Being in Ireland for the past four months, I’ve seen quite a few things. I’ve drunk a pint at the Guinness Storehouse, I climbed up Wicklow’s Mountain, and I’ve stood atop the Giant’s Causeway. However, when I say it aloud, write it all down, and tell people about my adventures, it seems like I should have seen and done a hell of a lot more in the four months that I’ve been here. And then it hit me: I felt this way because I wasn’t looking at it in terms of quality; I was looking at it in terms of quantity.
Last week, I was talking to my friend, Rachel, about her visit to Ireland this spring. Being the eager beavers that we are, we’re already trying to plan out her days here, adding to the list of things we want to see together; but after hearing of all the things she wanted to do, I was exhausted. All I kept thinking was, “how are we ever going to accomplish all of this in only nine days?” What this conversation made me realize is one, very important, thing:
Travel shouldn’t be rushed.
This sense of “let’s see it all and do it all,” isn’t a new phenomenon. Especially when you’re traveling from Canada, those plane tickets are pricey, and since everything is so close by, it makes sense to try and see as much of it as you can while you’re over here. So many of my friends have a list a mile long of all the places they’ve seen on a two-week European adventure, and it seems this has become the norm when making the trip. Why not try to get the most out of your experience here? But when we travel this way, are we really getting the most out of it?
When you hop from train to train, from city to city, can you really say you’ve “experienced” it? You can say, “I’ve been there,” but has your “being there” actually allowed you to experience such a place long enough to understand its wonder? Have you learned about life in this space? Can you understand all of the feelings that have been expressed to Italy? To France? To Ireland? Can you really tell me you’ve been somewhere, you’ve experienced some place, when all you’ve really seen and experienced was a hotel resort, an office lounge, or a ten-second window viewing on a tour bus?
When people walk down the streets of Rome, Paris or Dublin, they walk as tourists. Simply gawking by, slowing down to take a photograph, then promptly moving to the next place that’s on their list. But when I walk these same streets, I prefer to walk as a traveler. The difference: taking the time to live in this place. No, you do not need a change of address card or eight months to see everything a city encapsulates, but you can’t possibly live and feel what it means to be within a city’s limits without taking your time to exist inside of it, first. To be in it’s place; to experience, to the fullest extent, the significance that such space has to offer; to really appreciate land that is embedded with so much history and so much life, and leave knowing, in your soul, that this place has truly changed you. Because, when given the time, each place will change you.
I’ve bridged this topic before: everyone is moving much too fast. This concept of movement is problematic when we relay it to experience. I do not believe you can know or experience a place without time, knowledge, and opportunity. I understand that no one has the luxury to slowly move from one place to the next, to learn everything there is to possibly learn of a country, to spend year-long discoveries in every single place they wish to see, and I’m not suggesting we should. After all, we live in a world that is at constant top speed, with busy worker bees always passing us by. What I am suggesting is to pick your moments and understand the difference between travel and movement; between movement and experience. When given the chance to see what a town, a city, or a country is all about, really take the time to see it and do it properly. Hell, you may need to visit a few times to really understand such a place, but it really is worth it, because it is only when you properly live a place – and I mean live, breathe, and feel a place – that you have stories to tell, feelings to express, and a metamorphosis to commemorate.
We want too much. We want to see everything, and do everything, and we’re so focused on trying to have it all that we miss the chance to appreciate the extraordinary that is right in front of us. Traveling means more than moving within a space – it means to move within yourself. Do not amount your journeys to the number of places you’ve seen, but instead, amount them by the wisdom they’ve instilled, and the understanding they have created exclusively for you. Travel is beautiful, travel is revitalizing, but travel can only really be understood when you take the time to make a true connection with these places and spaces. Take your time, slow it down, breathe it in, and EXPERIENCE.
There’s a reason it’s all about the journey, and not the destination.