Talking Point: Why Do We Feel Impulsive When We Travel?


The Bay of Fundy, squeezed between the maritime provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, is notable for having some of the highest tides in the world. While the average tidal range of all oceans is about 1m, the difference between high and low tide here can be as much as 16m, the height of a five-storey building.

The bay boasts many things to do and see, like Hopewell Rocks. Shaped by the aeons-old love affair of water and rock, these towering cliffs and rock stacks reveal arches and forms resembling flowerpots, with slender stems at low tide when you can walk among them on the ocean floor.

We found ourselves there two weeks ago, en route to the next stop on our road trip to Canada and Maine. This was a trip we planned on making after dropping our younger child off at college, to celebrate our newly empty nest.

It was postponed for a while because things got in the way. I’ll admit the older I get, the less I feel inclined to travel. Something always needs to be rescheduled if you go on a trip. Sometimes it’s easier not to make plans.

I wasn’t always this boring. Even when the kids were babies and a pain to travel with, I was gung-ho about bundling them onto a plane and getting out of the country.

These days, my idea of getting away is to make the three-hour drive and ferry ride to a house my in-laws own on the coast. A few days at the beach, away from everyday life, is how I relax and recharge.

But I guess every now and then, one should come out of one’s shell and make like a functioning human. Come on, let’s just go, my husband urged. We’ll throw everything in the car and drive.

And the fact is, it did us both a world of good to unplug from work, the house, the news – especially the news – and be someplace wholly new to us.

Along the way, we stayed with family we hadn’t seen in a while, discovered the wonderful world of Airbnb, and even camped for a couple of nights in Acadia National Park. Okay, glamped.

I avoided catching the eye of the people in the neighbouring tent as we carried our queen-sized air mattress to our tent site after pumping it up. Go ahead, call me soft, but it was no mean feat shoehorning that mattress into our four-person tent.

If you want my advice – and even if you don’t – the hardest part about camping was not the cold in Maine in October nor the insects, which are non-existent at this time of the year, but the planning ahead so you can avoid making the cold, dark tramp to the toilets in the middle of the night.

If you’re not one for the outdoors but want a change from featureless hotels, I have one word: Airbnb. It was one of the highlights of our trip not to have to check in to an anonymous room each night, but one on which the owner had lavished care and attention so we would feel at home.

Are they all uniformly good? No. Is it for everyone? Not if you would rather not make conversation with the owner of the place where you’re staying, or if you like featureless but reliable hotels.

But as a way to meet the locals, put money directly into their pockets and see some really cute homes, this iteration of the sharing economy gets my “like”. In the end, it was people, as much as the breathtaking scenery and memorable meals, that reminded me of how much I can like travelling.

Whether it was chatting with our Airbnb host over a glass of bourbon or a cup of coffee, getting the kind of service that makes your journey really smooth or the friendly encounters with people we met along the way, our experience of each place was enriched by the connections we made.

Of course, the only connection that has to be rock solid is the one with your travel partner. We honed ours over two decades. We have found that we can both do without a highly scheduled itinerary and what we really enjoy are the whims and unscheduled stops.

Often, they are well worth the detour. Campobello Island, where former American first couple Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt kept an idyllic summer cottage and now preserved for visitors, was one.

So, too, Hopewell Rocks. It was Canada’s Thanksgiving Day and the park was doing a lively business. I wondered how many people, like us, had come because they had Googled “top attractions Bay of Fundy”.

My husband, the photographer, was instantly hooked and soon lost all track of time, but I knew better than to rush him, so I amused myself by watching the many other people who had also come to see these amazing rocks.

There were friend groups, couples and families, some with wee ones as well as grandparents. One couple clambered over the rocks nonchalantly though she had a tiny baby strapped to her chest, its stockinged feet kicking madly.

Some travellers had come from thousands of miles away, but not everyone was there just for the rocks. I watched one couple, from a group who sounded like they were from our part of the world, dropping back behind their companions and holding hands.

They were very young and dressed snappily, but her long coat and fashionable boots must have been wrong for the muddy ocean floor, for he gallantly put her on his back and picked his way across the slippery, seaweed-covered rocks to take her to the shore. I concluded that they must have just started dating.

Another pair, maybe in their 50s, seemed determined to check out every exposed stack of rock. They scrambled gamely across the boulders, her occasional exhortation of “man dian!” (go slow, in Mandarin) or “xiao xin!” (be careful, in Mandarin) coming faintly from a distance.

They, too, didn’t seem to be there just to witness the unique natural phenomenon. When they got to a spot they liked, they pointed a selfie stick at themselves and then hurried away to the next one.

The longer we stayed, the more it seemed that every stage of human life had representatives at Hopewell Rocks on Thanksgiving Day. I guess the impulse to be a traveller to parts unknown, whether in search of extraordinary experiences themselves or to share them with a loved one, never really leaves us.

And why should it? After all, why do we seek the inspiration and stimulation of travel if not for the innate quest to connect the dots of what it means to be human. – Singapore Straits Times/Asia News Network





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