Gap years. Years abroad. Lad’s holidays. Lass’ holidays. When you hit your late teens/early twenties it seems like everyone is seeing the world for one reason or another.
You’ll meet people at university who’ve flown hundreds of miles just to study by your side, and you’ll meet others who fly the same distance to study somewhere else. Travel is made out to be this magical thing that all young people should try, filled with wonder and adventure: life is a book and if you don’t travel you’re only reading one page, I hear my tanned friends say. It’s a funny little analogy, and maybe it works on a certain level, but personally I don’t buy it.
I’m afraid of flying – to me an aeroplane is about as scary as a boa constrictor wrapping itself around my neck, and getting on one feels just as dangerous. I just can’t separate the idea of flying into the air from falling back down towards the ground, and no matter what lengths people go to in order to convince me that I’m being irrational, I can’t see past the phobia.
That doesn’t mean that I haven’t seen (a bit of) the world though. Last year I did that oh-so-studenty thing of going interrailing, and I managed to see quite a few places, including King’s Landing a.k.a. Old Town in Dubrovnik. I spent three weeks catching the sun and seeing the sights in Paris, Florence, Budapest and the like, and they’re all great in their own way, but to me they felt so alien. They felt like the plains of a distant planet, and as I walked their streets I felt as though I didn’t belong. Despite the positive aspects of each destination I was always pining for home, and I suppose that a part of me never left the comfort of Yorkshire, and the rest was desperate to reconnect with it.
When I was asked if I enjoyed my time away my responses were polite and enthusiastic. I told my friends and family all about where I’d been and what I’d done, but I never really got into the emotional side of my trip. I didn’t actually answer the question, I just did my best to talk around it, telling the person who was asking all about the three weeks that I spent away, and thus allowing him/her to project how that experience would make them feel onto the experience I was describing.
It all sounds rather disappointing when I put it down in words, but I don’t feel that way about it when I think back. I learnt a lot about myself, as woefully cliché as that sounds, and it’s an experience that I’m glad I had; but it taught me more about the things that I don’t want than the things that I do. I don’t want to escape – as Frank Turner put it, ‘everywhere that I go, I’m just trying to find the fastest way back home’ – or perhaps more famously, as Dorothy said, ‘there’s no place like home’. I don’t want to live in service of spending two weeks a year on a beach. Whatever my life amounts to, whatever I do with my time, I’ll never work a day for the purpose of paying to run from it – that’s something that makes me happy, in a very weird kind of way.
At the end of the day every person is different. We want different things and the aspects of life that speak to us most loudly vary from person to person; but as far as I can tell, life isn’t like a book at all. Life is like a library. You can take out as many books as you like, and they’ve all got something to offer. You aren’t obliged to read them all, but if you’re in there (which we all are) then you’re at least going to read one – hopefully you’ll like it. Some are funny, some are sad, and some are so spellbinding that you wish they’d never end, but alas they always do.
No matter how many books you read you’ll always have your favourite, and the same goes for experiences. I’ve read a lot of books, and I fancy that I’ll read a fair few more before my time is up; I’ve been to a lot of places, and even though travel isn’t something that I live for, I’ll probably see more of the world as time ticks by, out of necessity and for pleasure. But home will always be the place that I come back to, the book that I carry with me no matter where I go, and if the choice was between that and everything else that the world has to offer, I’d choose home every time.
Images: Facebook/Becky Kells
Ben Whittaker is an amateur philosopher, shower singer, and wannabe writer. You can probably find him in a cinema in Sheffield, or watching Game of Thrones on repeat in his bedroom.