Why do you travel?
Is it a form of escape, a chance to take a breath from the taxing days of the work year? Is it an opportunity to spend quality time with your friends and family? Or, perhaps, it's the one week of the year you can catch some rays.
As someone who presents himself as a "traveler," I found this question a tough one to answer.
I spent a lot of time thinking about this question during my recent trip to Leeds.
My initial reasons for taking this vacation was to take a break from the daily grind. I had a few goals heading into the trip: I wanted to disconnect from technology and take time to reflect and meditate on my life and my future. Lastly, I wanted to write - besides seeing myself as a "traveler," I also see myself as a "writer."
But in terms of the big picture, are those the things that drive my desire to travel? Fortunately, there might be a few clues to be gleaned from my weekend in Leeds.
As I wrote about before, my first day in Leeds gave me a solid first impression of the city. The rest of the weekend, I got to do some hardcore exploring - suffice it to say, my Apple Health stats were impressive during this vacation.
On Saturday, I decided to start with a morning stroll. (Casual walks are something that I love but they're one of the things that gets lost in the shuffle of the daily grind.)
Why I travel, reason #746: Long walks. Fresh scenery = bonus.
Something in the wind told me a walk was the right decision. That, or the lack of rain.
I walked along the south side of the River Aire until I hit Brewery Wharf, which I had heard was the scene of a few great cafes, restaurants, and pubs. Making a note for later, I proceeded to Clarence Dock where I knew the Royal Armouries were located.
My expectations of the museum were low but I thought I'd check it out - the word "armoury" just triggers images of Lord of the Rings-style keeps for me. I assumed the museum would be small enough, perhaps housing a few exhibits to impress the kids. Here's a sword, it's used to poke holes in people. Here's a bow and arrow, it's used to fire projectiles that can poke holes in people. Here's some chainmail, it's used to keep things from poking holes in people.
I was wrong. Just because it's a free museum doesn't mean they can't go all out on their exhibits. It lived up to its royal name, that's for sure.
Turns out, it's a pretty sizeable museum. The Armouries cover the full history of weapons. I'm not exaggerating when I say I saw every single model of every single weapon ever invented, from every model of military-grade, semi-automatic rifle to every type of medieval sword to every kind of caveman-wielded stick and stone.
One of the coolest sights was the decagon of mounted weapons (depicted above) that greets you at the staircase to the second floor. (Please, don't fall on me...)
Why I travel, reason #837: Neat museums.
Having spent more time than I had planned at the museum, I found myself starving when I exited the building. I decided to hop across the river to check out the Gallery at Munro House. (The ground was wet. Decision to check out the Royal Armouries = another win for Jeffrey.)
The independent gallery is a multi-purpose space as it is also a cafe, art shop, and event space. After perusing (quicker than I wanted to because my belly was starting to digest itself) the exhibition, Behind the Mask, a series of photographs featuring actors who have won or been nominated for a BAFTA, taken by renowned photographer Andy Gotts, I bolted into the in-house cafe.
Cafe 164, served your standard fare of soups and sandwiches - handmade with locally sourced bread, obviously - with hand-roasted organic coffee (Union Coffee, for the coffee snobs out there). I opted for the tomato soup with an Americano - both superb. I made the last minute decision of having a starter here before heading over to the Kirkgate Markets across the road for my main course. You gotta do whatever it takes to try as many things as possible when you travel!
After vacuuming my food, I held off my hunger longer enough to check out Colours May Vary. Confession: I love places with books. When I was in Paris, I made sure to check out Shakespeare & Company. A trip to the Strand or the New York Public Library is always in order whenever I'm back home in NYC. The Old Library at Trinity is jaw-dropping and it's a shame it's a tourist attraction and not a hidden secret where one can hang out...
Why I travel, reason #42: Books. Books. Magazines. Books. Buildings that hold books.
