People / Planet
February 18, 2020

Time for a reset of what matters? Transformative travel has the answer

Words by Matt Leedham
Travel Better

Our pursuit of happiness in life principally leads us to desire material ‘stuff’ we think will fulfil us. But exploring the transformative experiences of travel offers us a gift to stay curious and understand so much more.

Whatever answers we’re searching for in life, everyday society and particularly consumerism does a wonderful job of fuelling our ego’s and keeping our attention focussed on ‘shiny objects’ rather than on the deeper, more genuine life answers we individually seek.

Whether it’s the lure of a new ‘must-have’ outfit, a car, new job, partner, house or piece of furniture, sustaining our short term happiness, the thrill of the new never lasts long in our minds and only leads us on to the next fleeting desire.

And so on we plod in life, with the answers we seek deep down around true fulfilment remaining mysteries to be solved ‘someday’.

We’re all guilty of this, of course.

But what if we looked at travel as a vehicle for closer introspection?

What if we took the planet-sized perspective of difference travelling the world presents us with as an opportunity to embrace new thinking and help us solve some of the bigger questions?

The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is both a place of worship and tolerance for all the world’s faith.

Investing our time and money in travelling is, of course, one of the universe’s most abundant and transcendent gifts we can take up.

“Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer” is the age-old maxim (cliché?), but has it ever been more relevant than in today’s world?

Many believe that before you can Travel to change the world for the better, you must first travel to change your world.

What does that mean?

Call it ‘doing the work’, which is a phrase often used regarding psychotherapy and a journey into the self, or you can call it ‘going travelling!’

Born in 1915, Alan Watts was a famed British philosopher, speaker and author who interpreted and popularised Eastern philosophy and religion for a Western audience.

Watts passed away in 1973, but his legacy lives on through his many inspirational speeches, some of which have millions of views on YouTube.

Below is an adapted excerpt from Watts posthumous work, Just So: Money, Materialism, and the Ineffable, Intelligent Universe. Which, for me, says so much about where our attention could be better focussed on fulfilling us truly.

“This speeding about – this ridiculous hurry and forcefulness – shows up everywhere.

“We’re constantly rushing after the thing, the result, the whatever-it-is that we thought we wanted. We convinced ourselves that it would make us happy. But having all of these things aren’t doing it for us; it’s supposed to, but it doesn’t. We don’t eat well, and we too often use food to feel happy, but instead, we end up with obesity and indigestion.

“Everywhere we look, advertisements persuade us that the most important thing in life is to buy a certain type of car, yacht, or house, but even if we can do so, we don’t end up happy. And then we wonder why and feel cheated. All of this illustrates that we aren’t here.

“That’s close to what we say when someone is insane – we say that they’re “not all there.” For answers, we then go to a psychoanalyst, a priest, a support group, all of which persuade us in a different direction, but it always feels as if something’s missing.

“Nothing is missing. There’s nothing missing at all – unless, of course, you’re absolutely starving or freezing, which most of us aren’t. When we are adequately fed and sheltered, there isn’t anything missing. It’s all there, and only nobody is there to see it. Everybody is wandering off after something else in the distance.

“One of the reasons that we find such difficulty being present to materiality is that we are afflicted with the strange notion that the material present is a hoax. Among other things, we have been told to not lay up treasure on the earth, where moths and rust will corrupt it, but to lay up treasure for ourselves in heaven.

“Actually, the treasure of heaven is now. We think that the real world is disintegrating and crumbling and therefore is bad, but the real reason we denigrate the world is that it is unseizable. It is always changing, we can’t grasp it, and there’s nothing to hold on to. But that’s what makes it spiritual.

“When you lean on the world, it collapses. So don’t lean on it – live in it.

“Don’t try to hold on to it.

“When you embrace someone, you don’t squeeze the breath out of them and strangle them. You can’t sense the world – you can’t feel the world – if you grab hold of it.

“Use a light touch. Let it flow through your fingers. It’s always slipping, so let it slip. And the more it runs, the more it stays, and the more it stays, the more it runs – that’s the way it is. If you don’t hold on to it, it’s always here; if you do hold on to it, it’s always running away.

“But if you use a light touch, you can discover the most shocking thing – the physical world right here and now, this absolutely concrete moment in paradise. It’s everything that you could ever have imagined the beatific vision to be.”

Find out more:

How can you travel to change the world?

Congratulations! By reading this post and taking some of these insights on board, you’ve already made a difference.

Now you can easily create your impact by sharing your newfound knowledge with other friends who you think would also be interested.

Ultimately, responsible travel comes down to common sense – stay curious, keep yourself up-to-date with the challenges at hand and make yourself accountable for your actions on your travels.