Travel – Believe the Hype

And why the headline “Why ‘Don’t Worry About Money, Just Travel’ Is the Worst Advice of All Time is the worst headline of all time.

At Love Life Go Travel, we like to think we have a fairly robust, celebratory and self-depreciating travel philosophy (if that’s not self-evident, check out articles concerning a hapless attempt to conquer the Himalayas, or some confessional ‘mistravelling’ stories).

Roadside cafes and redundant Western Union signs
Roadside cafes and redundant Western Union signs: modern-day Laos

I recently came across an article published by TIME  (originally on The Financial Diet) that points out, quite rightly, that not everyone is lucky enough to be able to afford travel; travel is a privilege of the well-to-do.

Bravely walking the inevitable tightrope between bitterness and self-righteousness, the author complains about makes a lot of valid points about the entitled attitude that goes with travelling. After all, we’ve all met that incorrigible douche [1] – the one who simply cannot understand why the people around the campfire would rather go to bed than listen to another of his incredible travel tales.

“They must just be tired…”  *picks up harmonica*

Despite agreeing with the article that post- or mid-travel boasting is ugly, I was left feeling a little hollow inside. I felt like the brand of travel that we’re endorsing is one of middle-class narcissism; sold to the spoilt and fuddy-duddy of Surrey, to those on a quest to ‘lose themselves’ and ‘find themselves,’ with the hefty bill covered by the bank of Mum and Dad.

In a passage deliciously dripping with cynicism, the author begrudges those who preach about:

dropping everything and running away, or quitting that job you hate to start a new life somewhere new, or soaking up the beauty of the world while you are young and untethered enough to do so.

This is what the author calls ‘aspirational porn’ – it’s something you’re meant to resist posting if you’ve been travelling. I feel like the aspirational porn we ought to admonish and ignore is in the middle pages of tabloid newspapers and the front pages of glossy magazines, not on the Instagram feed of SurreyGurl94x.

Sorry, Surrey.

"I'm having a better time of it than you"
“I’m having a better time of it than you” – Singapore

That’s what really got me about this article. It stamped on the hope for happiness that people invest in travelling. It blamed those who shine that beacon in a hope to inspire others to explore. I’m all for silencing the bores (jeez, that’s what the unfriend button is for), but must we blanket-ban all further promotion of travelling? Must we blame the individual for taking the opportunity, and encouraging others to do so? Must we, in a country where the only bastion of hope is a nicely-spoken white-bearded chap, impose the sanctions of the… dare I say… jealous?

Agnes Ripplier wrote “the impulse to travel is one of the hopeful symptoms of life” and I’m inclined to agree with her. Travel teaches us how our home could be, it immerses us in a temporary utopia, and it crucially provides us with hope for a better future. To deny individuals that, instead of criticising the powers that deny it of individuals, seems to me hopelessly short-sighted.

So… a little hope!

The article claims that ‘losing yourself in Southeast Asia’ costs thousands of pounds. It can cost that much, if you are travelling without much of a budget, or if you have a budget but you’re not prepared to shit into a hole. Those that fit into the aforementioned categories are, in my opinion, giving travel and tourists something of a bad name.

This type of traveller, the ‘flash-packer’, [2] is liable to ‘lose themselves’ somewhere on Khao San Road, and ‘find themselves’ shortly afterwards in a ping-pong show with 2 Changs and some half-digested pad thai all over their brand new ‘insert-ethnic-beer-name-here’ vest. This can actually be very fun on occasion (see ‘mistravelling’) but if it becomes a habit, your travel experience soon becomes an exotic Magaluf, with slightly more cockroaches. That’s not what anyone wants, I hope.

There is another way…

'A journey of the thousand miles begins with a single step' - Lao Tzu
‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’ – Lao Tzu

Anyone interested in travelling should know – you can do it on the cheap. Better than that: you’ll have a better time.

First, let me make a very simple comparison.

  • Return flights to India: £400. Daily allowance: £15. Cost of one month: £850.
  • Average cost of package holiday to Ibiza: £500. Daily allowance: £50. Cost of one week:  £850.

Can’t afford a month off work? Do a week in Albania. Can’t afford flights? Get on a coach and discover a little bit about your own country. Heck, check out a different pub.

I’ll give the travel-critical author this: she does come down pretty hard on the gushing romantic captions that are increasingly attaching themselves to images of mountaintops and World Heritage sites. Travel is not the answer to all of our problems, and geographical escapism is not something I’d prescribe willy nilly.

What I will say is this: what’s wrong with believing the hype?

I’ve met countless people who dropped everything to see the world: a Dutch nutter who rode a patched-up bicycle from the south to the north of India; a Swiss family in a 1960s campervan who’d over-landed into Burma and were negotiating passage into Thailand; an elderly Kiwi couple who’d sold their house and had made the heady decision to travel until death.

They weren’t worrying about money, and they didn’t have much of it. They were out to have a good time and to forget about the mundanity of life. They were chasing the essence of hope across continents.

I wouldn’t begrudge them a second of it.

Love Life; Go Travel
Love Life; Go Travel

1. As the saying goes: if you’ve never met this person, you’re probably him.

2.Admittedly pretentious backpacker code, meaning ‘knob’.

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