I went to Copenhagen this week for work, and it reminded me of some of the reasons I love travel and exploring new places. I didn’t get to see much of the city on this occasion, beyond views from the plane and various taxis, but as always I spotted new ideas for places to explore on another occasion and things to store away in my mind.
1. Noticing details
When I travel I pay more attention to my surroundings. So much can be different, yet in some cities and countries much is familiar. Unusual buildings, driving on the right hand side of the road, the currency and the road signs. Side by side with Starbucks and birds we see in our own gardens, trees and landscapes of similar colours to ours. And rain, that always makes us feel at home somewhere. I take photos of architecture and every day details like sugar lumps. The familiar and the strange all mixed in together.
2. Meeting new people
Travel puts you side by side with other people, also on their way somewhere, exploring aimlessly or with purpose. A shared taxi ride with strangers, an amused conversation in a queue, a shared frustration of an unknown process, or taking a photo for a tourist. Sometimes a conversation I’ve had while travelling somewhere has given me food for thought, prompted an idea, or just become an abiding memory of that particular trip.
3. Different languages
It also gives you the chance to listen to other languages and participate if you can. I like to at least know how to say “hello” and “thank you” so I can be polite. And if allowed and humoured by the recipient I’ll attempt a conversation in French or German. I enjoy looking at arrays of signage and of newspapers, wondering what the sentences mean, deciphering meaning and spotting unusual words. My favourite letters are the Swedish å because it looks so friendly, and the German ß because I spent many hours in school mastering writing it!
4. Seeing the world from the air
And one of my favourite things about travel is getting to see the world from the air. No matter how many times I fly, and some years I’ve done a lot of that, I always want a window seat so I can look out over the world. From the Lake District to the French Alps, the beautiful islands of Croatia to the deep red of the Grand Canyon. And the local views near Heathrow -places so familiar by road, yet from the air I have to concentrate to see if I can spot my house, or a local landmark.
So even when it’s only a short trip for work with no time for proper exploration, there’s always something worthwhile in travel.
I read an article last year in British Airways High Life magazine that talked about travel, and one section stuck with me: “Travel matters. Most of life is grey. Most of what we do is forgettable, and so we forget it. But when we travel, it isn’t. Compared to the humdrum of daily life, travel is technicolour, it’s memorable – and so we remember it. And that gives life meaning.” (James Wallman).
That’s why I love travel and exploring new places.