chose this place as her land of Karma? Why did Italian navigator Christopher Columbus settled for Americas, though he failed in his search for Asia? Why Tarahumara tribe from northwest canyons of Mexico has been jogging sans-nikes barefoot for 500 years, making a mockery of marathons and modern sports shoe manufacturers?  Why did Sir Edmund Hillary risk his life to stand on the top of Mt. Everest? What possibly could have motivated him to reach this most outback, harshest and deadliest peak? What made Yuri Gagarin embrace the fears of unknown of outer space and to leap beyond territories of earth? Charles Darwin, in discovery of his theory of natural selection, reached Galapagos across Pacific and Atlantic Oceans? What propelled his undying curiosity? Wanderers like Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta or Vasco DeGama were impelled by same extreme wanderlust. Why could they never settle down to a place and call that a home?

We travel, initially, towards absolute detachment; and we travel, next, towards true absolute integration; detachment from fear, ignorance, confinement, limitations and conformity; and integration with wilderness, surreal nothingness, compassion and composure, oneness in solitude and true self.  We travel to get lost in nothingness, and in that vast emptiness we travel to find ourselves. We travel, with a wide open heart, to learn about endless possibilities as we open ourselves for embracing differences that are dispersed astoundingly. George Santayana in his milestone essay, “The Philosophy of Travel”, defined the enigma of travel. We “need sometimes,” the Harvard philosopher wrote, “to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment at no matter what.”

We travel to accomplish the purpose of our existence. We travel to contribute in a change or bring a change, whatever little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge. I was kind of experiencing an impasse and an emotional blockage after an unexpected broken relationship. So I started travelling in search of a new commencement. This is when you start looking around, above personal gratifications, and observe more serious problems around the world. We travel to deepen our understanding and solve some of them, with our broken hearts, to mend these anomalies together including our hearts. Or at least, we travel to fool ourselves as Emerson and Thoreau said that travelling is a fool’s paradise. We travel to romance with TIME; we slow it down when we laze around in green meadows and get swallowed in.

  We travel, partly, to challenge our complacencies by observing distinct moralities and political systems, and to feel fortunate or unfortunate, and to wonder how we learn to live with these systems. In Montana, “Proxy weddings” are allowed for those serving in military operations abroad which mean a friend can pretend to be the groom, and the union will still be considered valid. The women in Saudi Arabia are not legally allowed to drive a car. You can never get a divorce in Philippines. In Samoa, it is illegal to forget your wife’s birthday. We wonder at some differences or disgust in abhorrence.  And we travel to validate the headlines from the yesterday’s newspaper. When I drove down to ancient Hindu ruins of former Indian King Ashoka in outskirts of Islamabad, popularly known as Takshshila (Now Pakistanis call it Taxila), I confronted the reality that almost everyone venerated these ruins and they have been reasonably good in guarding these sites. I met Dean, Student Affairs of a National University and anthropologist Dr. Safdar Ali shah who penned down a book “Hindu heritages of Pakistan”. My limited perception was deeply re-organised after having been treated with so much of love and hospitality. I failed to believe how media only publishes hate stories.

Wanderers like Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta or Vasco DeGama were impelled by same extreme wanderlust. Why could they never settle down to a place and call that a home?
We travel, partly, to challenge our complacencies by observing distinct moralities and political systems, and to feel fortunate or unfortunate, and to wonder how we learn to live with these systems.

We travel, unknowingly, to fall in love with history and to travel through agony of dilapidations, or wonderments of archaic and primitive machineries. We get to sense the suffering of Kohinoor diamond which travelled from Kalkatiya dynasty (India) in 13th century, to ending up in possession of Queen Victoria through hands of Turco-Mongol warlord Babur, Nader Shah- Shah of Persia, Emir of Afghanistan etc. We travel to re-establish our imaginations of ancient times, as we embarrass ourselves for thinking old people as loincloth wearing savages, and travel proves us wrong as we witness some impressive feats of engineering like great fortification wall by Chinese emperors, Derinkuyu’s massive ancient underground city in Turkey or prehistoric underground megalithic structure in Malta where voices between 95 to 120 Hz could reverberate throughout the complex. We travel in awe and wonder, proud of where we have come, but despaired of what knowledge seems to have lost in time and translation.  Travel has always been a vital medium to connect these dots and fill in the gaps.

