You would love to travel, but…
Let’s face it. The truth is that you would love to travel but you can’t. I know that it may seem that a lot of us travel writers are disconnected from that reality that is the so called “average person’s” life. For many of us, the idea that someone won’t travel is so foreign and so unthinkable that it sometimes makes us dust off our little pedestal of righteousness, which only further lifts us away from the circumstances of people today.
We don’t often realize that in our efforts to share the world with readers, we tend to alienate a lot of people who truly don’t have the circumstances to support such ideas. In other words, in our efforts to share where we’ve been, we fail to inspire others to go there.
We forget that aside from sharing great pictures and going on and on about the exotic locale and food, our true role as writers is to bring in our readers in such a way that they will lift their heads (and spirits) from their desk, and use that limited spending or tax refund and once-a-year given vacation time to go where we were.
Not everyone can or wants to luxury travel or backpack or take a trip around the world. Those are all amazing and there are some very talented writers sharing those experiences, but if you read those stories and they don’t motivate you, it doesn’t mean you have to give up on travel all together.
For the value of travel is not so much about the distance of the destination, but rather about the experiences and memories you build in the places you go.
My darling friend Spencer Spellman, The Traveling Philosopher, made a really strong argument for travel and talked about how it has improved his life.
I will say that I feel the same way. Traveling more has definitely enriched my life and that of my children. Traveling has a way of affecting a person’s perspective. The generalizations we grow up with or build in our minds over time, things we seem so sure of and think we know so well, are challenged and broken down when we travel. If you open your mind to it and take the time to reflect on where you are and the people around you, traveling can change you through self-reflection.
But I remember when I couldn’t travel. Some may argue that you can’t because you don’t want to, but I would say that I always wanted to travel, but had other priorities in my life that took precedence. As a matter of fact, I have priorities in my life still that will often trump my plans for traveling, and there is nothing wrong with having those, nor should we be made to feel bad about them.
I chose to finish college rather than travel overseas for months and months. My college degree served me well. It provided me with great paying jobs, which in turn has armed me with invaluable professional experience that are profitable to me even to this day.
I chose to have a baby and take a year off from work with the money I had saved up to backpack across Europe. In exchange, I have a beautiful 13 year old boy whom I adore, and who continuously teaches me something new about myself and life.
Recently, I chose to use money we had saved up for a West Coast family road trip to move my family to a bigger, better place.
I make choices like these all the time. It doesn’t mean I don’t love to travel, it doesn’t mean I don’t value its worth, it just means that I am fortunate to have a full enough life where there are many other things I cherish and value and complete me and most importantly, make me happy as well.
But, I want you to travel. I want you to take those few vacations days or long-weekend days you have off, take the family, and go somewhere, maybe not every time, but once in awhile. I know that people in our industry make it seem sometimes that if it’s not somewhere far and exotic, it doesn’t count. But that’s not true. Even when I don’t go to places far and exotic, I have benefited from incredibly enriching experiences and have met countless of interesting people in my travels.
Go anywhere, get in the car, pick a place only a couple of hours away, stay over night – just go and open yourself up to that experience, away from your every day life, and what that can mean for you and your family.
Little, shorter trips have this way of making the passion for bigger, more ambitious trips come to life. I started road tripping with my children to nearby places. Short trips – one hour, two hours away. We did those enough times that we’ve gone as far as Texas by car, and have plans to go even further. Same with plane rides.
The point is to just go. If I still seem out of touch with your reality, let me leave you with a glimpse of mine:
My mother loved to travel so, so much, she worked as a travel agent as her first real job. Back then, travel agents used to take trips to almost every place they would promote and sale to clients. My mother went everywhere it seemed. She would sit me and my brother down and share many stories of her trips. I would get lost in the images in my mind over her tales. She instilled in me, just through her stories, the love for travel.
She was a single mom who learned English later in life, and got a college degree even much later than that. She worked other jobs which helped support her family, but not her dream to travel. She always spoke of traveling when she retired and was diligent in saving her money to do so. But before she had a chance, she became ill and died of breast cancer.
The saying, “Life is short” is one I can relate to all too well. So I ask you, how will you live yours?
For further, real-life inspiration from travelers who had a dream and made it come true, check out my friend Heather Greenwood Davis at GlobetrottingMama.com and read about how her husband and her planned for years to make their family’s round the world dream a reality.
