What drives the desire to travel?

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jacob
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Post by jacob » Sat Jan 12, 2013 3:14 am

(By travel I mean "seeing new places" which is not my preferred version of travel, that is, "the process of moving itself" or even "settling in a new place", but the popular version of it.)
Not having traveled before?

Not having seen other countries?

Feeling stale in one's current location?

Interacting with other cultures?

Catching a break from a boring lifestyle?

Scoring status points for exoticness?

What?
My motivation for asking is that I have noticed that a LOT of 20-somethings (or at least the loud voices on the blogosphere) are very much into traveling, but once they're over the hill (30), the desire to settle becomes predominant.
Is that a genetic/age thing? Is it a been there done that?
(I'm asking because I don't want to presume that my own feeling of been-there-done-that-didn't-learn-much is universal.)


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Re: What drives the desire to travel?

Post by Oinkette » Wed Sep 11, 2013 8:03 pm

For me it's the boredom of being in one place for too long. I suppose I have some sort of ADHD (though I've never been diagnosed). Even at work I'm constantly getting up and going outside for a walk. At home I can't stay in one room for too long either. That's probably why I want to retire early...I HATE the thought of being tied to my job for the next 30 years!

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Re: What drives the desire to travel?

Post by dan23 » Wed Sep 11, 2013 9:12 pm

I’m not sure how well I can articulate it.

I suspect I would tire of traveling if I was doing it full time, but right now when it is in 2-3 week increments I greatly enjoy traveling. A lot of your reasons are at least somehow involved.

One is just that I enjoy seeing other places/cultures/etc (though only rarely truly interacting with them). I like knowing what other places are like. I also often enjoy meeting and talking to other travelers when I travel (the fact that you may never see the people again makes interactions different).

I noticed lately though, that I am beginning to prefer the nature/beauty destinations more than cities and the like.

Catching a break from a boring lifestyle? – probably sadly true. Traveling does give me something to look forward to a few months before.

Scoring status points for exoticness? – Might be true if I am honest, though I don’t consider my travels exotic – I definitely enjoy talking to people about my travels after the fact, so this is likely somehow embedded.

I don’t think I am really trying to learn anything when I travel, even if I happen to.

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Re: What drives the desire to travel?

Post by workathome » Wed Sep 11, 2013 9:23 pm

While younger, it can provide temporary satiation for the desire to learn and experience new things in life. This seems to be why it often loses its effect with repetition and age, esp. with purposeless/entertainment travel.

I really wanted to travel 16-25ish. Now I'm 30 and while I'd like to see some new places (Western US mostly) it doesn't seem so exciting anymore.

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Re: What drives the desire to travel?

Post by Jen10 » Wed Sep 11, 2013 9:37 pm

Isn't it similar to any other hobby, like bicycling, reading, woodworking or surfing the internet? All the motivations you listed probably come into play for various individuals. They probably also apply to many other hobbies as well.

I guess the distinction you're making is that some people travel less as they get older. For my husband and me and many people that we know, that isn't necessarily true. I think as many people get older, they start families, which can restrict their ability to travel. But many of those people do travel when they can. That's why you see a lot of retired people out there traveling. Maybe the motivation is what determines whether someone will continue to travel as they get older. If they didn't really enjoy it and only did it to impress others or because they had never been anywhere, they would probably not continue to do it.

Or is it that you truly can't understand why people would want to travel? Kind of like when I tried golf a few times and could not (and still cannot) understand why someone would want to spend so much time playing it. Yet, for the longest time it bothered me that I didn't understand the appeal of a game that so many people seem to love.

For me, travel is interesting because it forces you to look at the world differently. You can't do all your routines when you travel. You see things that you have never seen before (even if you have seen them in a book or film, they are different).

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Ego
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Re: What drives the desire to travel?

