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Confessions of a Reluctant Traveler

written by Sam and Veren December 17, 2020
Confessions of a Reluctant Traveler

Listeners might be surprised to learn that one of us is what you might call a “reluctant traveler.”  But what exactly is a reluctant traveler? And why is this perspective so helpful to consider, even though its underrepresented in the travel industry?

In this interview-style episode, we explore our differing perspectives on travel and share what you can learn from the reluctant travelers among us. 

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The following written portion comprises of edited snippets from the full length conversation.

What is a Reluctant Traveler?

Reluctant means that you’re hesitant to do something, that you’re not super into it, and you’re dragging your feet a little bit. The most obvious assumption that many people would make upon hearing the term “reluctant traveler” would be someone that doesn’t like to travel. Though this isn’t exactly the case.

I (Veren) do like to travel, but not in the way that you probably think of travel. There are some good things about travel, as we talked about in our last episode. The conventional way of approaching travel, I just don’t like it. Conventional approaches, like country counting, can be problematic for a variety of ways.

My attitude about travel is essentially me railing against the consumerist commodification of travel. I believe travel is a privilege and a luxury. We should be aware of that and be responsible in our travels. In an ideal world, we could all travel freely. However, that’s not the world we live in today.

I’m hesitant to engage in popular modes of travel. For example, I have zero interest in sightseeing. I’m very skeptical if someone tells me that I need to go see or do a particular thing, when they aren’t from that place or have never lived there. To illustrate this, I like to point out that New Yorkers (my favorite people to rail against) do not go to the Statue of Liberty or Times Square. Yet these are the places tourists go. Why?

These popular sights aren’t any part of a New Yorker’s experience living in the city. Instead, they’re part of a compartmentalized Disneyland tourist experience.

The Birth of a Reluctant Traveler

This all comes from a couple of experiences that I mentioned in our transformative travel episode. I knew a lot of people, and one friend in particular, that would travel constantly. And to me, they never had anything interesting to share and they hardly seemed to change. I couldn’t relate to anything this person talked about. It did not make me want to travel.

I’m not saying that you need to travel in order to change yourself. But you’d think that when going to all these far-flung countries, you’d pull out a little something different or at least have a story to share.

Then at the same time, because I’ve moved a lot in my life, I never had this need to have a change of scenery. I’ve experienced many different places and different things in my upbringing. So I want a good reason to experience something else. Usually, that comes in the form of knowing someone in a place that I go visit, and this is why house sitting works so well for me. There’s already a connection to a place before arriving. Money isn’t involved, you can’t treat it just like booking an Airbnb and then showing up.

For me, travel is about experiencing other ways of living. That includes experiencing other cultures. I want an ambassador to show me around. Someone who’s really soaked up the vibe and the feel of the place.

I’m looking to add to my life with travel rather than as escapism from my current circumstances. I like that dialect of traveling and going back home. I look forward to going back home when I’m traveling, and conversely when I’m home, I’m looking forward to traveling. The reason I can’t say that I don’t like to travel is because ultimately I look forward to traveling again. I know I’ll never  –  or at least anytime soon – live a life where I don’t take an opportunity to travel, or where I’m in the same daily routine for a year straight. I just know that’s not gonna happen. 

Travel has become a part of my life and I can’t get away from that; it’s a part of who I am. I just don’t have the same interests that a lot of conventional thinking on traveling has or espouses.

Lessons from a Reluctant Traveler

The reluctant traveler perspective isn’t really represented in the travel industry, because what reluctant traveler would start a travel blog or podcast or start traveling for a living, even if they do like travel?

But this perspective can be very valuable for folks who could get something out of travel, but never considered it. There are a lot of people out there who think, maybe, travel isn’t for them, but the reason that they think that is because they’re using a yardstick they never created. They’re measuring other people’s experiences based on what the marketing wing of tourism says we need to experience in a particular destination.

So think about what you want to get out of travel. For me, that’s the experience of other places and how people live there. What is it for you?

If you’re using your travels as escapism from your life, figure out how you can build that escapism into your everyday life. We can’t travel right now, so how can you travel, metaphorically speaking, from the comfort of your own home?

There are many different ways that you can escape. I love playing video games. I love a really good sad depressing artsy fartsy movie. I read every day for at least an hour or two. It can be fiction, it can be nonfiction. I listen to podcasts.

There are so many ways to get a mental break from your life. You don’t need to use travel. I’d argue that travel is a very impractical and expensive way to escape your life.

Everything is interconnected. If you’re wondering why the world’s a mess, remember that we’re all connected in this. We’re all playing into it whether we realize it or not. It helps to take a step back, take a look at how you do things and ask yourself: why do I do things the way that I do?

It’s an ongoing process and it’s not easy, which is why most of us don’t do it.

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