The Uses of Travel.
I write this while flying at 555 mph, at an altitude of 38007 feet over the Indian Ocean, Just off the southern tip of Sri Lanka. I am several hours from Dubai, coming from New Zealand.
This all sounds extremely glamorous. So let's puncture that bubble for a moment.
The cabin is dark, and noisy, the air stuffy, I'm tired, my body doesn't know what time it is, and it's aching from already being on the plane for about 15 hours. But here I am writing, because despite all this, I am motivated and inspired to do so.
I'm motivated as I've been very fortunate to be on a 7 day visit to Wellington in New Zealand, to present a performance 'The Naming of Clouds' at the 'Performing, Writing' symposium, and to get some Forest based research done in very different Ecology/Culture.
So I thought I would write a little something on some of the benefits and uses of travel as part of artistic process. Here they are:
1: Escape: You can get out of your life, leave all the concerns and distractions and interests behind for a clean slate state of mind, and in that state you can think about your work with clarity.
2: Encounter: You can encounter the world, fresh again. Sometimes your can come across something very familiar but encounter it again in a new way when somewhere else.
3: People: All kinds of new people, those who share your interests, and those who are completely new to them.
4: Culture: In a globalised context its easy to find that your surrounding and culture are homogenous, travel is one way of finding difference or distinctiveness.
5: History. Any given place is rich with its own past and narratives. Dig in.
6: Perspective/Reflection: As well as Escape you get to look again at where you've come from.
7: Environment. Landscape/Geology/Flora/Fauna: While humans might be quite similar here and there, what can be relied to the be distinct is the environment of different places on the globe. I can't recommend getting out and encountering the environment in all its complexity and depth enough.
The above might be considered the uses of Travel. However it might also be useful to consider the states that 'Travelling' produces in you:
A: Longing. On any given journey, one will be away from home and it will be exciting. At the same time, you will want to come home, you will miss someone or something. What do you you miss, what is important to you?
B: Seeking Treasure. When you are travelling to your destination, or maybe on reflection, what was it that you sought, or what did you find. What was the adventure that you had the treasure that you found? A person, a place, an experience, and object of desire?
I would frame these remarks by pointing out that long distance travel isn't necessary. The drive to and from Luton at the moment is inspiring. Train Journeys. A walk or a run.
One note of caution: Having had a discussion with Prof Peter Burns in the Department of Tourism at the University of Bedfordshire, he outlined that Tourism can often be defined as the search for the Authentic Self, or, the Authentic Other. A search that we shared the opinion of was flawed. That you might find your true self, or someone else who is living a 'good' life that you can emulate.
The travelling you, isn't the true you, there isn't a true you, where you go isn't any more authentic than where you live. All these places and people are equal. It's the process of travelling, being in that state, that is a mechanism for creative development. Perhaps just as much as staying home might be...