If there is a phrase I would prefer to retire from online bios, personal or professional, it is, “I love travel.” Or some approximation of that sentiment. To clarify, I am not against travellers or those who proudly flaunt their passion for travel. On the contrary, editing a travel magazine has now made me oddly protective of travellers and their ilk. My submission is that “love to travel,” suggested so casually, just doesn’t feel adequate to the depth of emotion it sparks in true devotees.
In February, the month of love as endowed by our great gifting industrial complex, we are wrestling with what “love for travel” means in tangible, life-affecting terms. The early throes of discovering travel might not be too dissimilar to the beginnings of a feverish affair. A fleeting scene, sound or feeling that at first arouses, then enchants and eventually, lures us into a hypnotic state, evoking woolly-eyed reveries about what could be.
This world, however, is not the most conducive for long-term passion, the kind that demands unflinching sustenance in the midst of distractions from a thousand notifications. Passion has many rivals to contend with. And in flippantly announcing travel as our first love, we are not fully considering the influence our other paramours (work, relationships or money) exert on us.
Travellers for life are compulsive. They have to be; there is no other existence. Climate change, marriages, deaths, protests and politics might have to take a backseat. I am reminded of a wanderlust-happy couple that discovered chinks in their relationship during a road trip through Russia. The woman, upset and distraught, offered a solution: cut the trip short to come back home and rekindle their chemistry. The man, however, wouldn’t give up Siberia, despite a chance at a do-over. Please don’t go getting any ideas about breaking hearts but for some travellers, marital bliss too has its limits.
In finding stories about travel as a lifetime affair, we looked for longevity. We chose accounts of love, which tempered by the prospect of actually living, may have assumed a subdued tenor. But it only took a remembrance or flicker to fan the ardour all over again. One budding artist writes of her admiration for Frida Kahlo, and a Frida-inspired pilgrimage to Mexico. One of our own staffers takes a mental journey back to the cities and countries that have bookmarked her blossoming long-distance affection while a mountaineer outlines why the solitude of the Himalayas will never fail to captivate her.
Falling in love with travel is much like falling in love with a song. You wear it out until it makes you sick. But you have to be foolish and always full of song.
Lakshmi Sankaran fantasizes about a bucket-list journey to witness the aurora borealis someday. Editor in Chief at National Geographic Traveller India, she will also gladly follow a captivating tune to the end of this world.