Travel as a Story: Theme

Bled Island

Bled Island

Part I: Setting

Ok, we’re back for more of my philosophical diatribes about Travel as a Story.  Today we’re covering Themes.

What is a theme?

The theme of a story is one of the underlying ideas or messages that runs through the entire story.  There can be many themes in a story.  Let’s cover some of the common themes in stories:

  • Good vs. Evil
  • Coming of age
  • Returning home
  • Change vs. status quo
  • Power struggle
  • Darkness vs. light

There are countless others, and I won’t even focus on all of those in this post, but hopefully it gives you at least a bit of an understanding of where I’m going with this.

How themes can be a part of your travel

hong kong sunrise

Sunrise over Hong Kong, by Andy Luten

Ok, so we’ve established a setting for our story and/or trip, now let’s think of themes that could apply.

  • Good vs. Evil – could this apply to travel?  Certainly.  Voluntourism is a huge trend right now, not to mention many of the mission trips in faiths of all varieties.  We seek to do good and push back darkness in the world.  Whether that’s in the form of going to a place struck by tragedy to help with recovery or to travel to a place in the third world where your tourism dollars will help revive an economy, “evil” in this context doesn’t necessarily have to be something or someone nefarious, rather it can be a tragic or catastrophic situation.  Our travel can help others.
  • Coming of age – never been abroad?  Never traveled alone?  Taking that step and booking a big trip can be daunting and intimidating.  Heck, making the booking is the hardest part sometimes!  Who you are on the road can be very interesting and challenging.  How do you respond to language barriers?  How do you respond to not knowing where to go next?  If you’re at a hostel, taking the step into the social area/bar and chatting with people can be intimidating.  But when you know you’re in a vulnerable situation and go ahead anyway, there’s no doubt you’ll grow from the experience.
  • Change vs. status quo – Why are you traveling?  Some people travel when they need to get away for a bit and recharge the batteries (I may or may not be doing that at this very moment from the Centurion Lounge at DFW).  Others travel for business and are used to it.  Well, if you’re used to the same destinations, do you want to experience something different this time or keep everything the same as you’re used to?  Either answer can be correct, but it’s important to consider.
  • Returning home – Been away for a while?  I’m not even talking about your physical location.  Maybe you’ve been in a tough emotional place.  There’s a certain element of that to a lot of my travel.  I put it to friends this way, “I love leaving so I can love coming home.”  Every one of us has a different concept of Home.  For some that word brings the best of memories, others terrible ones.  But we all have to find that place for us, where we feel at peace and can recharge.  Once you find it, return to that place often.
  • Realizing the imagined – A lot of the travel I do could be considered “aspirational”, in that many of my flights are international First or Business Class and I’ve stayed at some really prestigious hotels (using miles and points, of course).  When I started getting into this hobby I had read through trip reports from some of my favorite bloggers and had dreams and aspirations for how I wanted to travel.  When I finally cashed in some miles and boarded my first ever international First Class trip, I was able to realize a dream that I had only imagined, and it was everything I thought it would be!  Also, ever since I got into photography, I’d wanted to go and see the places that captured my imagination (of which I had seen other photos).  Much like the Lake Bled picture at the beginning of this post, those trips had this theme.  I went to Europe just to get the above picture and it was entirely worth it.

That’s just a taste of some of the themes that can be present in your trip.  Can you think of any others?

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