A poetymology of travel

I love travelling; what’s not to love about visiting different places, seeing incredible sights and experiencing new things? I can’t understand why some people choose to visit the same place year after year and spend most of their time on a sun lounger when there are so many other places in the world to explore. For me, travelling is about so much more than just getting some sun – it’s a way to immerse yourself in other cultures and broaden your mind.

When I was young, a holiday meant a few days at Butlins in North Wales and that was the furthest I travelled until I was in my early teens, when my uncle invited me to keep my cousin company on their family holiday to Seville. I’d never flown before, so I was really excited to get on the aeroplane and see what it was like. I remember listening intently to the safety briefing, accepting every offer of a complimentary drink or snack and marvelling at the view above the clouds. I even wrote a poem about the experience:

Soaring off into the blue

To this day, I still find flying exciting. I love the roar of the engines during take-off, the novelty of the in-flight meal and the anticipation of touching down somewhere completely different in a few hours time. I’ve been fortunate enough to fly all over the world and have had some amazing experiences; I’ve skied in the Alps, felt the spray from Niagara Falls, climbed inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, danced in a second line parade in New Orleans, haggled in the souks of Marrakesh, taken tea with geisha in Kyoto and bathed in the Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik, to name just a few. However some of my most memorable travel experiences aren’t the ones captured in my photos; they’re the the ones from which I learned something that I didn’t know before.

For example I’m more informed about environmentalism now that I’ve visited Iceland, where 100% of electricity comes from renewable sources and the Blue Lagoon is heated by the geothermal plant next door. On a road trip through America’s Deep South, I visited many places connected to slavery, the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement and came home feeling enlightened about race issues. And I was expecting Tokyo to be be a bit like New York but I discovered that Japanese culture is so punctilious that taxis didn’t need to honk their horns, people sat quietly on the subway and there was next to no litter or graffiti to be found.

Travelling has broadened my mind in myriad ways and provided just as many opportunities for education as enjoyment. The comedian Trevor Noah perfectly summed up how I feel about travel in his Netflix special “Afraid Of The Dark”.

The part about travelling being the antidote to ignorance really resonated with me, and I was inspired to write a poem which starts with this as the first line. My aim with this poem was to convey my opinion that exposure to different languages, beliefs and customs makes us more open-minded and able to relate to one another on a human level. I hope you enjoy it.


What have you learned from travelling? Share your experiences in the comments.

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