Reasons not to travel

I just got back to Prague and I haven’t even gotten an apartment yet, but I already have my next trip booked out of here. In an odd way, that’s how people like me commit… to people and places. I promise to love and cherish this city at least until my next scheduled flight. I can’t promise I’ll love it forever. But I’m so smitten that I’m already planning a trip out of here for the month after.

My desire to travel is like a compulsion. I need travel like most people need air. And that’s why I do it. And why I encourage so many people to do the same. However, there are some pretty good reasons not to travel, as well.

Don’t travel just to say you did it.

I was recently helping someone plan a trip to Europe. He insisted I include Poland in the itinerary even though it was quite out of the way from his intended route.

“Why do you want to go there? You can save that for another time,” I advised him.

“It borders Germany. Just pick whatever city on the border that’s close. I don’t care what it is. I just want to say I’ve been to Poland.”

What an asinine thing to do. Travel is expensive and exhausting. Why would you go out of your way to visit a place you don’t even care about just to say you went? So I asked him to name one city in Poland. And he couldn’t, of course. So it stayed off the itinerary.

Don’t travel to win an imagined social competition.

I used to have a friend who made it her mission in life to try to outdo all of us in how many vacations she could take a year. If I was going to three countries, she wanted to go to four. It took all the fun out of even talking to her about vacations. I don’t travel to compete; I travel because I love it. And I can’t even imagine what it feels like to want to travel only to one up another person, but it sounds like it sucks. How do you even get to enjoy yourself? Social media has made this even worse, because you’re surrounded by friends’ travel pictures. But don’t become obsessed with taking bigger, better, more beautiful trips than some random person you went to high school with. You should be happy for them, and cheer them on their own adventures.

Don’t travel to be closed-minded and judgmental.

As a traveling American, I wish more Americans would heed this advice. Because you give all of us bad name around the world. You are one tiny person in your little corner of the world and there are billions of people who are different from you. So when you travel to their little corner of the world, you should accept and respect their customs, their opinions, and their way of life. If you’re going to spend your whole trip complaining about how much better everything is in your country, then save yourself the aggravation and stay there.

Don’t travel if you’ll only remember the things that went wrong.

Travel is an exercise in letting go and accepting that you can’t have it your way, despite what Burger King has been telling you your whole life. Things will go wrong. You will miss flights, you will end up missing out on things you really wanted to do, you will end up eating bad food, you may get sick. But if your memories of your trip are going to be centered around the travel catastrophes, you will never enjoy traveling. Because catastrophes happen. Learn to look on the bright side and to appreciate the good in even the worst situations.

Don’t travel if you don’t want to.

As much as I love to encourage people to do things outside their comfort zone and go to interesting places, I have to concede that some people simply don’t care about travel. And that’s okay, too. If you don’t like the idea of sleeping in a tea house in Osaka, then don’t do it. Let’s face it, when we do things begrudgingly, we’re no fun. No one wants to spend a vacation they’ve been looking forward to with a person that doesn’t really want to be there. So even if it’s all the rage, and you see your friends doing it all the time, if travel is not your cup of tea, then go enjoy something else.

So travel because you love it. Travel because you want to see how the sun sets in another hemisphere. Travel because you want to walk where the heroes of history have walked before you. Travel because you want to see how the other half lives. Travel because you want to learn. Travel because your life depends on it.