Yo! I’m still alive and kicking, and I haven’t stopped blogging. I’ve been busy for the last few weeks, wrapping up the semester and cleaning toilets (because that’s how you get to go to Southeast Asia for the summer), but now I’m getting back onto things that I’ve ignored too much lately. I’ve just been binge-watching Community and been happy that for the first time in months I don’t have any pressing deadlines or courses that suck the life out of me. And I also – on a whim – booked up a three-day trip to one of my favourite cities, Tallinn! So life’s all right.
You want to know what’s not all right, though? Cliched quotes about travel. And boy, are there lots of them. Maybe I just don’t see the appeal – perhaps the hipster in me hopes for a more original, more meaningful way to pinpoint what travel is all about. I have become a grumpy old man, waving my fist and bellowing at the neighbourhood kids to get off my lawn, but instead of kids it’s quotes and instead of lawn it’s my brain. And maybe I have become too cynical to appreciate the worth of a simple thought that can never reveal the whole picture. But it doesn’t change the fact that a lot of these quotes are used to weigh down people who don’t agree with the modern nomadic lifestyle or promote the privilege of the speaker, in a care-free “everyone should travel when they’re young” mentality. If you, unlike me, actually like these quotes, then don’t feel offended that I’ve brought them up. To each their own. If you like them, that’s cool and we can still be friends. But I will be standing over here on my rickety pedestal of self-awareness and hipsterism, and I will be rolling my eyes at you.
The world is a book all right… But what about all the other books? As it is with literal books, people’s tastes differ. Some prefer routine and small town life whereas some are set for the jetset life. For people like me, the way of life is to travel and to experience foreign places. Any direction you choose in your life is the right one as long as it makes you happy. (Unless you’re Hannibal Lecter. Please don’t serial kill people even if it does make you happy.)
Quotes like this are thrown around carelessly without a thought in an effort to inspire others like you, but it’s awfully excluding of those who do not live for the adventure. Those that travel, don’t understand the ones who stay behind; those who do, don’t understand the ones who don’t. It’s a discreet civil war about whose life style is the best. I find it incredible that travellers, who are supposed to be open to new cultures and people and whose lifestyle has been berated time and again, could be so narrow-minded as to say that you can’t lead a fulfilling life if you don’t travel. Travel is not the only way of life, folks.
I could say a lot about this quote that I already said about the first one, but out of these two, I probably cringe at this even more. It sounds good and swell and all, but when you start digging into it, it doesn’t actually make any sense. I understand that the passport in the quote is a figurative element to point out to travel, but I just can’t get over the fact of how ridiculous is. My passport can’t tell very good stories. (Well, maybe this one.) In fact, I don’t even have stamps from most of my trips because Europe is great at unity but terrible at writing stories on passport pages. So yeah, I guess I hate this quote because of semantics. Curses of language students.
How about investing in the stock market? Buying something valuable and re-selling it for a profit? Getting an aid that enables you do to your job? If you want to get all immaterial and metaphorical like in this quote, how about buying a pet? Or clothes for your baby? Or a present for your friend?
Seriously though, I understand where this anonymous person is coming from. Money spend on travelling is money well spent, and the new experiences you buy do, indeed, make you figuratively richer. To me, this quote sounds pretentious, though. Like I’ve already been ranting all post, travel is not the only thing in this world that can make people happy. Dealing in absolutes shows only one side of the argument (and we know that only the sith deal in absolutes). Besides, it’s still only figurative richness. Literally you are stranded in a one-roo town in the middle of Australian outback, and the next outbound bus that you can’t afford won’t show up until two days later.
A while ago I wrote about the importance of knowing your comfort zone, so I don’t think I need to go too much into depth in this one. Life is meant to be enjoyed, and very few of us can seriously enjoy ourselves if we’re challenged, pushed and broken all the time.
At this point of an “I-hate-everything-and-their-cousins-too” rant I have a confession: I sort of like this quote. It has got nerve. It dares you to go further, to explore all you can, to expand the world beyond your litter box. But there is a problem: I don’t think we should go everywhere.
If we ignore the fact that going absolutely everywhere is virtually impossible, chasing that everything can become a dull game of scavenger hunt. Travelling should not be about crossing off specific items on your bucket list. Of course you should have dreams and goals, and you can make plans to visit certain places or do certain things that you have always wanted to, but if you are too fixed on filling up a list or clearing your scratch map, is there even enjoyment in travel anymore? You shouldn’t be going to Somalia just to prove a point, you should be sipping wine on a terrace in Santorini or exploring a mythical jungle in the Amazons. You know, have meaningful adventures. If you reverse this quote, it comes closer to my own travel philosophy: I’m not going to go everywhere, but I will go wherever.
Besides, I don’t think I’d like it if I went everywhere and saw everything. What would be left after that? As much as I love going back to places I’ve loved before, I love the drive of a new adventure and the call of the wild – a place I’ve never been to before. If I managed to visit every place on this earth, there would be nothing left to explore and the world would lose some of it’s mystical gravitas.
All right, now we’re back on the more familiar ground of contempt and vigorous eye-rolling. I personally hate the division between travellers and tourists. Once again, it is putting one life style up on a pedestal while condescendingly glaring at the other. Most of us are both at some point of our travels. You can’t miss out Taj Mahal or the Eiffel Tower just because you don’t want to follow the flow. Danny from The Dusty Compass has a great post about this traveller-tourist-debate that I recommend you check out. Besides, we should not be making a distinction between a tourist and a traveller, but between a considerate, open-minded traveller and a rude, elitist traveller. When you travel outside of your home country, whatever you call yourself you become a visitor, and your traveller’s worth is not in names but in the way you behave towards the new culture.
This one got me boiling when Hostelworld posted it on their Facebook wall some weeks ago, so much that I started writing an angry rant both in the comments section and on my blog before I stopped, cooled down, went to get Greek dinner and decided that this battle was not worth fighting. I think it’s fantastic how many travel bloggers have been tackling the issue of privilege – including some of my favourites like Kate, Oneika and Brenna – because it’s not just something angry Tumbrl wannabe feminists rave about, it is a real thing. Not everyone can travel, and most often it is a matter of money. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got all the courage in the world if your bank account holds just enough to pay for your next month’s rent or for your baby’s doctor.
What infuriated me the most was probably the fact that when someone in the comments section did call Hostelworld out on their bullcrap, their only response was to link an article with five jobs you could do while travelling the world. So after all money is important? Make up your minds, you pseudo-inspirational, self-conflicting instigators.
Are there any inspirational quotes that you hate? Let me know in the comments!