Traveling for pleasure brings its own rewards. With no deadline on your travel time you can get the most out of every single destination, spend time getting to know the people and feeling the vibe.
Not everyone gets to savoir the benefits of their travel in quite the same way, which is what makes traveling for fun all the more rewarding. There is something really neat about waking up in the morning and knowing that, with the whole day ahead of you and with no stress points along the way, it is going to be a good day. Put yourself in the right location with that kind of mind set and you are guaranteed to be in a good place figuratively, literally, psychologically and any other way you can choose to think of as well. There really is nothing quite like traveling just for the heck of it.
If you’ve ever had to commute for work or even if you’ve had to travel regularly long haul for business, you’ll know how quickly the thrill of mobility can turn to tedium. There is only so much time you can spend on a commuter train or in an airport waiting lounge before your senses start to wither and life starts to feel like a chore. That’s not the sort of traveling anyone other than an airline sales team would want to celebrate.
Traveling with an open heart
For those of us who just like the thrill of discovering different places and the little quirks that mark people out as coming from one place and not another, travel means something very different to all those professional travelers. Subtle shades of accent or different styles of food are constant delights if you’re on the move for fun. It makes for a movie-like unfolding that doesn’t necessarily need a plot or any great direction. There’ll always be something happening and if you embrace it with an open heart, there’s usually a way to make it rewarding – whatever it is you find yourself doing.
Sometimes, though, we should spare a thought for those people who don’t get to travel in such a free and easy manner. For some people, the time-consuming business of getting from A to B is a serious chore. And that’s not just the poor souls who make their way in and out of the city from Monday to Friday.
Life on the hard side of the road
The rock and roll lifestyle sounds too romantic for words. It’s the classic ‘life on the road’ existence, with incidents and adventures just about guaranteed at every stop. But once you stop to think about it for a moment – or if you’ve ever stopped to chat with someone in a band or their crew, the reality suddenly sounds a whole lot less glamorous. Did you know, some motor insurers even refuse to cover touring musicians?
Imagine a three-month tour of cheap hotels where you get a different pillow every night, where the sheets are scratchy, where you have to do your own laundry in a sink by the bed and where the food is never quite what you’d hoped for. Imagine doing all that with a cello in tow. All of a sudden life on the road doesn’t seem quite so romantic. But the truth is, for the vast majority of musicians, that is the life they lead. They may not all be on the road for that long at a stretch, but there is certainly a heck of a lot of hanging around in places you’d rather not be with people who are only half awake. No wonder they have a reputation for living it up a little – what else is there to do?
Not just musicians
But it’s not just musicians who live like that. It’s also true of any number of professional sports men and women. An again, for every superstar who you can think of, living it up in five-star luxury, there are probably three or four hundred more scratching around trying to make ends meet and generally struggling to cope with life on the road.
Did you see the tennis match at Wimbledon where the great Rafael Nadal – one of those five-star multimillionaires we talked about – was knocked out in the first week by Dustin Brown? Brown’s not your average tour pro – waist-long dreadlocks is not the conventional look on the lawns of South West London – especially on a man.
Dustin Brown: 2009: Living in a camper van whilst playing tennis. 2015: Beats Rafa Nadal on Wimbledon Centre Court. pic.twitter.com/wq96AU9ERS
— BBC Sporf (@BBCSporf) July 2, 2015
But it is not just the hair that makes Brown interesting. A huge tattoo of his father on his torso is another physical feature worth noting, but the traveler point of interest is that whilst Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and their fellow A-listers are all jetting around in private planes and stopping in specially rented penthouse apartments, Brown rumbles around from tournament to tournament in an old Volkswagen camper van. It is a far more humble existence than those superstars, and it is one that is far more representative of what it means to be a struggling professional sportsman or entertainer (you could argue that the two are pretty much the same thing a lot of the time).
Choosing to spend your time in a camper van for a few days at a time is one thing. Living out of a van on a full-time basis for an entire summer – and trying to use it as a base from which to establish a career as a professional athlete – almost beggars belief.
But at least the fans are happy to welcome Brown into town when he shows up. Tennis is a fairly gentle sport and its fans are usually pretty friendly. Imagine what it’s like for someone like a pro footballer, rolling into a city where everyone is rooting for the home side. It must make you very wary if you think that everyone is hoping you stub your toe on the way up the stairs. And in some sports, athletes are away from home for months at a time.
