There doesn’t ever need to be a “point” or “purpose” to travel. I think people put travel on a pedestal, as if it needs to be a grand adventure, or a solution to or escape from life’s problems, or lead to inner enlightenment. It can be these things and more, but rarely because we choose it. Sometimes travel is just travel; wandering to see what delights and challenges serendipity will bring into our lives. If we head outside on a clear night and take the time to look up at the starry sky, then somewhere in the tapestry of our lives a shining comet passes through; but without going outside and without looking up, we miss our chance.
I saw my first “comet” just before the new year on my first trip to Singapore. She messaged me on Couchsurfing, saying that she felt compelled to contact me and could we possibly meet for an hour or two outside of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown. I agreed. Two years later we both returned to that spot to celebrate another anniversary.
I’ve had other “comets”. Some were friends, some were lovers, some were fascinating people who blurred the lines. They had very little in common at the surface level: completely different personalities, perspectives on life, values and boundaries. But if you looked deep, you’d see the patterns: open and honest communication, curiosity and experimentation, experience, passion. They’d teach me as much as I taught them; I’d be as much in awe of them as they were of me. We were comets to each other, our trails crossing paths and sharing light for a time. Sometimes we’d get caught in each other’s orbit for a while. Some of us are still caught up with each other. And all are satisfying and enough.
I can think of no better way to increase our chances of discovering another comet than by hosting travelers and being hosted. Bring people into your life! Find irresistible situations that compel you to reach out to another being and connect! It doesn’t need to be the sole or central “purpose” of your travels but, by leaving yourself open to possibility—by going outside and looking up—serendipity delivers.
Here’s how I got to this place in my life. I’ve always had a penchant for wandering, doing the things that others don’t, and connecting with special people. I held in my hands the puzzle pieces, but I didn’t know how to put them together. All I knew was that the best things happened when I embarked on unusual journeys. When I was 18 years old, my brother and I trekked through the Sierra Nevada wilderness for three weeks, living only on food drops we had left ahead of time. When I was 21 years old, I bought a ticket to a city I didn’t know and for two months I tried living on $0.00, sleeping on the streets, and hitchhiking to the next spot as soon as I could muster. When I was 22 years old, I started a career in a high-tech industry that I’d had no experience in, and consistently worked my way into progressively more challenging fields requiring advanced degrees I didn’t have. When I was 29 years old, at the highest point I’d ever achieved in my career and with promises of a straight shot to the top, I left; I spent the next couple of years traveling around and experiencing the world in every strange manner I could find. And slowly I saw the puzzle come together, often because reshuffling the pieces of my life allowed their edges to naturally find their places, connected; and often because some kind soul helped me put my pieces in place as I helped them with theirs, and we’d find that our puzzles, too, were connected.
So go look at your night sky and find the comets. Reshuffle the puzzle pieces and see how they land. And don’t take any of it too seriously; sometimes travel is just travel.