Today, I read a post from the Art of Manliness (a website I thoroughly enjoy), and it stirred in something in me, perhaps, it was just my own defensiveness. The post was entitled Against the Cult of Travel. I will say that I was not offended the opinions this post contained, but felt like it missed the heart of the true nomad.
This post stated that: “Modern culture is in the throes of a real love affair with travel. It’s become a central element of our zeitgeist, a main tenet in living a fulfilled, non-pedestrian life. Everywhere you turn, and no matter the dilemma, travel is offered as the cure… Travel isn’t just framed as a cure-all for what ails us, either, but as a goal around which to build the other elements of one’s life. Don’t have children, the thinking goes, because they’ll hinder your ability to travel. Work for yourself and create passive income, so you can jaunt off to exotic locales whenever you want. In a relatively safe and prosperous time, in a society that lacks many built-in challenges and hardships, travel has become the way to have an adventure, to demonstrate a kind of bravery — a cosmopolitan courage where one ventures into unfamiliar territory and undergoes a rite of passage to become an enlightened global citizen. Travel is thus seen as both a tool of personal development and an almost altruistic moral good. In short, as the old religious sources of guidance and identity have fallen away, a kind of “cult of travel” has developed in their place. But is our faith in travel justified? Or have we forced it to bear the weight of far heavier expectations than it should be made to carry? “
I agree that there a lot of people out there who tout travel, but they are pseudo travelers, when the journey to their 5 star hotel and their carefully curated tour (missing all the grit that makes that place what it really is) end, they return to their comfy houses and their 9-5 jobs and pretend they are better because they “traveled”.
But what about the nomads, what about the nameless, placeless ones who travel simply because our hearts won’t let us rest. Those who do not fit into the modern paradigm of being born, getting an education, shackling ourselves to a desk and a mortgage, getting married, having kids, retiring, and dying, or in modern shorthand, settling down.
I have spent the last five years of my life on the other side of the world as a teacher. I have had many friends who feel as if they have let their parents and friends down because those not to do what was expected. Many of their family and friends also feel as if this person has failed because they did not fall in line with the status quo. This same guilt used to affect me, I always felt like I was missing something, but at the same time this “something” eluded my best efforts to find it. All I knew, was that I was happiest living in China, and that was really what mattered most, opinions be damned.
The funny thing about the AoM post was that the author stated that The Hobbit is considered the Bible by these “travelers”. I love the Hobbit, I love all of Tolkien’s work. I feel like if it is a book about travel, than it is one about the hardship, loneliness, and deprivation of the road. I can relate to Bilbo Baggins simply because I felt similar things during my travels. However, if I were to recommend The Hobbit as a travel book, it be with the words, “this book is about why you shouldn’t travel”.
The nomad’s bibles are books like: The World is My Home by James Michener or anything by Paul Theroux or Pico Iyer.
Although going back to The Hobbit, there is one thing that resonates with me, and that is the quote (although the author of the AoM post does his best to chop it to pieces), “Not all who wander are lost”. Unlike many, I do not take this as license to travel or justification for what I do, but rather as a cry of hope that my way of life isn’t a lost cause just because everyone thinks it is.
When it comes down to it, the AoM post was basically self- justification for not traveling and also self-defense by someone feeling as if society is pushing them to go a direction they’re not comfortable going in. This is a sentiment I can relate to as someone has been urged to give up traveling and settle down. At the same time, many people I love have no desire to travel, yet do not force their way of life on me.
In the end we must follow our hearts and our conscience, or God, if you believe in one, which I do. I believe that my being nomad is somehow part of who he made me to be therefore I shouldn’t mess with it.
And to those feeling pushed to travel remember most of those Instagram pictures were posted by people just like you, people who have the nice cozy life, but want to pretend that they are somehow better and more adventurous than you. Don’t be fooled be the apparent lack of safety nets and security, they’re there, they’re just hidden.
I don’t really think that there is only one way to do life, there is just one way that works for you.