Friends and strangers alike enjoy my travel photos, my tips, experiences, and insights. And it’s because of this that I love to share them. But all of this – the blog, the kitschy gnome photos, the ridiculous stories – they’re a product of a serious mental illness. They’re the result of a behavioral addiction to travel.
I’ve worked with addicts before, and I know all the signs. So I know an addiction when I feel one. I know the antsiness and discomfort of not knowing where your next trip is going to be. Less than one month ago, I had zero trips planned for the new year. Now I have four.
Right around Thanksgiving, I could visualize a blank 2019 calendar and no confirmation emails in my inbox. And it made me feel a constant restlessness. It’s like the feeling of life passing me by. As if I waited another week, everything might become so expensive that I wouldn’t end up going anywhere all year. A unique feature of travel addiction is that you convince yourself that if you don’t go now, you won’t be able to in the future. This is a ridiculous concern, and it exists largely in my mind, creating the desperate motivation to book something immediately. So one after the other, I started booking flights and hotels and shows and tours.
Somewhere in that holiday whirlwind of travel bookings, I decided to plan travel to a place that I’m a little scared to go to. And it was the best. I haven’t felt a high like that in a long time. It wasn’t like other trips, where I enjoy the rush of booking everything and then I forget about it until three days before the trip. This was a sustained high. I didn’t sleep for a couple of days, a mix of fear and excitement. I kept looking up information about it, reading about other people’s experiences, worrying about what could go wrong, how I was going to tell my mom. And I haven’t felt so excited about a vacation in years.
That’s because my travel addiction is so severe that I’ve developed a tolerance. Because the more you travel, the more ordinary the experience becomes, so the high stops being as good. Now I don’t know if other trips will compare to the excitement of going to a place I find unsafe. Now I need the fear of getting caught up in some dangerous shit in places that I once found a little too risky to visit.
It’s not that I’ve gotten braver. The problem is that I’ve become more addicted.
I didn’t grow up around a lot of irresponsible travel, but I still blame partially my mother for my addiction. She was always worrying about my safety, making me acutely aware that I could die at any moment. And she’s right, I could. And dammit, I have a lot to do before then! I don’t want to spend 65 years of my life miserable so I can have the freedom to do what I want when I’m too old and infirm to enjoy it. I want to do what I want now in case I die next week. I could stop at any time, but why would I want to?
Not unlike your alcoholic friend that’s always trying to talk you into another shot, I’ve become a travel pusher. I’m constantly peddling travel to my friends, in the hopes that one of them will bite. Because if anyone agrees to go, that gives me an airtight reason to book a trip. Can’t miss the opportunity to see them! And if I’m traveling socially, people won’t notice that I have a problem. Everyone gives you such a hard time when they catch you traveling alone.
Like many addictions – drugs, gambling – travel is a pricey obsession. At some point, I was poised to start 2019 debt free. But booking a trip (or four) was more important to me than wiping my debt. It’s not that I can’t control myself; I just don’t want to. Every time I spend any money that’s not on travel, I wonder how far that money would go in miles. $70 at Publix? I could fly to Italy for that much. $40 in gas? That’s one night of hotel anywhere in Europe.
You’d think expenses like that that would make me wanna be a little more careful about my spending. But instead, it makes me wanna book even more travel. Because how could I possibly spend $100 in one regular day where I’m not on vacation. It feels like a misuse of my money. If I can afford that, then I can’t afford to let these cheap fares to pass me by.
This is the sick logic of someone with a travel addiction. It’s a real problem, but it’s one I highly recommend!