The Travel Checklist

I sometimes get sucked in by these little checklists:

I have been to 30

I am not really sure why. When I was younger I used these common travel destinations as a jumping-off place for my dreams. I wanted to travel. I was never really sure why I wanted to travel, but I was a wandering spirit and surely that meant that I had to pick up and go to exotic places. Somehow I got the idea that I needed to go to Southeast Asia. I had no reason for going there, and so I based my trip around Angor Wat. I never made it there though. I never made it further than Guam. I still wonder what would have happened if that one fateful night my money had not been stolen and I had started a three-month backpacking trip. Would I have returned to the US? Where would I be today? Based on my current situation it is hard to believe that I would have made my way back. I tend to just let momentum carry me through pseudo-adventures of distance.

Six years later I have discovered that I do not actually enjoy traveling. I still think I have a wandering spirit. It isn’t that I have any deep roots holding me in one place. I have just realized that I have no real reason to go anywhere. People constantly say that you have to see this and that before you die. You have to experience a particular holiday or culture or festival… I am left wondering why. Why do we feel a pressure to go see all of the things that other people have seen? There are pictures, there are books, and there are interactive maps online. But my hesitation is more than the idea that I can “see” something from the comfort of my own home. I feel like traveling used to be reserved as something difficult that few people could accomplish. Now it seems like every young person has some global trip planned for their future. The world trades on tourism, and travel has become a form of consumerism rather than a right of passage. Maybe I am wrong about that. Maybe I am just jaded. Maybe I am just past my traveling days.

But I have been to hostels over the past three years and in every one there are people glued to the internet, planning their perfect itineraries, not really interacting with anyone. The people I meet traveling seem to be most concerned with how to get drunk, or high, or laid. Secondly, they are concerned with taking pictures of themselves or writing blogs to prove that they went somewhere and did something. With a weekend here and an overnight there it is nearly impossible to meet people and create true friendships. It all seems impenetrably shallow. Then there is couchsurfing, which I used to think was a good idea. Now it just seems like a place for people to meet up to get drunk, and the posts seem quite selfish- “Show me your town. I can’t be bothered to do any research or try to meet people when I am there, so take me out, show me a good time… do everything for me. I’ll cook dinner in exchange.”

Yep. The more I type, the more I realize I am extremely jaded when it comes to travel. I just don’t get the point of it. Perhaps travel is the new cannon. Once upon a time we all read the same books so that people would have something to discuss when they met. Today we all travel to the same places so that we can say, “Yes, I have been there too! Let’s discuss it.” I think I would rather stick with the classic books. Although, there is a tiny romantic girl in me who still dreams of hot summer mornings in spain, drinking coffee and looking down over busy streets… 

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