There are a few travel blogs I read regularly. One of them is Ben Schlappig, aka Lucky’s One Mile at a Time. Yesterday he posted The Curse Of The Traveler which recounted a story one of his readers posted in the comments of his site. The story goes like this:
“The Curse of the Traveler”
An old vagabond in his 60s told me about it over a beer in Central America, goes something like this: The more places you see, the more things you see that appeal to you, but no one place has them all. In fact, each place has a smaller and smaller percentage of the things you love, the more things you see. It drives you, even subconsciously, to keep looking, for a place not that’s perfect (we all know there’s no Shangri-La), but just for a place that’s “just right for you.” But the curse is that the odds of finding “just right” get smaller, not larger, the more you experience. So you keep looking even more, but it always gets worse the more you see. This is Part A of the Curse.
Part B is relationships. The more you travel, the more numerous and profoundly varied the relationships you will have. But the more people you meet, the more diffused your time is with any of them. Since all these people can’t travel with you, it becomes more and more difficult to cultivate long term relationships the more you travel. Yet you keep traveling, and keep meeting amazing people, so it feels fulfilling, but eventually, you miss them all, and many have all but forgotten who you are. And then you make up for it by staying put somewhere long enough to develop roots and cultivate stronger relationships, but these people will never know what you know or see what you’ve seen, and you will always feel a tinge of loneliness, and you will want to tell your stories just a little bit more than they will want to hear them. The reason this is part of the Curse is that it gets worse the more you travel, yet travel seems to be a cure for a while.
None of this is to suggest that one should ever reduce travel. It’s just a warning to young Travelers, to expect, as part of the price, a rich life tinged with a bit of sadness and loneliness, and angst that’s like the same nostalgia everyone feels for special parts of their past, except multiplied by a thousand.
This rings so true to me. It’s something I think about often — especially the relationships part. Traveling brings you into contact with so many interesting people. It really makes you see how many great people there are in the world. There are a seemingly infinite amount of people I could be friends with but am not, simply because of geography. You meet these people, spend a lot of time with them for a short period of time, and then you or they leave. Probably never to see each other again.
It’s such a weird concept to me. Like DJ the commenter said, I don’t believe this should stop people from traveling, and it certainly won’t stop me, but it does make me value the lifestyle of people who have never left their hometowns. They have a sense of community and belonging — a sense of place — that is so foreign to me.
We travel because we love it, but just like searching for the perfect place, there is no perfect lifestyle. This is life — taking the good with the bad. Everything sucks sometimes. But it’s the hope that tomorrow will be better than today, that the next place will be better than this one, that I will be a wiser person than I was before that keeps us going.
Any thoughts on the story above? What do you think?