There’s a certain point in every active traveler’s life when travel starts to lose its luster. Sometimes this happens when you start to develop an entitled attitude about traveling. Or sometimes you just go on the wrong type of trip for you. But for me, I realized that travel becomes escapism when you start to prioritize it over other things in your life.
Before I temporarily moved abroad, I went on a series of three trips within three months. These were ostensibly about getting some travel in, but really were about my desire to leave New York for a while. The first trip was to Greece and Egypt, the second was to Guatemala, and the third was to Japan and Cambodia. On all three trips I saw impressive wonders: Luxor Temple in Egypt, Tikal in Guatemala and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. But by the time I hit Angkor Wat I realized that this was when travel becomes escapism.
Instead of enjoying the three wonders on their own merits, I was comparing them. And contrasting them in ways that had nothing to do with anything. At that point I realized that I shouldn’t be using travel to mask the mundanity of my life in New York. I shouldn’t be less into Angkor Wat because I had just seen comparable wonders. Instead, I should be making travel a part of my life instead of a part of my lifestyle by obtaining a temporary residence.
While that’s just what I did, it’s not what everyone does. A lot of solo travelers (not that I am one of them) suffer from serious depression. And also get severe feelings of loneliness. That’s not because of travel itself. It’s because when travel becomes escapism it can ultimately turn into a form of wish fulfillment. And that type of fantasy can be isolating, especially if your friends and family don’t ‘get’ what you are doing.
Like everything else in life, travel needs to be approached with an open mind. But you also can’t let your brain leak out of the side of your head. You need to be aware of when travel becomes escapism and know when enough is enough. Seeing and experiencing different cultures is great and important. But not at expense of your own identity. When you start to lose a grip on what’s important, when all your free time and energy is being expended travelling — well that’s when you’ve hit the point where travel becomes escapism.
Once you get to that point, it might be time to stop travelling. At least temporarily. The world is a vast place and it’s not going anywhere. In fact, it will be just fine with our without you, wherever you choose to go.