We’re the lucky ones. Thanks to the hardworking generations before us, we’re in a position to travel like never before. We’re given the time to look up at the sky, to dream up an adventure, and if you have what it takes, you go out and make it happen. “I got some time off from work and want an adventure… thinking of going Dubai.” Sorry made up desi-dude, but Dubai is not an adventure and is likely to bring as much culture to you as staying at home. Not to mention the exploitation of immigrant workers you’d be supporting by travelling there.
Ironically, it’s quite common to find folks from immigrant backgrounds who have failed to stay in touch with their sense of adventure. I didn’t want to be that guy! After a few years of putting it off, last month my best friend and I got in my car and travelled across Western Europe. We covered some 2,800 miles – hiking the Pyrenees, getting the car stuck in a sunflower field near Rouen, tower-camping in Nice, cloud-driving in Andorra and soaking up the culture and heritage of Barcelona. It wasn’t always easy but I was invigorated by thinking of Sikhs in history doing very similar things. We can go right back to the beginning with Guru Nanak who took four epic gap-year style road trips with his best friend Mardana, each time going in a different direction, and into modern times, I’m reminded of Kuki and Suki’s road trip in America evading capture for six months.
So what’s the importance of travelling? It all depends on the individual, but for me it’s quite straight-forward: travelling transforms people. I learnt so much about different ways of life, different cultures, different histories on our travels. I was able to feel, smell and truly connect to places I had heard of or read about. Keeping in line with the mission, it also connected me to a wider circle than just the local people in my area. If I truly wish to strive for Sarbat da Bhalla (betterment of humankind) it’s about time I meet the people I want to serve. On a personal note, I also found myself transformed by taking more time out and reflecting. The pace of life in London makes my head spin sometimes and I found the break gave me a chance to correct some bad habits and ensure I make the most out of my schedule.
Like anything, there’s a couple of tricky obstacles which may try to prevent you from finding your adventure. The biggest and perhaps the most powerful is the demon named Fear. Fear of being uncomfortable, fear of danger (my Nani told me there would be bears in France and thanked the heavens that I returned alive), fear of the unknown, fear of everything – perhaps even fear itself! I like to think of these fears differently: when it’s our time to be eaten by bears, it’ll be our time to be eaten by bears. Whether it’s alien-bears that are laser beamed into our bedrooms at night, or bears that find us sleeping in a field – we’re destined to die when we die. In the meantime, I’m determined to enjoy the road of life knowing that I’m powerless to change the destination.
Some people don’t want to travel ever, like my Mum. I remember her raising a point quite rightly saying “but what if I have the ability to see beauty here in Hounslow?“. As long as it’s not an excuse and is a reality, fair enough – you inspire me! Unfortunately it appears to be more of an excuse to sit at home watching Eastenders than to follow an Iceland carrier bag as it blows in the wind, provoking thoughts and realisations as in the film ‘American Beauty’. I used to agree with my Mum, but I’ve broken free. It is so much easier to see beauty in newer environments as there’s less white noise. The freshness of scenery heightens the senses and you’re more likely to be hit by the colour and grandness of places in a way that you’re not accustomed to (word to: Saragarda Familia).
Travelling reminded me of the importance of being a global citizen in the realest sense and the healing of travel has enabled me to come back stronger. I’m committed to trying new things here in London and will be treating this home like I’m constantly on holiday. That’s a lot I got back from a single adventure across western Europe!