Traveling into hostile territory
Worse still, imagine what it must be like for a pro boxer in one of those big fights – like the one this year where Floyd Mayweather took on Manny Pacquiao. For a start, those fights are usually held in one of the fighter’s hometowns. For example, in the Mayweather versus Pacquiao fight, the home fans in Las Vegas were all noisily rooting for Mayweather for days in advance of the fight.
It must be one thing to be part of a team that rolls into a city full of people hoping bad things are going to happen to you, but when all that hostility is directed at just a single person it must be something else entirely. And boxing fans are a lot noisier and a lot less polite than tennis fans usually are. No wonder when they set the odds for that sort of fight it is usually the home fighter who they make the favourite. You’d have to be one incredibly tough sort of a character to walk into a new town and just soak up all that hostility. It makes the business of actually trading punches seem pretty tame when you stop to think about it.
Maybe that explains why ex-boxers seem to have so much charisma. People like Mohammed Ali and George Foreman (see below) must have had incredible reserves of something very special to go about their business amidst that sort of pressure cooker hostility. The fact that they were even able to compete in the face of all the distractions that must have come their way – never mind win – is almost too awesome for words.
Random acts of generosity
Happily for those of us who travel for fun, and who aren’t in the business of upsetting the locals wherever we find ourselves, the world is a much less stressful place. One of the things that traveling does is to affirm your faith in the good-heartedness of people generally. There are always going to be one or two exceptions, but it is fair to say that the more you travel and the more people you run into and spend time with, the more your faith in human kindness grows.
Most people are more than happy to share what they have and to help a stranger find the way – or even help them find their way or to mend a tyre or resolve any one of a million other little difficulties that can crop up when you’re on the road. By and large people look after each other and it’s the little things they do as part of that kindness that makes the world such a great place. Even when it’s a cynical bid to make a good impression, there is nothing like a random act of generosity to restore your faith in human kind.
It must be harder to appreciate those little things when your mind is on the job – whether it’s the next gig, the next meeting or – perish the thought – the next fight. Maybe it’s that laid back, relaxed approach to traveling that brings out the best in the locals. You can tell if someone is just itching to get whatever bit of business they are doing with you over and done with as soon as they can. Traveling for fun takes that out of the picture. It puts you in the perfect place to savoir the little things along the way. And maybe that’s what sends out some sort of a signal that brings out the best in people.
Generating positive energy
‘You reap what you sew’ is maybe not much of a motto for someone on the move – reaping and sewing only tend to work if you stick in the one place for a while. But there is a karmic sense that when you travel with a happy-go-lucky approach to the day, good things happen. So maybe when we’re just pootling around, enjoying the scenery, soaking up the local culture and generally immersing ourselves in the different places that we visit what we’re doing is spreading a little bit of that feel-good factor around the country. Maybe what we’re doing is exporting positive energy to different places.
It would be nice to think that those professional entertainers (and that includes the sportsmen and women we were talking about) are in the same business. The thought that what those hard working, long suffering, long distance performers are doing is generating a sort of emotional warmth every time they rock up somewhere and put on a show is one that feels in tune with what they’re about.
Maybe that’s why festivals are so fantastically rejuvenating, up-beat occasions. If you have a concentration of those energy sources all pumping out good vibes all together in the one place, and if you have an audience of like-minded fellow revelers all there to soak it all up, you have the perfect combination for a great time.
Maybe it works the same way for sports fans, too. For all the tribal loyalty we’ve talked about, those guys are first and foremost fans of their sport. Even boxing fans – maybe even especially boxing fans – are followers and aficionados of their sport before they ever become hardened supporters of a particular fighter. Maybe it’s just that once they’ve put their money down that they start to wish bad things for the other guy.
There is something about the way the great sporting occasions – like the Olympics or the soccer World Cup – can feel like celebrations as much as competitions. They are probably the closest the sporting world gets to the sort of overflowing enthusiasm you find at a music festival.
Whether that is true or not, it is safe to assume that the people who travel to those events in celebration get more out of their trip than the people who treat it as a form of business – a chore that simply needs to be ticked off.
The old saying goes that it is better to travel in hope than in expectation. There’s a different version that applies across the board and that is just as true. It’s is always better to travel with an open mind and a willingness to make the most of everyone and everything we encounter along the way. They say life is a journey, too. It is one with plenty to celebrate within it.