Does Travel Change You?

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
One of Mark Twain’s popular quotes. After my travels for four weeks to Ireland and beyond, I agree. Perhaps it could be updated to say that “Travel is fatal to narcissism. And all of us could kill off some of that in ourselves these days.”

Does familiarity breed narcissism? It’s something to consider. In many ways, life today breeds greed and self-centeredness. Writing a resume is a narcissistic endeavor, and the whole process of having and keeping a job seems to make us more preoccupied with ourselves and less friendly to ‘nature’ and other souls. It also keeps us stuck in one place. So stepping away from ourselves and traveling might offer some perspectives that change us.

I guess it must also be said that traveling is different than a vacation—at least I see it that way. A vacation is like a possession, something owned, and you hit a tourist spot where people ‘serve you’. Travel is experiencing another culture or delving into the history of an area. A vacation is designed to return you to your ‘ordinary’ life rejuvenated yet unchanged, while travel returns you home as a changed person hoping to be less ordinary.

I remember when I first visited Grand Canyon and decided to live near there. It felt like a magical place. Hikes seemed to buoy my spirit; a week in the wilderness rejuvenated me. I can’t say that my love of the Canyon has died, but the sense of magic and rejuvenation from being there feels less. Maybe it’s my familiarity, even a sense of ownership, because of how many miles and how much time I have spent there. It doesn’t scare me or awe me as much as it once did. It’s not an escape like it used to be, but I feel like I can go anywhere in the world because I lived at the Grand Canyon.

I certainly feel different after my latest travels, but now that I’m back home I wonder or worry about falling back into the same old ruts. I realize now that I burned out on the whole resume writing and having a job thing five years ago or so. It became something I had to do rather than defining myself to attract a good situation into my life. In some respects my resume and LinkedIn profile felt like a ‘fraud’, and I ended up attracting fraudulent people and situations into my life. I wonder now how to get back to being authentic and doing what’s true to me.

One idea I’ve had for a while is to create a ‘new media’ website with a travel non-blog. It wouldn’t be like other stuff I see out there. I don’t want to commercialize it like the power couples who travel everywhere and give you 12 tips on such-and-such, and add links to merch that gives them a small kickback. That seems to be turning travel into a narcissistic endeavor, a possession. The idea I have wouldn’t be personality driven; it would be topic driven or even philosophical. I don’t want it to be a business, per se, because most business people I know are caught-up in narcissism. I’m wondering about something that is funded by grants or some other nonbusiness means. Truth is that I don’t know how to get there, but the idea has been coming into shape while traveling and seeing so many people stuck in place. I’m wondering how to get all of us a bit more ‘unstuck’, starting with me.

As for now, I will continue here, and if these new ideas come together I’ll point to the new space.

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