Every once in a while I hear that my friends and acquaintances went on some remarkable travel expeditions into an unknown land and came back with refreshed perspectives, memories and of course with tall tales of their adventures. Very often, the social media constantly reminds me of the benefits of travel and adventure. It even goes to the extent of exemplifying travel as an ultimate necessity of today’s youth – as the ultimate means of enjoyment, relaxation, of discovering oneself, obtaining enlightenment and showing the world that you are a sincere believer of YOLO (read the famous titles like why you should quit your job and travel around the world, 10 reasons to travel in your 20’s, etc). And even more often, I hear friends swooning over the idea of traveling to Europe, judging friends who travel more as the embodiments of perfect and happy youth, sighing and self-pitying that they could not travel due to responsibilities or circumstances and then associating the lack of energy in their life to their constrained location or circumstances.
I am not a hot blooded person, but my blood surely boils when I hear this. Do you really think that traveling to different places will bring you happiness missing in your life or life would be better have you had the perfect circumstances to travel around the world? Don’t get me wrong, I am not immune to this either. One of my major idiosyncrasies is the constant debate I have – to reason between my fear of living a routine life and the purpose of travel. But, I am definitely against encouraging the idea that traveling (and that too especially at a younger age) needs to be looked up to and will bring happiness to your life.
Travel surely has several benefits – like rejuvenating by bringing in newness, excitement in seeing new sights, meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, trying new food, broadening your awareness, putting you out of your daily comfort zone so that you grow through exposure. However, believing that all of these benefits could be obtained exclusively through travel alone and therefore lack of travel means that you are doomed into boredom is as foolish as believing that having a school degree is the only way to become educated and intelligent. Travel often acts as a catalyst to personal growth, only as long as you are open to it. But so are many other things – signing up for a new activity you have never done before, taking on a challenging project that intimidates you, making up with an old friend that you have cut ties with or facing your fears head on. Travel is just one option and life doesn’t end if you don’t choose that. It is not necessary that you ought to shell all your hard earned money or God forbid quit your job and responsibilities to take this popularized path just because everyone around you seems to be happy doing it. It is your choice and more importantly, it is your will to change.
Then comes the popular notion of revering people who have traveled more while looking down upon those who have never stepped outside their hometown – considering that people who have had greater exposure have richer and more fulfilling lives than who have not. I personally struggled with this notion for a long time, unable to understand how one could be content doing the same things every day, living in the same place, working with a single company their entire lives, having lived in the same home and same city for the majority of their life. What I did not understand is that the measure of fulfillment and happiness doesn’t have anything to do with newness or routine, or in fact having good habits or bad habits, having healthy or unhealthy lives, being able to go on a dream vacation or not, achieving your life’s biggest goal or not. It comes from being able to experience the world through the eyes of a child. It comes from being present in the moment, wherever in the world you are and living a meaningful life.