“Too often travel, instead of broadening the mind, merely lengthens the conversations.”
Travel Isn’t Always all Nice and Dandy
Most people associate traveling with escaping to a nice exotic place, partying, drinking Coronas, swimming in beautiful crystal clear waters, and sleeping in.
That may be part of traveling, but there is actually an extremely insidious quality inherent to traveling that many people don’t realize until they come home: the return.
The very act (and consequences) of repatriation has been discussed before, but I want to go into specific detail on two feelings I consistently felt after “coming home.” Arrogance, and later, Discontent.
Welcome to the World
Travel always broadens the mind. That, I think, is unavoidable. The degree to which it broadens your mind, however, is actually the question. The issue is that once you return home, you may start realizing there are some things about “home” you don’t like or downright hate.
You may realize that you suddenly perceive your fellow countrymen as well mannered, poor mannered, civilized, or uncivilized. You may think they are well dressed or poorly dressed compared to the rest of the world.
You may think you are a spoiled brat and have more than you deserve. Or you may think that you deserve more.
The first time I came back from overseas (where, I actually don’t remember) the most memorable part of my trip was… the absolute downright dislike of America/Americans I felt when I came home. (Keep reading, this is not a rant on why I hate Americans.)
I thought Americans had god awful manners. You mean you don’t eat meals with a knife and fork?
I thought Americans dressed terribly. Your jeans are way too big, you wear tshirts on all occasions and look like bums, and baseball hats are still worn on a daily bases by grown, married men.
I thought Americans were naive and stupid. Honestly? You don’t know what country Prague is in?
I thought the American governmental system was awful. Downright criminal laws regarding healthcare, criminal prices for a college education, and being very slow to join new, greener policies were the norm.
And then it hit me.
I had encountered one of the most insidious bugs of traveling. Arrogance.
Arrogance can sometimes be extremely difficult to spot by yourself.
A very predictable phase most travelers go through first is feeling like they are the shit. I felt like the shit because I (thought) I knew more than people, and then I felt like a total prick once I realized how ridiculous my assumptions were.
Traveling can bring you to a worldly, evolved state of mind. Or you can end up like a real asshole like I was (am?), none improved whatsoever.
Watch Out For the Next Round
Coming home from a long trip can evoke a motley crew of feelings: nostalgia, happiness, sadness, discontent, arrogance, and so on.
It was (and is) always unsettling for me to come back to where I live. People around me are particularly concerned about whose lawn is greener, whose kid went to Harvard, and who got a new beamer.
Sometimes when you travel and come back to such blatant materialism you just get tired of all that shit; you want raw life, you want passion, you want experiences that give you goose bumps again. Sometimes life just doesn’t cut it anymore and you need to escape again.
Everyone’s concerns just seem so unworldly and completely trivial. You wonder how people can be so near-sighted to care about such unimportant things in life.
The phase will pass. The arrogance phase will pass. The discontent phase takes a little bit longer, and often takes a lot of introspection.
But for now, just remember that traveling is totally worthwhile, completely possible, and despite the fact that you’ll probably encounter lots of problems, it will teach you myriad lessons, especially humility. It will teach you lessons whether you like it or not. So you had better sit back and prepare for the ride.
Next on the list: Addressing Discontent after coming home from a trip.