This post is a response to the following article:
Escapism? Really?? Whoever thinks travel, especially the long-term kind, is simply a form of “escapism” has failed to acknowledge that travel has its own host of challenges just like life in “the real world”. Life is no easier or glamorous when you are traveling, it’s just different.
I could even say living in “the real world” is a form of escapism from life on the road, no? I won’t because I know that both types of lifestyles have their benefits and drawbacks, and neither type is necessarily “more right” or better than the other.
So, no, I don’t feel it’s fair to write off travel as escape from a sedentary life that has the potential in the long run to satisfy you and fulfill you more than your traveling life. I think – I know – people set out in the world doing all sorts of alternative things. They certainly aren’t the majority, but that doesn’t mean their lives are unfulfilling.
Now about hedonism: I agree that a lot of travel involves partaking in hedonistic activities, but I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.
As I’ve said before, travel is rewarding because when you travel, you remove yourself from everything that is known and comfortable to you, thereby removing any expectations you may have about how you should or would act in any given context. Without these expectations about yourself, you’re free to do new things – things you might not have tried before in your familiar or comfortable environment.
And it’s when we do new things that we grow from the richness of a diversity of experiences.
The hedonism – the “getting drunk, fucking strangers, and getting adrenaline rushes that weren’t as cheaply available as they were at home” – is part of doing new things. Giving yourself permission to try on new “selves” and in that way, you learn what you like, what you don’t like, and more about who you are.
(I am not condoning getting drunk and fucking strangers – I’m using the language from Matt’s article. I think most of the time the hedonism he is referring to is more like spending the day on the beach in the sunshine, drinking out of a coconut. Or indulging in a boat trip with friends on the lake even though it’s more expensive than you would like. Just generally doing things that you want to do because you think they will make you feel good. In the end, some of it does make you feel good and some of it doesn’t, and that’s the learning part.)
Lastly, I don’t think checklists and bucket lists are silly or stupid. If you look deeper, you see that they reflect goals and I don’t think anyone out there is willing to argue that setting goals for yourself is bad practice.
I check off things in my Lonely Planet guidebooks not as an exercise in and of itself, but to keep a record and to feel productive and proud of myself. Most importantly, acknowledging these experiences is how I build the story of my life – what I’ve seen and experienced in my life that then becomes who I am.
Matt, I am glad you are living the lifestyle that fits you best right now, but it doesn’t mean other types of lifestyles are inherently bad. I’ve said this about people who quit their job to travel and compulsively write about travel as a magical life elixir; neither lifestyle is inherently right or wrong. You can travel, you can not travel – the key is knowing what fits you in this moment in your life and going out and doing it.