Why do we travel?

19 June 2016 - interviews

So I’ve been thinking about moving away from Singapore, or at least taking a nice long sabbatical. After being back for five years, I’m starting to get the urge to explore the world again. This morning as I stared at my iPhone (as usual) on my way to work, I looked up through the window. I’d lost track of where I was along the route, and for a second I didn’t recognize the sight: I was staring straight down Cairnhill Road at the old black and white house nestled under a giant old tree along where Devonshire Road bends into Grange. In the cloudy light of the morning, the house looked like it had dropped out of someone’s old painting. Against a backdrop of the glass-and-steel-and-concrete shopping malls, it was unexpectedly beautiful.

I go past this way every day.  I see the house every day. How many times have I gone by without actually noticing it?

I think part of the reason why we enjoy travel is because it helps us to see the world with new eyes. When we’re in an unfamiliar place, we tend to pay more attention: how blue the sky is when we walk out the hotel door, how the air smells different in a new city, how people are friendlier/unfriendlier as they stand in line in the neighbourhood coffee shop. Sights are sharper, smells are more intense, tastes are more vivid. But it’s not because New York or London or Hong Kong operates under a different set of physical laws – it’s just the power of our attention. Maybe it’s not a sabbatical I need, but a reminder to pay attention to everyday things. After all, you can start exploring the world by exploring what’s already around you. 

Jen, TMC Guest Contributor and avid traveller.