Travel and Travail: The Parallels Between Travel and Work

The great travel writer Pico Iyer once wrote, “Few of us ever forget the connection between ‘travel’ and ‘travail’”. And if I may draw your memory back to Grade 3 French class for a moment, you’ll remember that the word “travail” means “work.”

After traveling to 30 cities, nine countries and three continents in one year, let me tell you that, contrary to what many may think, there is actually a very deep connection between travel and work. Traveling, for all its splendor, also entails hardship. And these hardships bring out skills, qualities and lessons that’ll prove to be invaluable in the workforce.

I recently started writing for TalentEgg, Canada's career hub for recent graduates looking to hatch their career and in my first article, I share some of the lessons I've learned on the road and how they can all be applied to the working world. You can read it on TalentEgg's Career Incubator here. It's all about being resourceful, increasing your cultural sensitivity, being a chameleon, and keeping your composure in some of the weirdest and most stressful situations. So if you're looking for an excuse to travel...I give you a lot to work with in this article. ;-)

Having A Coke With You

"is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary"

- Frank O'Hara


If there's one thing I've learned while traveling, it's that who you travel with is just as important (if not even more so) as where you go and what you see. It makes all the difference in the world to be traveling around with someone who shares your travel style, who can withstand your "quirks", who's interested in seeing the same things you are and who revels in the same simple pleasures as you do...or even better, somebody who can teach you to open your eyes and heart to something new. Basically, go find yourself a friend like Sylwia to travel with and you'll be good to go ;)

Soundtrack to a day, every day

What did people do before iPods or mp3 players? How did people survive the lulls of every day life without music to fill the gap?

I was sitting on the train from Dordrecht to Amsterdam today listening to my iPod and let me tell you, it is such a joy to listen to the perfect song that matches your exact mood at the very moment (it was one by Florence and the Machine in this case). Looking out the window seeing all sorts of landscapes. Watching the world quite literally pass before your eyes. Hills, plains, rivers, and homes. Being in transit with a song to celebrate where you've come from, where you're going, and the journey that lay in between...whether it's going from one city to another or something as simple as the commute from home to work. It's bliss being in the moment with a song to serve as your soundtrack.

Sometimes I stare out the window and step outside of my body for a short while. Watching this person watch the green pastures speed past her. I hear the music she's listening to and it's like I'm watching my favourite film about a young woman (someone I've gotten to know intimately) on the road to self-discovery. Don't quite know how the movie ends but hell, it's a sure great way to pass the time.

Like a Tide

Now I've been travelling around Europe for nearly two months now as part of my hiatus--my planned transition from studies to "real life" (what ever that's supposed to mean). And with my return to Toronto just around the corner, I'm beginning to panic. I've got just a little over a week left and the thought of normalcy and the routinary is freaking me out a bit.

I took a day trip out to Aachen, Germany yesterday and among other cultural sights, I visited their St. Mary's Cathedral. Mediocre and pretty standard (at least from a non-architectural eye) from the outside, I was completely taken aback by the interior. Literally jaw-droppingly breathtaking. With stained glass windows that seemed to stretch for miles above me and ceilings decorated so tastefully, it was like no other I'd seen before. Glittering with gold, a style I usually despise, it was not a pompous show of wealth but rather, an artistic statement of the time. I don't do it justice with my words, but you'd understand had you seen it with your own eyes.

But anyway, while I was in the Cathedral today, I thought of how much I would miss that unmistakeable feeling of awe and wonderment every time I see or learn something new about a particular site. The unadulterated amazement I had as I walked through the streets of Luxembourg during the Grand Duke's party...of being in and above the clouds at Mount Pilatus...of feeling the vibrance and continued post-liberation spirit of Berlin...of being faced with the cruelty in Dachau...of meeting new people from around the world from different walks of life with their own stories to I first set eyes on the ruins of the ampitheater, the sight of that little bridge between the Gruuthuis and the Church of Our Lady, the view from St. Mike's Bridge in Ghent, the grandeur of the David, the unbelievably blue lakes of Interlaken, and now, the beauty of St. Mary's. That feeling of being connected...however briefly, however  the immense history of man...grand, tragic, joyous. That feeling of connection with the many people I've met along my travels, almost strangers really but with whom I'll always share a moment.

Amazement, gratitude, pride, excitement, and disbelief all mashed together in a violent wave of emotion. Is there a single word to describe that feeling? Like a tide...rising and falling always.

Whatever it is...I'm sure to long for these moments when I return home, however sweet home may be. How many times will I replay these moments in my mind?...trying to pick up the remnants, recapture glimpses...however small, however brief. Oh le sigh!