Travelling IS Real Life

Travelling IS Real Life Reading Time: 4 minutes

Here’s my question to you: How and why did travelling and/or holidaying become aligned with ‘escaping reality’ or some kind of antithesis to ‘the real world’?

Whilst I was away, again and again I would hear ‘Oh when you go home and start real life’; or ‘When you return to reality’; or ‘When you eventually have to stop living the dream and actually face reality’. I also used these phrases so often myself, that I started to believe this was the fundamental truth – travelling must be nothing more than a form of escapism.

Recently, however, I came to the realisation that yes, I was living the dream… emphasis on living. The travel ‘dream’ was my lived reality. I was on the same physical planet as everyone else, not some parallel universe of unicorns and dragons. The magic I was exploring was absolutely real: the gems of the world I was fortunate enough to see with my own eyes.

Equally well, the physical and emotional challenges I was facing were absolutely real… just as real as the sweaty claustrophobia of a London tube, or the stressful intensity of a work deadline, even just as real as a horrible fight with a loved one.

By coming home, I have simply changed my reality, not returned to it.

Sunrise rock climbing with Brendan Donohue (@breandonohue)

Nothing has ever made me feel more alive than waking up at 3am to climb a cliff face in time for sunrise at the top. Or enduring an open-air overnight ferry from one Philippine island to another utter paradise. Nothing has made me more aware of my fortunate reality than living alongside the beautiful children of a Cebu slum; winded by their incomprehensibly sad stories whilst absorbing their unerring gratitude and happiness in the lives that they have.

To me, ‘reality’ is simply experiencing the discomforts of life in order to fully and better appreciate its wonders.

The Filipino kids showing us around their community.

And hey, that stands for the more conventional lifestyle too. I’ve lived, and will live again, that kind of reality. Waking up to an alarm; traipsing through the darkness to the gym; commuting into work; completing the tasks of a job one hopefully enjoys but perhaps doesn’t; grabbing a meal deal lunch; after-work Friday drinks; cosy evenings at home filled with wine, food and Netflix. This is a reality as much as mine of adventure, budgeting, #baglife, hostels, and international friends, was.

Fundamentally, these are just two very different realities, two versions of ‘real life’. Neither one is ‘escaping’ or ‘avoiding’ the other.

We need to stop referring to anything outside of the regular routine as a form of escapism. We need to stop beating ourselves up for taking holidays or making changes (incidentally, these are probably the times we develop most within ourselves anyway). And we also need to stop applying negative/boring/pressured connotations to this idea of ‘reality’… because why shouldn’t it (whatever ‘it’ is for you) be enjoyed!?

Oh and just as a side note and case in point – if the rhythm of our regular life-routines is the definition of ‘reality’, where does that leave us right now?! With Coronavirus and global quarantine, everybody in the entire world is experiencing a reality-shift right now, I don’t think many would refer to it as ‘escape’ or ‘dream’.

The Oxford Dictionaries define ‘reality‘ as “The state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.” The exciting part about keeping this meaning in mind, is in realising that actually we have total control over our reality, and absolute ability to change it. If we want our ‘reality’ to become more like the idealistic, then we make real choices and work for that to become the case.

Change your reality if you want to, it is both impossible and pointless to try and escape it.

A little food for thought. Ax.