An article popped up on my social media feed recently. It listed 13 reasons why I shouldn’t worry about stupid things like money or security, and should ‘just travel’ instead.
As I read through the list, I felt a familiar rage building up inside me. Want to know why?
Cracks neck, flexes knuckles Heeeeerre we fucking go.
- Travel will turn you into a storyteller.
With your constant adventures, you’ll have an endless supply of travel tales to entertain your friends with at parties or at those #awks moments when you’re short of small talk. It’s true – travel leaves you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller.
No. No it will not.
Sure, travel is bound to give you a thousand good experiences to draw, to reflect, and talk about. But those experiences do not automatically make you good story teller.
Have you ever been to one of those gatherings? Someone introduces you to their mate Ed. Ed shakes your hand, offers you a beer, and flicks his golden dreadlocks out of his face assaults you with a bottomless well of stories of the time he was just too gosh darn adventurous and ate some dirty street food and got gastro in this little village in Thailand, where no one spoke English. He had to catch a bus in this horrendous state because he was going to miss his flight to Pakistan. He managed to soldier through Pakistan, where he lost 28kgs AND his luggage. He takes your silence as encouragement to continue. You learn that he reached Santiago with nothing but his dreadies and a pair of fisherman pants. A local person took pity on him and drove him to their great aunt Mamma Healers place. He stayed there for 3 weeks eating all their food and taking advantage of their hospitality.
You just stand there and stare into their unblinking gaze waiting for them to stop, but they just keep going on and fucking on, and you start mentally calculating how many hours of your life have been wasted listening can’t to stories that started with someone getting gastro in South East Asia.
You don’t need to travel the world to be a good story teller. One of my favourite story tellers is my friend Georgia. She has an uncanny ability to turn even the most mundane daily event (that if anyone else told you about would bore you senseless) into a hilarious, riveting, clutching-your-sides laughing kind of tale.
You know what you sound like when you tell story after story of your travels at those parties? A douchebag. A giant, self-absorbed pile of douchebags.
Next time, I dare you to ask someone else what they do for fun, or for a hobby. You might learn about something totally new. Otherwise you’ll just fall back into that same old story about the hilarious time a taxi driver misunderstood you and took you to a brothel instead of your hotel…
- Travel opens your mind.
Nothing will expand your horizons more than experiencing different cultures and traditions on a regular basis. Everyone who has spent money on travel will tell you that you are not the same once you’ve been to the other side of the world.
Oh My Tehlu this trope needs to stop!
Travel is a great way to learn about the world and the people we share it with. I believe that it’s very important in today’s global society to learn about other cultures. Immersing yourself in someone else’s world is a wonderful way to do this, and is part of the reason why I took my teenage sister back-packing through Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand last year – to open her up to the world and its differences at a tender and impressionable age.
I also spent a large chunk of my toddler years living in Thailand with my parents. It’s great, you should do it.
The sentiment that travel-expands-your-mind, which is perpetuated every-fucking-where, comes hand in hand with the assumption that those who don’t travel overseas are ignorant peasant villagers. They just aren’t enlightened like the rest of us travelling folk.
It suggests that the only way to ‘expand your horizons’ is to travel and travel often. That’s just not true. Here are a few non-travelling options to get you started:
- Study something new.Taking an intense university course has expanded my horizons. After a single semester at university during my 4th year, I felt like my brain was going to explode with knowledge. I wasn’t used to learning so much about how the body works and how disease affects it. This new knowledge totally changed the way I view so many aspects of life. And I know this isn’t just me!
- Learn a language.It’s a sure-fire way to open your mind. You can take a language course from the comforts of your own home, or on a podcast while you drive to and from your “mediocre 9-5 job”. Language works differently all over the word. The grammar, the usage, the flow of it will differ from language to language. The humour is different. The sayings are gloriously unfamiliar. The way people express themselves is different. The idea of something being ‘lost in translation’ means so much more when you start to glimpse the nuances and subtle concepts wrapped up in language that had once been incomprehensible to you.
