By the time I was 22, I had taken more planes than my parents in their over 100 years of life combined. I had seen nearly half of all US states, many countries in Europe, and even some far away places like Japan, Sri Lanka, and Australia. “What a privilege,” I thought. “What a blessing.”
I also realized that I’d seen more than 99% of people ever will, and with that, once I returned home, my desire to travel shrunk to almost zero. It has been ten years since then, and of course, I’ve traveled a good deal since, though not nearly as much and definitely not as far.
Thanks to its ever-decreasing costs, travel is quickly becoming the addiction of choice for many people, especially in the West. They want to go anywhere, everywhere, and see it all, ideally all the time. Of course, taken to an extreme, travel is as poor of an escape as any other drug, hobby, or form of entertainment – after all, no matter where you go, you’ll still be you.
Whether you’re a travel addict, can’t afford all the trips you’d like to take, or are stuck in a place that’s hard to escape from, let me offer you a realization that has helped me find tremendous comfort within the confines of my tiny flat: The only way to see all the places you want to visit – and do it in one lifetime – is to do it in your imagination.
How much more efficient, to stroll through the streets of Spanish cities by reading Dan Brown’s Origin, to daydream about flying across the Gobi desert, to climb Mount Everest in your sleep. Every book compresses a lifetime of human experience and perspective. Read one from a citizen of every country, and you’ll have been around the globe.
Better yet, write your own. They needn’t be 200 pages. It can be a three-page story. You know what’s based about traveling inside your mind? You get to pick so much more than just the destination! You could be kitesurfing world champion, a grandmaster in chess, or your country’s first woman president. Best of all, you can do things unaccessible to even the wealthiest of traveler’s today: You could slay a dragon, or ride one, or find a sunken treasure we aren’t even sure exists.
It’s easy to turn real-world travel into yet another infinite to-do list game we can’t win. That doesn’t take much courage or ingenuity at all. But to see it all with your own eyes, your own mind, the way only you can see it? That sounds like a true explorer to me.
Use your mind more so than your wallet. It truly is a blessing to be able to afford travel in small doses, but your brain is free to use – and that is the greatest privilege of all.