"Travel makes one modest -- you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world." - Gustave Flaubert
There are whole websites dedicated to quotes about travel. Every Monday Morning you find yourself scrolling through, each word feeding to your wanderlust.
“Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer."
The internet seems to be suggesting, even urging you to travel. You can’t help but take a mental check of the bank balance. But the internet has an answer to this too.
“Collect moments not things."
The truth: travel does not have to be expensive. In fact, it can be cheap. Information abounds about how to travel on a shoestring or even for free. It is possible to live a life on the road - a life jammed full of crazy adventures, crammed with stories and people and places. Travel is the ultimate in escapism.
As Robert Louis Stevenson said, "The great affair is to move". There is, however, another truth. A hidden truth. A life on the road is not necessarily a life in the fast lane. Travel is not always an escape from reality. Rather, it can be a way of discovering different realities. We can travel to slow down, to match the pace of somewhere or someone else. Pulse for pulse. This kind of travel is an act of empathy.
Perhaps we would be better off to start our voyage on the seas rather than on the road. As the song says, life is but a dream. On the sea you can’t help but fall into the earth’s natural rhythms. You become dependent on turning tides and setting suns. You can not escape the fact that the globe that we live on is spinning in space.
Sailing holidays have long been the prerogative of the rich. Enter: the sharing economy. The peer-to-peer sharing economy has completely changed the way that we travel, even if you have never heard of it before. Airbnb is now the world's largest hotelier, renting apartments directly from locals to you. Carpooling sites like Blablacar make it possible to road trip across Europe without ever having to buy or rent a car. In the same way, websites like Findacrew put boat owners in touch with potential crew, with opportunities for all levels of experience.
This is how I found myself staying on a yacht in Venice. For free. Yet the benefits of the sharing economy run far deeper than just finances. Sharing is an act of connection. When you share, you take on an active role in local life - it is an opportunity to learn and participate. This is budget travel at its best.
I spoke with Sara Skur, who shared a boat across the Atlantic, sailing from Europe to the Caribbean. Sarah explained that she was surprised that this was an opportunity for connection, saying "I thought it would be more of a personal challenge, but I got a family on the way: the three people I traveled with. I didn't expect that, it was much better than I thought it would be."
This was not the only benefit of choosing to sail. Sarah says that "You've got a complete home with you, with everything from bookcases to spice racks, all portable, and if you like being on the sea it's perfect." Her tip: "crossing one of the seven seas isn't the most exciting thing that happens. If I'd go again I would sail in some archipelago where it's only a couple of days out to sea at a time.’ Overall, she decides, it was a ‘really fun, simple and environmentally friendly way of traveling.'
Similarly, Annie Ross spent the summer sailing in Turkey. The best part? "Getting to learn how to sail and living on the Mediterranean Sea for three weeks, completely for free!" Her advice for people looking to do the same is that “it's really worthwhile to have integrity and take the time to find the right sailing partner. It is the single most important factor that will determine whether the trip will be a fantastic or disastrous experience, so don't just go for the first best option.”
The sharing economy is all of these things, plus a more authentic way of travel. It is also a window into a more authentic way of life. In life, as well as in travel, we should take the time to connect and share with the places and people around us. You can quote me on that.