- Immerse yourself in the migrant community in your local area.I grew up in a small country town. The Afghani refugee family that moved into the area had kids my age. My brother and I would go to their house every day for afternoon tea after school. Afternoon tea was a feast cooked by the BiBi, the grandmother, with help from the mum and the mum. I remember fragrant saffron rice with oily crunchy tahdig on top. The food was always laid out on a beautiful tablecloth, and afterwards we would watch Bollywood movies under a blanket, translated to us by the kids.
As the years went by, the girl my age started telling me about fleeing from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Then Pakistan to Australia. I didn’t fully understand her stories at that time.
Since then, I’ve been back through my diaries. I found an entry about a sleepover I had for my birthday one year. This girl didn’t come. I was upset and I told her so. She explained that she had nightmares and preferred to sleep with her grandmother.
Reading that entry broke my heart. Because I knew this girl, she was my friend. And the knowledge that she relived the nightmares of her childhood each night, impacted on me more than any newspaper story, TV show or overseas trip ever has.
- Travel makes you independent.
Once you’ve had to find your way through the streets of Shanghai and figure out how to navigate the public transport system in Vietnam, there’s nothing life can throw at you that you cannot handle.
The notion that using public transport in South East Asia is the hardest thing life can throw at you is laughable.
No one has ever sat in a hospital watching a loved one die from cancer in a sterile hospital bed at 50 and thought, if only I had backpacked through Vietnam, I would be better prepared for this moment.
Life can throw lots of awful, difficult, terrible, hard things at us. Car accidents, getting kicked out of home, losing your job, getting your mobile and wallet stolen, finding out you can’t have kids, your boyfriend/girlfriend leaving you, not being able to find the right guy/girl, the difficulty of coming out as gay to your parents, finding out someone you love isn’t the person you thought they were, not having enough money for groceries some weeks, going through a divorce, getting a diagnosis that isn’t good, failing a semester at university or school, having your pet dog die.
Who in their right mind thinks all those things pale in comparison to catching a bus through a busy city in another country?
It’s also insulting to the people who live in Shanghai and Vietnam.
Travel is scary and hard, and it does make you more independent.
Doing anything on your own in a foreign situation always is. I have travelled by public transport in Ho Chi Minh. But it wasn’t nearly as hard or scary as the first time I performed an instrument in front of a crowd, or sat my practical medicine exams.
If travelling builds your confidence, that’s great. Try bringing that confidence to talk to new people into your life at home. If it builds your navigational skills, or your problem-solving skills, then that’s great too.
Travel can help you develop new skills, but it doesn’t turn you into an iron clad beast who is resilient to everything and can effortlessly tackle any challenge.
(also, ffs, who doesn’t travel with a smart phone these days?)
- Travel creates the strongest friendships.
It’s on the road that true friendships become strong. The relationship you have with your travel friends is the kind you see in TV series and read books about. Share an adventure together and you’re friends for life.
To those of you who have made a BFF while travelling, added them on all the social media accounts, exchanged emails and addresses and numbers an underwear sizing: I’d love to know, how many years of denial it takes, on average, before you realise you’re never going to see them again and quietly unfriend them?
I am not saying all friendships made whilst travelling are like that. Some connections do stand the test of time, and that is special.
It feels like you’re creating strong friendships on the road because everything is so intense. You’re in a crazy new world together, you’re both travellers, you’re doing crazy new things together. It seems like a match made in paradise! But then you go your separate ways, back to separate lives and separate homes. From there, you don’t have as much to talk about. Your friendship was based in another time and another place, not in the present. It’s harder to catch up online. If you can’t afford to visit one another again, the friendship often stagnates.
The good news is, that you can find that same intense, frenzied brand of friendship at home. Adventures don’t just happen in overseas far off lands. Go join a hiking club, or a climbing community, or plan a trip with some friends to do something crazy and challenging!
- Travel makes you creative.
Something happens to your mind when it comes into regular contact with unknown cultures and patterns – you begin to think differently and you realise that the world is not as rigid and unchangeable as you might previously have thought.
