I am not an intrepid traveller. I never dragged a backpack through the jungles of Borneo, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, hiked to Machu Picchu or saw the penguins at Boulders Bay. The thought of travelling a country for five weeks on my own seems daunting, even now that I am about to pack my suitcase and board a plane for Japan. From a young age, I discovered the world through words on a page. By reading stories imagined and true, I was able to see the world through the eyes of others and picture myself in their stead. I did get to visit several cities on the European continent (and Chicago), but more importantly my curiosity for other people and ways of life were nurtured by my obsession for the written word. For me travelling is nothing else than stepping out of your own shoes and looking at the world from a new perspective.
Unlike most people my age, I find the prospect of strapping my belongings to my back, coaches, hostels, sleeping in a van, or worse camping in the wild, rather alarming (despite the undeniable entertainment value). So why do millions insist on leaving the comforts of their homes behind to subject themselves to one or more of the aforementioned scenarios? To take a break from home life and relax on a beach chair in a more or less exotic location (I am ashamed to admit that there was a point in my adult life where I considered a last-minute package holiday to Greece), to take selfies in front of famous landmarks (travel snobs like yours truly scoff at the mere suggestion) or to have an authentic experience of a new place (cliché alert!). Yes, it sounds unoriginal, but when it comes to hitting the road, I plead guilty to this charge. My preferred way of experiencing a city is by walking around for hours with no destination in mind, sitting on benches and watching unsuspecting locals go about their lives, using the public transportation system, in short trying to find out what it might be like, not to be a visitor but a citizen of that particular corner of the world. Although my passport does not display an impressive number of stamps so far (one), I have had several opportunities to do just that, when I lived in Denmark for a year (and discovered hygge is a real thing as well as the astonishing animosity Danes harbour against Germans), and during a recent month-long stay in Venice (where my eyes were opened to the dark sides of tourism).
I too dream of visiting faraway places, but I also hold the believe that Kirkcaldy and Anstruther do not lend themselves to adventure any less than Honolulu and Timbuktu. After all, one of the greatest gifts travelling can give is seeing the extraordinary in the everyday, to keep our curiosity about the world alive.
As this year’s On the Road editor I hope to be able to give those stories a platform on the Tribe. Write down that strange incident that happened during your last trip, the interesting thing you saw, or the people you met, whether it be in your neighbouring town or halfway across the world! Travelogues, musings, anecdotes, advice or cautionary tales, we will be happy to read them all, so do not hesitate to contact us with your story! It will surely entertain and inspire someone, perhaps even offer a new perspective.
As some Frenchman once wrote: “The only true voyage of discovery (…) would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another”.
Cathérine is a Comparative Literature student from Germany suffering from a serious case of Fernweh.
If you would like to contribute to our On The Road section you can contact Catherine at firstname.lastname@example.org.