WE THINK • March 2018
Exploring the world is an education, a way of absorbing knowledge through experience. And the best travelers should, as says globetrotter Ben Groundwater, learn on the journey. From befriending strangers to solo travel, here are his age-old lessons
On your first holiday, you want to see everything. Ten countries in two weeks: tick all the boxes, do all the things. After a while, however, you realise that sometimes less is more. Visit fewer places, and spend longer in each, and you’ll be richly rewarded.
Seeing the world is not a competition. You’re not holidaying to impress friends, or to make colleagues jealous, or for any reason besides pure enjoyment. You choose your destinations and your experiences for you. No one else matters.
There’s a tendency to be on your guard at first, to listen to tales of thievery and scams and believe it’s safer to assume the worst in people. But that’s a mistake. The people you meet on the road are overwhelmingly good of intention and heart. You might run into the odd exception, but the vast majority of people are kind, generous and well meaning.
Travel will teach you that you can survive when things go wrong. You can make yourself understood in another language. You can befriend strangers. You can explore the world on your own. It’s all there in you.
Travel is at its best when it challenges you, when it forces you to reconsider what you thought you knew, when it takes you outside your comfort zone. It’s a thrill, an experience, a story. The idea of ‘risk’ is different for everyone, but the benefits remain the same.
Anyone waiting for that perfect time to see South America, or Africa, or Australia, holding out until they have six months to ‘do it properly’, will probably never make it there. Two weeks is enough to have an amazing experience.
At first, it seems intimidating: going out on your own, tackling travel’s challenges without anyone’s help, existing purely in your own company. But solo travel is something everyone should experience. It’s the ultimate freedom, and will teach you more about yourself than you’ve ever known.
Things will go wrong. Trains will run late, hotel bookings will fall through, restaurants will be terrible, and nothing will look like the brochure. That’s life. The sooner you accept these mishaps, the more enjoyable your travels will be.
It’s easy to want to go back and do the same things again, to recapture the magic, to see and feel the same things you did before. But travel doesn’t work like that. It will never be the same. Better to go somewhere new and make fresh memories.
There is no more miserable feeling than the ‘back-home blues’, the knowledge that all that excitement, all that anticipation, all those challenges and joys and thrills, are finished. There’s only one cure: book another trip.
Start planning your next adventure here