Travel as a Self-Imposed “Time Out” — By Lydian Shipp
Guanajuato Mexico North America

Travel as a Self-Imposed “Time Out” — By Lydian Shipp

What is travel?

I ask myself every time I go on a trip somewhere. What am I doing? What’s the point? And I don’t mean that in a deprecative, bad way. Just in an honest-to-goodness philosophical way. I don’t have an answer… but somehow I feel it’s the right thing to do. And for the other trips we’ve taken, I remember not knowing the exact answer to why I was going or why I wanted to go in the first place, but still feeling like it was right. But why?

I love learning about food when I travel. What’s in the grocery store in India? What about in Thailand? In Egypt? It’s always different, and it fascinates me to no end. There’s so much information in the grocery stores (and not always in the form of food).

I could say that it’s something having to do with the blowing of the north wind or some weird superstitious thing that makes me want to go somewhere. Like in that movie Chocolat. A little girl part of me sometimes rebels and doesn’t want to go, but the mom says that it’s important to go anyways. And so we go, me and the community of selves that live in my brain. And we set ourselves up in a new place with relative ease. Or is it easy? Travel is never really easy. I could say it’s comfortable. Familiar. In all of its weirdness and unfamiliarness, travel is a sort of constant in my life, and has been since the day I was born in one way or another.

There are other constants in my life too, like music and martial arts (among other things), and I don’t really know what I’m doing those things either. Except maybe martial arts… that has a real-world practical purpose. But I have no idea ultimately why I enjoy it or why I’m drawn to it. Why when I travel to Thailand for a month or more, one of my first thoughts is, “I wonder if I could take Muay Thai lessons there?” Or that I think it would be totally cool to go study taekwondo in Korea or kung-fu in China. Why? I don’t know.

I don’t know.

But what can travel be?

It’s a time to regroup. A forced time-out, if you will. A time when I don’t have all of my creature comforts and I’m forced to consider new ways of thinking about my daily activities (which, ultimately, I think leads to forced internal reframing of more important issues). I see other people’s lives and their situations encourage me to think about my own. In a foreign culture, judging people is a bit more difficult. How do you know if what people are doing is really wrong in certain situations? Of course, there are things like murder and rape that most people would agree are wrong, but… what about cutting in line? Is that technically wrong? I suppose if the culture doesn’t completely shame cutting in line… maybe not. And therefore, I can forgive that person who cuts in line in front of me a bit more easily (at least, in theory, this all depends obviously).

It’s a time to push my limits. What am I capable of? How much can I handle? After every trip we’ve ever gone on, I’ve felt a sense of accomplishment. Sometimes it’s a small sense, sometimes a big one. But it’s important. This pushing of limits is what helps me see my strengths and my weaknesses back home. My confidence stems from the knowledge that although I may not understand exactly what I need to do with my taxes quite yet, I know that I happen to be alright at fishing with primitive fishing rods and that I have a finely refined system for taking a freezing cold shower. I’m alright. Taxes are easy in comparison to taking freezing cold showers every day for a week (in the Himalayas).

It’s a time to explore new interests. Or maybe to explore my existing interests more deeply. When we went to India in 2016, a short pause looking at some drums along the side of the street in McLeod Ganj turned into two impromptu drum lessons. I ended up getting two of the drums and the beginnings of a new skill. The drums are sitting behind me right now on a table, they’re some of the very few things I decided to keep and bring with me to Mexico when we moved (and I’m glad I did, I love them). I didn’t like bellydance until I took some bellydance classes in Progreso, Yucatan from a 15-year-old girl who was an amazing dancer and a really good teacher. And that was really just a way to practice Spanish. Ever since watching an ayahuasca ceremony in Peru I’ve been sort of intrigued by entheogens (let’s just say I didn’t expect that experience to turn into an enduring interest).

Travel is a way to meet people. Kind of. This one always trips me up (haha). Can you really meet people while travelling? I mean… yeah. You meet all sorts of people traveling. That is something I like about it, is that there’s literally a whole world of people to go out and talk to. But when I say that I want to go meet people… it carries a certain connotation in my mind. In my mind, that particular phrase (“I want to meet people”) has to do with meeting people and then continuing to hang out with them and be in contact. Meeting people in passing is… well, I see it differently. I’m not sure what to call it. I would say that meeting people in passing is connecting to people but… now that I see the words on the screen, I think that maybe the phrases should be the other way around. So…

Mona, our language instructor met us at the Egyptian Museum during our first week in Cairo in 2015.

Meeting people = talking to/interacting with people in passing while traveling or by other means.

Connecting to people = creating lasting relationships with people you meet while traveling or by other means.

I suppose that technically makes more sense than what I wrote up there initially. So I’m going to go with that.

Packing makes me nervous. And it also doesn’t really matter. I can get clothes when I get there if I need to, and I can get notebooks too. The only things I really can’t replace are my toiletries, and that’s only ‘cause they’re special… y’know, no fragrances or parabens or other crap and stuff. Does this make me high maintenance? No… well, maybe, but I don’t care, I don’t want to die a painful death because I wanted to be all “low maintenance” and use red lipstick that’s made with lead. But anyway, I’ve got the whole Toiletries-Thing figured out. So what’s the problem? I’m glad I don’t have as much stuff as I did before we moved. Packing by myself would have been a lot harder then. Right now, I have so comparatively little stuff, it’s fairly easy to see what I need and what stays behind. But it still makes me nervous. First times of anything are always a bit nerve-wracking though. I’ll do this once, and the next time I pack for myself I’ll be less nervous.

But travel isn’t about the shit you pack. That I’m certain of. Sometimes the stuff you pack can help you get to participate in certain opportunities, but the stuff is never the focus (even if you’re a street performer and you need props, I’d say that even then the stuff isn’t the focus, it’d be the audience or what you messed up or did well).

I don’t know what I’m doing traveling, and I may never know. I suppose that’s okay… I don’t know if it matters. To me travel is something of a spiritual journey as well as a physical journey anyway. I find myself though travel. It’s is my equivalent of party… but it’s 10,000 times better than a party, of course. So I don’t know what’s going to happen on this next trip to Southeast Asia… and I don’t need to know. All I need to know is that I’ll be in the right place at the right time to meet the people I need to meet and do the things I need to do.

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