This is the stupidest question to ask a travel junkie

So there are all sorts of stupid questions to ask a long-term or frequent traveler, but I think this one has to be the worst:

“Aren’t you ‘done’ traveling?”

Um…what?

How could anyone ever be “done” traveling? This isn’t the sort of activity that can ever be “completed,” you know. Have you seen just how many countries there are and how humongous they get? I mean, come on, guys. India, China, Europe. You could spend a lifetime in some of these places and still have several lifetimes’ worth of adventures left to go.

Stupid Questions
Lots of them.

But it’s worse than that. These people aren’t talking about completing your life-long passion, which would require visiting every country on the planet repeatedly, and thus could never be finished anyway. They’re talking about abandoning it.

There are so many things wrong with this that it’s hard to know where to begin, so I’m just going to ask exactly the same question of something else:

“Aren’t you ‘done’ watching football? Honestly, at your age. You’ve had your fun, but it’s time to move on. You’re an adult now. You’ve got more important things to do.”

Sounds stupid, doesn’t it? It kind of reminds me of that Calvin and Hobbes line: “Calvin, go do something you hate! Being miserable builds character!”

Organized sporting events are especially weird, because somehow the world has come to the conclusion that spending six hours watching fully-grown adults play a game originally intended for children is somehow perfectly acceptable, whereas other, equally useless activities are met with judgy comments like “you’ve got too much time on your hands.” Weirdos!

But there are plenty of other recreational activities that would never get the same criticism as travel. Just take a look at how ridiculous these statements would be:

“Aren’t you ‘done’ mountain biking? I think it’s time you settled down.”

“Aren’t you ‘done’ reading books? How many stories can there really be, anyway?”

“Aren’t you ‘done’ with yoga? Perhaps it’s time to take up knitting.”

Yet, somehow, extended travel (and, incidentally, heavy drinking) seems to be different…at least to certain people. They view it as something mostly for college kids, who might spend a summer backpacking through Europe, riding the trains, staying in hostels, getting drunk half the time, and having the best summer of their lives. Then they come home, and move on.

They move on…from whatever travel has to offer.

This is stupid, because travel is a whole lot more worthwhile than just a silly diversion for college kids. Plenty of people realize this, but the ones who ask “aren’t you finished yet?” clearly don’t. They’ll ask “When are you going to get on with your life?” as though travel is a break from reality.

And that’s exactly the problem. They view travel as a vacation. Whether it’s a beachside spa weekend or a sightseeing tour of epic monuments, they still just view it like a sabbatical. Everyone needs a break now and again, but after it’s over, you’ll get back to “real” life, because travel isn’t real. It’s an escape.

These same people often spend $15 to see a 3 hour movie about Spandex-clad superheroes fighting for justice, and somehow it’s travel that’s the escape?!

Travel is a whole lot more meaningful than any beachside vacation ever could be, and, sadly, these people might just never figure this out. And I don’t just mean the undying cliché of “finding oneself,” although that is true as well. It’s improving oneself that’s more important anyway, and that’s something travel can do, but not if you’re just lounging by the pool the whole time.

Most long-term travel junkies aren’t just out there for fun. That’s part of it, sure, but that’s part of life, and not something to avoid. But for those who keep coming back, over and over, it’s often about discovery, in all sorts of ways: Visiting places they’ve only ever seen on TV, in quick sound bites and brief visual snippets; understanding cultures of distant countries that were once their historical enemies; meeting more new people in a few weeks than they meet all year at home…the list goes on.

It’s hard to convey this to the poolside loungers, but for those who venture forth into the international wilderness, the psychological benefits of immersive, exploratory travel are undeniably real. And, for the scientific types, there’s a growing body of evidence that this sort of exposure to different cultures actually makes people think more critically and creatively.

So why stop? Is self-improvement ever really “finished?”

And it’s more than that. If there’s one thing the world needs in an age of globalization on a planet of limited resources, it’s a greater level of understanding between cultures and borders. And there’s no better path toward accomplishing this than paying your fellow humans a visit.

Twain said it best:

Mark Twain Travel Quote
Pretty sure he spent plenty of his trips drunk half the time as well. You can do both!

And that’s what (good) travel is all about. It’s not about running away from life; it’s about embracing it. It’s about understanding the world around us, and our shared heritage with some of our more distant neighbors, who are a lot more like us than any firebrand politician or cliché-filled Hollywood flick would have us believe.

There’s a whole world out there, and we want to experience it as best we can.

So no, we’re not done. We never will be.

