Friday, February 10, 2012

Depleting your future with travel


 "Let us be patient and trust that the treasure we look for
is hidden in the ground on which we stand." 

-- Henri Nouwen

From a blog called Freedom Twenty-Five, apparently written by a 25-year-old bloke (tip of the hat: Dennis Mangan's blogroll):
Should You Quit Your Job To Travel? Probably Not

If you are fresh out of college, have no idea what you want to do in life, and want to spend the last 10k of your student loan money on a year-long trip around the world to “find yourself” – don’t. You’ll wind up on a path to being forty years old, without a dollar or a marketable skill to your name. Southeast Asia is full of these types, and you don’t want to be one of them.
His description of the game of Hippie Traveler Stereotype Bingo is a hoot.

This young man (if that is, indeed, who the author is) seems to be a fast learner. He's onto something.


In my 20s and 30s, I did my share of reckless traveling. My world was pretty narrow then -- I suppose still is, in a way -- so I never loped across the Himalayas, smoked kief in Marrakech, or discussed philosophy with headhunters in New Guinea. Still, I conned myself with something like the delusions he ascribes to "Ms. Frumpy McFrumpleton."

Not that I worked for NGOs teaching English or building outhouses so I could See the World, Expand My Horizons, and Become One With All Mankind. I just took "vacations" to Mexico, Jamaica, Hawaii, England and other locations when I was running on fumes financially -- in fact, unemployed.


Does traveling when you're young and have delusions of being a free spirit offer any benefits? I think so, but not the sort that adventurous lads and lasses imagine.

You may well get to see or temporarily experience different ways of life (not necessarily the same as understanding them). Whether that is of any use depends on what you do with the knowledge. In my case, it helped me get over the immature case of anti-Americanism I contracted via contagion in Berkeley in the '60s. I learned something no one had ever suggested to me in those feverish days: corruption wasn't some uniquely American trait. The fall from grace is universal among mankind, although of course it manifests in different ways and to different degrees.


Travel is interesting, sure. But not so interesting that it's worth sacrificing too much time for -- at the stage of life when you need to be building a base for the future. If that time is wasted, it's very hard to make up. On the whole travel is best once you are established in a profession and relationships; it isn't a substitute for ordinary human satisfactions.

Besides, interesting and enjoyable are not synonymous. Traveling with minuscule financial resources offers momentary pleasures, but also anxiety and discomfort. And it is not the way to discover the "real" culture of the place you're visiting or hanging out in. Poverty is degrading wherever you find it. The people you meet at that social level may be decent, even virtuous, but their own experience, limited by their means, is not likely to offer insight into anything worthwhile.

Freedom Twenty-Five writes:
If you aren’t doing anything with your life, the easiest way to distract yourself from that fact is to start living out of a backpack. Your days will be full of activity – finding food, finding hostels, catching buses, going out, keeping an eye out for pickpockets. Much like white-collar workers who distract themselves with busywork, aimless travel is a way of filling your time, so you don’t have to ask hard questions about how you’re spending your 25,000 days.
I don't want to sound like a Victorian moralist, but travel is no substitute for building character and exploring your soul. For that you don't have to be a rover and a collector of exotic cultural experiences. As the man said, wherever you go, there you are. Determining what you are and who you are is the hard part, and the best part.



The Ghost of Van Wijk said...

smoked kief in Marrakech

I hope this is not to say that you've never smoked kief at all, Rick.

discussed philosophy with headhunters in New Guinea

Here's something I've always wondered about: when you go to discuss philosophy (or foreign policy) with the headhunters, do you ask to see the Headman? Aren't they all Headmen?

Rick Darby said...

(The Ghost of) Van Wijk,

Have you joined the Heavenly Choir?

I hope this is not to say that you've never smoked kief at all, Rick.

No comment.

... when you go to discuss philosophy (or foreign policy) with the headhunters, do you ask to see the Headman? Aren't they all Headmen?

Ha ha! Yes. When you want the top guy, you have to ask for the Head Headhunter.

Joseph Moroco said...

Greatest observation on travel was by Samuel Johnson about the Giant's Causeway. It was worth seeing, but not worth going to see.

There are some things that are worth the going and seeing, but they are few. I can attest to the validity of his GC comment. Now if it went all the way to Scotland, that would have been something.

Rick Darby said...


The great Johnson had an apt and witty observation for practically everything!

Ghost of VW said...

When you want the top guy, you have to ask for the Head Headhunter.

I appreciate the information. Headhunters are generally misunderstood but a lack of etiquette has led to a few...incidents.

Have you joined the Heavenly Choir?

I'm afraid so. I've spent the past few months reassessing some things and decided it's time for ole VW to go to his reward. Rather than confuse everyone with another web name, I'll post here from time to time as VW's shade (if you'll permit it). :)

Travel destinations forums | Travel Discussions | Travel deals forum said...

Great idea.