Zia Hassan

Being In A New Place

After college, it seemed like anything anyone wanted to do was travel the world. Most of the marketing messages we as young graduates were subjected to was about getting out of our comfort zone and seeing foreign places, experiencing foreign cultures, all the while gaining perspective.

The idea didn’t appeal to me. I had yet to develop my fear of airplanes that I’ve now mostly overcome, so it wasn’t fear, exactly… but it was more that I didn’t understand why there was this pressure from society to go somewhere, anywhere.

And years later, having been to more places than I ever expected to travel, I think I understand why the idea of travel appeals to people.

First, there’s a level of discomfort that brings many people growth, and eventually joy. Second, breaking routine allows our brains to actually see things, to experience the new in such a way that it leaves a profound impact. Some of my best art was either made while I was on a trip, or directly after a trip. I have to believe such output is the result of new and stimulating input.

But the benefits of travel don’t come from the travel itself – they come from being in a new place. So it makes me wonder what being in a new place really means, and if we can replicate that feeling while we’re at home not traveling. I’m not arguing that travel is bad, but each person has their own tolerance for it. So these ideas are more about what we think are exclusive qualities of travel that may not be so exclusive after all.

The idea of discomfort bringing out new realizations and sensations, and generally making us more aware can be achieved through planning. There are some people who do things like take cold showers, or athletes who run harder, longer and faster than they’ve ever run… all to get to the feeling of discomfort. Teachers do it in school, too. They try and get their students to be slightly uncomfortable because that’s where learning happens.

The same goes for breaking routine. I might decide to take a different path to work, or maybe I’ll tackle a problem in a new way.

The trick is that I have to make a conscious choice to become uncomfortable and/or break routine. With travel, this is forced and automatic, and therefore much easier to do (plus, the scenery is better, depending on where you go).