I don’t understand why you travel
It’s a common theme for many people in their twenties. They’ve just finished uni or decided to make a career change and feel that now is the right time to go out and ‘see the world’.
They go off on month, or even year, long adventures to Thailand and Australia. They work with a school in Kenya or volunteer in Ghana.
They travel to India and try incredible food, meet people from all walks of life, and see desktop-wallpaper worthy sights of breathtaking beauty.
It sounds great, it LOOKS great.
But for some reason, it just doesn’t appeal to me. And I feel terrible about it.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit some incredible places in my 25 years on this planet. Famous cities like Rome, Paris and New York. I’ve stayed on tiny greek islands, in remote Scottish highlands, and isolated Icelandic bungalows.
I hate to think that I’ve visited these places as a ‘tourist’ but these trips were classed firmly in the ‘holiday’ camp. 6am flights and dodgy accommodation there may have been, but there’s a level of comfort that’s presumed when you hear the word ‘holiday’ compared to ‘travelling’. I might not have taken an open top tour bus or ate dinner at TGI Fridays, but I chucked a penny in the Trevi fountain like everybody else.
I’ll admit I don’t travel too well. I’m an anxious person, someone who always needs to know when the next meal or loo break is coming. The idea of sitting on a coach in Thailand for 10 hours to go see so-so island for 3 days literally makes me tense up. I guess in my head I add up all the uncontrollable scenarios in these situation and I decide that the end result just can’t be worth it.
My sister on the other hand can’t get enough of travelling. She loves sleeping in 12 bed hostel dorms, meeting strangers she can hang out with as she explores a new city. She’s worked in America for a summer and is currently applying for jobs in China. You can tell which of us is the adventurous one!
Don’t get me wrong, there are still many places I dream of seeing. I want to visit Japan, the West coast of America, New Zealand. I’ve always dreamed of South America, seeing the salt flats in Bolivia, the inca trail. I’d love to work abroad some day. But I guess visiting and travelling feel like different things- one of them hopes to offer a break from the day-to-day grind, while the other just wants to escape it.
I wish I could tell you exactly what it is that doesn’t appeal to me about travelling, and the truth is it’s the unknown elements that put me off the most.
Places like India and Uganda seem so far away from my cosy London life that I literally can’t picture how I will exist there. Where will I eat? WHAT will I eat? Will I be able to sleep? What happens if I get lost, or hurt, or lose all my money some how?
It feels like every day I read another story about a thai coach crash, backpackers gone missing, a new deadly virus. Friends tell me about 6 hour boat rides, packed in with barely enough air to breathe. And of course, the food poisoning. They tell me good things too, show me pictures of the views and the temples. Parties on the beach, cooking classes in the jungle. It’s the bad things though that get my imagination working the most.
You might be seeing a common theme here, I like to worry. I worry so much about the little details, about how I’ll pass each minute in the hour that I completely miss the bigger picture. I know I must sound narrow minded, but I guess the problem is until I go out and see these things for myself, a part of me might be.
But rather than worrying about the little things, what about the big things that I might discover and enjoy?
What if I taste the greatest meal I’ve ever had in my life? What if I meet a new best friend? What if I see a world where family and community are valued far more than the money and power in the world I live in now? What if that inspires me to do something I could never have dreamed of before?
The cynical side of me finds it easy to say ‘you’ll have to come home some time and face the real world’ that anything gained from a month or 2 hanging out in Asia will quickly feel silly when I’m back in London desperate for work, awkwardly fitting back into the life that I barely just left. But who’s to know I’ll even want that life anymore? I guess that scares me too.
I suppose I lied earlier when I said I don’t understand why you travel. I can completely see the benefit of viewing the world from an entirely new perspective, feeling and experiencing things that can’t be done through a laptop or TV screen. I understand that it’s hard to express to people what months living in a way that’s entirely new to you must feel like.
The truth is I don’t understand why I don’t want to do it. What’s really holding me back beside my own neurosis? In the words of Dr Pepper ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ or my latest mantra- ‘What’s the best that could happen?’
I know what you’re thinking. There’s only one way to…