I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list. Susan Sontag
I grew up in England, and many of my younger days of travelling were in the UK on family holidays. As I grew up those travels extended out to Europe, and that was pretty much the extent to which I was willing to venture.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore Europe and all of it’s history. That's why I never felt much of a need to travel further afield; everything I wanted from travel was right there. In my years I've managed to cover some excellent ground across my european neighbours backyards. I've collected wonderful memories and beautiful experiences.
Then love happened. I met my partner through one of life’s happy moments of synchronicity in a ‘Before Sunrise’-esque story and the whole world blew right open. He lived in Australia and I lived in London. It didn't too take long before my european-centric bubble had to burst.
In the time we’ve been together we’ve had the privilege of not only travelling across some of Australia and England, but also to Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Berlin, Seoul, Japan, America, Canada, Vienna and Switzerland.
Not too shabby for this small town British girl.
Before all of these travels I wasn’t really able to pinpoint what it was I was expecting, but I do know that I was consumed with the idea of differences. My mind was filled with assumptions about the ways in which the countries I was visiting would be different to what I had come to expect from my european travels. The ways in which the people would be different, and the impact that might have on me and my world views.
I can tell you now, I was catastrophically naive.
During my travels I’ve sat in cafes across Asia, Australia, America and Europe. I’ve sat in them for hours and watched the city happen around me, and I've observed the people that live in those cities, going about their lives.
I've watched office workers file out the door at 5pm, wave to their colleagues and head off for their commute home. I've experienced that 7am commute cram, as a worker in London and a traveller in Tokyo. I've watched people give up their seats for the elderly in rural Portugal and bustling Texas. I've watched teenage boys and girls hanging out in coffee shops across the world, chatting and teasing and flirting.
I've been asked for directions in French, German, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic, and I've tried my best to ask for directions in a number of languages myself (often failing miserably).
I've seen drivers beep at impatient cyclists, and cyclists shout at impatient drivers in nearly every language you can think of. I’ve thanked bus drivers and tram drivers in Lisbon, Geneva, Seoul, Singapore, Melbourne and San Francisco.
I've seen families of all ethnicities, and lovers of all genders greet each other in airports across the world. And it always looks the same no matter who they are, who they love, or where they are. It is nothing but sheer joy, love and connection.
The biggest thing I've learnt from all my travels, that I couldn't ever learn from staying stationary, was not how different we are across the world, but how exactly the same we all are. How human and how connected; the seeming impossibility of how similar we all are.
I’m seeing a lot of shifts in the world at the moment. I’m seeing hate rise up for differences, that deep down, aren’t really differences at all. There are questions and barriers being imposed against those who are simply trying to live their lives in a way that helps them to connect better. To love who they want to love and develop as a person in the ways that best fit them.
I’m seeing this stem from the same place that consumed me before I started broadening my travel perspectives. A place focused purely on differences - and the fear this can cause. It’s the reason why we should all take action when presented with positive opportunities to support our fellow humans live happy, connected lives - even if it doesn't fit the 'norm'.
We all live our lives in pretty much the same ways and we are all seeking many of the same things - love, kindness, understanding, happiness, connection, a better future - it's the ways in which we vocalise some of these things that differs. But that's really the only thing that differs.
It’s been one of the best lessons I could have ever hoped to learn. Its also one of the most important lessons I think we could all do well to remember, no matter what.