Monday, August 15, 2011

When I'm at home, it's more talk, less pictures

Sometimes I try to think about this trip, why I'm doing it, what I want to get out of it. When we think about big vague questions like this, without any clear directions, we end up telling stories. Some stories you can tell about long-term travel:

1. It doesn't sound like fun (the "satisficer" story)
This is one thing you could say, that I of course disagree with. Well, sort of. There are (at least) two kinds of "happinesses" and correspondingly at least a couple of kinds of fun. Travel is fun in the remembered mind; not as much in the moment. But this assumes that "fun" or "happiness" is a number you're trying to maximize. Hold that thought.

2. It's a long fun vacation, and therefore irresponsible (the "archie bunker" story)
3. It's a long fun vacation, and therefore totally rad, bro (the "hedonist" story)
Jason Peters's essay against "vacation" comes to mind here. In short, vacation is a symptom of the unhealthy outlook we've developed towards our lives. Traveling doesn't mean you're taking a break from something, and one would do well to integrate it with our lives instead of thinking of it as a time out before we get back to our crummy grind. In this case, I'd come down closer to the hedonists than the Archie Bunkers. But if vacation isn't the goal, what is?

4. It'll actually help you with your career, dear aimless college graduate (the "careerist" story)
Nomadic Matt would agree here. Nomad Lawyer Paul Karl Lukacs would then demolish him. 's fine. It probably depends on your industry; if you're something new and hip and entrepreneurial like a "social media consultant" (ugh), your travels probably will help you find or create a job. If you're something more established like a lawyer or banker (ugh), probably not. Either way, I'm heading to grad school (insh'allah), so I'm not so worried about that here.

5. It'll lead to some greater appreciation of life or whatever (the "deep travel" story)
I got the term from Tony Hiss. Any number of travel blogs will sell you this story. Wait, not quite, let me amend that:
6. It'll lead to some greater appreciation of life or whatever, but only if you get "off the beaten path" (the "not-a-tourist" story)
Any number of travel blogs will sell you this story. Some examples I used to read: Nomadic Matt, Everything Everywhere, Go Backpacking, Almost Fearless. Apparently travel blogging is a small industry now. (along with writing books like "Eat, Pray, Love" I guess.) I'm a little soured on most travel blogs because they posit traveling as the answer to everything, talk about really getting off the beaten path, and then write a lot about southeast asia, hanging out on the beach, making new friends, and trying scuba diving. There's nothing wrong with this! But it's nothing profound!

Backlash against travel bloggers sometimes makes a few waves, like Caitlin Rolls's essay in Thought Catalog. That's a little off too; I don't just want to go party with some new short-term friends. Jessa Crispin's response is probably closest to what I'm trying to say.

It's a lot of new experiences and a lot of different memories. Much like a machine-learning system can be improved in unpredictable ways by adding more data, life can be improved by adding more diverse memories. That's my story for now. That, and:

7. It seems like a good idea at the time. (the "Gramp" story)

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