Traveling. Along with not working. For months on end.
After a few months, you realize:
- Traveling is not reality. It’s not sustainable (unless you’re rich)
- You’re not contributing to the world. You feel purposeless
- It’s a highly diminishing return. You will get tired of each new place, then desire to see a new place, only to be slightly let down, and then desire to see another new place. Sort of like drug hits
- The cities and people will seem to blur. Cities that are the same GDP per capita will feel similar to each other
- The snowcapped mountains and beautiful scenery stops to wow you because you saw almost the same thing two countries ago
- The most picturesque magazine cover beaches are actually 102F and 99% humidity- so hot that you can’t stay outside for too long. The grass always SEEMS greener on other side.
- It’s hard to tangibly define what you’ve learned or gained from it
But yet, it’s necessary and not replaceable. If you want to travel, it’s almost impossible to not want to travel, regardless of what others say.
One of the best things it did was make me appreciate home. Traveling made me further think that the US is one of the best countries in the world to have a passport of and be a citizen of, not just in terms of having a high GDP per capita, flushing toilets you can sit on, potable tap water, and the luxury of throwing away good food. Traveling made me realize that:
- The US has stopping power and the ability to do what it wants that smaller nations don’t have
- The US claims to (and for the most part does) look out for its own citizens. It sometimes even launches troops to save its own citizens
- The US has whole industries that other nations don’t have. Not many countries in the world build satellites or jumbo jets, so you can’t even have the profession of an aerospace engineer in those countries
- The US has every hobby. For example, Los Angeles, California is close to mountains for skiing (2hrs from downtown) and beaches for surfing (40min from downtown). You can even attempt to do both on the same day. Hiking, rock climbing, hang-gliding, sky diving- yes, this place has it all
- The US health insurance system sucks though. And things like this 2016 election, the shootings, and Flint’s water sometimes make things feel hopeless
- The US has also done many evil things. Learning this through traveling is actually definitely not overrated, but also not what most people would call pleasureable- for example to learn about the Vietnam war from Vietnam’s perspective, or to tour the Cambodian killing fields and death camps, in which 1/4 of the population was murdered by the Khmer Rouge, whose rise to power was likely in response to US bombings
- But even despite all the bad/evil things the US has done to other nations, those things were still supposedly done to benefit US interests, US companies, and ultimately US citizens (me…?!) This is bitter-sweet in a gut-wrenching way. Like occasionally seeing your loving and wealthy dad stealing from your poorer school friends and then giving their toys to you as gifts. (For example, gas is cheaper now and stocks are up, but maybe that’s slightly related to new markets that were created from “liberating”, “democratizing”, and “capitalizing” once dictatorial nations…)
Hrm… I guess I did gain some insights from traveling. Maybe it’s not that bad after all.
Update – A few more thoughts to add:
Despite how I feel that traveling is overrated from all the blogs/youtube/facebook-pics-of-your-damn-friends-showing-off(aka me), I actually don’t regret traveling, and neither will you if you do it. But if you don’t desire it, then you don’t need to make yourself feel like you should be traveling just because everyone else is talking about it.
Also, perhaps it was the not-working-towards-anything-specific-for-months-on-end that was the most spiritually draining and uncomfortable part of it. Despite how much I wanted to get away from work and stress, once I finally got away, I felt empty and purposeless. So perhaps it’s better to work several hours a day when traveling over a long period of time. But I also did get tired of having to squat to poop in holes in the ground while always worrying that I’d fall in or poop or pee on myself.
One thing that’s definitely good about traveling though is that it gives you an affinity towards the places you visited, the street-food stands you ate at, and all the people you interacted with. It makes you realize the goodness in all people, regardless of what your government says about how a country is bad or evil. The citizens of most countries are overwhelmingly good human beings. This doesn’t immediately result in pleasure to the traveler, but I think it can help bring about understanding and world-peace more-so than if everyone stayed home. Because if I ever get into politics, I wouldn’t want to bomb any of the places I’ve visited, because human beings live there, and they are my friends.