We travel to romance with an adorable Caucasian, and in search for a passionate Venezuelan kiss, and to amaze ourselves with assortments of their tastes.  We travel to avoid stagnation of tactual sensations, and we travel to explore through curvaceous skins and rubenesque marvels. Beauty deserves and demands to be admired and explored, so we travel to avoid cessation of our imaginativenesses. I had this intense internal desire to reach ancient Egypt when I had an opportunity to chat with an Egyptian escort in a train journey in Belgium. She narrated an interesting ancient Egyptian myth of ‘resurrection of Osiris’ which is considered the rootage of fellatio, marking it as a godly affair. Also, an Egyptian myth assumes that universe started as a black primordial chaotic soup, and out of nothingness an egg was formed. Out of this egg sprung the god Atum. Apparently, the first thing Atum did upon gaining sentience was to masturbate, and from his semen came forth the race of gods who helped him create and rule over the universe. The idea that ejaculation was the driving force of life was so central to ancient Egypt that they even associated the ebb and flow of the Nile with Atum’s godly act. We travel to fascinating fantasies, or to the lands of myths, to fantasize and materialize our wilderness within.

And of course we travel, significantly, to become a transporter of ideologies and cultures. We travel to stitch, and strengthen the fabric of ‘One World’, as we observe extreme tolerance in UAE for allowing western principles to breathe. You can even get pork there, which otherwise, is strongly forbidden in Islam. You can wear a bikini in public, and celebrate your individualism. When we travel across the neighbouring state of Saudi Arabia, we bring the possibilities that our religious fundamentals can be challenged, rationally, to embrace differences. Travel itself is a grand philosophy which inspires us for oneness, and never ceases to wonder, how amazingly we diverged in past, in terms of values and beliefs, and how astoundingly we have converged today, as travel connected the primitive times. And sometimes, travel seems only way to help humanity against abstraction and ideology. We convey beliefs, and also, we carry values and we transport necessary elements of humanity, and we measure the unlimited space where all of this gets absorbed, and we wonder how large our home is.  Not only values, we transport back and forth, few things that carry the unique fragrances of lands and people. When I travelled to Marseilles, with Indian deserts (Soan Papdi) and spices for my local hosts, I brought back some Mediterranean soap cakes and some perfumes from Grasse. I remember, the small party with my close friends, who danced on Belgium beer and Cuban white rum, which travelled forth to India, in my bag. “Cheers Belgium!” that’s what they said. We travel, to connect hearts, and to dance on rhythm of heartbeats, of distinct cultures. And we travel to free ourselves like a powerful breeze, which carries the scents of love and infinite possibilities, and to flow freely across borders and seas of differences.

When we travel to Tibet, we are their walking FACEBOOK or living Google. When we travel to remote tribes of central India, or remote communities in Amazon basin, we are possibly their only contact with the outside world. We represent million opportunities to connect them with what they rightfully deserve. A 12 years old village girl told me that she has never seen a train; she couldn’t believe a transport can be so large in size. An old man at the remote border of India-Pakistan village in Southern Rajasthan doesn’t know what and where Kashmir is. He had no idea that there is something called ceasefire and bilateral talks. I wonder if ordinary and urban citizenries of North Korea or Havana are even aware of an Institution called “United Nations” or a concept called “Human Rights”. We travel to extend humanity to impoverished places and we travel to acknowledge that we are just one simple element of constant human evolution that has been happening since millions of years, and sometimes devolution in few areas. We travel to choose what devolution can be mended by our contribution. We travel to acknowledge and understand unfathomable depths of our irregular anthropogenic institutions, and bring out those pictures to the world, to the main stream media and to challenge those who sit comfortably on social media in their couches.

