No More Travelling - I've Seen Enough

A few years ago, my parents went on a trip to South America. They hiked around at Machu Picchu, visited the Iguazu waterfalls and chilled at the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. When they came back, I asked: “So, how was it?”. And my dad replied: “Oh, it was great. But I don’t think I need another trip like that. After all the traveling in my life, seeing new places just doesn’t excite me anymore. I’ve seen enough.” Traveling is one of my greatest pleasures, so this statement shook up my believes a bit. When you feel like you have seen enough, aren’t you giving up on life in a way? Isn’t it a total resignation from the world? Let me tell you some of the thoughts it provoked.


Basically, I started asking myself what exactly it is that makes traveling so appealing. First and foremost, there is this huge curiosity. The wish to see new landscapes and foreign architecture. In a way, traveling makes us feel like explorers. Traveling makes us feel like we are the ones who discover new species and lonely beaches. We forget that thousands of people have climbed the same hills and swum in the same rivers. What is more, traveling allows us to meet people with different cultural backgrounds and see the world through their eyes.


But then I tried to think about the limits of traveling - limits that I have experienced myself and limits that I observe with regards to other travellers. The biggest limit is probably our own comfort zone. Let me give you an examples. A bunch of my fellow students decided to spend a semester in “exotic countries” such as Thailand and China. But when they showed me pictures of their stays, it turned out that they spent their time with other international students, stayed in posh apartments and went to clubs where you find mainly expats. In other words, they got exactly what they have here in Germany just with some exotic plants in the background. Traveling didn't help them to broaden their horizon.


The next limit of traveling that I would like to talk about is what I call travel narcissism. I guess travel narcissism is on a new peak since the rise of Facebook, Foursquare and Instagram. People spend their entire holiday checking in at the coolest bars and posting selfies in front of the Taj Mahal. What is it all about? Your own experience? I doubt so. The more we post and share, the less we get to focus on the actual experience. Traveling becomes a mere gratification of the ego instead of a valuable personal experience.


The third and last limit of traveling is a little more philosophical. I like to think that I need traveling to develop empathy. The more I travel and the more people I meet, the more I understand their situation and rethink my own impact. And as much as this might be the case, I wonder if it is true that traveling is the most efficient way to work on ones empathy. The most empathetic people are simply the ones who manage to hold on for a second and take the perspective of somebody else. In a way, it is more about introspection than about exposure to many situations. It’s the ability to imagine “what if I was that other person”. My favourite example is that of a yogi who is sitting by himself in the Himalayas and developing profound understanding of the world. No traveling needed at all. Just a lot of work on your own attitude and imagination.


But let’s go back to the initial question. Is the feeling that you don’t want to travel anymore a resignation from life? Well, after thinking about it for some time, I concluded that it’s not. It might just mean that you don’t need the ego boost of posting travel photos anymore. Or it might mean that you realised that you can work on your empathy from home. Or it might mean that you realised that you never actually step outside your comfort zone, so there is no point of travelling at all.


But hey, maybe it’s not that complicated after all. Maybe traveling is just a fun way to waste some time. At least my dad stopped his philosophical thoughts and is back on the road – driving on his Harley Davisdon through the United States. Sure, he has seen enough... ;-)



Comments: 4 (Discussion closed)
  • #1

    Ravi (Monday, 22 June 2015 12:52)

    Keep writing these blogs, and we will know 30 years on if you reach the same conclusion as your dad :)

    What one expects out of life changes over time. 20 years ago, you would have aspired for that next candy or a ride on that giant wheel or on Columbus swing (where you were not allowed because you were not of a prescribed height) . And if you had an ability to think ( philosophically as you do now) at that age, you might have wondered...why is my mum or dad not so enthusiastic about it all.

  • #2

    Tanja (Monday, 22 June 2015 12:59)

    Hi Ravi, Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on so many of my blog posts! It's great to know that somebody reads them and thinks about them. And I really had to smile about your example. You're right, back then I couldn't understand my parents' lack of enthusiasm of my parents. Although in my case it was more about additional pets (a cat! a dog! a pony!) than about Columbus swings ;-)

  • #3

    Olivia (Monday, 22 June 2015 13:24)

    Hi Tanja

    I just had to read your blog as the post on Facebook concerning "giving up on life" already caused such a strong reaction in me. My gut feeling was not unlike yours - I feel like travelling is the one thing that keeps me going and that I spend most of my earned money on. To others it's a new purse or a new piece of furniture, to me it's flights and trips to other places to reward myself for working so hard.
    But then I thought again, and your dad's statement makes sense. I think it might just be a shift of priorities. Let's say I become a mother - and instantly my priorities would shift from travelling as much as possible to focussing on my child.
    For me, travel is not just about empathy (I think the empathy grows with every single time you are faced with the "unusual" in a different place and have to reconsider what you know to be the "right" or "wrong" reaction) - it's also the driver for creativity, imagination and inspiration.
    For a long time, I thought it was the only way to get my brain to unwind and reset. But with all the trips becoming more and more stressful, I realized that sometimes you just need to go a couple miles away into the woods or mountains and read a good book to achieve the same results. I think everyone has to find out what works for them.
    And to be fair - just going on a hike by myself with no pre-planned route or devices to help me except for a map, takes me a lot more out of my comfort zone than hopping on a plane and going to some other city. :)

    Sending best regards from Switzerland

  • #4 (Monday, 13 July 2015 08:50)

    I love very much the bit with develop empathy
    Travelling is usually about oneself, but it's not just walking, looking, and hurrying to get to the top of the top of the tallest mountain.
    I love it more when it is an inside job, things that i see phyisically, i internally reflect on them as i keep also the internal emotional reflectional travel alive.
    Tis is a beautiful observation Tanja, keep it up