Do not let anybody tell you what to do. Don’t let anyone get deep into your head and dictate how you should experience your own life.
We have plenty of tourists all over the globe taking an incredible number of pictures of things and places – amazing things and places, no doubt about it. But what is it with us people that makes us travel to foreign places just to take the same picture somebody else has already taken? Why do we pass on the opportunity to discover something new for ourselves? Shouldn’t that be the main purpose of traveling? Shouldn’t the purpose of traveling to go explore unknown places and experience them like the aliens we are? I think so.
This blog post is an invitation to search deep within your heart and discover what it is that makes you, and us all, want to explore unfamiliar places. This invitation is not only a sentimental gesture but also a more practical and political one. We should all, as a community of travelers, be able to answer the following question: Why am I able to spend X amount of money on traveling, while there are hundreds of millions of people around the world that live in poverty and simply can’t afford the luxury of travel?
This is something that I, a person who lives in an incredibly unequal country, find impossible to ignore. Why do I get the opportunity to travel to the other side of the world? I haven’t “earned it” more than anybody else. I didn’t choose to be born in a privileged environment (in Mexico, having parents that finished university constitutes privilege) and it wasn’t my fault that I had more opportunities than many others. So having said that, my invitation is not to make anybody feel guilty. On the contrary, it’s to search deep within our inner senses and make the travel experience meaningful. Be thankful and be respectful. Try to take back with you nothing but the things that will make you grow as a person.
Within this context, I would like to share with you what Iceland taught me. First and foremost, it strengthened the perspective of discerning what is important to me. While sitting in front of some of the most beautiful landscapes that I have ever seen, some of these questions mentioned above crossed my mind. I’m not suggesting that everybody should be experiencing the same thing I did – to tackle these existential questions. All I want is to push the boundaries of the way we perceive beauty; to encourage people to rethink the possibilities of experiencing beauty.
Beauty doesn’t have to be this typical image of “nice, clean and organized”. According to the philosopher Byung-Chul, beauty is something that constantly confronts us with the external world, not with the condescends of a mirror that reflects our own image. For example, imagine letting yourself be hypnotized by the shades of whites that the glacier across Lake Breitharlón, while your sored face is being completely cracked by the ice-cold wind that beats you like thousand blades. That feeling, for a guy who comes from a tropical country, is a very confronting way of experience the unknown and the beauty of the different.
Beauty can also come in different forms. I made the whole trip with my girlfriend, and even though we were together all the time, there was a landscape (Sólheimasandur beach), where I found myself experiencing a deep sense of loneliness. I’m not talking about the loneliness that hits occasionally when we get homesick; I´m talking about the sensation of slowly losing the possibility to feel: the emptiness of the soul. We were walking toward the famous remains of an old plane, it was getting late and we hadn’t adapted to the cold very well. It is only 3.7 km from the parking lot to the plane, but there was something remote about the black sand, the bleak weather and the homogenous landscape. Those factors became the perfect combo for me to start gazing in a state of awe over the lack of flora and fauna that the scene provided. “What the f**k I´m I doing here? There’s absolute no possibility of life in this place…” Once I let myself be carried away with that thought, I felt a symbiotic synchrony with the landscape. The beauty of that sunset and scenery were essentially attached to the anguish of the no-living idea.
And then, after allowing myself to fully be there, focusing on the rocks, the black sand, and the faraway mountains covered up with ice, the hole in my chest, the emptiness, was filled with the marvelous idea that all those scattered minerals made this landscape possible. This quiet monochromatic scenery is actually one important essence of life. For me, Iceland challenged many ideas and concepts that ruled my life and I´m thankful for that. I hope you, all Happy Campers travelers, allow yourselves to move away from the “you should…” concept of traveling and make your own journey. Make it worthwhile and remarkable for your own memories – not somebody else’s.