We travel away from bills and towards the deepest of our will, towards conscious choices. We travel away from fixture and routine to a time frozen zone, where we choose to let ourselves be mere manifestation of TIME and flow with it. What if the world is not governed by mathematical laws and what if the Gravity is different in its real sense? What if numbers that we use are merely scales that we human use to scale down the ultimate complex mysteries of universe so that we can interpret them, in accordance to the limited scale of our brain? I am convinced that the only universal reality is TIME. Why do we just waste it in paying insurances and payrolls? Why don’t we just let TIME move us from places to places, until we get absorbed into its infinite dimension? Why don’t we unlearn everything and relearn our own scales of this world, or scales of our existence or our notions of any social structure? What if marriage is a lie that we invented during social evolution and secure females through a system rather than a customary fight? Other animals still fight to have sex. What if economy is a lie sold to gratify those in power and promote division in humanity? Economy is not self steering and it is controlled by few, or a nation at large, to continue establishing power or regional supremacy. What if patriotism is a lie sold to us to protect national interests? George Orwell said that nationalism is power hunger tempered by self deception. I am convinced that this hunger makes human more concentrated on HAVING, and not on being. We are divided by delusion. I also read a statement: What if I told you that the version of history you were taught in school was heavily revised to favour your own nation’s agenda while hiding its crimes, and in doing so fostered an unrealistic sense of false patriotism used to manufacture your allegiance to a corporate entity masquerading as your Government? I wonder if English students are ever taught about centuries of loot, murder, rape and invasions of their nation in India. India has lost its aboriginal version of Vedic history and there are roads, national assets in the name of Mughal invaders like Babur, Aurangjeb or Shershah, marking them great rulers of India. The whooping cost of a shiny stone-diamond or just another metal-gold is nothing but a lie, created by falsified demands, and then equated them to lot of falsified paper currency. I am also convinced that religions and gods are the biggest lies invented by humans. Spirituality, according to me, is no how related to religions.

We travel away from lies, to recreate and redesign our own world. We travel to reject what our brains fail to accept or accept to reject. We travel in our own space and time, in search of our own world and craft it with our own philosophies.

We travel because travel helps us travel beyond limitations.

Happy travelling !

We travel away from bills and towards the deepest of our will, towards conscious choices. We travel away from fixture and routine to a time frozen zone, where we choose to let ourselves be mere manifestation of TIME and flow with it.

Share this Post


  1. Lovely article. I guess travel because we want to experience newer things and satisfy out innate desire to not settle down. We travel because we are seekers and need answers to our unanswered questions. We travel because it widens our horizons to an otherwise limited future.
    And God is indeed the greatest lie invented by man.

  2. Spot on with this write-up, I honestly think this amazing site needs a lot more attention. I’ll probably be back again to read through more,
    thanks for the info!

    1. Author

      Hi!! thank you so much for acknowledging my work.. I just read your work on spine injuries.. very informative!

  3. Awesome this is magnificient..u inspired me to start travelling outside my country it will be a new experience
    thanks Arvind. thank u so much

    1. Author

      Thank you Maryam ! I will be glad to host you in India..
      We don’t need inspiration to travel, it’s always within us.. somehow, we have learned to suppress it with conventional ways we have developed..

      Happy travelling

  4. This is so sweet from u Arvind I just couldn’t find words to thank u .Thanks a million

  5. hi arvind……………….hope u remember me………………..on a serious note proud of things u doing…………….travelling is a best thing to experience in life………can i join in this……………??

    1. Author

      Hi Monu! Of course, I do remember you. Thanks for all the admiration. Though, I feel I have not accomplished any meaningful thing yet. My travels and little adventures are primitive traits of an ancient human, and so I guess I am just being a man- A natural one !
      Of course, let me know how wold you like to join?

Leave a Comment