Today is the 30th of November, it’s my birthday, and I’m in Iceland. It’s a destination I’ve wanted to visit for so long, even though it’s expensive. I want to see the Aurora so bad, I’m ready to spend all my nights waiting outside till I catch one !
I’m feeling like I do deserve this trip to Iceland for my birthday. I’ve worked a lot, I’ve earned the money to go, I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to make travel such a big part of my life. And still, these past months, as I’m enjoying my new found freedom to travel whenever I want, a question has started to bug me more and more : Is traveling selfish ?
I’m going somewhere because I want to, in order to enjoy being free and independent. Eat, drink, have a break, discover new things and people, learn, … All those things are amazing but they benefit only me.
That fact never bothered me before, when traveling was only on holidays, my break away from every day life, because holidays are supposed to be selfish, to be me-time. But now that travel has become my lifestyle, I have to ask the question : do I really want a selfish lifestyle ? And the answer to that is, obviously, no.
I want my life to make me happy, but I also want to benefit others, to make a difference (even a small one). I can hope that this blog is helping some people to be green and respect the planet while they travel, but I want more.
I don’t want my travels to be aimless, to always have my enjoyment as their sole purpose.
So what can we do to make our travels matter ?
I don’t know yet, but I’m gonna try something new over the next year, and maybe you can try that with me. Every time I go somewhere, I’ll define a clear goal. This goal doesn’t have to be a big thing, or a completely selfless thing either. For exemple, right now in Iceland, my goal is to see the Aurora. It’s still selfish, but at least I’ll have that sense of accomplishment when I see it.
I said already that I’m planning a big trip to Nepal next year, and I’ve given myself a set of goals for this one too : bring something from home to give to a local, try my hand at volunteering, attend Holi.
Another goal that’s going to extend on several travels over the year : try progressively longer longue distance treks, to see if my knee can hold up. Because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life without ever walking for several days in a row just because I’m afraid my knee is going to stop working again (it’s a birth defect thing, not even my fault).
Something else I’d like to try : make it through an entire trip with no carbon footprint (I’m not leaving a big print as it is, but to suppress it completely would require some more work).
Maybe I should have called this post : Is traveling aimless ? instead. But in this instance I feel the two are very linked.
It’s you who define your goals, so making them selfish or selfless are entirely up to you. I think the best would be a mix of both. There are ways of helping everywhere, whether you’re volunteering or not. Learning and sharing in itself is also a way of contributing. You might also have some special skills that you can put to use to help others.
What I think is important is to have that sense of accomplishment when you get home. Otherwise why did you leave ? What was it all about ?
Of course the danger of setting goals is that you’re putting yourself at risk of failing something. I already know that if I come home from Iceland without seeing the Aurora, I’m going to be sad and disappointed. But that’s life people. It just means that I’ll have to travel again to a northern country soon and try again. And then imagine when I actually see it !
There’s nothing like a road full of obstacles to make you appreciate the end of the journey, right ?
So, is traveling selfish ? Yes. But it doesn’t have to be.
I wanted to write this post because this is something that has been bugging me more and more these past months. I wasn’t thinking about it while I was traveling, but it was always hitting me hard the moment I came home. This lack of purpose.
What do you think ?