Monday, February 18

Travelling Sucks

Here's an interesting fact: since September of last year I have used planes more than I have any kind of public transport in London. I state this not with amusement or even pride, but with a little bit of shame and incredulity. As I return from Karachi, I'm even left hoping that I manage to spend at least a month in the UK before leaving the country again. Before you scoff at my ingratitude, in my defense the relationship I have with travel had begun to deteriorate well before the spate of trips these last few months.

Just like I would never describe myself as a foodie, neither would I ever consider travel to be a passion of mine. This is in spite of hitting 69 on the Travelers’ Century Club's list (here). It would be easy to conclude that the reason why I don't enjoy it as much as my peers is because I've done my fair share, but I think the reasons run deeper than that. I guess I just don't fundamentally buy into the idea that travel is a necessity in life, or the only (or even a good) way to grow. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that the current global obsession to travel is a bit of a fad.

My best and most memorable trips have always been social. So to see native friends in Hong Kong or Singapore, or family in Canada or Pakistan, or to attend weddings in Australia or Mauritius. Some trips have even been a combination of all three. These are the trips that remain with me years after, and the trips I feel really lucky to have been on.

But most of my trips will have none of that, and I find that I have to "epicify" it to make it really worth it - clearly in compensation for my lack of enthusiasm. And so I cross multiple borders, create long road trips, veer as much off the beaten path as I can. My trips therefore tend to be quite dense, an idea that is usually anathema to those who, unlike me, list travel as a passion.

It's interesting to note that the non-family/friend/wedding trips have all usually been instigated by others who would have had the generosity to invite me along. For me travel will always be a luxury rather than a human right. It is something that comes to me rather than me to it, and if I ever lost the opportunity to travel (for example if a future partner doesn't enjoy it, or I no longer have the financial means to do so) I'll be okay with leaving it all behind. Given the world we live in I do see this as being unlikely, although maybe the frequency will reduce.

The thing is that I don't think I'm alone in this. Although travel seems as accessible and popular as ever now, I do often wonder just exactly how popular it would be if Instagram (or whatever) didn't exist. Would people be as enthusiastic about it if they weren't able to tell others where they had been? It's not surprising then how correlated travel is with social media - after fashion and beauty and food it appears to have the most visible number of "influencers" and posts desperate for likes.

It's often claimed that travel is supposed to be about self discovery, but that was a reason that didn't seem to matter as much to us before the Internet. I suppose we don't get to see the people who don't post about their trips so it could just be a visible minority who see "holiday publishing" as the primary point of travel. The danger of course is that the importance of travel itself may have been inflated way past its true value - there are many who, like me, believe that travel isn't entirely for modest people due to its inefficiency, lack of sustainability and polluting aspects. Travel itself isn't alone in this - take for example the food industry and how that's been transformed by social media and the Internet. Whole topics and industries have been subject to "blog eyes".

But whatever the detail, as time goes on travel does feel like a bit of a hassle to me personally, and sometimes it almost feels like I'm labouring the point just by going. This jadedness means that I'm not as impressed with the otherwise unique and amazing things that I get to see. This might just be the curse of the blessed, so perhaps I've just simply been desensitised. Then again maybe I'm just lucky? I've often claimed that the top ten most memorable moments I've had in my life have all happened within 10 miles of where I lived, so perhaps I just don't see the point of travelling for life experiences that will never really make the cut.

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