What is it that draws us out of our comfort zones to venture far afield in search of – whatever?
While a sense of adventure and a desire for a frisson of danger from the unknown may first set some of us out on that course, others may plan travel only in order to lie back and relax in a comfortable environment well away from the stress of their work.
But I have a theory that binds us all:
I believe that, subconsciously, it is COLOUR we seek.
We usually plan our travel with little or no conscious regard for any of our five senses.
Subconsciously though, we yearn for a new swatch of colourful palettes and patterns that are mostly absent in our daily lives and that we know will be present when we take that journey.
We will look for them, and they will be the font of most memories we retain.
We absorb colour through our retinas.
It pleases our aesthetic sense of order: light, contrast and warmth, shadow, clarity and balance.
It is not to be found only in nature however.
But also in architecture and design.
Which we encounter while travelling.
The colours of such cleverly constructed and juxtaposed edifices will often morph with the passing of the day. Their colourful and contrasting images linger in our memory.
Ancient or modern, these incredible feats of design, engineering, masonry and such draw our eyes.
It has us doubly pondering the brilliance of artistic vision and monumental labour involved in their construction.
Some people are drawn by the appeal of a change of climate, and this is understandable but relates not only to the change in ambient temperature but in improved ambient light; a light that emphasises contrasting colours.
This, once again, is a visual appeal.
It is a well-established fact that light can be spiritually uplifting.
I would suggest the olfactory appeal of travel is not a major drawcard. When travelling, smells can be wildly diverse, from strongly offensive to seductive, but the memory doesn’t store them like it does colour.
However, the visual appeal of the less offensive endures.
The sense of taste would come as a strong second in the travel appeal stakes as far as I am concerned. I do love my food and the best place to taste flavours from abroad will, in my mind, always be in their country of origin.
But taste is harder to recall than colour.
The aural appeal of travel can linger and impact heavily on one’s memory too, from pleasant to downright annoying. Yet many of these aural impacts are accompanied by rich, colourful visuals:
The clip clop of donkeys’ hooves
A goatherd’s sing-song calls and whistles to his mountain flock with their clonking bells
The drumming of torrential rain
The omnipresent din of motor vehicles in overcrowded towns
A festive and noisy village wedding ceremony
A bellowing beast being brought to its ritual festive sacrifice
The early morning peal of bells from a cathedral too near to your bedroom
The crack, boom, wiz and whistle of a celebratory fireworks display
And let us not forget the cheerful babbling of a stony brook
The gentle lapping of wavelets on a sun-dappled, palm-rimmed white sandy beach
The rhythmic yet sinister pounding of waves on a coral island’s outer reef
A village water seller’s bell announcing his presence
The baker’s chant as he does his morning deliveries
The town’s noisy rubbish collection in the middle of the night
A muezzin’s monotonal call to the first prayer of the day
Largely though, time and again my past (and future) travel speaks to me through its primary colours.