I have always had a bit of wanderlust. I have, from a very early age, been reading books and watching movies, which have always romanticized travel and journeys. The idea of seeing new lands, meeting unknown people, and celebrating unique festivals seemed very attractive to me. I have also travelled a good deal during my school days, during vacations, along with my family and friends. Thus travelling was always something I regarded as a source of joy, an exciting event, which I could cherish and bring me memories for life.
However, these perceptions started to change as I grew up. I started reading and understanding history, which told me of the persecution that many people faced in various countries throughout history. There were people who were forced to leave their own country into a new and distant land where they were unwelcome and faced several hardships. I came across such people for the first time when a family fleeing persecution and economic hardship in Bangladesh, came and settled in our neighborhood. I came to understand that for them the journey was a horrific one, where they faced constant threats to their lives and property, and hostility from the locals. They longed to return to their home, but could not do so because of their situation. ‘Wanderers by Choice’ brought me back those memories of the stark contrast that exiles and migrants have with casual tourists.
The idea of being torn from our own roots may appeal to us since in the modern day, most of us have very little to identify as our roots. We cannot identify a single culture of traditional group to call our own. We do not have a sense of belongingness and drift about without knowing where we belong (Rick, 109). Thus stories of exile, about people who have long been settled in a place, having to move to a different place and pining to return home has certain attractions for us. We are able to connect with the person, who has been in exile and seeks to return to their homeland (John, 221). The idea of being in exile helps us rethink our outlook of society. If the society that shelters us has customs and practices, which are radically different from the one that we belong to, then we are forced to rethink our view of the world.
This new outlook gives us new and exciting vision of the world. Nothing remains mundane and regular but rather a curiosity in itself. My experience made me sensitive to the suffering of people around the world. It made me understand how we can be insensitive to the needs of people from cultures different from ours and often offend them. The experience made me more aware of our own world.
Rick Steves. (2009). “Travel as a Political Act”. Nation Books. p-109.
John Steinbeck. (2001). “Travels with Charley: In Search of America”. Penguin Books, UK, p-221
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