There is one universal constant that I have experienced while traveling around the world. Regardless of where I am, when I talk to strangers and mention traveling, there is invariably someone who says “I wish I could travel!”
It is a fair statement and something I used to say myself.
Recently when I have heard this, I replied, “What is preventing you from starting?”
This is an uncomfortable question for everyone involved. It breaks the boundary of small talk and has the chance of being deeply personal. That is what makes this question so powerful. Uncomfortable questions give people an opportunity to change their perspective.
The responses I have received have fallen into only a few categories:
“I can’t afford to travel”
If this is their completely honest answer, then fair enough. However, for the majority of people who live in developed and prosperous countries, I strongly believe this reasoning is only an illusion (my former self included.) For most, not being able to afford travel is really just a reflection of their current and past priorities. If someone has an income, that money is being spent somewhere. Is all of that stuff on their credit card bill really more important to them than traveling? According to their bank, it is now, but does it have to be in the future?
Traveling does cost money, there is no getting around that. At the same time, we now live in a world where travel is cheaper, faster and less dangerous than any other time in human history. Flying from New York to South Africa costs only 10 cents per mile (7,973 mi / $816 USD) and takes less than a day (see second footnote). By historical standards that is magic!
Do you have to fly to the other side of the world to travel? Of course not! There are no minimum requirements for what constitutes travel. The price tag does not need to be stifling. The important aspect of travel is the experience not the proximity from where you started.
While I have never had the guts to voice this to a complete stranger, the statement “I can’t afford to travel” reminds me of the trap eluded to in my all-time favorite quote:
“If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to build theirs.” – Tony Gaskins
This is a legitimate trap to be stuck in. It happens to smart people every single day. But how many of those smart people even know they are trapped?
If you do not take actions to live your own dreams, who will?
“I am scared”
Admittedly, no one has ever stated it exactly like this to me. They always express that thought using much more soothing and verbose language.
Fear is an important and useful feeling. It is an indication of a personal boundary. Without fear, we would have no chance to grow.
The truth is that there really are some dangerous places in the world. Happily, these places tend to be very well publicized (a story of violence travels much faster and wider than a story of a good deed) and limited to a small amount of locations. Violent places are incredibly easy to avoid.
Opposingly, the list of good places to go is much longer and as the world’s middle class grows, this list grows.
“I’d love to, but I have a family”
This is a legitimate but potentially dangerous mindset. Traveling with a family (regardless of the distance) is indeed more complicated and more expensive than traveling alone. It is only logical and nature to want to save money and insure security and stability for those you love. The point where this reasoning stops being beneficial and starts to become dangerous is when efforts to save money and eliminate danger, start to stifle education.
Education is not merely the pursuit of knowledge, it is the pursuit of understanding. There is no better teacher of understanding than the world itself. You can read stories in a classroom and watch historical documentaries but it is not possible to truly understand the events of the world unless you seek to experience them.
In the long term, what more could one want for their family?
Traveling with a family is not easy but it is important. It teaches children and adults alike lessons that are far more important than what they can learn in a book. If ones current job does not allow for this opportunity than maybe one should ask if they have the right job.
I recently discovered the following thought experiment online:
“If in the distant future you were on your deathbed and had the chance to come back to this point in your life, what would you do?”
This post is an invitation to step back and reevaluate your current lifestyle.
Each one of us gets caught up in the minutiae of daily life. Bills need to be paid, fears need to be quelled and family members need to be taken care of. But what about the big picture? The seemingly small actions you take every day become your life story. Are you writing the story that you want to read later?