Essay About Traveling. Why Is It so Important?

We travel in order to really find our true identity; to dig deeper within ourselves to find the real meaning of who we are. Pico Iyer’s “Why We Travel” introduces us to the many different aspects and benefits of traveling. Traveling brings out a different perspective of the world; in addition, bringing out the underlying identity of ourselves. In Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, Roger Thornhill, an advertising man in the 1950s, gets his identity mistaken by other people, therefore setting himself out on a journey to find an explanation. Pico Iyer’s central idea of how traveling can set us free of our own identity, giving us the chance to truly find out about ourselves ties in with North by Northwest due to the fact that Roger Thornhill has to step aside from his normal, daily life to depart on the journey of seeing who he really is. Pico Iyer states that “we have the opportunity to come into contact with more essential parts of ourselves”(Iyer 6), heavily relates to North by Northwest since Roger Thornhill is stripped away from his normal daily life and put in a position that allows him to adjust and find out things about himself that he did not know when living his normal life. North by Northwest and Pico Iyer’s “Why We Travel” goes hand with each other due to the fact that besides the physical journey, we take a journey inside ourselves, revealing many more characteristics of who we are. We initially have a label that people have set for us, but once we are set free from our label, we tend to find the underlying characteristics that we once never thought to even perceive or think about. Finding unique, different characteristics about yourself that were once buried underneath will unravel the complex identity of Roger Thornhill, who was once seen as heavily dependent on others to a completely independent man.

At the initial start of the movie, Roger Thornhill is seen as an advertising man in the 1950s, with his personal assistant who does almost everything for him. During this scene, we can say that Thornhill is extremely dependent on his secretary because of the conclusion that Thornhill is not running his own life; his secretary tends to be running his life. This is the initial mask or identity that we think of when we see Roger Thornhill. Just like in “Why We Travel”, Iyer voices the idea that “people cannot put a name or tag to us.” (Iyer 6). However, this is the initial label that Roger Thornhill has due to the fact that this is the way people first see Thornhill. Therefore, as he embraces on this journey of being mistaken as George Kaplan, he is free of his original name and whatever he did in the past. Even though he is given a new identity that he does not know about, Thornhill can get rid of who he is and what he did. As Thornhill’s new journey begins as George Kaplan, he ditches the whole Thornhill alibi to get away from the actions that “Thornhill” has done, such as killing the man at the United Nations Assembly. As we say that Kaplan is beginning his journey, we can start to identify his character development throughout the film.

“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves, and we travel, next, to find ourselves.” (Iyer 3). Taking this quote word-for-word, we can clearly analyze how North by Northwest and Pico Iyer goes hand in hand. Going back to Roger Thornhill’s initial first identity, he was seen as very dependent with the people around him. For example, he was reliant on his secretary to take notes on his daily life and arranging things for him. In addition, Roger Thornhill is also reliant on his own mother. As he was being framed by the spies at the big mansion, Thornhill took along his mom as his “witness” to prove to people that he would have never driven drunk. Originally, this character description is Thornhill’s identity. However, just like the quote stated above by Pico Iyer, Thornhill begins his “identity journey” by dropping the character of Roger Thornhill, becoming George Kaplan. We can actually visualize Kaplan finding characteristics of himself by adjusting to the situations/challenges that are in front of him. For example, we wouldn’t see old Kaplan, who is dependent on others to initially strike a scene during the auction to escape the spies that were eyeing him the whole time. This scene specifically shows that throughout Kaplan's journey so far, he has developed an independent persona, taking initial control of things for himself. Based on the label that Kaplan/Thornhill had at the beginning, Kaplan brought out the underlying independent characteristic from under during this journey. If it was not for this journey that Kaplan was set out on, he would not have revealed this side of himself.

The journey so far provides a freedom of independence for Kaplan/Thornhill. Never before has Kaplan/Thornhill ever experienced or been in such a position until now. Due to this journey, Kaplan/Thornhill’s identity has been completely flipped around. In Pico Iyer’s “Why We Travel”, he says, “the sovereign freedom of traveling comes from the fact that it whirls you around and turns you upside down, and stands everything you took for granted on its head.”(Iyer 4). Similar to this quote by Pico Iyer, Kaplan/Thornhill’s complete understanding of the world is not what he expects. Kaplan’s participation in this journey allowed him to pay attention to things in a whole new different perspective; which thus allows him to properly adjust to the barriers and situations that this voyage brought to him.


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