Where Logic Meets Love

Why I Don't Dream of Traveling the World

Thursday, September 8, 2011

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Why I Don't Dream of Traveling the World | Faith Permeating Life

Today's post inspiration comes from Hannah's post on traveling.

It seems like...
  • whenever I hear about someone's big life goals, they inevitably include world travel.
  • whenever somebody quits their job to "follow their dreams," they decide to travel the world.
  • whenever people discuss what they would do with unlimited time and money, it involves traveling the world.
You guys know that I'm pretty much a homebody and an introvert, which is why "say yes to social events" is a happiness commandment I had to force upon myself. So it's probably no surprise to hear that I don't have a deep desire to "see the world."

Maybe it would be different if I hadn't already had the privilege of making multiple trips outside the United States. I've traveled to Germany, Austria, and France on school trips, and to Japan, England, and Ireland with my family. And I've concluded that, yeah, I like being at home.

Certainly, Mike and I have visited many other states together (let's see if I can count them... 15), but with the exception of our honeymoon, they've been to visit family and friends. (And the best part of our honeymoon cruise, for me, was not seeing Alaska as much as it was the hours we spent drinking tea and doing crossword puzzles together. For real. I'm a nerd.) When I think about traveling somewhere, it's always to see people, not to "see the sights." If all of our friends and family lived around us, I'd be super happy.

(Actually, one correction: Mike and I went on a service trip together in college to inner-city Trenton, New Jersey. That wasn't for the purpose of "seeing the sights," either, I can assure you.)

Many of my trips outside the U.S. involved tours of various sorts, and most definitely, I love learning new things. However, I've decided that I love learning things from home equally as much as learning things while standing in the place about which I'm learning. And going to museums is cool, but I would almost always take an interactive museum like Chicago's Museum of Science & Industry over an art or history museum, regardless of where it is or how famous it might be.

One experience I had while my school trip in Paris really hit this home for me. We had just gone through a small museum that primarily contained paintings and other art. We were standing around, waiting to be herded off to whatever was next on our itinerary, when I saw a man and woman come out of the museum. The woman was clearly blind -- she had a stick and dark glasses and was being carefully guided by the man. And I wondered: What is the purpose of coming to an art museum if you are blind? Is it just for the experience of having physically been there?

I think, for some people, that is important; not so much for me. A few months later I was working Summer Staff for Group Workcamps and my crew took one of our free days to go to the Four Corners, which is the only place in the U.S. that you can be in four states at once: Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. Normally they charge admission, but we came right before they closed and they let us in for free. The whole thing seemed so weird to me. Paying so that you can lay down in a man-made circle that indicates intersection of some man-made borders? Just to say that you've been there?

Maybe my confusion just stems from my lack of desire to do things to impress other people.

Anyway, obviously that's not the only reason people travel. That's just the reason I don't understand.

If there's one thing I have enjoyed about traveling, it's the food. Some of the best things I've ever eaten were sushi in Tokyo, escargot in Paris, and some sort of noodle and dumpling dish somewhere in Austria. Mmmmmmm delicious. But I can't really justify flying 19 hours and paying who-knows-how-much money to eat sushi that is slightly more delicious than the sushi I can get here.

I also really liked seeing how things are done in other countries, particularly in Japan, where everything they do, from the streets to the subways, seems so much more logical than the the way things are done in America. But I probably could have learned all of that from reading about other people's experiences, if I'd had the motivation to do so. And, as with learning about healthcare in Europe, all it really accomplishes is making me annoyed that things aren't like that here.

I would say that, in general, I've enjoyed my travels to other countries, but they haven't left me wanting more. If I never left the U.S. again for the rest of my life, I'd be perfectly OK with that.

Come to think of it, that's probably why I'm not really drawn to international adoption...

How about you? Have you traveled outside your home country? Do you want to?

17 comments:

  1. Yep, I feel the same way. I have no desire to travel. I feel like this is considered socially abnormal.

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  2. @Sean Marie
    I agree! I don't know when it became the socially acceptable thing to say that you want to travel the world. I guess because it's traditionally associated with being more wealthy/sophisticated?

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  3. I'm totally going to hell for this, but I laughed when I read about the blind lady in the art museum. So absurd!

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  4. @Rabbit Hahaha, glad I could make you laugh :) And that I'm not the only one who thought it was odd.