Post by Ego » Wed Sep 11, 2013 10:35 pm

In my early thirties I felt life was a little too guaranteed, insured and sealed for my protection, so I went to places and did things where that wasn't the case. I was forced to cope with random, unpredictable events and forced to deal with languages, customs, and people that were far outside of the everyday experiences I was having at home.

Actually I should say we (my wife and I) were forced to cope together. We couldn't fall back to the safety nets we had grown up with. We were, in a sense, weaving our own safety net with each new challenging experience.

Now, in our mid/late-forties we continue to travel for similar reasons. We look at it as a booster shot. We generally stay in some of the least expense yet respectable (non-brothel) places available. We spend most of our time in countries where hygiene and healthcare are very different from what we are used to at home. Our physical systems are given access to microbes that build and maintain a robust immunological response.

Our brains are given the opportunities to create and expand experiential neural pathways. Our eyes see different things each day. Our ears hear different sounds. Smells, tastes, textures.....our minds are constantly challenged to puzzle out the never ending stream of minor problems. For me, right now, this is the key.

When we're at home we do the same few things over and over, with minor variations on the theme. We have to really make an effort to use this living, engaged, novelty-solving part of the brain and use only the antonomic, robotic parts. Doing the same few things over and over is deadening.

There is plenty of evidence that both the physical and the mental phenomenon I described above is use-it-or-lose-it. It is also a muscle. Use it more and it grows.

We travel to weave the net stronger and make these muscles grow.

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Re: What drives the desire to travel?

Post by bibacula » Thu Sep 12, 2013 1:07 am

It's a personal preference rather than age, I think. In my late-40s, I enjoy traveling more and more each year. I tried moving back to the US last year, and I just couldn't "fit".

I stay in places for longer periods of time, now. Instead of traveling quickly, I'd rather rent an apartment in a different country every six months.

Experiencing different cultures, people, cuisines and religions is rewarding for me. I get to learn about myself through others.

Many foreign countries are inexpensive for people who take an apartment and live like a local. Renting an apartment, shopping in local markets and cooking local dishes make travel cheap and fun. Long-term travel is a viable lifestyle for someone who has achieved FI.

Living overseas requires you to learn new ways of doing day-to-day things. Making simple things difficult forces your mind and body to adapt and stay flexible.

Most people would rather settle down, but some are natural nomads.

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Re: What drives the desire to travel?

Post by steveo73 » Thu Sep 12, 2013 3:03 am

I'm 40 and I've never really travelled much at all. I'd happily live somewhere else for a period of time but I don't get the idea of travelling that much. My parents travel but they have plenty of money. I don't so it just seems like a massive waste to me.

I think some people like to brag about travelling as some form of status symbol.

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Re: What drives the desire to travel?

Post by riparian » Thu Sep 12, 2013 4:14 am

When I was younger:

If reality is a social construct and the self is a combination of our experience and our internal construct of the other, experiencing ourselves in new contexts with new others is the way to self development or something.

Now:

To access work opportunities, friends I miss, communities I find important, opportunities to learn.

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Re: What drives the desire to travel?

Post by prieten » Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:19 am

My first wife were really chafing at the American 9 to 5 grind. Even though we were earning good money, we lived for the brief two weeks we could vacation in Germany each year. We both had lived almost our entire lives in the USA, however, we were both second generation Americans of German descent. For some reason, we were drawn to Germany like moths to a candle, especially after German reunification in 1989. On our travels there, we were attracted to a particular town in the former East Germany. It had a famous theater with a symphony and ballet troupe, very cheap rents, and was surrounded by beautiful nature. We hatched a plan to ditch our American existence and move there. In the 1980s and 1990s we rode the stock market upswing and reached our financial goal by 1997. We sold everything and moved.

I soon learned the difference between actually living in a foreign country and just traveling there. It was even better. The locals were thrilled some Americans had decided to move there. We were treated like celebrities. Everyone wanted to meet us. Sometimes it seemed like they were fighting over us! We got job offers to teach English and to translate. I think I already told the whole story over in the Introductions thread.

