Have we made travel too special?
Look, I get why we do it. Travel is a special thing, and it’s impossible to enjoy something so special so much without talking about it in hushed tones with lofty modifiers and intense urgency. We love travel, and we want to communicate that love to everyone around us so they can enjoy it as well.
Is it working, though?
In a world where half of Americans aren’t taking their vacation days, where is that love? In a culture where couch surfing seems to take precedence over days at the actual beach, who’s feeling that love? When we pile up work on top of work and our response to “how ya doin’?” is always (and I mean always) “good…busy,” is it possible that we’re loving the daily grind more than what we’re supposed to be working for?
This column isn’t making the argument that travel is anything less than one of the most awesome pursuits we can strive for—that is most certainly true.
However, have we put travel on such a pedestal that we’ve set it up as an obstacle, as something too far out of reach?
My favorite travel memories growing up were never the big and crazy family road trips. That’s not to say those weren’t amazing (they were), but my favorite memories will always be the Saturday mornings that my dad roused me before the sun and put me in the car en route toward some secret destination. The first couple of miles, I’d peer through half open eyes, intently trying to see which highway we’d be going down and which direction he’d set us on.
Sometimes, our adventure would only take us a few towns over.
Other times, we’d hit that stretch of southward bound road that I just knew would mean a day trip to Chicago.
These weren’t trips that took months of savings or planning, nor were they extravagances of a spoiled childhood. We made do with what we had and turned a flea market, art museum, comic book store, county fair or minor league sporting event into lifetime memories.
Now, years later and always with memories of my father rattling around in my head, my wife and I are instilling this ethos into our children. Life is not a rat race toward a destination. Life is supposed to be enjoyed with the people we love. We are supposed to work hard to make our little patches of the world a better place and then actually live in that place.
Don’t have any good ideas of where to go or what to do? Pick a direction, book a hotel and then Google “Things to do in PLACE X.”
I guarantee you will have infinitely more fun doing whatever you find than you will on the umpteenth night at home complaining that there isn’t anything good on Netflix.
No matter where you live, there are local festivals, artisans and communities dying for your support. In every area of the country, there are countless day trips or overnight excursions that are within your fingertips.
None of this precludes the big trips, either.
Want to take a cruise? Go on a cruise. Stop dreaming about it and find your beach.
Want to hop on a plane and start getting your passport stamped? Go. Do it. Stop waiting.
Worried about all your (real and metaphorical) stuff while you're away? Stop...just stop. We build these sand castles for ourselves and pretend like they're the be-all, end-all of our existence. Your stuff is just stuff, and that goes for all of your responsibilities and busyness. Turn your blasted phone off once in a while and realize that you never dreamed of being a slave to your job as a little kid and your own loved ones probably didn't sign up for that either.
Plus, guess what, a little time away is almost guaranteed to help your job performance far more than sitting at your desk and just wishing you weren't there.
Oh, and don’t ask me how you’re going to pay for it. You already know. Take the little things you do to waste time—the Redbox movies, the takeout, the retail therapy—set a little aside today and then leave it alone until you can start using it to do what you really want to do with it.
Aim for the big trip with a specific date in mind, but start booking what you can afford today. Don’t go into debt for your dream vacation and don’t make your dreams so big that you’re not trying to achieve them. In fact, stop calling them dreams. Make travel your frequent reality.
Stop making travel only aspirational. Travel is attainable.