Before an angry YOLO mob comes to get me, let me clarify- I like traveling. I’m actually writing this from an airport, with my Starbucks coffee and carry on by my side. It’s not just that I like seeing new places and meeting new people- which I do. I even like the traveling part of traveling. Airports are fascinating and fun. There’s usually something good to eat and there’s always good people watching. There’s something about getting out of your normal day-to-day that makes you feel… alive.
However, the traveling craze has gotten a little out of control. A quick search on Pinterest pulls these gems up:
“We must take adventures in order to know we truly belong.”
“To travel is to live.”
“Traveling brings power and love back into your life.”
Wow. That’s a tall order.
Real talk: we’re the first generation in the history of the world who has this kind of mobility. Technology has combined with wealth to create a teeming mass of world-hopping twenty-somethings. It’s miraculous that in a few hours, you can be in another state, or country, continent, wherever. It’s unprecedented.
So… are we better off? Has traveling really helped us “find ourselves”? We’re more educated, sure. More aware of culture. More worldly. But are we more fulfilled, satisfied, whole?
The travel world is making us a promise that is out of proportion with what it can provide: Travel and you’ll find everything you’re looking for. The truth is, though, that if you can’t find happiness right where you are, you’re not going to find it in Greece, New Zealand, Kenya, or Antarctica. Happiness isn’t about where you are, it’s about who you are. It has less to do with our experiences than it does with our character.
Here are some more empty promises that traveling rhetoric makes:
- •Traveling will improve your relationships: Not so fast. Traveling is hard on relationships. Sure, there are romantic waterfalls and exciting mountain climbs, but there are also rude taxi drivers and food poisoning. Jarryd and Alesha have been traveling together for two years, and they’ve recently taken a break- and shared some wise advice on how travel impacts romantic relationships.
- •Traveling will make you a more interesting person: There’s a difference between doing interesting things and being an interesting person. Interesting people are interested people. They allow themselves to become engaged in stories, politics, art, and other people. Interesting people don’t need to travel to be interesting- because their neighborhood is full of things that are worth their time and attention.
- • Getting the “traveling bug” out of your system will help you settle down: Here’s the problem with believing that traveling leads to eventual contentment: contentment takes practice. The way you learn to be happy waking up in your home with your dog and your life is by doing it- not by running away from it. When you leave your life, don’t expect to come home to anything different, because the face in the mirror above the sink is always going to be yours.
When you leave your life, don’t expect to come home to anything different, because the face in the mirror above the sink is always going to be yours.”
- •Traveling will help you grow up: This myth is common because people often do return from travels with more wisdom and maturity. However, it’s not the traveling that creates maturity, it’s the struggle. Traveling is hard, and frustrating, and at times scary. Maturity comes with learning to work through hard, frustrating, and scary situations with a sense of calmness and responsibility. Traveling to say, Europe, can create these opportunities for growth- but so can staying home to take care of a sick grandparent. So can learning to deal honestly with a crooked boss. Life is hard, wherever you go, and if you don’t avoid your issues, eventually you’re going to grow up.
So why does anyone travel? It must have some worth- it’s a billion dollar a year industry, after all. Don’t let me talk you out of your summer vacation- or backpacking around Europe. Just don’t go expecting that seeing the world will change things you don’t like about yourself, or about your life. I promise that traveling can’t work the same wonders as a good therapist and a little bit of grit.
What have you learned about traveling? What has it taught you- and what hasn’t it?