The definition of travel is to make a journey of some length, or (in the case of an object) to move in a typically constant or predictable way. Definitions are overrated for some words simply because language cannot do the concept justice. That’s why there’s another very important word you’ve never heard of but need to learn in order to better understand why we travel. That word is – qualia.
“Qualia” is a philosophical concept also used in some models of psychology, which is widely debated in quantum physics as well, in relation to individual realities. There is no definite definition of the term qualia because it’s…well… best defined by each of us on our own. Qualia, basically, are human experiences – the way things seem to us individually, or, the specific and different ways in which each of us experiences instances in life. For example, the pain of a headache or the taste of the salty water of the Adriatic Sea or seeing the sunset in Brazil or smelling a rose. In rhetorical debates on this topic, the following question is most often presented – “can you explain how you see the color red and do you see it the same way I do?” We can try to use words to express these experiences but no one will truly be able to understand until they’ve felt it for themselves. Qualia – your individual experiences.
When I first learned of this word while watching an interview with Deepak Chopra, the first thing that came to my mind is traveling. I usually like to talk a lot about how certain experiences during travel make me feel, like playing with a monkey or petting a giant tortoise for the first time in my life or seeing some amazing creature in the depths of the ocean while snorkeling. Generally, these conversations occur immediately after a new experience with the nearest travel companions around. I’ve found that, as interesting as these conversations always are, it’s very hard to describe what you feel in both your heart and soul while engaging in something new in an unfamiliar place. It is these indescribable feelings, emotions, thoughts, and enlightenments that make travel such a beautiful hobby. It’s almost like being a child forever – the world is infinite for one lifetime, and every new country, culture, person you encounter on your travels is a treasure because it teaches you something new and gives you more qualia.
One of my all-time favorite quotes is this one by Mark Twain… “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
I travel to learn all of those things textbooks will never be able to teach us. I travel to feel all of those emotions that can never be passed on from someone else’s story. I travel to see all of those beautiful sights that pictures and blogs and TV shows will never completely fill my eyes with. I travel to be a better person, because tolerance and acceptance cannot ever be taught until it is truly understood. I travel to expand my knowledge of the world I live in and share with so many other different souls. I travel because reality isn’t just my 9-5 job and paying the bills…reality is a beautiful Earth full of so much more than just me and my problems.
I travel for the qualia.