About SnarkyNomad

Eytan is a pretentious English major whose rant-laden sarcastic tirades occasionally include budget travel tips and other international nonsense. You can follow his every narcissistic word on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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20 Comments on “This is the stupidest question to ask a travel junkie”

  1. Good Show! I share your issue with that question and you really hit it by saying it is more the attitude behind the question that is irksome. I would put it more like “why don’t you just give up on the things that I don’t understand.” That way you can conform to a standard that everyone is comfortable with and if it is good enough for them why shouldn’t it be good enough for you? Your pursuit of travel is actually an assault on their delicate sensibility. So keep it up, you and all like you are doing great work.

    1. You’re mentioning something I’ve sort of seen before; a lot of people will denounce something not because they dislike it, but they don’t want to feel bad about how they’re not participating. They’ll say travel is useless, so they don’t have to feel uncultured. People are dismissive of all sorts of other things, too; “you can’t learn anything from a book” or “why bother exercising if I’m just going to end up dead anyway” and so on. People have a certain sort of inertia, and make excuses so they don’t have to change.

  2. I’ve also heard its corollary: “I don’t need to travel, as I am perfectly happy where I am.” Which is even more passive-aggressive. I now try to avoid people who say such things, as talking to them is dreadful and unproductive.

  3. I saw a cartoon once of a father saying to his son, “It’s about time you got married and settled down. You can’t go on enjoying your life forever.”

    When I meet people from poorer countries where traveling is often not an option, people mostly say, “I wish I could do that. I wish I had that lifestyle.” Europeans and Australians are much less likely to ask that question; for them, travel is in the blood. Americans traditionally have the mindset that you work hard all your life and then retire in misery but with lots of possessions.

    in all fairness though, I do sometimes ask myself that very question. Simple answer is ‘when the money runs dry.’

    1. Yes, the American dream is literally one of materialism. Plenty of us talk about wanting to see the world, but certainly not enough. Ugh. Being the world’s only superpower should come with a requirement that 75% of your citizens need to spend a year living abroad.

  4. Sadly, this reaction/attitude of friends and family does not improve as one ages. We’re retired and while most Canadians understand the concept of a ‘snowbird’ spending part of the winter in a gated community in Florida or Arizona they view travel to other parts of the world as being weird, scary and often a serious risk to life and limb.

    I’ve had people tell me I’ll eventually have to return to reality (and at my age – 65 – it’s about darn well time). Family members can be worse. One admitted he didn’t have a bucket list and is perfectly content to stay at home – a clear indication that we’re the ones with serious mental problems. Another refused to even ask after we returned home if we’d had a nice time. Seriously? What’s with that? A few friends consider the past 6 months we spent in the UK and Europe ‘a trip of a lifetime’. Do I dare tell them it’s just the beginning of the next chapter of our lives?

    Traveling slow (we also housesit) is our passion. It’s our reality. It’s the manner in which we want to spend our ‘golden years’. We’ll never be content to just sit in a rocking chair and wait for the Grim Reaper. We’d much rather meet him on the road less travelled!

    A lifelong love of travel has taken us to 25 countries to date. Mark Twain’s quote “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do” is all the encouragement we need to continue doing what we love most.

    Living each day to the fullest is a choice – OUR choice. So if that makes us travel junkies, so be it. We’re delighted to be in such great company!

    1. It’s quite weird, isn’t it? They’re actually suggesting you go live in a retirement community or something, because that’s “real” life. Maybe you can passive-aggressively get revenge, somehow…suggest that you’re thinking of moving into one of those homes, taking up bridge, playing bingo every Friday night, and knitting dozens of unsolicited tea cozies for your kids. Sooner or later they’ll tell you to go off to Australia or something.

    2. “We’ll never be content to just sit in a rocking chair and wait for the Grim Reaper. We’d much rather meet him on the road less travelled!”

      This sounds like something my wife would say :) I got a wee bit of the travel bug from her

  5. I’ve been (or still am) a travel junkie all my life. My first major trip was when I was 18 years old, a 3-month trip to the USA (I’m from Holland), that was back in 1987. I’ve travelled quite a bit over the last 28 years, including backpacking for a year back in 91/92. Life is funny, and now I have been living out of a suitcase for about 4 years – couchsurfing, workawaying, normal working here, not so normal working there, and truth be told, oh blasphemy, I’m kinda done with travelling. I’m a bit tired and so is my battered and tattered trolley (he’s my trustworthy friend by now). Mind you, as soon as I have a found a place where I can plant my weary behind for a while, I’d probably get restless after a year or so. But, it ain’t such a stupid question, one can get tired of it, and believe me, I thought I’d never say this.

