Hitching across southern France. Photo by Kacper Gunia
From the comfort of my cloud floating across the skies, I hear the distant sound of a police car, barely audible on the horizon. What the hell is that doing here? Have I broken the law again? The serenity of my dream is confiscated, and I emerge from the depths of haziness into reality. The sirens gradually intensify to such a crescendo that not even the pillow wrapped round my head so tightly that I am suffocating, can prevent the inevitable. I am awake.
I offensively eject Lena from the bed. She is awake.
Temporary home on a beach somewhere in southern France. Photo by Kacper Gunia
The standard midnight panic-packing has left us with the far from ample 3 hours of sleep and it is time to go to the airport. Tired, but excited and with an unhealthy dose of caffeine, we are ready to face the day. Time management is not one of our strengths and we run to the bus…and then to the train. Safely aboard, we relax and drift back into our pre-exercise comatose states. We are meeting my dad at Derby and then being chauffeured to Birmingham Airport. Simple.
Not so. For some unknown reason, it seems like the entire population has descended upon the M42 in an effort to migrate to Birmingham. Out with the atlas, we embark upon an off-road adventure. Time is rapidly being stolen away from us, and in an inspired attempt to warp the physics of space-time, Dad engages anger mode. We are still in the car 30 minutes before take-off time. Using some Smartphone power, Lena has discovered that flights the day after will bankrupt us. However, the rage and profanities wielded by our captain has somehow worked and we arrive at the airport. We run yet again.
I still don’t know how we managed to catch our plane. Perhaps, Dad is onto something. Either way, it is sometimes difficult to justify the levels of discomfort and stress associated with travel. This was merely a journey to the airport. When backpacking, hiking or mountaineering, the suffering involved is infinitely worse. Tiredness, fatigue from hauling a backpack that is too heavy to lift, scarcely protected from what the weather Gods torment upon me, and not nearly enough deodorant to mask my stench. Despite the hardships, I love to travel, especially through the wild places. So what is it that drives people to travel?
Suffering but immense enjoyment in the Alps
Whilst much of travel is for business, the majority of people travel because they want to, and that the benefits outweigh all the inconveniences. Individuals all have their different motivations but fundamentally, we as humans are a migratory species. The fact that resources fluctuate over time drives migration, with food, sex and responses to climate change proving the most powerful motivations. Travel is therefore a basic human desire and was essential for the continued existence and expansion of humanity.
Research has also shown that travel is good for effective critical thinking. It doesn’t really matter if this is cycling across Turkmenistan or just a short wander away from your house. When we escape from the place where we spend most of our time, our minds are able to become more creative. It is then easier to see something new in the old, and problems can be viewed from a more abstract perspective. Isaac Newton is a classic example of this, inspired to formulate his theory of gravitation whilst drinking tea in a garden under the shade of some apple trees.
The instinct that compels people to be curious about the world and exploring unknown places, ultimately led to the greatest ever journey by man. This was to a place already known, researched and intimately mapped. Yet, this journey, which may have done nothing but confirm established views, provided mankind with a revelation. The journey was, of course, to the moon. And the most striking discovery of the first lunar journey in 1969 was an insight into what was left behind – the image of the small pale blue dot standing in the vast expanse of space. It was a strange irony to travel for three days to the moon, and rediscover the earth.