What It Means To Travel?

Writing this, I'm counting on the very few left days we all have before saying another goodbye to the passing 2016. It's a cliche, but I believe most of us will stop for a moment and think, "Wow, what happened to the rest eleven months?" - Because time did fly, quite unnoticeable, while living creatures, like you and me, buried our heads deeply inside the repetitive daily routines. And just like other anxious beings, I try to scan my memories slowly, grasping important events that I've been through, so they could be stored together in the archive of Things I Should Never Forget In Life.

Soon I realize that, aside from getting fund deal for my magazine, creating a Youtube web series, or breaking up with the guy I date for some time (followed by an unexpected greatest story of being truly in love for the first time in my 27 years of life - but that's for another post to share); I travel a lot in 2016. Counting the total hours and frequency, I'm a 100% sure that I've never traveled that much in my life before. Three continents and eight countries, followed by endless commute from Jakarta to Yogyakarta and Bali. That's a lot of awkward long flights and such big chunk of gut for someone who has flying-anxiety like me. If I were given the total sum on a first sight, I would've said "No" undoubtedly. Why do I, a true Taurean by heart and soul, would leave my comfort room and seek troubles in the outside world? My very basic need to be happy (and everything I need, to be honest) is my soft-surfaced bed and the high-speed internet connection. Home-cooked meals from Mom will be sufficient to keep my human body functions perfectly. Add a cup of morning coffee or some pile of books, and you'll make it an official luxury for me. Then why on earth I volunteered to step into the alien ground called "anywhere abroad" and risking the only sanity I have?

(I wish I have a great punch line to serve you here as an answer, the type which you can read it and get impressed by my wise reasoning ability afterward, but guess I'll disappoint you.)

I don't know why exactly I travel because I thought I was merely taking a trip. Multiple journeys, maybe. Those in which I'd pack some clothes and go to places, either for work or visiting places. The chronology came in a similar order: flight booking - packing - flying - staying - flying - unpacking. On repeat. Everybody goes to other cities and taking a holiday to other countries every time, right?

A visit to Phillip Island, Victoria.

A visit to Phillip Island, Victoria.

I kept thinking that way until I reached the peak of my travel cycle: the day I arrived at Hallstatt, the fairytale-like city in the Upper Austria. I went there during my mini Euro-trip with a good friend, Ayla Dimitri, not knowing how the travel will change us forever. We saw a beautiful picture of Hallstatt and thought that we ought to be there even just for a day. The whole story of Hallstatt (and Austria) will need a whole long post to finish, but there's this precise moment in my visit where I finally understand something about traveling: the time when I found a little Austrian chapel.

Ayla and I were walking to our lunch cafe where I saw a little sign of a church in the sidewalk - or what I thought was a church. It was a small chapel, apparently, with mid-century style mosaic windows and holy lighting from the upper ventilation. I told Ayla that I'd spend some time to pray alone, so she went to the cafe across the road, and I went inside the chapel. There was only another man sitting in the corner, reading the Holy Bible. I started to kneel down on my knee, and by the beginning of my prayer, I cried myself a river.

I didn't know much about female hormones nor religion - for sure I'm still learning to understand both - but I do know about feelings quite well: It's pure and honest. So when the cold mountainous wind from the opened door meets the tranquil natural lights that hit the Altar, my troubled heart was hypnotized by the magical view and couldn't help not to blasted out, throwing all the suppressed negativity it previously try to hold. The loss from my grandfather's death, the unhappy love relationship, the uneasy career dilemma, the struggling faith... They were all finally felt, stronger than ever. And I cry shamelessly (God forbid the other tourist who just came inside to think I was emotionally unbalanced), over and over for a good ten to fifteen minutes after.

The heart of Hallstatt, a small city in Upper Austria.

The heart of Hallstatt, a small city in Upper Austria.

When you travel, you detach yourself from the life you usually live in every day. It's like having yourself being a part of a painting, with all the familiar houses and roads (and people) inside it. Then you step out from the frame, position yourself facing that particular painting in front of you. You'd start to notice things: Why does the next house have no door? Why the grayness of sky is uneven? Who's walking beside that old lady?

If I stay in Jakarta and pray in the church alone, I doubt the same act will happen. But having gone through up and down situations during my Europe stay, meeting many strangers, adjusting to local food and getting confused by the complicated French phrases by the previous week may have to lead my emotion to be vulnerable. When you travel, you detach yourself from the life you usually live in every day. It's like having yourself being a part of a painting, with all the familiar houses and roads (and people) inside it. Then you step out from the frame, position yourself facing that particular painting in front of you. You'd start to notice things. Why does the next house have no door? Why the grayness of sky is uneven? Who's walking beside that old lady? - the same situation happens when you travel, only this time you'd ask different questions: What makes me feel empty after Grandpa's gone? Why do I keep staying in this relationship? Am I worthy of love? When my best friend was angry with me last time, did I choose to be ignorant or selfish? My mom looks so tired lately, I wonder if she's okay?

The view during a train ride from Vienna to Salzburg, May 2016.

The view during a train ride from Vienna to Salzburg, May 2016.

Travel reset my human clock into a pause-notion, where I can get lost in the crowd or among silence and be a better hunter when I need to find myself again. All this time I'm willing to travel for letting myself grow, opening my arms for the uncertainty, facing my fear of changing. Knowing that growth consists of both happy and sad moments. Knowing that uncertainty will teach me to have stronger faith. Knowing, above all, that change is inevitable in life, and the best way to embrace it is by letting myself learn how to adapt.

Travel brings us to wander. Whether arriving at a new place or returning to the same destination, the feeling is always new each time.

I got a friend who travels for work, but by heart, he's actually trying to find a meaning of Home that he never have. Another colleague decided to start exploring her neighborhood because she wants to learn more about local culture and to deliver awareness about tolerance amongst different race. My sister travels to relax, escaping her student-routine. Others travel for curiosity, for fun, for passion. The reason might spread into a wider variety, but for me, we all travel for one particular reason: to feel.

To know what it's like to be happy, to examine the unsure thoughts, to be drowned in confusion of being like we don't belong, to settle in a place that reminds us of home, to run from something, to sit under the palm tree and to reminisce the good old day, to witness the magic of sunrise that creeps slowly behind the mountain's shade, to seek for a lost love, to find themselves... All of that to feel like we can feel, again and again.

Travel brings us to wander. Whether arriving at a new place or returning to the same destination, the feeling is always new each time. I'm pretty sure that the need for "feeling the feelings" has been the ultimate force behind my every so-called trip. The fuel that ironically soothes my heart every time the plane take off to the borderless sky, leaving me powerless on my seat, hoping to arrive at my destination safely. The same drive that undoubtedly pushes my heart to take a walk to the nearby forest, visiting a new bookstore, taking my friends out to sleepover at one local boutique hotel. All because of my human being's desperation of sensing emotions, of knowing that I can still feel, that I'm alive.

A view by the lake in Vienna, Austria.

A view by the lake in Vienna, Austria.

Every once in a while I, too, am longing for that particular pause where I learn that each travel will always serve a different feel. And through each of it, I can try to understand, little by little, that everything in life is relevant. That I am, relevant. That you and them and the sum of our actions, our feelings, are relevant; and together that'll create a bigger connection - either to one another and into our inner souls within.

It's a couple more days to end this year's journey, and maybe you can ask yourself the same question to reflect a story: Why do you travel this year?

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