That bitter article that’s been doing the rounds on Facebook this week claiming that ‘you travel because you’re living a mediocre life’ has left me, along with many others, feeling anger and contempt. It’s never nice when someone disrespects your lifestyle and talks down your passion in such a condescending way.
I felt pretty miffed about it, but then had a thought which annoyed me even more – is it true? Am I unfulfilled? Is that why I can never properly settle anywhere, why after a few weeks or months, places bore me? Am I actually wasting my life?
Of course travelling permanently isn’t as helpful to the world as being a doctor or lawyer is. I have every respect for people doing those jobs, and all the others that require huge levels of academia. I couldn’t do it – I don’t have that kind of aptitude.
But I do have some kind of aptitude. While I’m not a genius, I’m hugely interested in politics, history, geography and sociology. I can read a book in hours when I want to, and I read on all sorts of subjects. And I obviously write loads.
So why don’t I just find a job in one of those fields, and stick to that and ‘make things by standing still’, as that article so pompously said?
Well the way I see it, everyone has their passion. Some people love to sing, some get great pleasure in playing football. Broadly, I’d say mine is travelling, but it’s more than that. I dream of going to foreign lands and interacting with as many people as possible. I want to learn things from them that I’ll never understand from the UK. I want to live a completely different way of life, to understand both what’s inside me and the larger world.
That’s it. I’m obsessed with the world.
If you travel right, you can acquire so many skills that you simply couldn’t in the same time frame at home. Take my seven week trip to Guatemala, for instance. In that time, I got my Spanish from beginner level to a conversational standard, I spent four days at a yoga retreat, which taught me heaps about yoga and the nature of Buddhism, I found out countless things about Guatemalan life from my homestay and volunteering project and I even learnt some extremely valuable lessons about how much we have to be thankful for. And that’s not even touching on all the little facts and nuggets of information I absorbed by talking to people of different nationalities; and all the things I learnt about myself when I was put into non-ideal situations. Standing up for four hours on a packed out chicken bus, or being completely alone in a hostel with dire food poisoning and not enough drinking water are testing situations, but they certainly build character!
Of course, there are people who see travelling as one big party. This as a permanent lifestyle would obviously be unfulfilling but as long as they are respectful to the countries that they are in (I know that a lot of people are not, but that’s a subject for another day), there’s nothing wrong with that for a while, but living this way for any longer than a while obviously isn’t sustainable. Generally, a job would be too hard to keep up or you’d fall ill after doing this for too long. This kind of travel would be unfulfilling in the long run, but it’s not a ‘long run’ type of travel anyway.
But this guy wasn’t criticizing travellers who are on a constant pub crawl. He was criticising all of us. And frankly, there’s no way that travelling to learn about other cultures, develop new skills or see life from a different angle is unfulfilling in itself. But maybe we, as travellers, lack fulfilment. But is that so bad? The world is a huge place. There’s so many beautiful places to see; I’m adamant that every country in the world has beauty, and there’s no way that I’m ever going to be completely satisfied with my ever increasing places to visit list, and constantly expanding number of things to see and experience in these places.
I travel because it makes me happy. I’m happy to be unfulfilled, and I’m happy to use travel to keep working on myself to be the absolute best I can be. I want to be able to speak more languages, I want to run marathons on other continents, I want to learn how to cook food from different countries. I want to have friends across the globe, who aren’t necessarily fluent in English. These activities in themselves are about as fulfilling as you could get. But yes, maybe I do lack fulfilment, because I’ll never be able to speak enough languages, know enough meals or have enough friends. But that’s fine with me.
There’s a quote that I love; “choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”. Gallivanting around the globe just so happens to be my passion, and once I set off on my long travelling trip in July, I’ll be trying my hardest to make money out of it – knowing that it won’t be easy! But I also know if you want something really bad, and are prepared to work incredibly hard for it, then it’s possible. And the same goes for any career path, whether it be medicine, law, teaching or business. If it’s your passion, and it makes you happy, then go and do it. Everyone’s passions are unique to them. Rather than criticize people who have found theirs, as this guy did, let’s celebrate working towards our dreams and becoming the best version of ourselves, whatever they and it may be.