The controversy of travel..and why it’s okay.

Do you remember this?

This is the original movie in a multi-part series (2006, 2008-my personal fav., 2012) of Matt Harding dancing all around the world that went very, very viral. With the original video published almost a decade ago, it is easy to see why this is one of the most impressive examples the endless possibilities we have of integrating our expansive digital world with our boundless physical one. As I have said before, the internet is one of the best resources for travellers and non-travellers alike. The ability of these videos to enable the viewer to both experience and be inspired is a pretty commendable achievement. But these videos do more than evoke wanderlust, they embody a powerful message about the act of travel. 

What I mean to say is that these videos speak a lot to the core experiences of both enthusiastic travellers and their gracious hosts. Watching Matt travel the world and dance with the locals is a heartwarming idea. And as you watch, you may find yourself witnessing on some of the fundamental truths that transcend borders, languages, cultures, and more. It reflects this universal desire for the very same thing, for happiness.

But with this common desire comes some bleak realities. Travel, and especially the ability to travel is not all equal. And thus, travelling conjures substantial dichotomies and inevitable controversy. Acknowledging this is essential to the code of ethics of any traveller. So, before progressing with this blog I want to take a minute to make a few important statements on travel and just some of its larger implications.

Not all travel is for pleasure. While my blog speaks about travel in the “vacationing” and “holiday” sense of the word, for millions of people travel is for life and livelihood. They may travel for work, they may travel to remove themselves from their home country, or they may travel to make a better life in a host country. This is how, I, as a 3 year old ended up in Canada, and it would be unfortunately ignorant to overlook this important fact. So no, not all travel is voluntary time off from the everyday realities of a relatively privileged life.

Tourism can destroy. This is a big one. When people from other places make your home a place of interest, it may mean a lot of awesome things for your community. It may mean more revenue, it may mean more profit for businesses, it may mean improved quality of life. It may also mean a destruction of ecosystems, communities, and cultures. I am in no way qualified to make definitive statements on the overall net impact of travel, and if it does more good than bad (or visa versa), but I can say that travel is not without impact. And as someone who really wants to see the whole world, I do struggle with this concept. For example, I recently read about the environmental implications of tourism in Antarctica. The best thing you can do as a traveller is try and minimize your footprint. This means ecological, but also social. Recognize that when you leave, this place is still what someone calls home (even if it’s just some penguins).

Travel brings us together. The above paragraphs only briefly touch on some important issues related to travel, and I definitely do NOT do them justice. But they are there to make a larger point about my philosophy on travel. When you visit a place, you get to witness something so simple, yet often too complex to be adequately articulated. You get to see first hand what that universal quest for happiness looks like. And, in many ways, it may not look that different from your own.

This has got to be my favourite part of travel. This is what I get to relive by watching Matt’s videos and this is what I seek out every time I step out of my everyday life to do something different. This is why travel is amazing, and this is why everyone needs to do it. Once we go beyond simply recognizing this universal desire for the very same thing and actually experiencing it, that’s when we really get to know what it means to be human. And, I love being human.


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