When I’m not travelling or planning the next trip, one of my main occupations is doing theatre. I’m part of the English-speaking theatre group Hamburg Players, and we just finished our February production. This time round I was working behind the scenes as a prompt. For our next play, 12 Angry Men, I will be assistant director. It’s a task I look forward to with varying degrees of excitement and dread. Which is a feeling I know very well from the times I went onto long-term trips around the world. Experiencing it now made me wonder about the parallels between travelling and theatre.
Introversion hasn’t stopped me from either travel or theatre
Like travelling, acting is something I have always loved doing, already as a little kid. Every time my primary school put on a play, I was the first to volunteer for a part. Preferably the main role. Which was the more surprising because I usually never uttered a word in class, I was that shy. But give me a script and a stage, and I’m up there happily delivering speeches that by far exceeded anything I ever voluntarily said in the class room. My teacher was always amazed at this phenomenon.
I can’t explain what it is exactly that makes me enjoy acting so much when I otherwise loath any form of public speaking. It’s probably a big factor that in a play, I can take on a role and become someone else. I’m saying words that another person has written, rather than delivering a speech of my own. Making a public appearance as myself is a whole different matter. Moreover, acting allows me to enter another world and look at it from the perspective of someone potentially very different from me. By becoming my character I can share his journey. It may not be “me” making that speech, but I’m still there experiencing it with my character.
Travelling is an adventure of a whole different kind. It happens in real life, and not only on a stage. Still, there is a parallel between both activities in that they give me the freedom to experience another point of view. Both allow an escape from daily life, be it through delving into a different culture while travelling, or through taking on someone else’s identity while acting.
It’s all about the journey
On a journey you can let yourself be carried away by foreign cultures. It allows you to forget your usual habits and customs for a while, and try out new ones more suitable for the place you’re visiting. And yet, no matter how much you adopt, you are still you. You bring with you all your former experiences, your opinions and wishes, your expectations. All these weave together with the new impressions you make to form the person you become on this trip. Once you return home, you may drop your newly learned habits and fall back into your old patterns of behaviour, just as you change back from your costume into your every-day clothes, but the experience of having been part of that other world will stay with you.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most actors I know are very similar in character to the travellers I’ve met. Often they are travellers themselves. Both activities require you to be open-minded, with an interest in other people and in the kind of environment they live in. Whether you spend your time pretending to be somebody else, or travelling the world becoming somebody new, you certainly need to be willing to take on new challenges that are both frightening and exciting at the same time. Actors and travellers alike know that it’s worth making those experiences, because you will come out of them with a lesson learned and a new insight gained.
With that in mind, time to bring on those 12 Angry Men. I can’t wait to meet them!
What do you do when you’re not on the road? Do you see any parallels to travel? Share in the comments!