I hate traveling. Yes, I’ve spent a good chunk of my time in the past three years getting from one end of the world to the other just to see my family members. Ridiculously long plane rides with over 30 hours of travel time is something I’m really good at. But I hate traveling. I hate sightseeing, I hate tour buses and tour guides, endless pictures, souvenir shops that sell identical cheaply made Statues of Liberty and paying entrances fees to see some famous poet or writer’s house. Everything looks the same. Display sections of some fireplace roped off in rustic dusty buildings with tourists crowding around it with their smartphones or fancy black cameras. It’s all the same. Every place holds a superlative – the tallest, the oldest, the earliest, the newest, the smallest, the shortest – to promote itself as a place worth spending time and money in.
There tends to be a constant stream of proof on my Facebook feed that all my peers are travelers. It definitely provokes some envy – I want to see Paris too, I want to hike that beautiful mountain too, I want to eat cricket quesadillas too, I want to be cool too. Despite that, I can’t deny the fact that I absolutely hate traveling. I don’t deny the value of travel – it is inspiring, eye-opening and expands one’s perspective. It allows one to see how there is so much more beyond ourselves and that it is naïve to think that only I matter. Therefore this expectation of it being life-changing has been imposed on it. It has been put up on such a high pedestal that choosing to not travel has become this deplorable thing.
When I was presented with the opportunity to study abroad (well, study abroad from my current study abroad) in my junior year, I was highly encouraged to take advantage of it. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, it’s a wonderful experience, you’ll be foolish to not go. I half-heartedly looked into the program offered by universities in England and decided based the fact that some of my scholarships were non-transferable that it was simply not going to happen. All I needed was an ‘acceptable’ reason to not go (‘I hate traveling’ clearly did not pass). I found one and presented it immediately to all the travel-encouraging people.
I’m fully aware that I chose to spend my university years in a foreign country. It definitely reflects the value that I find in pushing our personal boundaries and placing ourselves in an (initially) uncomfortable situation. My time in Kent has been invaluable and an incredibly important part of my life. A lot of this has to do with the people that I’ve met here who have moved me deeply that I can’t imagine life without them. However, I’m also inclined to believe that this will be the case regardless where I spend my university years because I am a young adult and I’m in an extremely formative period of my life. I truly believe that despite my physical location, I will meet people who will impact me deeply. I will meet people who I can’t imagine life without. Getting my Bachelor’s degree in the United States is simply a more glamorous means of gaining such experiences. It makes my time spent mindlessly scrolling through Facebook pages a more ‘feel good’ one because I don’t left out of this whole ‘travel and see the world’ spiel.
I think we fail tragically to see the value of simply staying put. It is easy to be excited and inspired when our senses are constantly being stimulated with fresh and new things – that castle there, this garden here, that museum there, this mountain here, that famous food there. And this is all wonderful and admirable. But what about those who lack the opportunity to ‘see the world’ or what about the ones like me who simply don’t care? What about the ones who have hung around with a place, a person, a community because they find value in what others see as old and boring? Finding joy in the walk home that you have already taken 500 times is precious.
I’m most certainly not condemning those who love travel. It is also easy for me to say that I’m not interested in it because I have already done some of it myself. I understand many people’s desire to get out of their hometowns to see the world beyond their own and I think that that’s great and that they should pursue it. All I want is for people to not look at me as if I’m a fool the next time I say that I simply want to stay put.