I don’t travel to live. I don’t travel to learn. I don’t have wanderlust. I won’t tell you to go explore, or to lose yourself and find yourself. If you can’t do that sitting in a park, the problem is the desk in front of you. I won’t talk about regret, living in the now, someday, maybe, and dreaming big. There’s no destination. No journey. No inner growth.
Aragorn was an asshole. Robert Frost misunderstood. Anthony Bourdain would flick a cigarette in your face if you ever met him.
You might travel for freedom and adventure and risks. You might throw a dart at a map and live out of your suitcase. Destination elsewhere. Push the outside of the envelope. Step out of your comfort zone. Take a picture of you at a lake topless. Wear heavy wool sweaters around campfires in the woods. Drink whiskey and coffee and tobacco (but not cigarettes.) Friendship. Campfires. Be free, be wild. Take a voyage, a journey, just breath.
It’s an indulgence. All of it. Bubblegum travel shtick. Schmaltzy. Gooey. Riddled with self help, inspirational quotes you might find on a “Barbie Goes to Paris” video. Nobody travels for these reasons. Anybody who says they do is as full of shit as the admen pushing their photoshopped, meme-worthy, stock outdoorsy/travel photos that don’t say much more than “white person was here.”
Don’t travel for any of those reasons. I promise you, you won’t be satisfied.
Travel for the same reasons people smoke cigarettes, boozehound, and philander: it relieves anxiety and depression. The best part about travelling is that it’s better for you than the previous three. You won’t get lung cancer, a DUI, or an unflattering STI that you’ll mistakenly pass on to your spouse. You’ll get some debt, a tanline, stronger legs, more instagram followers, a bite into your savings, and a story to add to your “things to help me get laid” pile (unless you’re a girl, in which case traveling won’t help, at least in America).
I walk around with occasional anxiety that informs me, often, of my unsettled place in this world. I’m not right, the people aren’t right, the world itself isn’t right. The trigger changes day to day. Sometimes it’s a girl not liking me, other times it’s money, or that I still don’t do exactly what I want to do–or at least enough of it. More often it’s a feeling that I’ve simply conjured the illusion of an interesting me, when the real Chris is far from it. It doesn’t matter. Everyone has their own thing. The world itself is fucked up enough that you can cherry pick what you want to feel bad about (Americans are best at this). This anxiety does not warrant medical attention. It’s not enough to push me into pot dependency or alcoholism. It is enough that anyone who gets close to me should be concerned that I might drop everything–job, spouse, comfort, friends–to become some wide-eyed train hopping hobo.
My first desire to travel stemmed from that feeling. I was seven years old. I didn’t understand that anxiety is not rationally motivated. All I knew was that I didn’t want to be here. Not here in my room or this house: here on Earth. I filled my pillowcase with a sandwich, a blanket and probably a “Goosebumps” book, and headed out the door. I turned back at the bottom of the driveway because I was scared shitless of being alone in the middle of the night. Seven year old’s aren’t very rational either.
I’m 31 years old now. When that same anxiety hits me my reaction is no different. All I want to do is run away. Ditch my house, my job, my friends, my family, ditch it all for an imagined retelling of the end of the world: me alone in a cabin with a shotgun and enough canned goods to last a half century. Traveling allows me to indulge in this unsafe, irrational, and probably self destructive fantasy without having to commit to dropping the H-bomb on me and everyone around me. That makes me feel like a hypocrite. I don’t want to foster real change. I don’t want to create a world in which that anxiety doesn’t exist. Like most hypocrisies, mine is rooted in lethargy more than anything else. I’m lazy. It’s easier to buy a plane ticket, it’s easier to book a hotel, it’s easier most of all to put on a backpack, stuff it with food, fuel, and a comfortable shelter, and give myself a week away. I can hike to a lonely spot atop a mountain and imagine a view of the world’s end. It’s the only way I know how to come back strong.
© 2014 Christopher Dart