A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine posted the following meme on Facebook with an irate comment along the lines of, “What is this garbage?”
Someone else noted that people who say “don’t worry about the money” are frequently people who do not have to worry about money. They are not, for instance, seriously facing homelessness if they get behind on their expenses.
There are a few weird things about this particular quote. It suggests that all young people are “able.” Conversely, it implies that older people are never able to travel — an idea that anyone in the travel industry would find strange, I’m sure.
If you don’t have much money, “just make it work” doesn’t make a lot of sense. You could max out credit cards, I suppose. Or you could do what I did once as a very young woman, and travel on a bus to another city and then rely on the dubious kindness of strangers you meet on the street for food and lodging. (This is incredibly stupid and unsafe. Don’t do this.)
Well, one can find objections to any succinct statement. A lot of what I say on this blog could be picked apart in the same way. And I can respect the intention behind this quote: to say that travel is great.
It absolutely is. I haven’t gotten to go to a lot of places, but I’m grateful for all the places I’ve been, I’ve made wonderful memories, and I want to see much more of the world in the future. I can respect anyone who wants to make it a priority.
Is it always worth it? A couple of people posting on the Facebook thread said they had followed the advice of this quote, and they now wished they had spent the money on a bit of real estate or on paying down their student loans. I’m positive that many other people would say they’re glad they chose to travel, even if it meant a financial pinch down the line. It would be nice if there were clear right answers to life, but there rarely are.
Not everyone can travel, and what’s more… not everyone wants to. There’s nothing wrong with that! If you want to pay off your debts, become a homeowner, fix up your house, spend all your discretionary income on your doll collection, or whatever, that’s great. You earned your money, and nobody knows better than you what will make you happiest.
I believe social media can idealize travel in a way that leads people to undervalue their everyday lives. When we see someone’s vacation photos on Instagram, or images of the world’s most beautiful places on Pinterest or Tumblr, we might get the feeling that everyone else is carpe diem-ing all over the place while we’re sitting at home on the couch eating Cheetos.
We’re doomed to discontent if we believe that travel is the only adventure.
Even if you get to travel a lot, by most people’s standards, chances are you’re still going to be home more of the time. Whenever we get the idea that we have to wait for certain perfect times to be happy — Christmas, vacation, summer, when we graduate, when we get married, when we retire — it screws us all up.
Last year, I considered looking for a job in another city, because I craved change. I decided not to, because frankly, I have a dream job and I would be crazy to leave it. When I told a friend of mine about this, he said, “You don’t have to go anywhere to change your life. You could do anything. Like, you could eat nothing but Indian food.”
It was a random example, but I knew immediately what he meant. Most of us have an array of choices that we never exercise. We tend to eat the same things and do the same things. We could learn new things, make new friends, become a legendary pie-maker, or adopt a new personal style.
Just reading about a whole new topic to us, or losing ourselves in a fiction genre that’s new to us, can change who we are or how we see the world. And let’s be honest: most of us who dream of travel live in places where some neighborhoods, establishments, or wild places outside of town might as well be foreign countries to us. We haven’t even explored our own backyards.
With the same apartment or house, and the same job, we can experience a lot of new things, and we can do that any week of the year.
Anyone can get inspired by a trip to a faraway place. It doesn’t take any special skill. But the person who can get inspired by an ordinary day is going to lead a much richer life.