Today I want to introduce you to the escape artist who uttered these words, Kathi Kamleitner from Watch Me See. Kathi is a Glasgow-based travel blogger and photographer who is also busy with her Ph.D. in film festivals and feminist media theory. We often speak of traveling in the light of what is going on in the world these days and the privilege we both share to do what we do. The other day Kathi said: “No wonder, that I constantly travel. You need to get away from all that to make up your own mind about another country and meet people who are also more curious than scared.” That resonated a whole lot with me as I also firmly believe communication with others is the only way to make the world a better.
As you know, there are very few people whose ideas and words I would share here and support without questioning, but Kathi is one of the select few. So when she uttered those words I knew I would be happy to have her share her thoughts on the unpretentious reasons of traveling to escape reality. They are also my own.
I travel to escape reality
Yes, you heard me right. I travel to escape reality. But not the way you think. You probably think of all the comments us frequent travelers get to hear all the time. People who travel a lot are restless souls, never happy with what they have, not ready to settle down, afraid to make real life decisions and all that. That’s what people say, don’t they? They think we are a bunch of unsatisfied, escapist runaways who put off living life until – well, as long as possible.
While I am no stranger to late-twenties life-angst (why am I doing this Ph.D. again?) I cannot identify with any of these accusations; not in relation to my travels in any way. I don’t travel to escape life in a way that haters want to believe I do. And yet, I travel to escape reality. Let me explain what I mean.
I travel to escape the reality of prejudices
No matter where you turn the media are full of reports on the refugee crisis in Europe and terror attacks in the Western world – sadly, often the two are brought in direct relation with one another. Badly researched news pieces or flat wrong presumptions spread like a wildfire, conservative politicians spread their racist messages and people – in their fear of the “other” – tune in the racist slander. Many people are in opposition, but remain quiet. Being a racist bigot seems to be socially acceptable these days.
How on earth could you not wish to escape this current mindset in Europe? And what better way to lose all prejudices than traveling to and encountering “other” people, “other” cultures and “other” mindsets. The most important thing when traveling to escape prejudices is to actively seek out locals to talk to, ask them about their political views or how their society works, and soak up all the differences and similarities without judging them. Travel reaffirms over and over again that “our” way of living and doing things is not the only way – and that we can all learn a lot from each “other” if we are only open to listening. If only more people would travel consciously, they could let go of their fears…
I travel to escape the reality of boring routine
This goes out to everyone who thinks frequent and long-term travelers run away from the responsibility to choose a career and make a living: you are oh-so-wrong. First of all traveling actually requires a lot of responsibility, especially when doing it for months or years at a time. The things I have learnt from traveling long- and short-term are valuable life-lessons, and I have picked up more than one practical skill along the way as well. More important however is the fact that routine – and I don’t mean doing the same 9-to-5 job for a few years, but the “being unsatisfied with life without changing anything about it”-kind – should be everybody’s worst nightmare.
I am not saying I have to see every corner of the planet before I turn 30, but I also do not want to look back at my life one day and feel like I have not done enough to fulfil my dreams and desires.
I travel to escape the illusion of knowing it all
I do not want to speak too soon, but once I have finished my Ph.D. I will have spent more or less 24 years in the education system: primary and secondary school, undergraduate and postgraduate studies, a doctorate, intermitted by a few weeks or months of traveling, volunteering or freelancing as a writer. To me, that sounds like a pretty darn long time and I am sure you can understand that I am also looking forward to being finally finished with school. Finally finished learning – I could not be any more wrong.
I think it is easy to forget how to learn when you are out of school long enough. I have not learnt a foreign language in five years and find it hard to get started with a new one. When I travel it comes back to me, though. How to learn a language in order to communicate, how to combine different ingredients to make the most amazing meal or how to listen to stories in order to learn about history. As long as I travel, I will always know that I will never “finish” learning.
I travel to escape the reality of bigotry
Who else is sick of hearing about Donald Trump? Or David Cameron? Or PEGIDA? Or AfD? Of course, leaving the country is not the way to go against these people – making use of your right to vote is. Instead of getting upset by yet another ’50 terrible things Trump said about women’-mashup I would just rather travel and speak to people who I actually want to listen to. Traveling is learning, and education fights bigotry.
Now, some might say – many people with prejudices don’t have access to education, so how are they supposed to be able to afford a trip abroad? What these people forget is the best about living in a diverse and multicultural country: you’ve got the world at your doorstep. So instead of locking yourself into your living room and being scared about change, go downstairs and have a cuppa with your neighbours from around the world!
So yes, I travel to escape reality. Sometimes the reality we live in is just not the reality we desire – and the only thing we can do about it is to go out and seek inspiration for a new, better reality. We bring it back home and do our best to change life for ourselves and for others. And if you ask me, traveling is the best way to get started!