I agree, in theory. Still, I think what you take away from your travels has a lot to do with the kind of person you already are, pre-travel. And part of recognizing your own privilege through travel is realizing how privileged you are to be traveling at all. How privileged you are to be mobile, and able. To choose where to go, and have the resources (and facility) to do so. This, I believe, is actually the most important. Yet most people seem to miss it entirely.
Traveling does not make you profound. If you are profound, your travels will sink in, will recalibrate your sense of the world. If you are not profound (and let’s be honest, most well-traveled people are not), you will come home with several new bracelets and bragging rights. Your tan and souvenirs will be cooler than any story you tell. And that impresses no one.
Aim to travel well, not to be well-traveled.
We often, I think, assign value to travel based on the geographical and categorical distance of said destination from our ‘home.’ There is unspoken (and spoken) glory in soaking up either the most dangerous or the most desired experience. These experiences carry their own cultural capital, with and without the accompaniment of 10,000 Instagrams and a traveler’s blog.
There are all kinds of reasons to travel, and all types of people who do. Yet most of the time, people tell me they travel to “gain perspective” and “find themselves.” That’s probably a tall order, especially if you chose your adventure based on what would sound most impressive, or grant you the most cultural capital. Especially if you can’t wait to vomit photos of yourself all over my news feed. I don’t believe that’s the wrong way to travel, per se, but I think you probably won’t find yourself in that piña colada. So strip away the self-importance and what you have is a nice vacation. Cheers.
But if we’re serious about gaining perspective and finding ourselves, then I submit that traveling is something we should do every day. Traveling is about embodying another person’s experience, diving to its depths and swimming a mile below the surface. It’s about being much more than a tourist – it’s about being a compatriot. And I agree – should you have the opportunity to go to another country to be someone’s compatriot, by all means do so.
But if you are profound, you will be profound anywhere.
Walking 12 miles for 4 buckets of water will help you access something different, but no more or less valuable, than chatting an afternoon away with that homeless man who sleeps just outside your cozy and well-heated apartment in Cambridge. It’s about how sincere we are when we say, “I want to gain perspective. I want to find myself, and be more aware.”
Look around you. That opportunity is everywhere, and yours for the taking. Are you watching closely? Are you paying attention?
I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments. The idea of wanderlust has been put on this odd pedestal for myself and a lot of my peers. In our individual quests to establish significance in our own lives, we often times water-down the concept of meaningful travel by equating any vacation not spent at home to a soul-expanding journey.
Both vacation and soul-searching are important, and while they may not be mutually exclusive it is important to define the distinction for ourselves. Your recommendation to “Aim to travel well” is well received and should be an exercise that everyone should engage in before embarking on a journey.
Long time lurker. First time poster. Great blog.