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Photo by Catherine Von Holt, Nepal Semester.

Why We Travel Response

I found that the most intriguing concept Pico Iyer discusses in his essay is that of the transformative environment of a place which seems to simply be a function of the locale itself, transcendent of any more tangible factors. He uses the example of a KFC in China and of young Japanese people eating Big Macs in the city as instances in which despite the importation of seemingly foreign conditions the situation remains decidedly distinct from a comparable scene in the country where these imported circumstances originated. It is this transformative element of a new place brought on by traveling there that Iyer seems to emphasize as the driving force behind creating the reasons for which we travel. One of those reasons which I found to be most interesting and which resonated the most with me was the concept of mindfulness and a constant engagement with that which is around you, as demonstrated with the example of monks who are “vagabonds, in part because they believe in wakefulness.” My daily life is often a deluge of distraction and redirection, feeling as though I am constantly doing one thing with my mind on another only to rush onto the next before leaving both incomplete or inadequately experienced all in the name of haste and a general apathy towards to dull comfort of my home existence. Travel rips away the crutches that allow for such unmindful coasting and instead forces us to engage with the world around us on a far more basic level. Attention is paid to things that in an everyday scenario would simply slip by without penetrating the wall of real perception. The passage of cars on the street, the smell of a city, the minute yet culturally distinct mannerisms of people around us are all never processed consciously until the entire environment is radically shifted so as to jolt the brain into an obligated endeavor of constant awareness and focus which is often neglected (if not impossible) inside the bubble of home and familiarity.