I read a post over at Early Retirement Extreme a few weeks ago, that asked what the appeal of travel was to people. The comments were as interesting as the original post.
I guess I just kind of took for granted that everyone liked to travel, but as I am constantly reminded, people are each different and enjoy (or don't enjoy) different things. Take retirement for example!
I just spent a week visiting San Francisco and had such a great time. I've lived there twice in my life, for eight years as a child, and then as an adult for 18, so more than half my life. But something about visiting for a week was so much different than actually living there.
Here's the deal, humans are complex, multi-faceted beings. You can't always be everything that you are at a given moment, because when you're always in the same environment, you tend toward operating the same as always. Maybe even taking some things for granted, or failing to notice beautiful things right in your own backyard (since you're focusing so hard on getting rid of those weeds.)
You know how when you are cooking and you add salt to something, it can actually bring out the sweetness of the dish? That's how I feel about visiting other places. You get to be you in a different place, and sometimes that brings out a slightly different you, one that you may not have been for awhile.
Because I was staying in North Beach, the neighborhood I grew up in, I was flooded with childhood memories. I thought of my mom a lot, and I love when that happens. She died nearly 30 years ago, so when I experience the memory of something I've long forgotten, it's a gift. So many of those memories are hiding beneath 30 years of more recent ones, it's not often one of them floats to the top.
On the way to our pied a terre, I drove my husband on the route I used to walk to catch the school bus to Treasure Island, up Montgomery Street, down Green Street, and along Grant Avenue. I walked the route, hand-in-hand, with my best friend Margarita every day. Doug and I were amazed that two six-year olds walked alone that far each morning. (That was of course, until my mom harassed city hall long enough to get the city to put in a stoplight down at Montgomery and Broadway so we could walk just two blocks to the other stop. I guess it just never occurred to our mothers to actually walk us down there to cross that busy street!)
The coin-op laundry mat on Grant where I spent hours coloring while Mom and I waited for the laundry was still there. There are still dozens of small shops in Chinatown selling fresh fish and produce, just like the ones she and I frequented, going from place to place for all the ingredients for dinner. And Doug and I walked up to Coit Tower just like my dad and I did so many times to let my mom have an hour of peace and quiet.
The sights, sounds, and smells of North Beach and Chinatown took me back to my childhood and let me be a kid again for a week.
Who will I get to be when I head off next to New York? I'm not sure what part of me that will uncover, but I look forward to finding out.
I also read that same article a few weeks ago but I had trouble relating to it at all. "Getting away from it all" is certainly a common phrase and no doubt there are people who go on these landmark tours, since we see lots of ads for them. My personal observations over the years, however, have been much different. Out of the hundreds of people who've told me where/why they are traveling, I'd say pretty close to zero traveled to learn how people in other cultures think or to see landmarks or to get away from it all. Hence, I couldn't really relate to the article.
It seems like common reasons for travel are considerably less high-brow than you might expect. The most common reasons I've heard were actually pretty simple: Went to visit relatives or old friends. Went somewhere that is more suitable for my favorite hobby (e.g. fishing, sailing, hiking, horseback riding, etc). Went to visit my home country. Went somewhere that is currently less hot/cold. Went to a major sporting event or concert event. Went to visit my childhood neighborhood, my old college town, or the like. Went to the same place I enjoyed once before but took along new people to share it (e.g. children, new spouse, new friend, etc).
Although people suggest that in the abstract all of these sorts of items have technology and no-travel substitutes, I seriously doubt people would find them fulfilling themselves for their particular situation. If you like visiting your parents, and like to go fishing, and like the cool weather in Canada, then I don't think calling your parents on the phone and looking at fishing videos and turning down the air conditioning 5 degrees is going to cut it.
As for why some people REALLY like travel, I don't think that's associated with extraversion like many comments expressed. Isn't the "travel bug" most close associated with what psychologists call "openness"? (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Openness_to_experience ) I certainly think so. The day before I travel somewhere on a reasonably long trip I am absolutely giddy. I can almost not contain myself thinking about the fact that I am going to be roaming around and experiencing new things. I'm not a highly extraverted person, but I'm way off the chart on the openness factor, and that is pretty consistent with the theory.
Posted by: S. B. | July 25, 2009 at 06:08 AM
@S.B. I love getting this type of comment that really gives me something more to think about. I think that's a great observation--while people that know me tend to think of me as an extrovert (because I talk a lot), I need a LOT of alone time to be happy--so think I'm really more of an introvert. And when it comes to travel, I don't generally engage people on more than a superficial level in my travels--so I agree, that probably doesn't account for the like or dislike of travel.
But the openness thing. It's made me think that not just enjoying travel but enjoying retirement may have more to do with openness. For the obvious reasons for travel, but also in retirement, you have to be open to new ways at looking at your life. After all those years of being "accountant", or "finance professional," you have to be open to listening to who you are and what you want to be doing without that role defining you anymore.
Thanks for your thoughtful comment.
Posted by: Retired Syd | July 25, 2009 at 08:48 AM
I'm in the minority on this, but I dislike travel (business or "pleasure"). In fact, it thrills me that since I retired, I can no longer be sent on trips against my will.
That openness theory is interesting. I'd have to say I'm pretty low on the openness scale - routine and down-to-earth is a much better definition for me. And I'm an introvert as well (not shy at all, but really a homebody).
I do enjoy seeing new places and especially seeing different flora and fauna, so I will satisfy those needs with day trips or short weekend trips. But anything longer than that I just find myself thinking about wanting to get home.
However, I am loving early retirement, and I think not needing a travel budget helped me get here sooner.
Posted by: RetiredAt47 | July 25, 2009 at 07:26 PM
@RetiredAt47: Well you are definitely right about that travel budget part!
Posted by: Retired Syd | July 25, 2009 at 10:31 PM
When I travel I discover as much about myself as I do about the places that I visit. You're right; that change of environment lets us find other ways of being, dig out parts of ourselves that might generally be dormant, and see new perspectives. I think that if I could I'd just travel all of the time. Is it tiring? For sure. Can it be frustrating? Indeed. But for me there's nothing that brings as much joy - in the anticipation, the experience, and the memories - as travel does. Keep on truckin' girl!
Posted by: Sylvia | July 31, 2009 at 06:40 PM
So how do I (a woman like you, syd) work out this whole travel thing when they're in a relationship with a person like RetiredAt47?
I'm still wondering how to make THAT better.
Posted by: Nicole | August 01, 2009 at 02:45 PM
p.s you're coming to NY? Everyone always wants to come by me! :)
Posted by: Nicole | August 01, 2009 at 02:45 PM
@ Nicole: Wow, good question! But then again my favorite place to visit is NYC--so maybe I wouldn't be in such a hurry to leave if I were him either . . .
Posted by: Retired Syd | August 01, 2009 at 02:52 PM
Yeah I know, we're spoiled. Poor, but spoiled.
Posted by: Nicole | August 01, 2009 at 05:23 PM
Most women when they reach their retirement, they still want to go shopping. Actually, my grandma loves shopping. She helped my wife to choose best furniture for our home, and the other stuff. She's really cool!
Posted by: furniture stores in Indianapolis | February 13, 2011 at 08:12 PM
Great blog! I am looking forward to the day that I will be able to travel. Thank you for another fun and interesting read.
Posted by: Ann Hearn | January 04, 2012 at 04:05 PM