When you work in the travel industry or are just obsessed with global exploration you will quickly become familiar with common travel quotes which flood social media. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a motivational quote but like anything some are more meaningful than others. However, this past week over exposure to one quote has made me somewhat concerned about what we as travel bloggers or social media users are perpetuating. There is a subject that no one really discusses and I want to take the opportunity to address it today. So what is this famous quote cause of such discontent and subsequent inspiration you ask?
“Travel is the only thing you buy, that makes you richer”
Firstly, I agree… to an extent. I understand the substance behind the quote namely that life isn’t a dress rehearsal and you should do as much as you can to enrich your days with fulfilment. I strongly believe that making the choice to travel is a wonderful long term investment otherwise I would not dedicate my time to a blog with the sole purpose of encouraging others to explore our incredible world.
But this quote is not reality and needs to be applied in the context that is your life.
My concern is that when we live in countries that are ripe with opportunity and surround ourselves with people from the same socio-economic realm we forget that travel is essentially a luxury. In a world where we document our lives through social media my greatest fear is that travel is sometimes perceived as a competition. Do we present our travel experiences not for the pure love of travel but to display what we have to the have nots? Do we use travel as a platform to exhibit our so called success?
Travel shouldn’t be any of those things.
In my very early twenties I was this person, living beyond my means to participate in expensive trips that actually didn’t really leave me richer… just in debt. I wanted people to think I was successful when in reality I was very lost for a long time. I was insecure and being able to proudly list the countries I had visited or the designers I was wearing filled that void momentarily. I remember spending my 21st birthday in Las Vegas and walking down the famous boulevard with bags full of designer goodies feeling on top of the world. It was my ‘Pretty Woman’ moment, minus the unconventional career choice. This feeling of euphoria disappeared very quickly upon receipt of my credit card bill. That’s when it first began to dawn on me that perhaps I was not travelling for the right reasons, that this investment I was making was a bad one.
Travelling for the sake of exhibitionism or to fill a void is financially and emotionally dangerous. As a travel blogger I want to be authentic with my readers about how I manage to travel, the mistakes I have made along the way, lessons learnt and what inspires me now. It starts by saying I used to be that impressionable girl who wanted the champagne lifestyle on a beer budget. In my early twenties I was fearful of being seen as less and a quote like “travel is the only thing you buy, that makes you richer,” only instilled a deeper sense of anxiety that I wasn’t good enough nor had achieved enough.
We now have a generation coming up exposed to even more social media platforms, endless images of supposedly perfect lives and pressure to invest in things which might simply not be affordable or viable at that point in their young lives. The last thing I want is for a young girl that upon perusing my blog or Instagram to walk away thinking she isn’t good enough because she has not seen “150 countries by the time she is 21.”
My life is not perfect nor has it been the norm.
Yes I am a free spirit but I was fortunate to grow up in a family where my father was an expat for some time that travelled constantly for work. Accompanying him or seeing him off at the airport was our normal. I was privileged to grow up in a country that allowed me to go to university and not just receive an affordable education but participate in many brilliant overseas experiences that were again fortunately funded by the institution that I attended. I am very blessed to live in a country where citizens are paid well and thus can afford to travel. However, this is not the reality for many people and we have to stop treating travel as some indication of success… because it is not. This is not to discredit the hard work it takes to save to travel or anything like that but to acknowledge the many factors that have to align for the opportunity to even be there.
Do not compare the course of your life to anyone. Travel is not a race about who can see as many countries first. I assure you if you invest in that falsehood then you will not be left richer in any way shape of form as the aforementioned quote dictates. Travel is a very personal experience, walk to the beat of your own drum and don’t let anyone make you feel less because you haven’t seen as much or have to travel on a strict budget. Whatever you want to see, whenever you want to see and however you chose to see it is your choice alone and you do not have defend yourself to anyone or feel ashamed.
So in my endeavour to be more transparent I want to share something quite personal as to why I am motivated to travel now as I am constantly on the receiving end of questions as to why I am not following a more traditional route at the ripe old age of thirty. First of all I am who I am… a gypsy soul and that will never change. Secondly there have been no contenders in the husband department. I don’t know if I want to get married or have children but I would love to have someone special to share the adventures with. Unfortunately, I have been single for most of my adult life and the relationships I have had have either been long distance or have failed miserably. Everyone’s life is different and honestly being lonely does make me sad but I chose to channel this energy into what makes me happy… travel, photography, writing and sharing.
Thirdly, I entered university very late as a 24 year old that is when I began to really be my authentic self and this crossed over into my passion for travel. I no longer felt the need to impress anyone and wanted to travel because I was genuinely interested in experiencing a new culture and learning about the world around me. Lastly, over the course of 18 months during my late twenties travel disappeared from my life. I went through a huge period of continuous emotional and mental stress. To put it frankly terrible things just kept happening and it was a period of absolute misfortune, violence and mistreatment from others. I stopped valuing myself and needs. Unfortunately just when I thought I was through it I survived a heinous crime which was the cherry on top of an already pretty crappy sundae.
This period of my life completely changed the direction of where I was going and who I was. Once I was through it I was desperate to go out and see the world. Travel became my refuge. That is why I travel now and why I adore writing about the world, photographing it and sharing my experiences. Because life is very short and I am thankful to be here. That is why I encourage others to travel (in their own time) because I do not want anyone to live with regret, fear or a closed mind.
In conclusion, whatever your reasons for travel may be you will walk away from the experience richer if you are true to yourself; honour your interests whilst working within your budget. There is no one to impress but you. For my younger readers or perhaps those feeling vulnerable because they haven’t seen as much, you will get there in your own time and be richer for it you live in the moment. Take what you see on social media with a grain of salt because behind every photograph is a story if you look a little closer.
Happy travels… whenever that might be for you