Travel is a hobby, not a life-changing experience of enlightenment. And that’s perfectly ok.

12 Oct

I love travel. I love exploring other places, I love meeting new people, and I love trying new things while I travel. I love eating food. I love seeing sites.  I love seeing museums. I love hiking up mountains. I love those precious little moments on trains or buses, when you have some sort of interaction with a local, no matter how far away, that reminds us of the common humanity within us all. The “Where are you from” and the “Oh, that’s great. I love <city or country>”.

But there’s a blatantly pretentious aspect of how some travel writing talks about travel, worshipping the mythical “backpacking trip through Europe” as if it is a magical cure for all bigoted stereotypes, as if it is the life changing experience that lets you become someone else you never knew you really were. That sort of writing is often a mass of half truths that any non-traveler would perceive as pretentious, exaggerated BS.

Certainly, travel can be an eye-opening experience. Certainly, you will learn about other cultures while also realizing that there are many negative untrue stereotypes about certain places. But to say that it cures all bigotry or helps you become your real self is just the exact sort of hipster blabbery that drives me insane.

Having traveled doesn’t put you above other people. I’ve learned certain skills relating to travel, but I honestly don’t think I’ve discovered my inner real self or any of that stuff (whatever that’s even supposed to mean). I’ll also confess that I probably retain some false notions of certain cultures and places.

Sometimes, a pre-conceived notion of a place that someone visits can lead a traveler to become more bigoted about that culture, not less. They’ll see any little, basic, normal human interaction, and try to convince themselves that somehow it displays something unique to that culture. They’ll also try to view it through their lens, and they’ll notice only what they expect to notice.

There are plenty of other ways to learn about the world besides travel. Travel’s a great way, with the right mindset, but its not the only way. There’s plenty of great literature out there, great works of art that can be viewed online (without having to go thousands of miles to see it), and college courses about the world’s societies. And travel can definitely complement these other knowledge sources well.

Traveling, and getting immersed in another culture isn’t the only way to learn about the world, but it doesn’t have to be the only way. There is more information than ever that’s now, thanks to the internet, available to the average human being.

Traveling more than most people is okay, and I have no problem with that. But don’t act as if its the only type of “enlightening” lifestyle. It comes across as pretentious to the average human being, and gives travelers a bad name.

2 Responses to “Travel is a hobby, not a life-changing experience of enlightenment. And that’s perfectly ok.”

  1. Maxwell October 13, 2014 at 2:22 am #

    Hey, JoFo, I read your clip in NGT and stopped by to check your site out. Nice post. Travel is awesome, but so is your backyard and neighborhood. Truly, without sounding Buddha cliche, wherever you go, there you are. Rock on. Maxwell

  2. themind3434 November 3, 2014 at 11:49 pm #

    Hi my T.T. I just happened to read an article about you while I was reading in the National Geographic magazine. I just wanted to say I am really happy to come across your article and blog. It’s hard to find a teen travel who is welling to share their perspective with much honesty. I am hoping one day finance and my mom would allow me to travel on my own. Still working towards it 🙂 . But thank you for sharing with me your adventures and keep on traveling.

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