Veena’s fear of heights and nervous excitement was contagious when she held her breath as the gondola at Langkawi islands slowly climbed up the thick rain forest mountains at a gradient of 45 degrees- the world’s second steepest ride, to the peaks at 950 meters! The green canopy was breath-taking and so were the fearful thoughts of mortality as she counted her moments! Shekhar said, it was his dream to see the bullet train of Japan which he did one year and fitted into his memory for life. On his travels he likes to take random rides on the local metro to observe the average citizens, to visit the shopping malls, to eat in the local restaurant, the local market to get a feel of the heart of the city, besides the popular tourist destinations which are a must see! He enjoys every moment like a child! Meghna overcame her fear of heights and of the deep ocean when she was pushed into a parasailing ride at a ripe age of sixty! Her mental parachute also opened as she went up and up into the air at a height of 150 meters effortlessly. Rehan advised his aunt, ‘there is no age-bar for sports and merry-go-rounds and it would be better late than never’! Thirteen year old Shriangi says with joy that ‘she loves travelling and has already visited 17 countries with her parents’. She likes to taste different foods, loves to see different types of cultures, their language, and know about people and take pictures’. She states off-hand that ‘if my career of architecture does not take off by way of not getting admission in a good school, I would take to photography and travel’! What would you say to that thought process – that she is too matured for her age or that the affects of travelling with a proper perspective speaks aloud as she makes mental calculations of her future goals and ambitions!
Clarke Quay on the sidewalks of Marina, Singapore, was bustling with people. The streets were packed with rows of restaurants with facilities of sit-in and sit-outs of different countries. We choose one Mexican joint for a change and sat down on high stools. The noise from the neighbourhood was deafening but contagious. There was loud and cheery merriment in the air as if it was a ‘mela’. We enjoyed the ambience of the open air street and ate heartily. It seemed the people were venting out their suppressed emotions accumulated from the daily grind! The quiet calming boat-ride in the Marina prior to it was such a terrific contrast to this hustle bustle. The Marina Bay Gardens was a technological marvel, unthinkable and unimaginable, straight out of the fantasy of films! The Universal studio amusement park of Singapore was also a gigantic fun filled jamboree of variety of rides and 3D animated experiences that was cathartic I would say! You can shout and scream to your hearts delight and as the roller coaster rides scare the daylights out of you! You forget yourself, your ego and your identity surely.
The value of these amusement parks cannot be undermined for the kids. When the social systems are in order and people are law abiding and believe in following the rules and life is generally hard and tough, you need legitimate outlets. In a developed country, the points of catharsis are also well planned thoughtfully and well demarcated and are absolutely essential for release and de-stressing. A city that cares for its people would need to build clean open spaces for loitering, fun filled amusement parks, clean green gardens, museums show-casing heritage, sanctuaries and the lot. Absence of such spaces would destroy the mental health of citizens as they would display abnormal behaviour on the roads and other public places where they should generally be rule abiding. In the absence of sensible spaces there is all round display of nonsensical behaviour.
Besides the mental reprieve and de-stressing during travel, there is a fair amount of mental growth by way of different experiences and adjustments. Travelling is like reading a book with all your five senses. Besides it being a sensory delight it is also a psychological one. It improves your mental well being and pushes up your immunity immensely. Travel forces you to be flexible as there is a fair amount of uncertainties that come your way. A landslide in a hill station in India disrupted our journey for days and the kids burst into tears at the news. Patience follows as you wait for nature to calm down and become friendly. Travelling at regular intervals is likely to interrupt your habitual patterns of thoughts and belief systems and assumptions of life as you closely watch different populations across the world and how they manage their life. Life in the hills and mountains are tough and fraught with dangers, while the islands are a different game of life altogether.
Psychological studies on the benefits of travel state that extended travel impacts personality changes and three traits out of the ‘Big Five’ traits increase with travel experiences. They mention factors such as ‘openness to experiences’, ‘agreeableness’, and ‘emotional stability’ which are major gains. Of courses travelling with the right perspectives cannot be undermined. Travel as a learning experience and travel just for its sake are two different shades of the mental parachute. You either open it up or just safe land into your ancient habitual cocoon.