Traveling as Exploration

This is something that has been on my mind recently with the recent developments in ethical travel, the travel community and travel culture: travelling as exploration, not as consumerism.

I wrote a post about this in the past, but I wanted to expound upon how shifting my focus to traveling as exploration has shifted the way I travel as a whole and my goals when traveling, too.

As I wrote in that post, I used to have a goal of quantity travel: 30 countries before 30. I bought into the lie that the more countries you’ve seen, the better you are. The more cultures you’ve experienced, the more sophisticated you are. But I was forgetting very important details: quality will always trump quantity; it doesn’t matter how many countries I’ve been to, it matters what I learned there and how much time I was able to spend immersing myself.

(One of the amazing ceilings in Vatican City.)

I have since shifted my stance. I no longer care how many countries I visit. I no longer care if I see every country in the world or every state in America. What I care about are having authentic experiences and seeing what’s around me.

What I care about is exploring my world, not turning it into a commodity.

This shift in my mentality has led me to start wanting to experience more of what is around me, including in my own state. Because I know longer see travel as a collection of experiences that I must collect (gotta catch ’em all!) but one everlasting experience, I have found myself finding more experiences that I truly enjoy. I am traveling for the sake of exploring and discovering, an Alice in her Wonderland, not as the next consumer looking for their next product.

Since making this change, I have also found that I’ve become more social in going out. Now I want to see what’s downtown, what speakeasies I can go to, what stores and experiences are in my own city. This is a far cry from the girl I was only a few months ago who would only leave the house for a trip or to go to work.

This also means that I’ve done more travel in Florida. I went to Mount Dora, I went to Lake Wales, I plan on going to Eustis and Tavares this weekend to stay at one of our haunted hotels. These are experiences I would have never considered in the past because a weekend off meant going to a new state or even to Mexico. Now it means taking advantage of what’s near me and creating beautiful memories with what I have.

(The beautiful roses at the Elizabeth Park Garden in Hartford, Connecticut.)

Overall, like most of consumerism, I find travel culture to be harmful. The idea of perpetuating this myth that you should travel to collect experiences and find the most beautiful places you can, snap a photo and add it to your Instagram as a badge of honor is terrible. I also think it’s harmful to promote that in order to have a valuable and wonderful travel experience you have to go somewhere “exotic” or far away. Why can’t we build beautiful experiences all around us by seeing the cities in our states or provinces? Or even monuments and events in our own cities, too?

Why has travel become synonymous with wealth?

What has travel culture done to how we view travel as a whole?

I hope to promote that there are so many ways to find amazing things to do near you. That where you’re at right now is good enough. That you don’t have to spend buckets of money for a valuable experience. Please don’t misunderstand me: I value my overseas trips. I value, greatly, getting to see other countries and cultures and I hope that other people can do so, too; but I hope they can do it for the sake of knowledge and learning, not for the sake of bragging rights and pretty pictures. And I will still take advantage of my longer teacher breaks to see more of the world, but that shouldn’t be the only time I’m traveling or the only time I’m seeking knowledge and other points of view.

Traveling, to me, should be a never ending experience. It should be a form of self-improvement. It should be synonymous with curiosity, not with pictures. It should be something that someone comes away from changed and enlightened, not entitled and selfish.

(The trees from my recent trip to Toronto. They were my favorite part.)

I could get into more here – like about how traveling can lead to a harm to a country’s economy if you’re not careful, how travel – in general – is damaging the planet and my journey to finding good offsets for my own adventures. But I think that those topics might be suited for another blog spot.

So, what do you think? Has travel culture corrupted the way you see travel? How do you see travel? Do you agree with me or think I’m off my rocker?

5 Comments

  1. As someone who studies travel, I completely agree with you. I always love the feeling I get when im on holiday. The feeling of learning new things and soaking up different cultures. For me, travel is a part of my life, its an opportunity to grow as a person.

    Like

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