I’m Jane, and I’m a travel addict.
Lucky for me, supply is not a problem. In fact, with competitive airfares, alternate types of accommodation, and a proliferation of money-saving tips, it’s never been easier to travel almost anywhere on almost any budget. (I’ve even become a travel blogger myself, so I can legitimately get high on my own supply.)
And I’m not alone—I just have to go on the web and search for anything with the word “travel” in it, a country name, or a specific attraction, and I’ll get pages and pages of results that connect me with other wanderers waiting to get their next real-world fix. Call it my support group.
So it always surprises me when I encounter people who have little or no desire to travel, a fact that is incomprehensible to someone with my disease. And yet there are more of these UnTravellers than you would think.
Only 38 per cent of Americans, for example, even have a passport.1 And despite the proliferation of 20-something bloggers and video channels following the adventurous exploits of plugged-in, turned-on digital nomads, apparently not every millennial wants to tour the world for months on end, Instagramming one southeast-Asian noodle joint after another. In fact, some are quite happy to stay at home.
All of this got me wondering about wandering, and why travel is a turn-on for me and a turnoff for others. Is it a fear of the unknown, of moving outside the infamous “comfort zone,” that makes travel unappealing to some? Does curiosity play a role? Or is it a specific gene that some of us have and others don’t?
When I actually stop and think about the reasons why I love to travel, some of them are pretty easy to refute. In fact, in a hypothetical debate between Camp Wanderlust and Camp Homebody, I’ve imagined points and counterpoints that go something like this:
Camp Wanderlust (W) might say:
Travel opens the mind and exposes us to new cultures and experiences.
While Camp Homebody (H) would counter:
Thanks to the Internet, there are any number of ways to learn about other cultures without having to experience many of the discomforts (read: “scary toilets”) that go along with travelling.
(W): Travel allows you to see historic, cultural, and artistic attractions that you can’t see at home.
(H): There are plenty of resources where I can see and even “virtually visit” monuments, museums, and other international attractions, some of which give me behind-the-scenes access that I wouldn’t get even if I were physically there.
(W): Travel facilitates greater tolerance between people with different beliefs and values.
(H): Travel doesn’t automatically make everyone a great global ambassador. (Hello “Ugly American” stereotype.)
(W): Travel energizes you and creates memories that last a lifetime.
(H): Travel is stressful and some memories are best forgotten.
(W): Travel is a personal experience that helps you grow as an individual.
(H): Travel is just another way to show off and indulge in social exhibitionism.2
Hmmmm… Even as a vocal advocate of Camp Wanderlust, I can still recognize good arguments when they are presented, and, in fact, I kind of agree with some of them. (Especially the part about humble-bragging—when did travel become a competitive sport?)
But there are some experiences that even a kick-ass virtual reality headset or the best Morgan-Freeman-narrated documentary can’t replicate: the tangible, physical presence of monumental structures when you stand beside or inside them; the energy and excitement of participating in an event, not just watching it; or the shared moment between two individuals when a language barrier is replaced with a spark of comprehension and a genuine smile.
These arguments may not be the kind of quantifiable rewards you can measure or debate. But they are the uniquely personal emotional rewards that come when you experience new and different things. And I’d like to believe that these personally meaningful experiences, however you define them, are what enrich your life the most.
This is my “high,” and the reason why I love to travel.
There’s no explaining this craving to the UnTravellers out there, only a few of whom I’ve met. And I have learned that it’s not that they hate the idea of travel—it’s more that they’re indifferent about it (which Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel describes as the opposite of love). Whatever they are doing instead is obviously working for them.
All I know is that what works for me is travel, and I’ll be working to feed that habit for as long as I possibly can.
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- American passport statistics: 125,907,176 https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/statistics.html
- US population: 323,710,065 http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/us-population/
- Millennials view travel as a means of showing off and exhibitionism—see page 5 of this report: http://en.destinationcanada.com/sites/default/files/pdf/Research/Industry-research/millennialreport_en.pdf