My point is that in America, I was just another American with a funny name and foreign ancestry. But in Eastern Europe where Americans were not often seen, we were something special, exotic aliens from the "promised" land. I guess one could get the same experience by just traveling, but I suspect one is funneled into tourist traps where professionals just want your money. Actually living in that country exposes you to the real people who are invariably wonderful. Does the thrill wear off? Yes, people get used to your face, and you end up narrowing your friends down. Even though I moved to Japan ten years ago, I'm still in
contact with some of the friends I made in the former East Germany. Now, I'm the exotic alien in Japan (lost my first wife along the way somewhere, but found a new one in Japan).

That's the attraction of travel, you get treated like something special. In America, you're just another loser dog.

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Re: What drives the desire to travel?

Post by prosaic » Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:59 am

For me, in my early 40s, the desire to travel hasn't diminished. The reality of three kids, one quite small and with special needs, definitely makes international travel quite difficult and expensive.

When he is 6, in two more years, we'll revisit the issue and likely get back to more traveling.

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Re: What drives the desire to travel?

Post by JohnnyH » Thu Sep 12, 2013 9:08 am

Lot's of good ones here... Been a long time since I hung out with "travelers" but it did seem a very status driven culture.
I like living in new places for a minimum of months, but for go-go checklist travel (excluding natural) I have no patience... These below apply to travel, not living in a new place.

The delusion that life (or their life) is radically different in place X... Almost always false, humans are more similar than dissimilar (work, play, sleep)... Even when I'm living out of a backpack my life gravitates to what it currently is (coffee, work, walk, reading, work, walk, wine, food, reading, sleep). I know most stories are about someone moving and changing completely, but more likely you'll move and stay the same.

It's associated with [socially acceptable] respite away from puritan work... When someone mentions vacation in office, most people react with a playfully jealous remark... Last year I took a vacation to one of my favorite places (near prieten's 1st expatriation) and the 16 days seemed more like a tease than a vacation.

Media's portrayal of travel as sex, enlightenment, exotic change (person in rut goes to Italy, France, Caribbean, SE Asia then gets drunk, has sex, makes profound self discovery).

Traveling USED to be an impressive feat. If your grandparents met someone who had been to the corners of the world a few generations ago it would have been remarkable... That person would have been an adventurer... My Grandfather used to fly his plane from the states to Mexico and Central America, get topped off via barrels in the jungle... That's a long way off from $500 one-ways and eating KFC in "exotic" locales... Perhaps some of this "adventurer" association still exists.

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Re: What drives the desire to travel?

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy » Thu Sep 12, 2013 9:57 am

Traveling for me makes living off 'autopilot' much easier.

Life is much more 'forced manual'.

No matter how much I try to live a conscious and present life in my non-travel life, a bulk majority of everything i do and think is automatic. Near robotic. Very little variation. You can try and mix it up, mix up your routine, but your are still extremely limited to the amount of stimulation you can provide your senses.

I am not talking about creating novelties/challenges via the spectacles in life (ie. the bombastic stuff we may do to jolt ourselves out of our lives) but just the every day mundane.

From getting my haircut, taking public transit, going for a walk, eating, hygiene, health, in my non travel life, there is no thought given at all to these things.

I try to engage my senses, I try to experience these things with a sense of appreciation or present mindedness, but it's very difficult. All my senses are usually shut off, or on automatic.

When I travel, almost every single one of the senses is temporarily awakened with no effort at all, by the simple and the mundane. The things I usually take for granted. Everything is turned on. The mundane things in life are conscious, challenging and stimulating. A simple thing like getting your haircut, can by an incredible little adventure if you allow it to be.

So, getting my haircut, taking public transit, going for a walk, eating, hygiene, health, etc etc in my travel life is like being an infant. I am very conscious of all the textures around me. And my brain feels like it is almost being temporarily reprogrammed.

