The case for traveling and the counterpoint

I am only passionate about a few things:  traveling definitely makes the shortlist, but just because I love it doesn’t mean I’m not aware of its faults. As with many other things in life, there are ups and downs when it comes to traveling.

Escapism.

South Carolina is awesome, but there are no beaches like this near my home.

At is simplest, travel allows you to escape. Whether it’s from a bad relationship [been there, done that one, or maybe no relationship at all],  job you hate, or simply a boring, sedentary life [also done that], sometimes you feel like you just need to get away. Travel is the perfect form of escapism – far better than reading a book or watching a movie – because it actually means you get to leave your current situation. You can trade in whatever is making you unhappy for something different, even if it’s just for a little while. A change of scenery is sometimes just what you need to get over boredom or the blues, and being far removed from a problem or stressor often allows you to look at it through new eyes.

Travel is a learning experience.

Before visiting Prague, I never knew St. Wencelces was the patron saint of the city. I only knew him as the good king in the Christmas song.

Seeing other parts of the world and immersing yourself in foreign cultures opens up completely new avenues of discovery. Travel in itself can be educational, and can it open your eyes in ways you never thought possible. Through travel, you can become more aware – both of yourself, and the larger world around you. A traveler has the unique ability to be a citizen of not only his/her own country, but also of the world.

Ability for self-discovery and reinvention. 

I took my very first yoga class on a beach in Ecuador. I followed it up by taking regular yoga classes on the beach in Peru. I’m still not great at it, but it’s something I probably never would have tried at home.

When you are out on the road meeting new people and opening yourself up to new experiences, you may find that you are also slowly reinventing yourself. Or perhaps letting the self you would like to be finally emerge. Travel can be liberating in many ways, but especially when it comes to self-discovery. Being thrown into a foreign culture [or even into a not-so-foreign culture] without all the comforts of home can be challenging, but it’s often those truly tough, personal challenges that will help you grow as an independent individual.

Opportunity for adventure and spontaneity. 

Travel can open up so many doors and provide for so many adventures, both planned and spontaneous. If you are in the mood to make a lasting memory [and really, who isn’t?], get out and see the world. Let life happen, both to you and around you, and just go with it. Who knows where it could lead?

It can be affordable.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be a millionaire or have a large trust fund in order to travel. Saving a little here and there can go a long way over time. Being a deal hunter and staying in hostels can pay off. And, if you choose destinations where the cost of living is low, a little can go a long way. For example, a month of your U.S. salary could easily last you two, three, maybe even four months in Southeast Asia or parts of Central America. Basically, if you really have the desire to travel, then you can make it happen.

Cons

Escapism. 

Yes, travel allows you to escape. But sometimes escaping can take the form of running away. Whether it’s that bad breakup or loss of a job, sometimes you just want to leave it all behind and do something crazy, like move 10,000 miles away for a while. [I’ve done this so I am not judging]  But if you truly run away and never look back or never confront the initial problem that sent you fleeing, travel may do more harm than good. Escaping a bad situation is fine, but hiding behind the guise of travel in order to avoid dealing with that bad situation is not quite as advisable. Eventually, you have to face your demons.  They will come find you.

Being homesick.

Even if you are not close to your family, it’s likely you will still feel some semblance of homesickness at some point during your travels. Maybe you miss your significant other. Maybe you miss a sibling or cousin. Hell, maybe you really miss your cat.[I inquired about mine more often than the well beings of other humans] Being away from home can be stimulating and wonderful, but it’s not unnatural to fall into a funk every now and then when you pine for “home.” The good news is that the world has gotten a lot smaller with things like Skype, Facebook and e-mail making it  incredibly easy to keep in touch [should you feel the desire.]

Yep, when I call home, I am asking about my boy.

Missing family milestones/emergencies back home.

Maybe your best friend gets engaged, or has a baby. Maybe a friend or relative dies.  You’d love to be there for all of these important milestones and tragedies; you want to be able to offer your love and support in person, and not through a computer screen or telephone signal. But, it’s likely to happen if you’re traveling for any length of time. Life at home will go on without you, and it’s one thing you just have to come to terms with.  I had friends get married, have babies, and had relatives die all while I was out of the country.  I may not have been there at the moment, but I was when I got back, and I am now.  True friends will understand.

It can be costly. 

Just as travel can be affordable, it can also be extremely expensive. Many European countries [hello, Sweden and England, I am talking to you], as well as Australia and New Zealand,  have incredibly high costs of living. If you’re dead-set on staying in any of these places for any length of time, for example, that $10,000 you saved up over the past two years  isn’t going to get you very far. The same goes for hard-to-reach destinations like Antarctica and Easter Island. If you’re dreaming of the ultimate budget travel adventure, you may have to edit your list and cut many places -– like the South Pole–out.

The addictive-ness of travel.

They don’t call it the “travel bug” for nothing. Once it bites, it can infect you with an insatiable desire to travel that never really goes away. Once is often never enough, as evidenced by the scores of travelers out there who are on the road indefinitely. Especially if you’re prone to becoming addicted to things that give you a good high, don’t expect one trip to ever be the end of it. This can easily turn into an incurable sense of restlessness that no amount of movement can satisfy.

With any great adventure or endeavor in life, there are going to be risks, and there are going to be sacrifices.

Some people might put “the dangers of travel” on the cons list, but, really, just getting in your car and driving to work each day is dangerous. Sure, there are risks to travel, especially long-term travel. But life itself is a risk.

The sacrifices, though, are real, and do exist when it comes to travel.

But if I have to sacrifice some family time to better understand myself, I think it’s worth it. If I have to substitute one destination for another because of finances, then I’ll do it. And, honestly, travel is just about the best thing a person could become addicted to, as far as I’m concerned.

If traveling could mean that I’ll never want to stop… well, that’s another post for another day.

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