So tell me, why do you travel?
I’m sure we all have our own reasons for traveling. For me, it’s more out of necessity (part of the academe’s requisite is for its faculty to be exposed to the latest happenings in their field of specialization) than a mere want. Of the handful of international travel experiences I’ve had for the past, oh, almost 10 years, only 1 was not official (the Hong Kong/ Macau trip); the rest was primarily because I either had to attend a conference to present a paper (US, UK, Japan), or because I was part of a Group Study Exchange Program (Brasil/Germany combo). Even my local travels were almost always business-related. I remember all those Library Hub trainings I had to do for the Department of Education a few years back. I practically combed the country, from north to south, east to west, for several years just to train teachers for the Library Hub program. Imagine flying in and out of one place the same day, sans the pleasure of enjoying the natural resources (and food!) a region has to offer.
But here’s the thing, a little secret if you will. I don’t think there is even a distinction anymore between business and pleasure for me and my travels. Either I have learned to enjoy the business aspect of my trips, or (and this is what I am more inclined to believe) I have always, ALWAYS chosen destinations with the sole intention of deriving pleasure from them, and writing conference papers as a secondary activity.
In other words, I have always (either consciously, unconsciously, or subconsciously) chosen trips I’m sure I would enjoy, regardless of the academic challenges they would present to me.
Take this UK trip, for instance. It’s a Harry Potter conference in Scotland. Granted that it is an academic conference and not some fan-based convention (not to humble fan-based conventions but from an academic standpoint, universities do prefer scholarly gatherings of a more formal nature than events with people in costumes out to talk about who should end up with whom), it is still a Harry Potter conference. And I’ve been to numerous HP conferences. It was a wonder that the Vice Chancellor for Academics and Research approved my request for a Sabbatical when one of the things I indicated in my letter was that I would be spending my leave doing research and writing a paper for this HP conference (and I have used this same reason twice before!). I guess it helped that I had the University of St. Andrews’ (Scotland’s first and oldest University, they love to say that so I just had to write that here, hahaha) letter of invitation/acceptance to present my paper to back up my Sabbatical request. And I guess it also helped that in that same letter I also mentioned that I would be writing a scholarly paper for a festschrift in honor of National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera (done and submitted last October, huzzah!).
Now that I have the benefit of hindsight, I think my trips, all of ‘em, were driven by my desire to just get away from it all, without of course losing track of the things that make me happy. I don’t think I could stand doing business, that is, writing an academic paper, on something that didn’t inspire a single bone in my body. That said, I am fortunate that my work gives me pleasure, and that what I find pleasurable gives me ganda points in my line of work.
So why do I travel?
I travel because I need to. I learn so much from traveling, and as an educator, there is no greater joy than that.
I travel because I have to. It sustains me. While I generally don’t like tiring myself unnecessarily, or spending money on a big scale, traveling is an exception. It is an exhausting experience, but a wondrous one. And I don’t mind spending on something that sustains me, my sanity, and my sense of being.
I travel because I want to. It is one luxury I don’t feel guilty about. Traveling allows me to meet new people, and I want to meet new people because yes, sometimes the people you constantly find yourself with just bore the living hell out of you. You need to get away from the boredom of the constant.
Traveling allows me to see history with my own senses. Oh I love history. I guess if I weren’t a communication/literature person I would have been a history major. I love finding myself in a setting where history was literally and figuratively written. I love seeing memorials and statues of town heroes and knowing what made them, well, heroes. I love hearing stories about local rebellions and uprisings; about scandals and criminals; about community strength and fortitude.
Traveling allows me to become part of a human experience that recognizes the beauty of being displaced from the normal and the ordinary. It provides me a venue and an opportunity to be shaken to my very core by experiencing the different and the unusual. It allows me to be pleasantly surprised with the realization that in the final analysis, as I ponder about the things I’ve learned from my travel, I realize that despite the glaring differences across many cultures, essentially, everything is the same.
And there is a certain comfort in that realization.
So, why do you travel?