    1. I think the people who ask this question are asking it permanently. Most travelers do get tired after a while, but they still want to do it every year. I’m trying to find a good balance between having a real home and being able to travel at least a few months per year, which I think is just about right for me.

  6. You used a meme/quote from Mark Twain, which is spot on. I’m always amazed how the things this 19th century man says which are relevant today. You’d think he was making those quotes in 1980, not 1880.

    As for being “done” with travelling, I can see why some people might say that. Travelling means avoiding responsibilities like finding a wife and having a family, you are spending money, not saving it, you also aren’t even working (although in your case your blog seems to be doing well and might be an alternative revenue stream). Unless you have an online job, you really need to make a choice- FT travelling so no work or retirement fund, or be “done” with FT travelling and work 90% of the year.

    Given a choice, I’d like to find a spouse who also likes to hike in preference to visit touristy city places, and also have kids who do as well. I met such a family 2 months ago while doing a dayhike in Taipei.They were so perfect, I was jealous.

    1. All that is true. Travel obviously isn’t the only way to broaden your mind or enjoy yourself, but it seems like such a youthful thing. Nobody will ever ask you if you’re done hiking. They’ll ask if you can still do it, once you get older, but that’s a different question.

      As people get older, they’ll probably travel less often, but even with just two weeks per year, Americans can still have some great experiences. Not everyone has to be a long-term travel junkie, but a trip to another country shouldn’t be a one-time sort of thing that happens once in your twenties or maybe on your honeymoon…especially if you enjoyed yourself.

    2. I find the Mark Twain quote ironic, because I’m reading his book about his Mediterranean cruise. Apparently the six countries he’s visited so far have not been fatal to his own prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.

      “I’d rather be found next to my bike on the road than next to my bed in a nursing home.”

      1. Hmm. I haven’t read that particular one, but I will say that PRE-judice may fade, but post-judice will solidify even further. If it’s accurate, it’s not exactly a misconception. If you go to Russia and find out that people drink a huge amount of vodka there, then it’s not quite a prejudice anymore, for example.

  7. Yes to everything in this post! I think people ask this because they are insecure about what they have chosen for their own lives. Thanks for point out the difference between going somewhere to vacation as opposed to traveling in a long term, exploratory fashion. The mindset is completely different, though it may look the same on the surface to people at home. I have a cousin that vacations a lot, but I wouldn’t want to travel with him because his style is that of the poolside type and mine is completely not!

    1. Yeah, I’ve told someone before that we couldn’t possibly travel together, and was asked why not. One person wanted to stay in hostels or AirBNBs, and the other person wanted to stay only in hotels of three stars or more. Weird…

      1. I’ve never had to tell someone I wouldn’t want to travel with them, but I do choose wisely who to ask to be travel buddies! I never realized these differences until after I started traveling, though, and in a way I get how a “beginner’s mind” towards travel may just assume that all travel is the same.

  8. My wife and I have realized that there are different levels of travelers and as we get older our preferences change a little. For example, as touristy as Paris can be, it’s still a sight to be seen and worth visiting. There is so much history there. However, when we were 20 we were able to travel during the summer (off from college) and blend in with all the tourists. At 31 and 28, it now annoys us to be sight seeing with a huge crowd and in high heat. Now we travel during the off-seasons and avoid huge crowds and also save a lot of money. We managed to visit Ireland and Paris last year in February (on the same trip) and then we went to Mexico and Guatemala in late September. In about 2 months we’ll be visiting Toronto, Reykjavik, London, Rome, Florence, Amsterdam and Brugge.

    We just got married and people have asked us when we will settle down and start a family, which after a good while we realized we weren’t done traveling yet and that there was so much to see still. Thankfully, as a result of having someone ask us a similar question to the one you posed, we were presented with an opportunity to re-discover our life path together and continue to travel the rest of our lives. That question helped us talk about children and what education we’d want for them and we realized that we’d want to also show them different places so that they can grow up with a diverse mind.

    I love your posts and hope to read more on your future endeavors.

    1. I really appreciate that. I get this question every once in a while, mostly from people at home, though it depends on what sort of friends you have and what country you’re from. Some countries value travel more so than others, so it’s less of a problem. I also think the trends you describe are pretty typical. People eventually like to slow down and have a more relaxed trip as they get older. I’m at the point where I’d rather stay at an AirBNB than a hostel, and, hopefully, never have to sleep upright in a chair on an overnight bus ever again. Hopefully…

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