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  5. You know, I could have written this when I was in college. I'm also a homebody and an introvert, and I've never lived anywhere other than Massachusetts. I was happy with my life and just had no desire to see anything else. But then one day my friend was telling me about her friend who'd just come back from studying abroad and was having trouble adjusting to being back, partly because it bothered her that people didn't know how much else was out there. And then I realized that I was one of those people.

    So I would love to do more traveling. I've been to Aruba, but other than that I've never left the country. There are lots of places I would like to see- and actually, Four Corners has been one of them for a long time. I just always thought being in four states at once would be kind of cool!

    It does bug me a LOT, though, when people talk about traveling like it's some kind of badge of honor. On dating sites, people are always talking about how much they've traveled as if that somehow makes them a better person. All that means is that you've had the money to travel.

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  6. Food, culture, pretty scenery, and an adventure. That sums up my desire for travel. I get naturally high off of these experiences. It's not about impressing people, not for me, at least. I'd stay in a youth hostel and walk or bike everywhere if I could only get to Europe, somehow. I'm happiest when I am traveling. It's funny how different people can be yet how alike we all are, too :)

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  7. OH but on another note I would say that traveling is so trendy right now that it's getting out of hand. I mean, I like to think I beat the masses on this, since I've loved to travel ever since I was a child. But these days, even people who don't travel are decorating their homes with globes and maps. It's really cool right now. But like all "cool" things, it's gonna pass, I think :)

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  8. I grew up traveling around the United States quite a bit and occasionally to Canada or Mexico or the Virgin Islands. We also spent a few months in Japan for my dad's job when I was a toddler--I remember a few tiny bits. I loved traveling as a child.

    As an adult, I often go several months without leaving metro Pittsburgh and several years without traveling more than one day's drive away, and that's fine with me. I still like some aspects of traveling but don't find it as exciting as I used to.

    The difference is that I now live in a place where I am comfortable, find my surroundings beautiful and convenient, and generally enjoy life. I no longer have to travel to find that.

    I still do enjoy experiencing a different place, like staying in a high-rise building or being out in the country with lots of stars or hiking among cacti. I like to "see the sights" to a certain extent. But really, my favorite part of traveling is wandering around an unfamiliar city; I adore cities and the way so many different "places" are packed into a small area, and I love seeing what's familiar and what's different about transit and other ways things are organized. Last year we went to Ontario and I spent an hour wandering in an ordinary residential area and a supermarket in Hamilton, and that was really fun for me!

    I've never been to Europe. I'd like to go someday when I can spend plenty of time lingering in each of several cities there. Asia, Africa, Australia, South America--meh, I'll go if I have a good reason to go. No need to see the whole world personally!

    Concern about the environmental impact of travel makes a difference to me, too...but it's not the first thing that deters me from traveling more often or farther from home.

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  9. @Katie
    I would argue that traveling the world and having a "global mindset," which is what it sounds like your friend's friend was talking about, are not necessarily the same. I would bet there are a lot of people, particularly Americans, who have traveled to other countries and still view the "American way" as the only and best way to do everything. And it's possible to learn about other cultures and develop a global awareness without necessarily being in those places. So for myself, personally, I'm more concerned with being aware of cultural differences and having an open mind than physically going to other locations.

    On dating sites, people are always talking about how much they've traveled as if that somehow makes them a better person. All that means is that you've had the money to travel.
    Very good point! And as I said above, traveling a lot doesn't necessarily equate to changes in one's understanding or viewpoint, which I think is the implication.

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  10. @Hannah J. Holmes
    I agree that everyone is different in this area, and I don't think that it's better or worse to like/dislike traveling. If it's what you enjoy, then go for it!

    I hadn't noticed that traveling is a "trendy" thing, but I can understanding what you mean. I think it's always been considered a sign of wealth and sophistication to be a world traveler, but using it as a theme for decoration is likely to be more of a trend that eventually fades.

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  11. @'Becca
    Mike and I take a similar approach to traveling, in that we really just like to wander and observe more than following structured itineraries or tours. I think you could argue that the most is learned about a country by seeing how everyday people live their lives, more than learning about the country's history or seeing its famous buildings. Those are interesting for other reasons, but are more likely to be the kind of things you can learn about from home.

