I love to travel. That is more than obvious. I like to read travel blogs and browse travel photography, both of which inspire me to aim higher and travel further. As a semi-frequent traveller, often I find myself reflecting upon the meaning of travel and asking myself why I travel, and there is no single, straightforward answer. However, in this day and age, people for whom travel isn’t a major part of their lives sometimes face some serious scrutiny, even to the point of judgement, because of their lack of travel experience. And I can’t help but ask the travel community – is it wrong to NOT travel?
I believe that travel is a privilege, not a right. Somehow I landed myself in a position where I can travel relatively more frequently than the average person, and for that I am grateful. Not everyone has the luxury of going where their hearts desire and roaming free in the vast unknown. In fact, not everyone WANTS this “luxury”. There are people who are perfectly fine with their stable everyday lives, living in the comforts of their homes with their families and friends within close reach. And there is nothing wrong with that. Better still, perhaps the familiarity of home is where their hearts lie, so they already have everything they want and need. It stings me when we as travellers belittle or even criticize those who choose not to travel or who simply do not have the resources to do so. Sure, one may encourage others to explore the world because we genuinely wish that they too could experience the thrill of travel. Yes, one may say that travel doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, and that the experiences one gains can never be replaced by staying in one’s home. These are all true, but there are also people who just don’t WANT to travel. And who is to say that those who do are superior to those who don’t?
A saying that is often quoted is “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” I didn’t think much of it when I first read it, but the more I thought about it, the more it felt like a direct criticism of people who don’t travel for whatever reason. Somehow our society has ingrained an unreasonable expectation in our minds that without travel, we’re “stuck” on the first page of our lives and we will never truly be complete or “find ourselves”. Of course that would never be a problem for people who roam around the world and live as a free bird, but for those with a 9-5 job in the office and a family to feed? Well good luck finding meaning in your lives…huh? Is that the attitude that we’re projecting towards people who don’t share the same values as ours? When did travel all of a sudden become the golden standard of whether a person is living a worthy life or not?
This issue had been on my mind for a long time and I finally decided to put together this post as a summary of what I think of the cliché that has been molded by the travel community. Yes, I love to travel, but not everyone else has to. It’s just like any other hobby – painting, cooking, yoga, you name it – and might not be suitable for everyone. Frankly I am quite uncomfortable with the notion that travel is the ultimate goal of life and the only way of understanding and experiencing the values of mankind. It is not. And I’m not saying that every traveller projects the same image, but admittedly, some do. As a travel community, let’s appreciate our opportunities and not take our privileges for granted. And let’s get over ourselves.
Good ol’ home sweet home in Toronto, Canada, June 2014