I met an English-speaking stranger in a bar in Casablanca.
I saw a bloke in the local pub.
Two very similar statements, but you might think the first is much more interesting than the second. “Go on,” you might say in response to the first; “Have you seen my keys” to the second.
There really isn’t much difference in the language of the two to explain why one has so much more potential than the other. The only real difference is location. The first involves travel, while the second happens just round the corner.
And probably ever since the invention of the wheel, or at least running for a long time in one direction, we have regarded travel as somehow inherently important, interesting, or sophisticated. So anything that happens as a result of traveling somewhere, even if it’s only meeting a bloke in a bar and even if, mind you, it’s the same bloke you might have met in the bar next door, anything that happens as a result of travel assumes gravitas and is more likely to impress an audience.
Einstein, no slouch himself when it came to travel stories, pointed out that things get heavier when they move. Something like that, anyway, and perhaps this has something to do with it. Or maybe it’s just a variant on the idea that the grass is always greener. You see many job adverts that promise plenty of travel, so people clearly value travel as a benefit even if for many business travelers work in a hotel or a conference room in Munich differs very little from its counterpart at home in Walla Walla Washington.
Maybe it’s the energy you put into travel that somehow enhances the experiences when you get there. You bring it with you and it seeps into them when you arrive. That must be why travel photos from your latest trip, though inevitably pretty dull, are less so than similar looking ones from around your neighborhood.
“That garden looks dull. Is it that one on the corner of our street?”
“No actually I took this on my recent trip to Madrid.”
“Oh really? How interesting.”
The oddest thing is that the garden is just as dull to the people who live on that street in Madrid as it is interesting to people considering it from a street in Scunthorpe. Once again, there’s no inherent fascination in travelled-to places, no essential and indisputable worth. Nobody in Madrid ever built a garden there rather than in Scunthorpe because Madrid makes the garden far more interesting than the same one in the north of England. The interest comes from the fact that the garden has been travelled-to.
And you do have to actually do the travelling in order to realize that pent-up value, otherwise it remains unavailable to you. For example if you invited everyone round to see travel pictures from a trip to Hawaii, conjured up all the ooh and ahhs, then at the end said you hadn’t actually travelled there you found the pictures on the internet, suddenly those pictures would lose their interest and the audience would feel cheated. They’d wasted time looking at a bunch of beaches and sunsets without anyone they know having actually gone there and been there when the picture was taken. The value dissipates; they’re just pictures. What a disappointment — been better off going down to the pub.
It’s a sad fact that you missed seeing a beautiful sunset from the top of the hill in your town the other night while you planned a trip to a beach in Maui where you will photograph a slightly less impressive sunset. Nevertheless, the fact that you travelled there will color that moment for you, enhancing almost every aspect of it, and will in itself be enough to wow the neighbors.
But it’s another fact that the moment you get on an airplane your life experience is gaining value. In that regard, an investment in travel has a guaranteed return. Drag yourself somewhere else, the further the better, sit down and look around; bingo. The locals may wonder why you would visit and what you’re looking so smug about, but you know that even if every other of your endeavors comes to naught, at least you can say that you have travelled.