Candace @ NaturallyE
Very true! When we were still childfree, we took a lot of "exotic" trips. Our friends would say they "wished" they "could" take trips like us. But we drove used cars and didn't buy pricey electronics. We chose to spend our money traveling.
Now, travel is a lot more expensive for us because of the kids…but we do try to take smaller, more local trips whenever we can.
Life *is* short.
As my husband's grandfather used to sing, "Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think…"
Carol CainCandace @ NaturallyE
I agree Candace – It changes but doesn't have to go away completely. I love what your grandfather said. Great, great point!
This is a fabulous post and everything is so true. My family loves to travel so we make choices in our lives to facilitate that travel. Right now I am sitting on a couch so old that the cushion quickly sinks in as soon as you sit in it. We make sacrifices to travel and other times we sacrifice our travels for medical bills, summer camp payments, or the busted washing machine that must be replaced. It is all about choices and when I sacrifice travel plans for something else, I make sure that we are exploring free activities in our city or neighboring towns!
So true Jen!!! I hear ya!
Great post! Even though we have made travel one of the priorities in our family life – we even moved from Australia to the UK to facilitate this – and I honestly believe it is a huge benefit for our son (as well as a lot of fun!) sometimes I find travel blogs are exactly as you wrote:
'We don’t often realize that in our efforts to share the world with readers, we tend to alienate a lot of people who truly don’t have the circumstances to support such ideas.'
We are not in a situation to give up careers and travel full time, which is often implied as the real way to travel. We don't really want to either. For some travel is the main or only priority, for us it is but one of a few, and we have only so much in the way of time and money to devote to everything.
Absolutely Natalia. Our lives are often full of more riches than one, and we tend to want to give attention to them all at some point or another. The ability to travel, anywhere, even if just once a year, is a gift in itself, but so are the many other things we give value to in our lives. The point is to keep it on the list of things we should try to do : )
Just reinforces one of my favorite Mark Twain quotes: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness."
Carol CainCarolyn O'Donne
I love that quote Carolyn –and it's so, so true!
Great write-up Carol and thanks for the mention. I agree whole-heartedly with everything. Especially the point of just "going". You don't have to get on a plane to travel. Find a part of your state, region, country…hell, even your own city; then circle it on a map, go, and explore it. If you can go to another country, then great, go (Believe me, going to other cultures offers experiences that traveling domestically doesn't offer), but don't choose NOT to travel because you feel like you have to get on a plane. I REALLY want our country to embrace it because we don't. I have family members that have never even been out of their own county. In many other countries, people are all but required to use up ALL of their vacation days and are even urged to travel by their employers. This is because they see the benefit of travel. Employers see employees who come back and are refreshed, focused, and better employees.
Carol CainSpencer Spellman
I agree Spencer with all you said and with the fact that our country doesn't travel enough. I also think though that our industry, especially that of the travel publications, travel writers and travel bloggers, have failed in sending the message that it IS attainable and possible. I myself don't read a lot of travel blogs because I really cannot related…and I am in it! We can help change the mindset of our culture, but we first have to remember who it is we are writing for. If we want people to NOT feel like traveling is just for the rIch and child-free, than we need to write to others BESIDES the rich and child free. If that's your audience, then that's fine, but with so many of us pursuing those top-notch far away destinations attainable to only a few how can we complain that so many in our countries won't travel? And I have to say, there aren't too many of us trying to do that out there. We can make a difference, but too many of us are caught up in our own worlds to realize it. Our job is to inspire, not brag and only when we learn to do this more often and better, than can we really affect people enough to make them take the chance on an adventure.
Well put Carol. It's definitely made me rethink how and why I write. Nothing against magazines like Travel + Leisure, CN Traveler, and National Geographic, but these are some of the biggest magazines and the ones that people read, so it should really come as no surprise when they read these articles and they would have to put out another mortgage to travel to these exotic places. But on the contrary, you have these super budget backpacker and independent publications and blogs. So what's missing is that middle ground.
Carol CainSpencer Spellman
Yes, I think that is a role worth taking on.
Nice piece, Carol. I, too, love to travel. We use to take international trips every year pre-baby and when I held a corporate job (A.k.a. steady income). Now we just travel when we need to (weddings, visit grandparents, etc.). However, I know my husband and I were lucky enough to do what we did, when we did, and one day we'll be able to do more traveling when our daughter is older. Savor the experiences we had!
Carol CainBicultural Mama
Thanks Bicultural Mama! And remember, traveling with kids is a beautiful experience too!