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As humans we are drawn to movement. Traveling to new places, more or less interests everybody. But there are also stories of lives truly touched by travel such that they are life-changing. A group of experts and die-hard travelers in their own right came together to explore this very dynamic. It began with answering the most basic question:
“Why do we love to travel?”
According to Alexander Schlaubitz, Global Vice President Marketing, Lufthansa, travel has become meaningful in the current digital age. This is because, he explains, our internet-driven fast-paced lives have become less empathetic, more superficial, and devoid of meaning. Thus, there is a new encouragement to find meaning in ‘experiences’ that are more immersive and sustainable.
“A traveler is somebody who wants to have an immersive experience, and have perhaps the opportunity to have something really, really profound happen to them as a result,” says Alexander.
Himself having “lived in three different continents and traveling the rest”, Alexander goes on to explain his point by calling our daily lives defined by a ‘tunneled’ perspective, wherein we tend to zone in. But when we travel, we are forced to open up. “Every trip is so distinct because we have to be a little bit more alert when we travel.” This is why trips have the capacity to transform people.
“Going to a place, experiencing things first-hand makes all the difference,” says Somnath Halder, a former IT Consultant turned Jazz Musician who discovered his passion for music only after traveling to New York. He says that despite being fast, New York immediately felt like home. “It was only after I traveled to New York and experienced it first hand, attending workshops, chatting with the people there, I felt compelled to dig deeper into the history of Jazz.” New York, he says, not only steered him in the direction of his passion, but also gave him the courage and the tool-set to pursue it.
Celebrity Chef Kunal Kapur shares the same temperament. He says how when his boss, called his first trip to Paris an investment, he was very surprised. But this was a big surge in his career because back in the day he was the only chef in the kitchen who had actually been to a city whose cuisines they were preparing.
According to Kunal, the purpose of travel is to re-think our passion. Before he started traveling, his identity only revolved around being a chef. It was travel which broadened his perspective and helped him create an identity beyond food. He believes that travel adds a fresh perspective to whatever we do, whether it is updating our menus or coming back to solve a problem with new energy. However, he adds, as a traveler letting a place inspire us is a choice.
The best way to allow travel to inspire us, says Alexander, is to be spontaneous and let the trip evolve on its own. While we are traveling, we do not judge or compartmentalize things, we go with the flow, which interestingly triggers empathy. So the best thing to carry with us is curiosity, Alexander advises. The idea is to go on journeys that are unpredictable, challenging and holds the possibility of transformation. ‘Read the city guides, but make a left when it says right, and see what happens there.’ Somnath believes that the idea is also to exchange. When we are authentic, open-minded, kind and full of wonder as we travel, we receive the same in return. Kunal also adds that travel makes us more accepting and humble about things.
If we put our mind to something, we can achieve it, and this is true for travel too, says Kunal. Ultimately it is our enthusiasm for a particular subject that people feed into, and that kick needs to be built. It is possible through these conversations around one’s travel experiences, because travel does trigger the best kind, and the idea is ultimately to share!
At the same time, as we talk to people about travel, says Alexander, we realize how privileged we are to be able to travel the way we can. He shares how often when his colleagues in the travel industry, complain such that “their 48 hour trip to New York going to be exhausting,” he tries to shake them and make them realize that they have 48 hours to explore so much! “If this were part of a radio promotion, thousands of people will call in!” Not everybody is privileged to explore, so while we can we should make the most of it. In his own travels, Alexander wakes up an hour earlier just to take pictures. This makes him feel like he has really been to place and is capable of taking something back.
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” ― Anthony Bourdain.
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