With the addition of solitude (i.e. solo travel), by the degree of how much one is able to disconnect, you begin to experience yourself in a surreal 3rd person type of reality. Almost outer body.

My personal approach to travel as well is to try and create a feedback loop, where periods of travel feed my non-travel life, in particular, feed gratitude (ie. things like AC, running sanitized water, flush toilets, fresh air, family, friends, etc). so in a way, there is the stoicism approach of voluntary discomfort involved.

I agree with a lot of the others here, i do not see it as an age thing, and everyone travels for very different reasons. I adhere also to the common differentiation of travel and vacations being to completely different concepts: one is a decrease in standard of living (challenge), and the other is an increase (comfort).

For me, travel done right is one of the greatest givers of personal growth and awareness if you let it be.

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Re: What drives the desire to travel?

Post by Ego » Thu Sep 12, 2013 10:11 am

I agree with much of what you say except for this....
JohnnyH wrote:The delusion that life (or their life) is radically different in place X... Almost always false, humans are more similar than dissimilar (work, play, sleep)...
We want to have empathy for others. We want to understand what they are going through. So we create this belief that we are all the same, that we all want the same things, so that we can understand the incomprehensible. We WANT to believe it is true.

Look no further than the coverage of the recent rapes in India as an example. Reporters want to give a clear view of the situation but struggle to explain the underlying components (cultural norms, differing views of women, gender demographics...) which are keys to understanding how such a thing could happen. We want to believe that a young Indian man wants the same things that I wanted when I was a young man. We want to believe that his life (work, sleep, play) is similar to mine.

Fact is, they are worlds apart. The way we eat is different. The way we communicate is different. The way we touch, sleep, shit, dance, feel joy, sadness, frustration, and ecstasy are all very different. I'm not saying one is right and one is wrong. I am just saying we are different.

This is another reason why I travel. Seeing how other people live life makes me realize how much of what I once believed was the fixed, right, only way to do things was actually the result of where and by whom I was brought up. Rather than imbuing them with my characteristics I try to see them for what they are. In my mind that is true empathy.

One caveat: I suck at it. I consider myself lucky that I've reached the point where I know that I suck at it.

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Re: What drives the desire to travel?

Post by Felix » Thu Sep 12, 2013 10:46 am

For me it's about seeing different cultures. Sure, there's an Americanization of the world in which western commercialism enters other cultures, but despite that there are strong differences in customs, rules, general attitude towards life, work, etc. Sure, one can read about this, but it is very different to actually go there and experience it first hand.

It kicks you out of the trance of your own culture (myths about what is "normal human behavior") by confronting you with a different one.

There has been a paper published recently (here) which hacks at the foundations of the humanities, it basically says that most of what we have put as human characteristics into our psychology textbooks is merely the psychology of the western psychology student, who is the main subject of such studies. In fact, it appears that we westerners are the odd ones and the majority of humans works differently than our textbooks say, in terms of economic behavior, basic cognition, even perception, like reactions to visual illusions.

These things can only be learned by going elsewhere. How do you get out of your culture while staying within your culture? Books and websites are a bad substitute for this.

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Re: What drives the desire to travel?

Post by Oinkette » Thu Sep 12, 2013 11:25 am

To further answer your question:

I'm in my early-mid 30s and I still LOVE the idea of travel. Mostly, as I stated above, to end the monotony of everyday life, but also to see new things. I didn't start traveling internationally until I was at the cusp of 30. Now I want to pack it all in. I love seeing different cultures and being surrounded by foreign languages. I like comparing and contrasting the way they do things to the way I do things in my country/state/city.

There is also the feeling of being free that ties into "being away from home." I'm less likely to think about work, or drama with friends when I'm away. I can wake up when I want to, do what I want, because I'm not "home."