This is a variation on the “opening up your mind” theme above, so I won’t repeat myself.
I must admit that when I travel, I love learning about the folk tales of the place I’m visiting. I love hearing their stories of monsters and demons and heroes and princesses. I often go home, afterwards, and devour Wikipedia articles and websites about these folk tales.
I love seeing fashion and dance traditional to the area.
So, I guess, it does open up pathways to creativity and new ideas. Then again, so does talking to someone, anyone, new.
Travel will not magically transform you into an artist or musician. Travel doesn’t automatically make you something you are not.
It might inspire you to be more creative (maybe), but judging by the same old Grade-A basic photos I see on Instagram of the leaning tower of Pisa, this creativity is clearly subjective.
I’ve rarely felt inspired to creativity by a conversation with someone who holds themselves out as an enlightened #traveller. You know how these conversations go right?
“How many countries have you done? I’ve done 23!”
“When I was in (insert poor country here), I had the best experience! The locals were some of the most giving, friendly happy people I’ve ever met! They really showed me that money doesn’t equal happiness!”
- Travel is the ultimate form of self-expression.
The world is a big and wonderful place and where you choose to occupy your place in it says a lot about who you are as a person. Just think about how satisfying it feels to finally visit a place you’ve longed to see for years.
What does this mean for people who can’t afford to travel, or who can’t choose which place they occupy, because they are in the throes of war or poverty? Is their geographical location an expression of their personalities, hopes and dreams?
I thought travel was supposed to open your mind to the world outside your own?
- Travel satisfies your inner desires that material possessions never will.
When you satisfy your insatiable wanderlust, you gain an inner happiness and peace that spending money on material possessions will never be able to give you.
The people who spurt these bullshit articles usually say something like “once you travel once, you will never be able to stop and you will perpetually be planning your next country/place/trip”. Insatiable wanderlust will burn through your savings just as fast as buying stuff you don’t need.
Sometimes people surround themselves with material possessions to mask a deeper unsatisfactory part of their life. Sometimes people travel to get away from the same dissatisfactions, I don’t know whether travel helps them resolve those issues.
The trope that material possessions will never satisfy you is a dumb one too.
Material possessions are great. I love visiting my parents, because I get to sleep on a big comfy bed. At my place, I just have a mattress on the floor.
I love having a warm sleeping bag when I am out back country skiing, instead of freezing in a cheap shitty one.
After 7 years of being a poor student, I can’t wait to start earning my own wage. I will be able to buy decent fresh farmers market veggies, and clothes that aren’t falling apart, and maybe splash out on some cool devices like a new lens for my camera and a climbing rope instead of always being that person that borrows gear from other people.
I’ll probably be hella satisfied with those few luxuries.
All things in moderation, right?
- You’ll never regret spending money on travel.
It’s true what they say – in 10 years’ time, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do, not the things you did do. You will never be that person who looks back on their 20s and wishes that had made more memories when they were young.
Probably not, but you can’t say for sure.
Maybe, when everyone else has a house and you don’t even have a fixed address, you will regret not saving in your 20s. You might not. I’m not you.
Maybe you’ll work hard throughout your 20s, buy a home, buy a car and have a career. Maybe you’ll get to 35 and wish you had travelled more. Maybe at 35 you’ll look at what you’ve got and think “Oh thank Fuck”.
However, I do regret spending money on travel.
I took a year off study last year and did some travelling. And you know what? Right now, I am back studying, without a job, with no social security (hey, THANKS Centrelink), having to BORROW money for rent, because I literally don’t have $10 to my name. The free bread in the Surgical Tea Room is my lunch. I might not remember this in 10 years time, but right now, it’s tough.
I had amazing experiences last year, but those experiences were expensive. I can’t honestly say that every single dollar I spent travelling last year was worth it.
- Travel is a unique form of education.
You learn things on the road that you will not learn anywhere else. Travel gives you a global sense of perspective, an open mind, and makes you more patient, understanding, and independent.
