I remember some jealous commentaries from European people about what my country, Indonesia, has: beach, sunshine and heat.
A friend of mine in Helsigborg showed me the so-called “Tropical Beach” that draws the end of Swedish territory. Nothing special about it, until she told me this, “The beach is artificial. The government creates it to make its people’s dream come true: to have their own beach, which is not possible in nature.”
A German girl envied me living in the city situated just 1.5 hours from Bali by flight, meaning that I can go sunbathing and enjoy magnificent beaches anytime I want in a shoestring budget (and she can’t).
Also, a Dutch woman asked me why I thought of living in Holland if the country I come from is beautiful where the sun shines all year-long.
Was I proud about it? No, I wasn’t. On the other hand, beach was not my thing even though I live in a tropical country with thousands of beaches I can choose to visit. I disliked the sun burning my skin. I couldn’t stand the heat and humid air that makes me sweat. I feel it most of the time and it bothered me.
When I came to Holland, something struck me. Volatile weather change, strong wind, rain, and snow has lessened the chances for the sun to get its turn to appear. Majestic antique buildings stood arrogantly, as if they knew we would count on them to warm our bodies by entering heated chambers they offer. Indeed, it was my first time to feel it all year-long, not just 2 or 3 weeks on a family holiday.
A couple of years later, my friends and I looked for milder weather, more sunshine and went to the beach in Rhodos Island in Greece and Benidorm in Spain. Still being skeptical about how getting myself roasted could be fun, I followed what the majority decided.
A magnificent view of clear blue sky and shimmering seawater reflected from the sunlight indulged me with unlimited space to be wild and free. The sun opened its hands wide open to embrace me with warmth that I had never felt for a long time and the breeze soothed me, giving me calming effect physically and mentally.
It was an awakening experience. Suddenly, something popped up my mind, “Hey, I think I have that too in my country!” Why didn’t I get the same sensation as when I was Greece and Spain?
Have we ever ask ourselves why we travel in the first place? Stress-relief from a job? Experience and see things what our hometown never has? Get a better living or education? More business opportunity? Be closer with someone we love? Run away from a trauma? There’s nothing wrong about the reason behind it, unless we invade the locals and make their life miserable.
However, let’s think reverse. I just did. There are times when we don’t appreciate things around us because it’s just there effortlessly and we see it everyday, like sunshine and beach in my case. Many of us don’t feel enough and satisfied with the place we live. We think other people’s land is greener than ours. Our imagination runs wild, wishing there were snow, pyramids, a river as wide as Amazon, nature phenomena like aurora borealis and midnight sun in our hometown and so on.
Sometimes we need to learn the hard way that it takes months or years to realize that our hometown has more than we know. Perhaps, what we need and want is just right there, but we are just not aware until we lose it.
It took me years to understand the kind of jealousy with beaches and sunshine until I dealt with rain, dark sky and wind that infiltrated though my skin pores to the bone until I trembled from coldness throughout the year in Holland, where the real sunny time actually only happens about 2 out of 12 months. Going for a quick grocery with sandals and shorts was a luxury I could’t have since I needed to arm myself with winter clothing to face unfriendly weather.
May be another reason why we travel is already inside your head (or not), and expressing it in words is the only thing left: to let us know that other people’s land is not always greener than ours and to be more grateful with what our hometown has given us, although there’s no obligation to like everything there. The thing we waste could be other people’s (unattainable) luxury.
For the last few years, I’ve been appreciating sunshine, beach and heat more than before. Heat from the sun doesn’t bother me that much any longer. I’m still not a beach person until now, but I’m able to enjoy the sunny beach responsibly, protecting my skin with sunblock and no sunbathing at noon, and I cherish that moment.
Last but not least, I remember what my friend said in response to my amazement why some people don’t travel if money, time and fear are not their obstacles. “May be they have found what they want in life without looking too far and are happy with it.”
I guess he has a good point about it.
So how about you? Why do (or don’t) you travel in the first place?