I've just got back from a week away in the Yorkshire Dales, a part of the world which is very close to where I was born and bred and so feels like home, but which also effortlessly hits many of my holiday desirables. The physical beauty of the countryside is indisputable (especially seen in the kind of weather we've benn having recently), the people really do have more time to smile and pass the time of day, the pubs are many and varied and the walking is fantastic. It was a good week.
We spent a lot of time wandering up hill and down dale so I had lots of time to think. One of the subjects occupying my mind was the question of what we mean when we say, as many of us do, that one of the things FI will give us is the freedom to travel. On the face of things this is rather a simple statement. Travel is moving from A to B. But I, for one, certainly do not want to spend any more of my precious time in airport queues or motorway hold ups. The actual "travel" itself is an unfortunate, but unavoidable, side effect of the getting "somewhere else" which is the actual objective.
That "somewhere else" or "somewhere different" means new experiences, challenges, tastes, sights and sounds and it also means new people with different lifestyles, viewpoints and outlooks. Travel makes finding all this "difference" easy, it gives it to us on a plate. The reason we say that it broadens the mind is that it forces the mind to exercise and to take in all that "difference", to fit it around our existing experience and in the best of cases, change the boundaries of our understanding. This exercise has a lasting influence when we come home, it really does make us more enlightened.
True travel does not really require going very far at all, as it is ultimately about making an effort to force ourselves outside our normal daily experience and consciously seek out "difference", especially difference that challenges. This could be as simple as reading some science fiction instead of your usual crime, learning to sing or doing some voluntary work to clean out the local canal. Opportunities for travel are around every corner if we choose to take them.
On the other side of the coin there are plenty of people who move around the world but fail to really travel. People who take all inclusive holidays shut away in hotel "compounds" or go on luxury cruises with the odd coach trip to the sights and back again, business men who spend their lives on planes and in hotel conference rooms or the super rich who take their lifestyles with them when they move between their houses in Mexico, St Barths or The Hamptons. It is hard to see how any of these people are actually experiencing "difference".
From a FI point of view seeing travel in this way also means that we don't need to put our urge to get out and do it on hold until we reach our goal. In fact working towards FI could almost be said to be an exercise in travel (it is certainly a journey :-)) as it forces us to look at life in a different way. There are many ways to travel the world without breaking the bank or suffering from a guilt trip on the carbon footprint front.
Ordering my thoughts whilst walking off all those fantastic fish and chips has been a very useful exercise because it has helped me to pin down why I have never really understood people who cite travel as being one of their goals in life without qualifying what they mean and where they want to go. This can come across as a "been there, done that", tick-box kind of attitude which seems at odds with the true value of exploring the world. I much prefer the notion of time spent "wandering", or "roaming", where what happens one day influences where we go the next and the only itinerary is to experience something new and let it touch us in a way that enriches. In the end all that we really need for this kind of travel is time and the imagination to enjoy it. That is what I'm looking for from FI.
Here's something "different" I came across in North Yorkshire. :-) Does anyone know where?