Once again, they’re repeating themselves. Opening your mind, change of perspective, independent bla bla bla.
Travel is a unique form of education – I agree. But hey, so is deciding to go out to the Northern Territory and work on a station. So is talking to your elderly neighbour.
I’d begin to argue that with social media and plummeting airline prices and the interwebs, travel is not really that unique anymore.
- Travel makes you an Instagram superstar.
Nothing will up your Insta game like the ah-mazing pics from your travel explorations. We all know it – all your friends will be jealous.
Do I need to say anything?
I mean, we all think it when we post our latest adventures on Instagram.
Don’t lie to yourself. I do it.
But I hate that part of me, and I hope you do too.
- Travel builds your identity.
When you choose not to be constrained by the daily grind like most of us, you shape your identity. You are the explorer. You are the adventurer. You are the person who all of your more ‘serious’ friends look up to with admiration and possibly a hint of envy. #sorrynotsorry
The implication that someone who works hard, studies hard, in the “daily grind” of mediocre unenlightened masses doesn’t have an identity is ignorant.
Don’t all the locals in the countries you travel to, especially the 3rd world ones, all work exceedingly hard in far worse conditions of “daily grind”?
Your identity is definitely shaped as a #traveller when you act like this. I can tell you for 100% certain, when I meet people who are so wound up in their “traveller” identities – as the more ‘serious’ person, I do not look up to you. I cringe. Hard.
The only thing I envy is your complete lack of self-awareness. If only I could be that ignorant of my own personal shortcomings.
- Travel makes you more relaxed.
Next you will be telling me that “travel is really hard, and people always think I am on a constant holiday but waaahhh”.
Oh. Wait. #travellers do say that.
- DiamondsAdventures last forever.
The adventures you share with your friends on the road, those unplanned moments outside your comfort zone, those spontaneous decisions that create the best moments of your life – those are the memories that will stay with you forever.
Well, at least until you get Alzheimer’s.
Ok, I’ll be fair. I’ll allow this one. We’ve got 1 out of the 13 reasons that I can’t really criticise.
Oh wait, I am Tess Roser. Yes, I can.
You know what other memories will stay with you forever?
Your graduation, your first love, the birth of any children you have, that time you forgot cutlery on a hiking trip just down the road from where you live so you used tree twigs as chopsticks, that time you went out of your own comfort zone and tried surfing for the first time, or the time you did literally ANYTHING that is out of the ordinary for you…. And they are in no way less amazing or meaningful than any memory you made of hitchiking across Bolivia.
Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes life is beautiful. Whether if you are travelling, or studying, or working, or in between things and thinking “what the fuck am I doing with my life”. If you have the option to travel – then your life is fucking amazing whether you choose to travel or not.
Travel, but only if you really want to. Travel overseas, travel in your own country, your own state.
Work hard to buy that house you want, marry the love of your life, raise good kids who might make a difference in the world. Work hard in that lab of yours, slaving away each day on minimum wage to add to our growing scientific body of evidence. Sacrifice your 20s to the pursuit of something bigger than yourself. Travel if you want to. Your motivation might be to go see the SpaceX rocket still sitting in the back of the fenced off yard in industrial LA. Or it might be to go to that one mountain you’ve never been to in your own state, but have always wondered what it was like on top of it.
Save up, don’t save up.
Go alone, or go with friends, family.
Go for short trips of a week. Go for long trips of years.
Go with 3 bags of luggage. Go with carry on.
It’s your life.
Please don’t feel pressured by society, by social media, by these zombies groaning, shuffling around Italy or Turkey or Laos, posting pictures of the same uninspired tourist destinations, to drop your shit and travel.
And, if you do decide travelling the world is for you – don’t you ever pretend that you are better, more cultured, more enlightened, more worldly than someone who doesn’t carry a OnePlanet backpack, wear sandals and friendship bracelets and have 4 different currencies in their wallet.
Some people don’t need to travel the globe to realise that this world is a big old place, with amazing mix of histories and cultures.