Thoughts On Investing In Travel

Urban - Photography by Lola Akinmade

I rarely talk about my husband here. After all, he is a fiercely private man. One of the many qualities I admire about him. A doer. Not an unnecessary talker. A talker only to learn more about you, balancing this by listening to you share your stories.

I met him in 2006 during the very early stages of planning a round-the-world trip; my crucial escape from a path that threatened to choke my creativity and natural flow. For me, that trip meant flitting from place to place, a month here and there; taking in as much as I could…

***

The vibrant colors always suck me in. Local dancers in intricate traditional costumes twirling; steaming fist-sized prawns delicately balanced atop each other; panoramic views from some well-known vantage point – all wrapped neatly with a “Come visit us and experience wild – incredible – beautiful – authentic – [insert destination].”

This ad wedged between breaking news of a natural disaster and yet another car explosion killing dozens.
“I want to go there,” I usually say – casually – like I hadn’t even noticed the flanking world events. After all, it was originally one of the “spots” I was going to hit during my paused round-the-world trip. “Don’t you?”

“Why do you travel?” – This is the non-question he poses to me both verbally and with body language every single time those travel porn ads come on.

You know better. Those words of his seem to silently say.

***
“Your travels always seem to have a cause,” a writer friend of mine recently said. I’d just told her how uncomfortable press trips made me. Sure, as a professional, I can churn out quality work and supporting photography from those trips and I’m definitely not dogging them one bit. Any decent writer with very good observational skills and a strong intuition can pull out deeper stories from press trips.

But that’s not why I travel or have ever traveled.

Travel isn’t fashionable to me. It doesn’t always have to be about volunteerism either. To me, travel means listening. Listening to a place – wherever it may be – and trying to understand it as best as I can and respecting it in a way that personally links me to it too.

That makes me naturally want to invest. For lack of an original metaphor: travel continuously weaves me into the very fabric of each culture, which in turn continually opens up my mind, and the minds of others I meet.

And if I’m still struggling to hear its voice and heartbeat, I should be willing to go back and back and back again until I hear it loud and clear; chucking out any bucket lists I’d initially planned.

This is also one of the reasons why Audrey and Dan, Theresa and Jeff, Lara and Terence, Julie and Francisco, David and Lau, and so many travelers and friends who travel on a whole ‘nother level of “slow” inspire me so much.

Travel as an investment is emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual. Not because it’s fashionable. Man has been traveling since the dawn of time, so saying “I love to travel!” isn’t some exclusivity that binds a small group of people together. If provided the means and opportunity to travel, I’ve yet to find anyone who won’t travel.

I never want to idolize or glamorize travel in a way that makes people feel like their own path in life isn’t enough. I’d rather assist them in finding theirs, help them realize when they’ve strayed from theirs, and support them in getting back on it.

***
You see, he speaks quite a number of languages. This darling husband of mine. Fluently. He’s also trying to learn Yorùbá. He’s a traveler. A purposeful traveler. An investor. Someone who refuses to let places remain checked off some list. Someone who goes back and back to the same faces and lives because being transient isn’t enough for him.

I met him at the right time in my life. He caught me just before I was about to stray off my own path…

[Initially written aboard the same British Airways flight to the States I’ve taken numerous times]

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  • http://www.skychitravels.com Janice Temple

    I read this at the perfect time in my life. I feel as if I am being choked too. You express the need to travel so well.

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  • http://www.noellejt.net/blogs noellejt

    Like everyone else, I’m moved by how you explain why/how you travel –

    /”To me, travel means listening. Listening to a place – wherever it may be – and trying to understand it as best as I can and respecting it in a way that personally links me to it too.

    That makes me naturally want to invest. For lack of an original metaphor: travel continuously weaves me into the very fabric of each culture, which in turn continually opens up my mind, and the minds of others I meet. “/

  • http://www.adrienne-is.com Adrienne

    Great post Lola! I think I can agree with much that has been said in the above comments about the writing. So many beautiful chunks of wisdom worth reflecting on and asking one’s self. My husband is very private as well and I can totally relate to the non-verbal communication going on when travel porn comes on the television or conversation. :))

  • http://www.travelmedianinja.com joshywashington

    Yes! You give voice to whispering in my own heart. Listening… listening to the voice inside you but from without that can speak up when your mind isn’t racing with banalities and your eyes are full of new wonders. The travel literally speaks. And it can give your voice more range, more power, more to say.

  • http://www.lolaakinmade.com Lola

    @Everyone – Thanks so much for your comments.

    @Audrey – Loved that you surprised your hosts with the more natural human elements of your trip being the most memorable. I had a similar feeling about a trip to Ireland; the maids at Ashford castle, my taxi driver around Dublin, even the general manager at the 5-Star Merrion Hotel when we started talking rugby…those are the people beneath nicely presented surfaces that make me what to go back to learn more and more.

    @Akila – Thanks! I agree with you. Travel is definitely not the only investment, and that’s the reason I never want to glamorize it.

  • http://myfolieadeux.com/ Jen Laceda

    To me, there are very few things I’d invest in in life: family + friends + writing + travel = happiness.

  • http://www.travelnlife.com/ Sheril Benedict

    wow..simply superb

  • http://theroadforks.com Akila

    Lola, this is simply beautiful and so true. Travel is an investment: it’s an investment in ourselves and, by taking meaningful steps to better ourselves, we are also bettering the world. Travel is by no means the only investment we as humans can make in ourselves: being a good mother, an avid philanthropist, or a brilliant engineer are equally good investments. Each path we take changes us fundamentally, making us appreciate a different part of this wide, wonderful world. I may not understand the beauty of mathematics like an engineer does but I understand the diversity of cultures and the many ways in which it is possible to live and love because of my travels.

  • http://www.miller-david.com david miller

    ‘I never want to idolize or glamorize travel in a way that makes people feel like their own path in life isn’t enough.’

    for real.

    honored to be mentioned here lola.

    more fire.

  • http://www.mybeautifuladventures.com Andi of My Beautiful Adventures

    Sounds like you found yourself quite a catch! What beautiful words…

  • http://UncorneredMarket.com Audrey

    Lola, this is really beautiful – thank you. I’m reading it at the right time for us as we think about where we want to take our travels and work in the future. Within the first week of our trip, I was waiting near a stand for Dan to take care of some transaction. A guy, originally of Afghan descent, began talking with me and asked what we were doing in Bangkok. I told him about our round-the-world journey and ideas. He responded by saying that we were investing in ourselves by taking this journey, that travel was a personal investment. That has always stuck with me.

    We just came off of a sponsored trip and I think we surprised our hosts on the last evening when they asked about highlights of the trip. For us, it was the meal at a family’s house, meeting women working together in a small village, Dan smoking shisha with the boys in a corner village shop at night. These were the experiences that helped me begin to feel the pulse of the country…and make me want to return to learn more.

  • http://abbiemood.com Abbie

    Lola, this is so inspiring – I love it. This part, especially – “To me, travel means listening. Listening to a place – wherever it may be – and trying to understand it as best as I can and respecting it in a way that personally links me to it too.”

  • http://www.collazoprojects.com Julie

    Love, Lola. So much love.