traveling, some pros and cons

or, my blog-worthy response to  “HOW COULD YOU NOT LIKE TRAVELING?!?!?!?!?!”  all standard caveats apply, notably that everyone has very different travel styles and goals. 

“But that’s the wonderful thing about foreign travel, suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most basic sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross the street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.” –Bill Bryson, Neither here nor There

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” – Seth Godin

REASONS WHY TRAVELING IS BAD

  1. costs time and money.  i generally budget $200/day/person for traveling.  there’s sort of this wedding mentality: most things you will only have the chance to do once, so you might as well spend money on the best.  additionally, my mom generally requires 95% of my PTO, and negotiating a scarce resource when others/SO’s typically have endless PTO is difficult.
  2. it’s exhausting and stressful.  between sleeping on flights or different time zones or staying up late or waking early, or trying to hit certain events or maximizing your time in a foreign land or trying to communicate through cultural/language differences, it’s difficult.  getting back from vacation, i often find it relaxing since vacations are more stressful than work. 
  3. or, if it’s not exhausting, it’s really easy to get nothing done. and then on the other side of the spectrum, it’s also really easy to just end up sitting around and or just do one thing each day and dilly dally a lot with the remaining time.
  4. lack of optimization/compromise. traveling in a group and having to do things together means compromising.  doing things that you wouldn’t want to do if you were by yourself.  people have different travel styles (e.g., “MUST DO EVERYTHING” vs. “i just want to relaxxx”) or different interests or different budgets.  disneyland vs. magic mountain. 
  5. the simple things in life become infinitely more difficult.  something as simple as checking your email, ordering delicious food, getting a good night’s sleep, finding your way home all become exponentially harder. 

UNCOMPELLING REASONS WHY TRAVELING IS GOOD

  1. “you can experience new (sensory) things.” new food, sights, architecture, fashions, histories.  “new” doesn’t make it “better”.  most new foods really don’t taste very good.  sights, i’m unconvinced viewing them in real life is that different from seeing a really good blu-ray documentary (if not worse).  after seeing the stuff that is breathtaking (certain national parks), everything else looks like garbage.  and i’m still not convinced that most of traveling is just being able to say crap like “oh, X?  i’ve tried that, it was alright” or “oh, Y?  i’ve seen that, it’s like a poor man’s version of Z”.  this idea of one-upsmanship.  that traveling more makes you superior.  a friend: i havent traveled at all, family hasnt been abroad since parents married and it’s just embarrassing to me.  i want to go to a couple places solely for the sake of saying ive been and not seeming like a sheltered idiot
  2. “you can experience new (cultural) things.” this is more so geared toward those who “don’t do the touristy things” and want to “experience a day in the life” and “enjoy talking to strangers at bars” and backpacking.  what bothers me about this argument is that there is simply so much diversity in san francisco or in the bay area.  there is such a breadth of sexuality, socioeconomic status, religion, industry (sort of), etc.  in the same week, you can talk to people who lived through the aids epidemic, watch a religious ceremony at a mosque, try one of the 30 ethnicities of food in the city, go to circus school or a class about bdsm or play a spy game.  i guarantee that most SF people have only scraped the surface of the diversity of the city in a meaningful manner–is it really worth traveling to discover different things?  and is the immersive feeling of traveling actually better than just reading or watching some foreign biography or film? 
  3. “it’s fun adventuring with friends.” good times are had on vacations, don’t get me wrong.  but most of the time, the things that i treasure most from vacations are the most ordinary.  i remember on my latest trip to taiwan, the most memorable thing that happened on the trip wasn’t the trip to the cultural center or visiting the island resort or any of the special things that we planned, it was this really chill goofy night playing cards with the family at home.  on my trip to LA with daniel, one of my favorite moments was settling down after an exhausting day at a mexican restaurant.  or pregaming in the parking lot and watching game of thrones while we were waiting for dinner.  it’s the people you go with and not the country that you’re in that makes it epic (most of the time), and i think it’s irrational to think that you have to leave your home to have a great night with friends.

from a really solid okcupid profile: (daniel’s lucky i didn’t see this before i dated him)

there seems to be loads to explore, surprises around every corner, and i’m excited to see what’s out there. but for me, new things are only as fun as the people you share them with so i’d sooner enjoy the familiar with a loved one than run around solo, i’d rather stroll hand in hand than frequent a club, i’d rather cook together than go out (unless it’s ethiopian or indian or some other tricky recipe), i prefer even a quick phone chat to any length of texting, and i seek substance over novelty. good company makes even the most simple times special.

ACTUALLY GOOD REASONS FOR TRAVELING

  1. captive audience. my mom generally insists that we travel somewhere everytime i go home to atlanta.  there a couple consequences of this: we have been basically to every tourist destination in the southeast.  my sister, the family’s de facto travel agent, needs to stress over some trip logistics.  but most importantly, the vacations provide everyone with a captive audience.  there’s nothing like a forced conversation from a 5 hour car trip.  or not being able to go run off to do work.  or having a dinner date with high school friends.  or running errands.  exercising.  going home to our perspective homes to sleep.  basically you get their UNDIVIDED ATTENTION, bonus points if you go somewhere without cell phone reception.  and that is something that you cannot get back home. 
  2. people put their best foot forward/are open to trying new things. traveling gets you out of the routine of life that we sometimes find ourselves in.  where we always do the same thing and go eat at the same dinner place and go out to the same happy hour and hang out with the same people.  but traveling puts you in a different mindset, to be adventurous, to be bold, to switch things up.  which is a good thing.
  3. irrational sentimental value.  things just seem more memorable on trips.  it’s like a special bond that you share.  like hazing.  “remember that time on our spring break trip!?!?!?” it’s nice from an existential, led-a-fulfilling-life perspective.  shared experiences can drive emotional connections.

SOME OF MY FAVORITE TRAVELING TRIPS.

  • half dome – good bonding with mark.  the hike/view combo experience is very bucket-listy epic and accomplishment-feeling.
  • EDC – intense, fun, crazy, decadent, exhausting
  • a night in vegas with sean – spontaneous, bromantic, adventurey
  • tahoe with party cat – hilarious, intense, great people
  • disneyland with daniel – magical, escape-y, romantic

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One thought on “traveling, some pros and cons

  1. phenothebest says:

    haha, you really hate traveling James. I think your item 2 in Uncompelling good reason and actual good reason has something you haven’t mentioned. Local people in the place that you travel to behave differently whether you are local or a “traveller”. In that sense, you do get a different experience when traveling. Of course, whether that’s an actual plus or not is debatable, haha.

    Also, you are able to list your favorite traveling trips, would it rank higher or actually lower that your favorite non-traveling experiences? Maybe traveling still has its value. haha

    All said, it’s just to make you look forward to our next trip! hahahahaha!

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