This article was originally published on RELEVANT Magazine’s website.
I wish I could travel more—and I don’t mean travel to Idaho or Maine for the weekend. I’m talking about exotic places, like the places you see others visit while scanning your newsfeed.
I think it’s part of the twentysomething story to either wish to travel more or to actually do it. Inside many of us is a restless and adventurous spirit waiting to find fulfillment on the open road.
Recently, though I discovered that traveling doesn’t provide the fulfillment I expect it to give me.
I hoped for traveling to quell my boredom of life and make me feel as though it counts for something, but that’s not what traveling is for. Our wanderlust culture wants us to believe that traveling will give us everything we’re looking for. But that simply isn’t true. Travel didn’t satisfy me. It didn’t give me what I believed it would.
Many of us expect traveling to give us more than it should because that’s what we’ve been led to believe. We’ve read far too many articles encouraging us to quit our jobs and hit the road. We have too many travel memoirs glorifying the adventure. We expect travel to fulfill us because myths have led us astray and misinformed us about what it actually means to travel.
I realized these myths once I chose to reconcile my traveling experiences with my expectations. Here’s what I discovered:
Myth 1: Self-Discovery Only Happens On the Open Road
For some odd reason, I believed self-discovery was bound to happen anywhere other than where I was. Whenever I had a question about myself, I packed my bags so I could discover a revelation on the open road, one that would transform my life forever.
We’ve been convinced of the lie that the truth about ourselves exists outside our hometowns, when that just isn’t the case.
Yes, sometimes self-discovery is more noticeable outside of our comfort zones. But what we tend to forget is, sometimes we can be uncomfortable where we are. Discomfort can find us in our job, in our relationship or even in our own homes.
Staying where you are and traveling have been put at odds with each other, when the reality is neither option helps you discover yourself any better. Rather, self-discovery can be found anywhere. Maybe, when we finally see this for ourselves, we’ll learn to grow and mature where we are, without packing our bags.
Myth 2: Traveling Teaches You That It’s Not About You
To be honest, I first chose to travel because I wanted the story. I wanted to take Instagram pictures of my adventures and have something to tell people when I came back home. If I zoomed in closely on my travels, I would see that my motives weren’t exactly selfless. I traveled to feed my experiences.
This came as an irony to me later, because our wanderlust culture impressed upon me that travel should teach you that life is not ultimately about you; and yet, I traveled for me. When I came back home, I still had the feeling that my travel was for my personal empowerment. It didn’t teach me much about the world not being centered on me; it just made me feel better about my life.
Traveling can open your eyes to a much larger world, one where people are in pain and need compassion. But what no one tells you is if your motives aren’t that selfless to begin with, it’ll be hard to break from the idea that traveling was for you, not others.
Truly, traveling should teach us that life isn’t about us; but if we’re stuck on having the better story, this lesson will be hard to come by.
Myth 3: Traveling Will Give You the Life You Want
I struggled with this myth the most. Many times, I thought that if only I was traveling more, life would be better. I only learned to combat this feeling when I stayed in my hometown for an extended period of time. My relationships at home grew deeper with intimacy, and for once, I felt I couldn’t leave them.
I know many people who dread traveling. I used to be confused by this, but now I understand it a bit more. It hurts to be away from family and friends who love you. I no longer think the recipe for a meaningful life involves me being away from the people I love. I don’t believe the solitary life of traveling is something I want.
Our culture tells us traveling is the life we want, but now I know the best adventures can sometimes be had right where you are, just as long as you have a few characters willing to join you.
It’s no easy task to work backwards from the expectations our wanderlust culture feeds us with. Sometimes, when we ingest these expectations, we can trick ourselves to believe this is the life we truly want. But the truth is, it’s OK to not travel, because in the end, travel doesn’t give you all that it claims to.
Traveling is a joy, but it’s not a solution. It’s time to return to the idea that life can be fantastic anywhere, on the road or off it.
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