Everyone has a first time to hit the road.
You might have been away with your folks before or even been on a weekend trip to Paris but getting on the road for real is something else. To pack your bags and head off to who knows what is like a leap of faith. All that you leave behind will probably still be there if and when you return – but you will have changed.
A great journey has traditionally been seen by cultures the world over as a rite of passage. The Native Americans sent their young men into the wilderness on vision quests before they were accepted as men and Muslims only seal their faith 100% when they make the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Nowadays with religion and ritual crumbling away in the West, travel is one of the few definitive means at our disposal to mark a change in our lives.
The first time traveller tends to obsess about getting the right kind of kit together, loading upon guide books, travel insurance, return flights, vaccinations and bulky first aid kits. He or she already plans the letters they’ll write home and eyes are bright with wonder and enthusiasm. It’s okay, we were all travel virgins once.
Give them 6 months though and their rucksack will be dirty and torn. They’ll have ripped the map pages out of their guidebook and thrown the fucking thing away. All their friends at home will think they’ve died and their eyes will reflect a scarred, streetwise soul that has seen the world.
Or not. Whatever you become on your travels entirely depends on what you do and how you go. Fill your head with guidebook clichés and politically correct ideas and you can join the millions of consumer tourists who tread the backpacker route like a treadmill. Thrust yourself into a world beyond your ken, however and you have the chance to challenge all you thought you knew about the world and yourself. That’s what travel is all about.
So worry less about what you’ll take with you than what you leave behind. If you pack all of your values and beliefs when you hit the road then you might as well stay at home. The very reason you’re traveling is to learn about other realities around the world. Keep your mind and heart open and experience will just pour into you.
“When you don’t know where you’re going then every path will take you there.”
(the Rabbi, Northern Exposure)