I've seen most of the places I've always wanted to see and I can now feel the "desire to settle" creeping in, mostly because it turns out all earthlings are quite similar after all (and I've been to some unusual places)! I own a home and I'm far more likely to spend money "making it a home" than on a trip somewhere. Travel also eats up a lot of funding that I'd rather funnel to FIRE these days. I do know that my propensity to get bored will never have me sitting in one place for too long though. I may even try living in another country for a year or so, I look forward to the day when I can take more than my standard 18 days (more than many Americans...but still!) and have to get permission from 2 different supervisors to go somewhere.

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Re: What drives the desire to travel?

Post by jacob » Thu Sep 12, 2013 11:36 am

While I agree on the ends of travelling, I think I subconsciously disagree on the means. This may just be a question of psychology.

However, in terms of exoticness, novel experiences, different world views, and fear factor...compare

An American Scientist at UIC moving to France to do science
VS
Moving approximately 3 miles to Chicago Southside (the ghetto) and getting a manual labor job

Talking US politics with people in a cafe in Buenos Aires
VS
Joining an election campaign for the opposing party (or even the same) for a season

Eating pasta in Rome
VS
Learning how to cook pasta properly

Moving from downtown Boston to downtown Tokyo
VS
Moving from downton Boston a few miles out to a mobile home park next to I93

Talking to white collar workers in Mexico
VS
Talking to your blue collar neighbor

It may just be my travels/relocations to a large extent has involved living in safe neighborhoods, working in a technical field, talking to middle class professionals, buying food in/at super/markets, reading books and newspapers, talking to people who watch TV, paying bills, ... These have all stayed practically identical to the point where it has taken me a couple of years to see the subtle cultural differences despite speaking different languages, using different currencies (it's still money though), and being separated by thousands of miles.

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Re: What drives the desire to travel?

Post by Ego » Thu Sep 12, 2013 12:02 pm

jacob wrote:It may just be my travels/relocations to a large extent has involved living in safe neighborhoods, working in a technical field, talking to middle class professionals, buying food in/at super/markets, reading books and newspapers, talking to people who watch TV, paying bills, ... These have all stayed practically identical to the point where it has taken me a couple of years to see the subtle cultural differences despite speaking different languages, using different currencies (it's still money though), and being separated by thousands of miles.
A few things.

1) Montezuma's revenge training: We are just now realizing the science (we've long had a philosophical perspective) of ingesting a wide variety of different crap. Too many microbes are bad. Too few are bad too. IMO we in the west are way past the Goldilocks point.

2) The ghetto dweller, the blue collar worker and the elite scientist are all insiders looking at one another from the inside. When they interact they certainly experience some of the benefits that an international traveler experiences. That's one of the great things about the U.S. But there is a dominant, homogenous culture that is the touchstone to which they can go to find commonalities. You and I can connect despite very different backgrounds thanks to these touchstones. The Ghetto-bluecollar-scientist can talk about their W-2s and worry together about Obamacare. When traveling internationally, the rarity of these touchstones makes things much more difficult in a good way.

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Re: What drives the desire to travel?

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy » Thu Sep 12, 2013 12:20 pm

I was writing a reply, but @ego said very closely what I wrote(even down to the taxes example!!), only difference is I referred to the examples as still being attached to your culture like an umbilical cord- you are still being fed primarily by your cultural mother.

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Re: What drives the desire to travel?

Post by jennypenny » Thu Sep 12, 2013 12:29 pm

@jacob--I'm curious how you reconcile this with your desire to test your limits? Testing limits in controlled, measurable ways is good, but don't you ever get the urge to test them in uncontrolled ways? Travel is good for that.

I've also said before that I think it's good for finding out who you are without the normal boundaries others place on you. It's not just geography, either. If someone always travels as the "scientist" or "cyclist" or "partner/spouse/parent/child" or whatever, they take along a pre-conceived notion of themselves. Traveling without any identity can help a person see who and what they really are. For that reason, I also think it's good to keep traveling. People change, and as we get older we should keep checking in to make sure we our being true to our [current] selves.

And I just want to see as much of the planet as possible. Some of it is pretty cool 8-)

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