The Plague of Travellers
Where are you from?
How long are you here for?
Where else have you been?
It’s the classic repertoire the moment you meet another traveller. You don’t really need to know their name. You won’t remember it anyways. You’ll know those other details: the stamps on their passport, the crazy travel stories they have, their favourite place to visit and recommendations of where you should go next.
Now don’t get me wrong. If you’ve been following this blog to any extent, you’ll know that I love meeting people when I travel and they’ve continued to be my closest friends.
But in equal share, I’ve become increasingly frustrated at the transient connections and repetitive conversations with the everyday traveller.
Maybe I’m just disillusioned. The older I get, the more I don’t have time for the bullshit - in friendships and in life. I think I’ve done my time and had my fair share of shit to get to be picky. Friends come and go. We aren’t always going to get along with everyone we meet; and the fact that we meet them in the same hostel shouldn’t make any difference.
But it’s also this rising competitiveness that comes from travellers.
Oh you’ve been to Laos? But I’ve been to Cambodia.
You went partying three nights in a row? Well, I’ve been on the pub crawl for five nights.
I’ve ticked off 40 countries… and counting.
Do we even care?
Well, for me? Until recently, yes.
You can’t help it, right? When you start hanging your identity on the fact that you are travelling the world, with no plan, with no return ticket, there’s a certain expectation you feel. You’re supposed to be ‘well-travelled.’ You’re supposed to be out and about, climbing every mountain and chasing every waterfall. You’re supposed to be living your best life.
It used to weigh on me so much. I felt bad for returning to old countries or cities I’d been to before. I felt like I had to tick off every tourist attraction possible. And of course, capture it all for social media so everyone could see I was a traveller.
But what does being a traveller even mean?
Is it once you’ve got a certain number of countries under your belt? Or you’ve been away from home for a certain amount of time? Does it only count if you’ve roughed it in hostels or been to that amazing spot?
The fact that we do not have these definitive answers means that a traveller, backpacker or whatever you want to call it cannot truly be defined. But it’s more of a mindset.
It all comes down to the intention of your trip. That’s what has changed for me - from figuring my life out while I travel to realising that I’m not just travelling, this is my life away from Sydney. No, I haven’t been to see that monument or even really left this city. Because that’s not what I’m here to do.
Accepting that made all these worries about how many countries I’ve been to or will go to start to slip away. At the end of the day, I only need to do what serves me and my journey. I don’t have to do anything more than what I want to do.
Now, I’m not going to lie. I have been fortunate enough to recognise that I’ve now managed to tick off over 30 countries myself. Hey, it’s a good reminder to not take for granted the opportunities I’ve had to travel.
But I want to shed this expectation that I do need to do everything else that comes with travel.
Travel because you want to; because you want the experience of putting yourself out of your comfort zone, in a new country, a new language, a new mindset.
Travel because you want to see the world, to experience new cultures, learn from people - both local and intrepid - and realise that the world is smaller and more similar than you would think.
Travel because it liberates you from the monotony of being home, from who you’re supposed to be, from the expectation of travel itself.
Travel, not because it will fill your Insta feed with envy-inducing content, but because it will fill your heart with stories and lessons you couldn’t learn from the comfort of what you know.
So if you meet me on the road sometime, sure, I’ll play along with the ordinary repertoire. Where are you from? How long are you here for? Where are you going?
But then, let’s get to know each other - not as travellers, but as people.