The case against the case against travel

A few weeks ago, I came across this piece making the case against travel. There has been some interesting commentary on the piece already (here, and here), and I wanted to share some points:

1. One thing worth appreciating is context: while travel has remained the same in many ways, it has also drastically changed. The author quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson, who passed away a couple of decades before the plane was invented. After a century of innovation, there’s no way travel looks the same now as it did back then—let alone with Socrates and Kant.

2. For each prominent person who was quoted making a case against travel, there are many more in favor of it. Some off the top of my head: 

  • Maya Angelou took a job because it afforded her a chance to travel Europe
  • Leonardo da Vinci travelled around Italy seeking opportunity
  • Joseph Needham travelled to China for research
  • Yayoi Kusama left Japan for America (as did Takashi Murakami)
  • Virgil Abloh never stopped travelling (as does Tyler Brûlé)

It’s worth noting a quote attributed to Thoreau, who literally built a place to get away from everyone, “We should come home from adventures, and perils, and discoveries every day with new experience and character.”

3. Some parts of this post deeply resonate with me. For starters, I’ve grown to dislike bachelor parties immensely; they seem like the dictionary definition of the case study the author is railing against, which I’d agree with. Admittedly though, even the most superficial of trips does bring people together in a very special way.

4. A deeper level of travel, and the experiences that come with it, bring the very intangible value of shared experiences, cultural references, and memories. It creates a lot of moments for heart to hearts, and also opens up opportunities to see new dimensions of people that are harder to see in the routine of the day to day. Travel brings people together sometimes because you need to survive together, and there’s a level of trust that ages very well.

5. In my case, travel has opened up my eyes, mind, and heart in ways that staying in the suburbs I was born in simply wouldn’t have. It’s easy to get caught in the mundane. It’s also too easy to let convenience determine your destiny; travel is purposely irritating, filled with pains of minor indignities and culture shock, because it shakes routines up. I’ve returned from travels to my parents’ pleasant surprise at my improved Cantonese, being able to support friends with their travel plans, or with a wider general perspective. For me, these happen slowly, in subtle ways, over weeks and months—not a, “Wow I changed my life in a week,” situation.
6. I highly recommend travelling, if even only for a road trip. The less you can be bothered to travel, the more likely it is you’ll probably get something out of it. See my post on changing your physical environment for improved creativity.

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