I love to travel.
I’ve visited five continents and dozens of countries. I lived in the United States for about half a year. I’ve done all manner of crazy s*** in almost every type of place you can imagine.
I’m telling you this right now just to give you an idea of where I’m coming from. I’m not a travelphobe who’s here to whinge and whine about why travelling sucks a bag of knobs. I’m a travel-phile who wants to tell you that it’s okay to not like travelling. It’s okay to be different from me, and all your friends trying to convince you that travel is the best thing ever.
And I’m about to tell you why.
We all have that one friend. Yeah, you know the one.
His/her Instagram is flooded with fancy shots of far-flung places no one ever goes to, and we-fies of himself with foreigners because “Singaporeans are boring”. He constantly brags about his endless travels in every way he can, from photo captions to travel blogs, and talks down to his less-travelled peers, constantly seeking to educate them or telling them to “get a life”.
And don’t you dare call him a tourist, oh no sir; he’s a traveller!
I’ll admit, I have on occasion had to remind myself not to be that guy.
Because seriously, what an insufferable little twonk he is.
Travelling is great. Against that I will offer no argument. But here’s the thing some “travellers” don’t get – it’s just a hobby. Sure, you can pursue a hobby as far as you’d like, making it almost a way of life, but at its core, it’s still just a hobby. I wholly reject the superiority complex that comes with travel, because being a traveller doesn’t make you any more superior to your peers than, say, being a stamp collector.
You do what makes you happy, and let others do the same.
Much of the hype and romanticizing of travel among young people comes from a culture of bloated rhetoric regarding the subject.
“Travel broadens the mind.”
“Travel makes you a better person.”
“A ship is safe in its harbour, but that’s not what it was built for.”
Calm down, Columbus. People aren’t ships.
Travel broadens the mind? So does reading a good book.
Once again, the acceptance and enforcement of this rhetoric in our culture about the wonders of travel boils down to the superiority complex held by its proponents. Travel is great, but it’s not the be all and end all of existence. Stop knocking everyone over the head with your self-important hyperbole.
Speaking of being a better person, let’s do a little thought exercise.
Who is the better person in this scenario?
- The rich college kid who spends his parents’ money on long backpacking trips abroad.
- The middle-class kid who spends his summer holidays holding down two part-time jobs to help provide for his family.
Trick question. The answer is neither.
The goodness of a person’s being is an entirely subjective concept. Good for whom, exactly? We all see the world and its people through different, unique lenses. A good person to one may be a bad person to another. There is no definitive good, only subjective acceptance.
The only person whose opinion of your goodness truly matters, is yourself. I know that sounds selfish, but let’s face it, you’re kind of stuck with you; if you don’t like yourself, you’re pretty f-ed. Ergo, the quest for betterment of one’s being is truly and above all a personal one.
In other words, only you can decide what makes you a better person.
But let’s get back to the rich kid.
Why do people keep pushing the traveller’s agenda? Earlier, I said travel’s bloated rhetoric boils down to a superiority complex. Distil that a little further, and I’d argue that the superiority complex comes from privilege.
Historically, travel has always been for the elite. From Marco Polo to Magellan, Columbus to Drake, exploration of the world was inhibitively expensive, and reserved for the upper echelon of society. You can say that international travel is now much cheaper, but most of the world’s population still cannot afford it, making it still an activity of the wealthy.
Therefore, travel is essentially a status symbol. It’s a way of saying, “I can go here, why can’t you?” I’m not saying travellers intentionally look down on their less-privileged peers, I’m saying that the privilege is so baked into the superiority complex of travel that it makes them do it by default.
Don’t feel bad that you can’t afford to ride the Trans-Siberian railway or hike the mountains of the Norwegian fjords. Maybe you will someday. Maybe you don’t even want to.
One very good reason people prefer staying home to travelling around the world is a very simple one – comfort.
“Why should I squeeze into economy seats and dirty budget hostels when I can just stay home for a fraction of the price?”
If you reject travel on the grounds of comfort, you’re not wrong! Comfort is the brain’s way of telling the body that it’s doing the right thing.
While I can personally attest to the validity of propositions for the case of leaving one’s comfort zone, I think it’s necessary to recognize that there is no law of the land for whether comfort should be pursued or avoided.
Again, only you can decide, regardless of what others tell you.
So, go, see the world and experience its wonders. Or don’t. It’s your decision, and yours alone.