When you go on a trip, perhaps it is similar in many ways to other kinds of ‘trips’, like those that people have when they take LSD, or those inner journeys of the mind experienced in dreaming, or another altered state. I think it can be stated without being too facetious that there are noticeable similarities between the psychedelic experience and travel. There is an element of stepping into unknown territory, experiencing wonder and curiosity, the feeling of being on an emotional rollercoaster, and gaining a new perspective on your life. The writer David Jay Brown has also drawn this comparison. He said:
I think that there’s something very similar about traveling and tripping because they both help you to become more culturally transcendent. They allow one to dissolve and transcend the boundaries of culture. Most people don’t even know that culture creates limitations until they are free of them.
Whatever kind of trip we are talking about, meaning tends to surface when intentions are set and the challenge is embraced. So before going on your trip, how meaningful it is largely depends on the questions you ask yourself in preparation. What do you want to get out of the trip? And on the question of facing challenges, if a difficult situation arises, how will you deal with it? No doubt, challenging situations will arise because you are forced out of your comfort zone.
Back home, everything is predictable, routine and safe. When you are alone in a different country, aloneness can often become loneliness and coupled with this, you have the challenge of being immersed in a different culture, with unique tasks to be solved. These tasks can range from the minor (how much is this worth in my own currency?) to the major (I’m seriously ill with no one around who cares).
Every challenge offers mistakes to be made and lessons to be learnt. This is where meaning lies. Travel also opens up the possibility of being pleasantly surprised, or better yet, the experience of more intense positive emotions. You might gain a new best friend, romantic relationship, observe something genuinely unique, experience the generosity of a stranger, or be overwhelmed by a beautiful landscape after a gruelling hike. This is also where meaning lies.
Moreover, a lot of the meaning of a trip is unearthed when the trip ends. You integrate the experience and think about how it can be applied to your life when you get home (or perhaps when you wake up from a deep dream or come down from the LSD you have taken). Ask yourself, what have you discovered about what you enjoy, prefer, dislike, find interesting, calming, stressful, etc.? A trip can change the trajectory of your life, what you want to do, where you want to live, the people you want to surround yourself with; what your priorities are, essentially.
There are many ways to saturate this process of integration with meaning, by reading extensively, watching documentaries, talking to diverse groups of people, travelling in your own country, taking up new hobbies, and adopting an alternative and more positive lifestyle.