I am passionate about travel. Anyone visiting this site should be aware of this. But just because I love it doesn’t mean I’m not aware of its faults. As with many other things in life, there are both pros and cons to travel; ups and downs.
I get some of the cons thrown at me every now and then from people who don’t understand my desire to see the world.
“Why would you want to be away from home that long?” they ask. “How will you afford it?”
So I decided to take a look at both the good AND bad about travel, so that maybe next time I’ll have a solid argument for all the skeptics.
The Pros and Cons of Travel
Pros of travel
Escapism. Travel allows you to escape. Whether it’s from a bad relationship (or perhaps no relationship at all), a job you hate, or simply a boring, sedentary life, sometimes you feel like you just need to get away. Travel is the perfect form of escapism – far better than reading a book or watching a movie – because it actually means you get to leave your current situation. You can trade in whatever is making you unhappy for something different, even if it’s just for a little while. A change of scenery is sometimes just what you need to get over boredom or the blues, and being far removed from a problem or stressor often allows you to look at it through new eyes.
Travel is a learning experience. Seeing other parts of the world and immersing yourself in foreign cultures opens up completely new avenues of discovery. Travel in itself can be educational, and can open your eyes in ways you never thought possible. Through travel, you can become more aware – both of yourself, and the larger world around you. A traveler has the unique ability to be a citizen of not only his/her own country, but also of the world.
Ability for self-discovery and reinvention. When you’re out on the road meeting new people and opening up to new experiences, you may find that you are also slowly reinventing yourself. Or perhaps letting the self you’d like to be finally emerge. Travel can be liberating in many ways, but especially when it comes to self-discovery. Being thrown into a foreign culture (or even into a not-so-foreign culture) without all the comforts of home can be challenging, but it’s often those truly tough, personal challenges that will help you grow as an independent individual.
Opportunity for adventure and spontaneity. Travel can open up so many doors and provide for so many adventures, both planned and spontaneous. If you’re in the mood to make a lasting memory, get out and see the world. Let life happen, both to you and around you, and just go with it. Who knows where it could lead?
It can be affordable. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a millionaire or have a large trust fund in order to travel. Saving a little here and there can go a long way over time. Being a deal hunter and looking for alternative accommodation can pay off. And, if you choose destinations where the cost of living is low, a little can go a long way. For example, a month of your U.S. salary could easily last you two, three, maybe even four months in Southeast Asia or Central America.
Cons of travel
Escapism. Yes, travel allows you to escape. But sometimes escaping can take the form of running away. Whether it’s that bad breakup or loss of a job, sometimes you just want to leave it all behind and do something crazy, like move 10,000 miles away for a while. But if you truly run away and never look back (or never confront the initial problem that sent you fleeing), travel may do more harm than good. Escaping a bad situation is fine, but hiding behind the guise of travel in order to avoid dealing with that bad situation is not quite as advisable. Eventually, you have to face your demons.
Being homesick. Even if you aren’t terribly close to your family, it’s likely you’ll still feel some semblance of homesickness at some point during your travels. Maybe you miss your significant other. Maybe you miss a sibling or cousin. Hell, maybe you really miss your cat. Being away from home can be stimulating and wonderful, but it’s not unnatural to fall into a funk every now and then when you pine for “home.” The good news is that things like Skype, Facebook and e-mail make keeping in touch incredibly easy in this day and age.
Missing family milestones/emergencies back home. Maybe your sister gets engaged, or has a baby. Maybe grandma dies. Maybe a close friend gets diagnosed with cancer. You’d love to be there for all of these important milestones and tragedies; you want to be able to offer your love and support in person, and not through a computer screen. But, it’s likely to happen if you’re traveling for any length of time. Life at home will go on without you, and it’s one thing you just have to come to terms with.
It can be costly. Just as travel can be affordable, it can also be extremely expensive. Many European countries, as well as Australia and New Zealand, have incredibly high costs of living. If you’re dead-set on moving Down Under for any length of time, for example, that $10,000 you saved up over the past two years unfortunately isn’t going to get you very far. The same goes for hard-to-reach destinations like Antarctica. If you’re dreaming of the ultimate budget travel adventure, you may have to edit your list and cut many places – like the South Pole – out.
The addictiveness of travel. They don’t call it the “travel bug” for nothing. Once it bites, it can infect you with an insatiable desire to travel that never goes away. Once is often never enough, as evidenced by the scores of travelers out there who are on the road indefinitely. Especially if you’re prone to becoming addicted to things that give you a good high, don’t expect one trip to ever be the end of it. This can easily turn into an incurable sense of restlessness that no amount of movement can satisfy.
Looking at this list, I’m sure I’m not alone in deciding that the “pros” far outweigh the “cons” when it comes to travel.
With any great adventure or endeavor in life, there are going to be risks, and there are going to be sacrifices.
Some people might put “the dangers of travel” on the cons list, but, really, just getting in your car and driving to work each day is dangerous. Sure, there are risks to travel, especially long-term travel. But life itself is a risk.
RELATED: The World Is Not Safe – But You Should Explore it Anyway
The sacrifices, though, are real, and do exist when it comes to travel.
But if I have to sacrifice some family time to better understand my place in the world, I think it’s worth it. If I have to substitute one destination for another because of finances, then I’ll do it. And, honestly, travel is just about the best thing a person could become addicted to, as far as I’m concerned.
If traveling could mean that I’ll never want to stop… well, bring it on.
What’s your take? Do you have anything to add to the “pro” or “con” list? Do you think one side outweighs the other?
I definitely agree that those issues are a large part of the travel industry, and have written other posts on my blog about sustainable tourism. This post, however, focuses on the personal impacts of travel.