The Because-I-have-to reasons
Reason 1: To see what I can see.
From as far back as I can remember, I have been curious about what else is out there. I think I’ve written before about standing on the beach at the edge of our farm, looking out across the Pacific Ocean, marvelling that there was nothing between me and South America. Knowing there was something else out there that was different, made me want to go see it. I’ve never liked knowing I don’t know things, or that I can’t peek somewhere, or find out what’s going on. Why did I first want to travel? Like the bear going over the mountain, I also wanted to see what I could see. And you know, that song is just plain wrong and stupid. The other side of the mountain is always worth seeing. It is never just the other side of the mountain.
Reason 2: To experience diversity.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” — St. Augustine.
Variety is the spice of life. I can’t imagine only ever eating one type of food, or reading one genre of book, or studying one subject. And likewise I can’t imagine spending my entire life in one country, only knowing one way of doing things. I know the US is vast and different. But it is still the US. People sound the same (pretty much) in Delaware as in California, in Ohio and Florida. The cities largely look the same. The differences are small, and in the grand scheme of things, everyone is an American. They still call a holiday a vacation. They still add tax at the cashier, and expect a tip. They still say “have a nice day.” Likewise, Australia is still Australia, whether you’re in the tropical north or a continent apart in the barren western deserts. They still call a duvet a doona, and ask for a skinny latte. They still like to win, and they always tease kiwis about our accents.
But fly from Australia to Singapore, closer to Perth than Brisbane, and marvel in the differences. Then drive from wealthy, efficient Singapore into Malaysia, and cross the border into Thailand, and you’ll be overwhelmed with the differences. You’ll see them, hear them, taste and smell them. And each time, you’ll learn new ways of doing things, new ways of being.
Reason 3: Genetics and Geography
Genetics: New Zealand is a country of travellers; everyone here, or their ancestors, immigrated at one time or another. In our genes are the genes of people who held their heads up, sniffed the air, and said, “let’s go!” And my genes still say “let’s go” on a regular basis.
Geography: New Zealand is small. Yes, it is geographically diverse. You can drive from snow-capped mountains to the beach in a matter of hours (or less than an hour in Taranaki), ski in the morning and surf in the afternoon. We have rolling plains, moutains, sub-tropical rainforests and fiords, volcanoes, barren desert-like areas, icy lakes, and steaming geysers and mud-pools. It’s about as diverse as a small country can get. But still, it is small. About a month ago my husband and I went to Marlborough (the home of the world’s best sauvignon blancs) for a weekend. We’ve been there many times before, and know it really well. But this time we drove up some rural roads we’d never taken before, and discovered new and exciting vistas. It was fun. Suddenly we were tourists in our own country, and we enjoyed it. This doesn’t happen a lot in New Zealand, because it is small, and so much of it is familiar.
So getting out of our small islands, escaping our own geography, is essential to me.
New Zealand is on the edge of the Pacific, a long way from, well, anywhere. To get anywhere outside New Zealand is an effort, a conscious decision. To stay here it is possible to feel isolated, far from the rest of the world, possibly even trapped. And human beings like to feel connected. So we travel.