I’m writing this from an airplane headed to Seville, Spain. This landing marks the beginning of a 2 week adventure in Spain, France, and the UK. I’m afraid of traveling badly. The problem is it’s easy to lose sight of what traveling is for.
I’ve been on some traveling “adventures” in groups of people where we stayed in culturally sanitized hotels and kept to a tight schedule of taking pictures of things. We went to all the important landmarks that we wanted to tell our friends that we saw, we captured them for our instagram feed, and then went home.
I recall one 3-week-long trip where the only locals we met were people we paid: tour guides and other such workers. We may as well have booked a hotel in our hometown. We travelled in massive packs, made sure no one got lost and everyone was comfortable, and never interacted with anyone with local eyes.
That’s the key. Traveling is about eyes.
It’s about discovering a new set of eyes – those of a new culture – and rediscovering the purpose of eyes altogether. The goal is to discover that which you don’t know yet, and rediscovering what you’ve forgotten.
The best adventure I ever had was one in which I had virtually no plan for 2 weeks – just a train ticket to the very top of Scotland and an adventurous spirit.
I ended up hosting several people from the home of newly-made friends who left town and left me their home, I drank with Vikings (the closest possible thing in the modern day), I camped with a Spaniard, swapped poems with an angel (so I believe) named Mary,and walked away more full of life than ever. I came home and found that I had new eyes, and I could see once again.
I slowed down for a few weeks, turned my eyes away from screens and toward humanity, lived the life of a scot, and saw. I discovered a new culture that was beautiful and so different than anything I’d ever known.
And when I came home, all of my friendships were better for it. I saw these incredible people that I had taken for granted as humans once again. They seemed strange and amazing and I was so glad to discover how blind I had become.
Below is a song I wrote about my time in Scotland.
I’m not saying you have to go as far as I did – traveling alone and sleeping on the couches of strangers – but do make sure that next time you travel you leave a bit of space for messiness, perhaps a little discomfort, and dependency on locals. A good way to do this is linked below. It’s how I met the family I’m staying with in Spain tonight. Consider it for your next adventure. 🙂
Just make sure you don’t miss the purpose of travel and fail to discover your eyes.
~ Justin (Brother James)
A thing I love and a thing I made: