Globetrotter (noun): a habitual worldwide traveller.
Also: a point we might have been past.
The Price Tag on our Priorities
They say that you can’t put a price tag on experiences, but I’d argue the opposite: you can put a price tag on anything, and travel has become a first-class commodity. Photogenic travel especially. Photogenic travel is the new Birkin bag. Actually, considering its social media status, it might be even more. Because while material “necessities” often come with labels like greedy, shallow, addicted or phony, travel implies quite the contrary. Authentic. Sophisticated. And funnily enough: Independent.
The globetrotters are not only seen as those living a lifestyle dream, but also as people who have gotten their priorities in the right order. An international experience is considered to be an inevitable chapter of every aspiring CV, and a travel blogger is the kind of influencer that deserves the most praise. So we’re getting hysterical about plastic straws but worship a lifestyle that includes flying from one country to another every few weeks. We cherish our intercultural semesters abroad and volunteering experiences in Cambodia, but grumble about stinky homeless people in the subway when at home.
… At least we got the priorities right.
Achieving a Privilege
As a person who has been living abroad since being 19 years old, I never understand why is traveling being recognized as an achievement. Viewing my own years abroad as an achievement seems like a sick joke. Don’t get me wrong: being able to travel, study and work in different countries and meet people of all kinds and shapes has been wonderful and rewarding. And yes; many components of this journey are achievements that I can definitely be proud of. Handling difficult situations on my own, overcoming my fears or saving money aside are some of them. But overall, my travel isn’t an achievement. It’s a privilege.
Traveling means you’re forced out of your comfort zone so you don’t even have to proactively ditch it. Traveling means you don’t have to take care of certain things back home. It also socially assigns you a fair amount of cultural capital that you don’t ever have to deserve.
Ironically, traveling makes a whole lot of things much easier.
And let’s be completely honest here. While many globetrotters, including a few of my friends, inspire and motivate me, the people I admire the most are often those who have stayed at one place and managed all of these things on their own, without the external push.
Everywhere and Nowhere
It was the book The Christmas Mystery where Jostein Gaarder described two kinds of wisdom in the world .
- One can be acquired through traveling, going places and seeing everything.
- The other one comes from staying at one place and observing closely.
The trick is, you can’t ever achieve both of them in one lifetime. And I feel as if nowadays, we all choose the first kind of wisdom.
Why are the people who choose the second kind of wisdom marked with the stigma of being lazy, small-minded, unsuccessful? Why is expansion an acclaimed merit but cultivation is being frowned upon?
While going might require courage, staying is also a decision that needs to be consciously made.
I worry sometimes that we’ll be the hologram generation that flies from one place to another with a speed of light, this all without developing any hint of substance. And yes, I worry I’m becoming a part of that, too. I’m writing these lines in a loud Starbucs in NYC – ask me again about authenticity, lol. It’s pouring rain outside and I worry that while we’re instagramming the whole planet Earth, we’re missing out on something that’s right around the corner. And that even as a globetrotter, being everywhere with your eyes closed still counts as not being anywhere at all.