What does travelling really mean and look like?

We live in a space where one thinks they are well-travelled by

how many miles they’ve eaten, and how many borders they’ve

escaped; the saying stipulates that travel broadens the mind.

Does it in fact broaden, or merely bloat?

It’s an interesting verb, travel. Its etymology brings us to a word

from the 12th & 13th centuries, that is, to travail, which means to

toil, to labour. Originally, it meant to trouble, torture, or torment,

derived by the Latin term, tripaliare. Why did I bring up the

etymology of this word? Tracing a word’s roots (in our case,

travel), gives us a better understanding of what it means to use

that word. Travel in the middle-ages was an arduous endeavour,

so much so, that its feeling was akin to torture. And so to travel

was not what we see it as it is today, where cargos of humans were

jettisoned onto foreign lands for a sense of escape & adventure,

but something that required great will and motivation.

Coming back to the question, why is it said that travel broadens

the mind? If we invoke the original definition of travel, one would

perhaps say it is because the labour, the hard-work that goes

into travelling, that helps broaden one’s mind. The stress and

strains of camping, hunting, survival, and traversing

differentiating landscapes & climates, is where minds become

broad, and not just merely bloated with data and memoirs. The

modern day pseudo-traveller, in my personal reasoning, wouldn’t

meet this definition, hence I think they are often charlatans of

true travel. They seem aimless, bloating their memories with

places, whilst remaining starved of any mental processing that

might expand, or tint, their cognitive horizons.

I’d like to escape to another point. Does a traveller necessarily

have to physically transport their body in order to be ascribed

that noun, with both early and modern definitions considered? I,

for example, honestly believe that a mind, both broadened and

bloated, is a medium of travel. One can labour (and torture) ones

mind with ease, anyone reading this can empirically attest to

that; such tests have great potential in broadening said minds.

But (contemporary) travel in one’s mind is just as broadening (and

verified) as its old definition. What do I mean by mental

travelling? Minds operate as a tool for travel, which we would label as

imagination and creativity; and the worlds artistic ventures and all

the experiences that stimulate memories into life, are the fuel for

this imagination. People often ask me how I can spend so long in

one place, in one room, all alone in my own company; I correct 

them by informing them that it is not loneliness, but solitude; the

distinction is defined by whether one is able to travel whilst

remaining stationary in one location.

I’ve always had this one belief. Have you ever read a novel,

finished it, and years later treat its memory as something you had

embodied? I’m sure most people reading this have read a book

called ‘The Kite Runner’, so allow me to inquire, does a tiny part

of your life not feel as if it once travelled to the country of

Afghanistan? For those of you who don’t, you’re probably

scoffing at my question, it sounds ridiculous. How can one

compare a physical journey to Asia with an imagining inspired by

words alone? But I can’t deny the emotions I feel, and much like

the feeling I have when physically amongst alien waters, I mirror

those perceptions and thoughts when I travel through

imagination. My passports may tell you I’ve only travelled to a

handful of places, but the divine stenographers recording my

journey know all too well that I’ve travelled millions of miles

across the universe; I could tell you how I once found myself

amongst the spectra of Milky Way nebulae whilst my body was

camped next to a loch in Galloway National Forest Park, for


Coming full circle to my original inquiry once more, travel is

certainly not as black and white as you may have originally

perceived, and do not let the miles of your footprints deceive you

into labelling yourself a traveller; justify the title by

encapsulating what all the definitions imply, because although

we are all naturally defined as travellers by virtue of time, the

labour, twinned with mental journeys, is how one realises the

predicate in the age-old saying of ‘travel broadens the mind’.

By Hashmat Ali

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