The problem with being obsessed about travel

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I’ve written before about how travelling can be addictive. I’ve also defended the millennial obsession with travelling. Obviously it’s better to be ‘addicted’ to travelling than, say, gambling. But if the urge to just ‘travel more’ and hoard travel experiences becomes the centre of one’s focus, then this kind of experientialism may lose meaning and value. Just as a focus on accumulating wealth can detract from other worthwhile aspects of life, so too can an obsession with travel starve attention in other areas of life.

No one wants to be on their death bed regretting that they didn’t see more of the world. But a meaningful life involves so many other things that are not always trumped by a life on the road: time spent with friends and family, personal and creative projects, making a difference in people’s lives and realising some sort of potential.

There are many aspects of the human experience which are meaningful. I suppose, then, that in order to feel fulfilled, some sort of balance is needed; in terms of how much attention is given to the many different sides of the ‘meaningful life’.

When you catch the travel bug, you see travelling as where all the action is, and you just want to talk about past, present and future explorations. This desire to explore is great and can be healthy; and I get how exciting this newfound fascination for novelty and adventure is. (Believe me, at times travelling was all I could think about.)

But if you think about it, who doesn’t love to travel? Sleeping in hostel dorms and living on the cheap doesn’t mean you have more of a passion for travel than someone else who (understandably) views sharing close quarters with a bunch of strangers as a personal nightmare.

I don’t necessarily see a love for travel as a self-defining and fascinating passion or hobby, as if some people don’t actually enjoy chilling out, being away from home-related commitments and stresses, being in beautiful surroundings and eating nice food. This isn’t to say you should only be passionate about stuff that ‘makes you interesting’. Do whatever interests you. But if all you can think and talk about and plan for is travel-related, then once the travel bug leaves your system (and it usually does for most people) then you may find yourself wondering where else to find fulfilment.

Coming down from the high of winding through lush, mountainous landscapes in a rickety bus without a worry in the world can be tough. It’s a precious experience. But that’s not where all the action is. A highly meaningful life is not necessarily the one that’s jam-packed full of travel experiences, but the one that directs attention, intention and action towards self-growth.

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