They use to say that travel is a metaphor of life. It is. Simply because it’s part of the existence of every human life. According to someone, life itself is a travel. But I think that, above all, travel is an opportunity. Not or at least not simply to meet other cultures, nor to visit monuments and famous places and least of all not to take millions of pictures and buy souvenirs to get your friends envy. Of course they’re all powerful reasons, but not the main ones. In my opinion, travel is an extraordinary opportunity to give your contribution and leave your own positive imprint in the places you go and for the peoples you meet.
But there’s something else I found myself to think about. And, in addition to my travels and experiences, I have to thank Italo Calvino for this. I strongly recommend you to read “The invisible cities”, source of important reflections for me. Reflections that I’d like to share with you (even if I’m conscious that using such a model is a huge risk!). I was saying that I found myself to think about how a travel is a unique opportunity to know yourself in the pasts, the presents and the futures, because going in new places gives you the possibility to discover pasts you didn’t remember you had and pasts you could have had, presents that might have been, futures that may be and others which are not gonna be. But if your journey, through the “different” and the “elsewhere”, gives you all the playing cards with all the periods of life, it doesn’t let you stop thinking too much because soon, very soon, you’ll have to move towards a new destination, where you’ll find another part of the deck, with new pasts, new presents and new futures. And then, sooner or later, the arrival will be the coming back home, common destination in every travel, independently from what you mean with “home”. And here there won’t be any plurals, just your past, your present, your future. No cop out. Nothing which would link you to that travel, apart from souvenirs and pictures. Everything same as before your departure. Or almost everything. Because, instead, maybe there’s something deeper in the relationship between you and that journey.
As Marco Polo, the traveler par excellence, everyone who starts a travel has that agitation and that anxiety to leave with the aim to meet the different and the elsewhere, that animate the fact of being a traveler. But, once you’re away from the place you left or you escaped from, there is also that nostalgia which shows your connection with your homeland, with yourself, and with your pasts presents and futures. Without home, without return, there is no travel, because a travel needs a place of departure, an origin – not just geographical, but also spiritual – and it needs a final destination to arrive to, which often corresponds to the place from where you started the journey. A place that’s not just physical, but also emotional in this case as well.
So a travel can be just a bracket, something not deeply inserted in our life, a useful way to escape the everyday routine. At least in your intentions. Because then it’s easy to fall in the trap that brings you to recreate your normal routine, even if transferred in an exotic place where you create another identity, which would let you compensate the monotony of your life. In this way, the landing place will be the same of the departure, everything will be the same as it was before, that experience will join all the other insignificant experiences already located in the dusty catalogue of your memory.
If, instead, travelling is not only a bracket, but a basic part of our existence and ourselves, it becomes not only an instrument of interior personal cultural and social development, but also a vehicle to discover who we are. And if it’s true that, even if as travelers, we can find just what’s already inside us (it couldn’t be otherwise), it’s even true that “the elsewhere is a mirror in negative. The traveler recognize the little that’s his, discovering the much that he didn’t have and that he won’t have”. It’s through the confrontation with what’s different that we manage to unveil the little that’s our.
But knowing ourselves throughout travelling means to discover things about us not just as singles, but above all as part of a population, as part of a society and a territory. A travel allows you not only to discover things about your own self being that was unknown or not revealed, but also to understand the unknown about your land, your city, your society, your culture. And it let us understand that, if when we meet the “other” it is like that because we see it through a datum point, that is ourselves, when we meet the “elsewhere” it is like that because we feel it through another datum point: our land, the main aspect of our journey, as the goal of it and the term of comparison for all the other visited places. Marco Polo’s invisible cities aren’t like that because metaphysical or surreal, but because in the traveler’s report, they preserve just the name of their own selves, and blurry geographical coordinates; instead they’re emptied from any other own characteristic, to the advantage of the only visible city – which is never told – Venice, or at least to the advantage of the materialization of the dreams the expectations the desires the hopes Marco has for his Venice.
But if the traveler always keeps his/her home in mind and works for the return, why does he/she goes through the world? Because that’s the only way to really know his/her own territory. Because the sensation of dissimilarity given by the places where he/she travels let him/her feel his/her own land closer. Land that the traveler fears to loose or to forget otherwise. In this way he/she feels that land more as a part of him/herself and him/herself more as a part of that land, discovering, as already done for him/herself, the land’s possible impossible and hypothetical presents futures and pasts. So, a travel is deeply linked to his traveler thanks to the relationships that exists between him/her and his/her own Venice. Then, a travel becomes more a research of what is known, through what’s different, than a research of the “different” itself. A travel is in the “elsewhere”, and it allows you to understand what this elsewhere is but, above all, it allows you to understand what’s inside your own home as well. And the traveler’s reports can’t but include elements of his/her home.
Translated by Giuditta Gubbi