Saturday, 13 September 2014

What it is to "travel"

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?


  1. It’s interesting how people link retirement with travel. As my own retirement date approaches, I’m getting unsolicited advice about taking last minute city breaks, treating myself to a spa or even going on a luxury cruise! So I smile politely at these people - while horror psycho music plays in my head! We’re actually looking forward to more camping, walking, and slow touring on an old motorbike. Just more time being out of doors, really. Even to revisit favourite local places many times and see them change - different times of day/night/year, perhaps catching the magic moment when the wildlife puts on a show. (Or maybe find a dragon - was it Castle Bolton?) I guess we’re fortunate to have tried some of the fancy stuff but don’t need/want to do it again. Much prefer a flask and sarnies to a fancy café. Happy travelling!

    1. Your plans sound great - more time spent outdoors is key I think, along with a slower pace and time to enjoy being there. How long have you got to go before you can start to think about packing the panniers?

      (Castle Bolton it is. :-) We walked there from Leyburn and came back on the Wensleydale railway)

    2. I'm with slow - and taking the time and having imagination to do it. Too many holidays while working were fast and furious, because The Man's fingers were drumming on the desk...

      I still haven't managed to get to hear the nightingales sing only 6 miles from home. Next year, maybe, if they return.. :)

    3. Hi ermine. Very true, we see so much more when we move slowly and without the pressure of having to be "somewhere else" to someone else's timetable.

      Nightingale song would definitely be on my list too. I hope it happens for you soon - it will probably catch you when you don't expect it :-)

  2. Hi Cerridwen

    Interesting post and question. As you say, "somewhere else" or "somewhere different" means new experiences, challenges, tastes, sights and sounds, which to my mind, means leaving the country! However, as you correctly point out,'travel' doesn't have to be very far, and I'm guilty of not really knowing the country I live in as much as I should! I'm not a great outdoors kind of person and although I possess a pair of walking boots, they don't get used very often! A holiday to me means hot weather, so I guess that's why I aim to travel away for warmer climes. That my family are on the other side of the world plays a big factor too and this is the sort of travelling I think about when I retire. But is this realistic? There are many countries that I would love to visit (if only the once) and as I don't have the time to visit now, I think I'll do it when I retire. But there's every chance that I'll end up not travelling at all. In my 'retirement plans' I have accounted for such travelling though, just in case I feel the urge to do so!

    1. Hi weenie,

      I don't really get on with very high temperatures and my husband has health problems which means he has to stay out of the sun so we tend to stick to fairly temperate climes but I do like to lie on the beach occasionally although I'm as happy with the beaches in Northumberland as those in Spain if we get a little bit of sunshine :-) There is a lot to be seen in the UK, much of it hidden away from the main tourist trails and I don't think I would ever get fed up of exploring even quite close to home.

      I agree that retirement should give us the ideal opportunity to travel as it is probably the only time in life (apart from a student gap year if you were lucky enough to take one) when we have the time to really see a country rather than just pass through it.