Travel, as a word, means the transition of something between two points, usually across physical space. Commuting to work every day is a form of travel. As is walking to a uni class. What most people mean, though, by travel, is the visiting of some unfamiliar place at some distance from your normal routine. Walking to a different supermarket to buy food groceries is not that form of travel, but going to visit a family member or old friend in another city might be, even if you’ve been there dozens of times before.
That sense of travel — and of course travel in the sense of heading to some far-off exotic land to absorb strange and unusual cultures — is useful to anyone. It gives us an escape. Not the kind of escapism you find reading book or watching a good film, it’s literal escapism. It’s more difficult to obtain, sure — plane tickets, spending money, getting time off work — but it’s vastly more useful than heading under the covers with the latest thriller by your favourite author.
I’m flying to Belfast in a couple of hours where I’m meeting a friend, spending a night in a hostel, hitting a few pubs to drown our sorrows, and heading to coastal Coleraine for a few days. I’m physically escaping friends who have frustrated me, friends who have bored me, friends I just plain don’t care about; I’m escaping lectures and assessments; I’m escaping the bed I sleep in every night and the streets I walk every day; I’m escaping the routine that’s horrifically unfulfilling. Sure, it’s only a few days and I’ll be back to the place I no longer want to be before I know it, but it’s an important escape. If nothing else, travelling somewhere new and unfamiliar reminds me that I’m still young and uncommitted enough to say “fuck it, let’s just DO IT, man.”
And so I go to the airport. I’m dreaming of what awaits me — I can feel a serious contender for best birthday ever coming on — before I’ve even left my house. Everyone feels that when they feel a little sad, fantasising about a perfect getaway; I have this uncanny knack of making them happen. It never gets easier coming home though: whenever I travel, there’s ALWAYS something I want to escape, and coming home seems to get harder each time. It sucks I guess, but it’s only by living with the shitty frustrations and anxieties that another adventure or getaway ever gets organised so I suppose I should be thankful.
Happy birthday to me.