One of the first things I googled before my trip was "independent bookshop Leeds" - I wasn't looking to go to Barnes and Noble, or Waterstones, which is the UK equivalent. I was "feeling lucky" as the first link told me all I needed to know. (Pro-tip: Leeds-List.com is a great site to plan your stay in Leeds.)
It wasn't much of a trek to get to Colours May Vary as it was in the same building as the gallery and Cafe 164. I walked across the hall to the similarly bright white-walled establishment. I'd call Colours May Vary an art/design/book shop. If there's a single criteria to get stocked in the store, it's that the book/object/art has to be visually beautiful or well-designed. As someone going through an independent magazine phase at the moment (courtesy of Stack), I found myself like a kid in a candy store. Thankfully, I was able to keep myself from splurging. Instead, I limited my purchases to a NYC guidebook (with advice from 60 local creatives, which will be useful when I'm a tourist in my home city next time I'm back) I found in a discount bin and Northern Bloc, a local dairy-free ice cream!
Why I travel, reason #551: Local creativity/entrepreneurship.
Anticipating my impending hunger, I knew I couldn't put off eating much longer. However, there was still time to make one more pit stop before heading over to the markets. I stumbled into the West Yorkshire Playhouse hoping there might be an opportunity to see a theatre performance for cheap. Unfortunately, the theatre had just closed for the summer earlier that week. Bummer.
Finally, after a few detours, I made it to the market for lunch. I headed straight to/made a beeline for/homed in on the food heaven that I hoped Cafe Moor would be.
Chicken Shwarma... the tender meat. The sauce. The wrap. They banded together into a state of pure deliciousness that pleasured my tastebuds. That was when I realized food is bliss.
Why I travel, reason #284: Nom nom nom. Nom.
With a full belly, I planned out my next course of action. While I had a map, the lack of darts made it useless for me to pick my next destination. Instead, I recalled that the markets were next to the Victoria Quarter, a series of shopping avenues, alleyways, and arcades (those series of A words were unintentional, I swear).
Following my nose and wandering down random streets was my specialty so that's what I did. Those who know me know I'm not much of a shopper, but I love admiring beautiful architecture and people watching. I could've spent ages in those arcades.
Why I travel, reason #193: Structure that make you go "what?!?!!? No way... wow."
Instead, I did the next best thing. I popped into Tall Boys Beer Market (beer + market = two of the best things you can find in this world), a craft beer shop I heard about in my research beforehand. I opted for a Cloudwater Lager to mix things up - I'm usually an IPA guy - and sat by the window on the second floor to get some writing/people watching done.
Once I finished my beer (no drop left behind), I checked the time to see how I was doing on time. Barely late afternoon...
Why I travel, reason #985: Time slows down. Should've studied Einstein more closely.
Having checked out one gallery/cafe already, I thought I might as well check out the other one in the city. So, my feet took my to White Cloth Gallery.
A photography and film gallery, entry to the gallery is free. At the time, the gallery exhibited the work of Oliver Wright, a photographer mainly specializing in wildlife, landscape, and architecture as his subjects. As someone interested in photography, both the exhibitions I saw today were inspiring. It was fitting that one was in portraits and the other in the outdoors, two very different aspects of the same art form.
Why I travel, reason #18: Art.
Also, beer. You didn't think I would leave without appreciating the craft beer on offer at the bar, did you? To go with my Monsoon IPA, I had the perfect complement in another reflecting and writing session.
Why I travel, reason #329: Beer. It makes you more creative.
I ended the long day at Bundobust, the hipster Indian street food kitchen with a nationwide reputation. Basically, it's Indian tapas. I had okra fries, onion gobi bhaji bhaji, and veg rice dry fry with a pint of Bundopust PIlsner to wash it all down.
It had been a successful day. I turned in for the night. The next day was going to be another eventful day. The next day will see the Leeds Pride celebration take over the city streets.
So, this one long day shows some of the reasons why I travel. These are surface-level reasons though. If I'm to find out why I want to wander the Earth, I'll have to dig deeper.