Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is stay home.
100 places to see before you die, Date a girl who travels and countless other travel happy posts have become cultish memes. We are encouraged to disown our neighborly quotidian life, flee to far flung corners, embrace fleeting moments, and only associate with those passport happy folk that, thank God, have our same transient enlightened understanding of the world.
God forbid we date, let alone talk to, anyone that doesn’t understand what happens at a Moon party in Thailand, possess a visa for Brazil, know the tattooed bartender in Dubrovnik (bonus points for knowing exact location of said tattoos) and understands that Timbuktu is more than a word in a Dr. Seuss rhyme (in fact, it started as a place of nomadic settlement – just like those hotel bars you frequent).
When I pause to think about why I’ve traveled so many miles, I realize most of my ‘adventures’ were concocted in a frenetic FOMO storm without ever considering what I was giving up by leaving.
“Happiness is having that which you already have, Heidi,” said an ex-boyfriend years ago, as I left him for South America and the dream to eat Argentine meat cooked over the pampas. At the time, I was too young and hungry to understand him.
Older and amply fed, I now wonder if constantly frolicking off to far off lands is really the best advice. Is it making us happy? Is it a recipe for self-improvement and enlightenment, or just one for sleep deprivation and self righteousness? Does constant traveling makes it harder to connect with and enjoy our moments at home? Perhaps it even causes adult onset ADD, fostering an insatiable appetite for something new, preventing us from ever being content with that and those “which we already have.”
These concerns apply to leisure and business travelers alike—who similarly start to get itchy if they haven’t seen an airport in a month (myself included).
To help us all in our quest for happiness and to consider the benefits of staying home more often, here are some reasons to NOT travel and appreciate the lives we live at home. At least, some of the time.
1.You may be entertained by humblebragging, other less so.
You will annoy everyone with your social media posts, trying to subtly signal that your jet set life is much better than theirs while secretly combatting food poisoning. When not getting sick, you’ll spend 20 minutes with a selfie stick trying to perfect the shape of your abdominals while aboard an exotic Mediterranean yacht with this beautiful wild haired 27 year old named Don Pablo. You will not post about the horrors of public un air conditioned buses, your constant IBS from changing cuisines and altitudes, or the fact that Don Pablo doubles as a hefty woman named Belinda every Thursday night.
2.“Table for one please” gets old.
You cannot remember what was real, what you dreamed up, or what you humblebrag posted. You have no consistent person to share your memories with…and no, the scraggly goat named Franz in Bavaria on your Zugspitze trek doesn’t count. If you travel as much as I used to—120K miles a year- a lot of it is bound to be solo. You are going to have a LOT of time at a table for one, and also a lot of time alone in your own head. This isn’t always a good thing. (i.e. When Franz the goat starts reciting Nietzsche, you know you have a problem). There is a reason why people have a hard time readjusting after solitary confinement. People need people, especially consistent people, (aka ‘friends’) for happiness.
3. Career choices become disjointed
Many people travel for their careers. I am one of them. However I’m on a mission to taper it after being diagnosed with “Airportloungephilia” where one is more comfortable in an United Club lounge than in their own bed. Constant corporate travel leads you to assume that Sunday night departures are normal. Only boring, unmotivated people have real weekends, you utter, as you pop a pill to feed your Ambien addiction so you can easier cross times zones and smugly claim an immunity to jet lag. If you travel for leisure (I am also one of them) then you start to make questionable life choices, sacrificing resume building blocks for treks across Tanzania. Who needs a promotion when you can take 3 months off to learn what the words Hakuna Matata really means? Try explaining four of those gaps on your resume to someone who hasn’t left their computer screen in two decades. I have given up career advances for mountain treks and ashram chanting. But I have also gained career success by fighting off throngs of plebeians for laptop outlet plugs in Terminal 3.
4. No sense of consistent community.
There is definitely something to be said for meeting travelers on the road. You’ll broaden your mind, learn new things and, if you’re lucky, make friends you pretend you’ll go and visit someday. But there is a whole other argument for nourishing the community you have at home. When I think about the happiest moments of my life-they aren’t in far flung corners of the world meeting strangers on trains. They are with good friends and family curating dinner parties and talking smack while playing rambunctious card games over an old oak table. There is something to be said for people that KNOW you, like really know you, in your home environment. You are different when you travel – you are a temporal version of whatever mask you happen to feel like wearing that day. A new environment cloaks your attitudes and intentions. However, your community at home knows all your masks, what’s under those masks, and most importantly, still likes you. They are the ones that will cross town to help you change a tire, listen to your same breakup story 100 times, loan you their Manolos for a fancy event, and of course, pick you up at the airport.
Of course, some travel is important, and often necessary. However, after 15 years of it, I feel it’s best appreciated and utilized when grounded in a solid sense of home. There is no better feeling than getting off a plane giddy to be back in your own ‘place’ for a long, long while.
What am I doing to reign in travel? I’m getting a dog. Nothing says home and happiness like a furry tail wag. Well, as soon as, er, I return from India.
“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Tim Cahill