    I'm not a big fan of cities, myself; if I were to go back to France, I'd want to go to the countryside, not back to Paris. After a week there, I felt that it really wasn't much different than any American city, except that it had really old, famous, French buildings. The general feeling, to me, was the same.

    I do love being out in the countryside where you can see the stars; however, the only reason that requires traveling is because we don't live in that kind of place now. When we build our own home we hope to be far enough out from the city to have that kind of wide-openness. And then I'll get to be home and see the stars at the same time :)

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  12. Ha, I felt the same way about Paris. I enjoyed the small towns in Switzerland soooo much more!!!

    We're not big travelers either. We're just so busy with the life we have right now, it'd be hard to fit it in. I guess if it was more important to us, it would be a bigger priority, and we wouldn't have a house, and we'd have jobs with more PTO, etc. If it bothers me that others can travel more, it's more of the fact that they have a way to make it possible or aren't hung up on the smaller details like I might be.

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  13. @Rabbit
    I went to the little town of Oberammergau in Germany and loved it! So much different from the U.S., whereas the cities all seemed much the same.

    I know what you mean about seeing other people travel more. Even though I don't want to "see the world," I wish I had more time off and money to go visit friends and family. I can't wait until we move to Seattle someday; I miss my family there so much!

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  14. As I get older, I find that rather than enjoying travel, I enjoy living somewhere new or experiencing something new over an extended period of time.

    I'm not a big fan of dashing from place to place because it wears me out. At the end of the experience I feel like accomplished nothing--not even relaxation.

    However, I still want to see the world. Just in quality "bites". That may mean picking up a book and reading about Brunelleschi's Dome, or it might mean going somewhere new and staying there for a while. Perhaps some of you dislike superficial travel more so than seeing the world. Perhaps if an overseas job opportunity came along you would love it.

    I too, rate food as one of my favorite things about travel and yet, I also wouldn't want to suffer a long plane ride (or the associated bill) just for a meal. But I also love staring up at distinct architecture (something no photograph can replicate). I love going on long walks until I discover one day that I no longer get lost. I love shopping day after day at a market until in no longer seems unusual. I love bargaining. I love learning new bus routes. I love riding on trains and in taxis trying to have a discussion with the people around me. I can do all of this in the United States, but it is infinitely more interesting in another country.

    Perhaps I'm not an introvert, although I do consider myself a homebody and new experiences can wear me out. Still, I wouldn't trade my opportunities to live and backpack abroad (my way) for anything. I don't think the travel experiences I had with my family, school, or on tours compare at all. So while there is absolutely nothing wrong with broadening your horizons closer to home or through media, you might surprise yourself if you re-evaluate how you travel.

    Oh, and regarding adoption: Even though I've lived in China, speak some Chinese, and would love to visit other places where Americans commonly adopt children, I also think I would prefer to adopt a child locally. The need, especially for non-Caucasian children or children with special needs, is huge and there are less hurdles.

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  15. @e
    I love bargaining. I love learning new bus routes. I love riding on trains and in taxis trying to have a discussion with the people around me.
    Yup, we definitely have different feelings on this, as this sounds like pure hell to me! Maybe my aversion to that type of traveling--living in another country--it is less about being a homebody and more about my discomfort with change. I mean, you're talking to someone who brings the same thing for lunch every day and is completely happy with it. I love learning new things and expanding my perspective, but I don't like feeling that out of place in my surroundings. When I went for a job interview at the place where I now work, I made Mike giving me step-by-step directions for how to get on the L so that I wouldn't have to figure it out for myself, and then I looked at Google Street View so I knew exactly what it would look like when I got on and off. So I guess maybe it has to do with me being a control freak? :) I mean, when I travel, I don't really like structured tours for the reason you mentioned--they're exhausting--but I also wouldn't want to do my wandering without a good map. So maybe you are right that it's the way I have been traveling that has turned me off from it... but the way you describe totally freaks me out, so I'm not sure that would be a good option, for me personally, either :)

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  16. @Jessica

    Well if you do travel somewhere overseas again, I recommend Lonely Planet. They now make pdf guides so that you can print out only the parts you need (or put them on a reading device). Even at my most adventurous (or stupid, as has been the case a few times) I never leave the country without LP or something similar.

    Thanks for your reply!

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  17. @e
    Thanks for the recommendation! I'd heard of Lonely Planet but didn't know about the PDF guides.

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