Travel: the life-long campaign against banality

by Paul Goodchild on December 1, 2010

Travel: On the beach versus home banality

There’s something unsettling about travel.  You’ve escaped your comfortable life back home only to become a stranger in a strange land.  It’s a vulnerable position to be in, and yet we do it repeatedly.

There’s packing; invasive and often intimidating security/immigration; ass-numbing long-haul flights with dodgy in-flight meals; over-priced accommodation; sun-cream; mosquitoes; and more…

So why do we do it?  Why do we travel to put ourselves through this stress, and call it a “holiday”?  I’ve been asking why I’m driven to leave here, just to be somewhere else.  The answers are very revealing.

Travel is the great escape

Travel agents and advertisers will often throw in the term “escape” when it comes to holidays.  And for good reason – normal life is crap!  At least, that’s what we tell ourselves, and it’s conveniently reinforced for us everywhere we look.

We’re constantly reminded through advertising that what we have isn’t good enough, unless we bought it tomorrow. (<- that’s not a grammatical error).

  • See that phone you have?  It’s crap now.  Get this new one – it allows you to make phone calls 3x faster than any other.
  • See that computer you have already… does it have the dual-quad-bumper-core with 19x mega-juicy-cache?  No?  Then it’s crap.  Upgrade quick before this amazing special offer ends.
  • See your house?  I know you’re already mortgaged to the hilt, but why don’t you sell it and get a bigger one?  Don’t worry, assuming you can keep your job, you’ll be finished paying it back when you’re 113 years old.  Bargain!  House prices always rise anyway so you’ll be fine.

If we’re getting paid just enough to live on and put away some savings, while working for most of our waking hours, then a holiday every 6 months or so is amazing!

It’s the ultimate distraction.  Consider how much time you actually spend on the holiday.  There’s…

  • the time to discuss and decide on where you’re going;
  • the time to find and book it;
  • the time prepare for it;
  • the holiday itself;
  • the post-mortem: discussing about how wonderful it was and how “you need a holiday now to recover” (do people still say that?); processing the photos, putting them in the photo albums, showing your friends, uploading them onto Facebook and fielding the inevitable stream of comments.

Hurrah for holidays.  Where would we be without them?  Bored out of our skulls!

Life = Boredom + Holidays?

So is that what life is?

For many of us, yes it is.  And for most of our adult lives.

The difference is when you actually feel passionately about the life you lead and the job you do.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re employee or employer.  The bottom line here is: are you happy with what you’re doing?

Better yet, are you passionate about it?

So travel as a means of escape: this is certainly true, at least in-part, for me.  I’m still trying to escape the responsibilities of adult life and have been probably since I was 23 – there’s taxes, student loans, buying a house, commitment, to name but a few.  Perpetual travel allows me to banish these niggling issues while I’m preoccupied with whatever journey I’m on.

It’s bliss, for a time; carefree and off the hook; the good life.  But I know when the merry-go-round stops, I must eventually face up to all that has to be done.

So I book another flight…

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying I need to give up the travelling or any of the things I love to do altogether.  But to continue into the future doing all these things I enjoy, I must prepare by doing the necessary tasks.  However long it takes.


And here’s the real kicker…

Boredom + travel + … = your life

Defining all these necessary things to do as “tasks” and “chores” that must be done before the good life truly begins is the biggest self-trickery of them all.  Because this is life.

Life is only banal because we say it so; we allow it so; we live it so.

If you’re bored, and holidays are your escape for a couple of weeks, then ask yourself, what exactly are you escaping from?  In case you’re practicing your speed reading skills, I’ll ask it again:

What exactly are you escaping from?

If your answer is your everyday life, then you’ve got some tough realisations to make.

Change it, make it interesting by becoming interested; explore your creative side by being creative; and rediscover what you’re passionate about by… you guessed it, being passionate about something.

Take an active role and eject the autopilot.

There’s much more to say

There’s heaps more I can say about travel, but this article is long enough for now.  Of course, there is much more to travel than escapism, but for most of us, it’s a significant factor if we’re really honest with ourselves.

I’d be interested to know what you think.  Why do you travel?  What do you do on your travels that excites you, and why do you choose a particular holiday location over any other.  When you find a place you visit beautiful, why do you find it so?  What does the holiday have that “normal life” doesn’t have?  And what can you do to bring some of your travels home with you (and I don’t mean fridge magnets and Aboriginal boomerang ornaments)?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

gabigabi January 14, 2011 at 00:21

I really like this article. I did work just only to travel. I was traveling every weekend and I was living in a country, which was like the best place for holiday. Palms, tropics, island, always nice weather. I spent all my money to travel. I was very happy for 2 years and then I traveled even more to other continents. After 3years I realized that I have been everywhere where I wanted to visit. Travel list no. 1 after 3 years finished. Of course I have list no. 2, but I lost motivation. I feel so tired and empty. I didn’t have time for other things, which I like e.g. learning new language, read a book or go for a walk with the dog…Many more and the great job, which is not only to get money for next travels. I try to find a balance in between my 2 lifes. Is so hard to do it after all this. I don’t feel like at home anywhere and at the same time everywhere can be my home. I am looking for a plan, which will make me more balance. I really not recommend work only for travels and travel only to escape. Has to be satisfaction from both.


Paul Goodchild January 14, 2011 at 15:19

Hey Gabriela,

Thanks for the comment. I agree with what you’re saying, it can seem, especially after all the travel that where you started off is somehow not enough any more.

If you’re losing motivation, I think the answer to it is to force yourself to travel more where you did have the drive to do things you enjoyed such as reading, learning a new language. It’s easy to get caught up in the everyday and be wishing for something else. Either enjoy where you are, or try to be somewhere else, anywhere else.

I’m in a similar position right now where I’m just planning for the future a bit more with work etc., so I can travel for longer and perhaps combined work with travel. I’d rather be out somewhere else, but for now I must accept where I am.

Thank you for taking the time to comment on my post and I hope you find other articles here you like.


Bellacarrina February 17, 2011 at 23:08

I love this article and it is very well written. I recently retired from a position that allotted me endless travel and at first it was hard to cope with everyday mundane life; like Being stuck in traffic, submitting daily TPS reports, and getting to the cleaners before it closed. Is this what most peoples lives are like??? So what did I do, I went back into a traveling position.

Eventually I got sick of only being happy when I traveled and looked at my life for what it was. A ping pong tournament of extremities. I was either in Prague at a Rave living it up, or depressed out of my mind driving in traffic. Then I learned about the in between, the middle ground, being content. So what I started to do was make my life just as interesting at home as it was overseas. I am dressing nicely everyday even when I feel like crap, I signed up to take Egyptian belly dancing classes, I have started making collages and selling them at the farmers market, and I am connecting with my friends, and searching for spirituality. Even though I am not rummaging through a busy bazaar in the Old City of Jersusalem or petting a lion cub in Pretoria, South Africa I am beginning to learn what real happiness is. It’s not episodes of extreme excitement following by periods of sheer boredom, its in the heart and the spirit. Happiness is not just one thing either, its living spherically in many directions.


Paul Goodchild February 18, 2011 at 00:42

Thanks for the comment and the positive feedback on the writing.

I think you’ve hit the proverbial nail on the head. Living life wherever you are to its fullest is the lesson to be learned. I’m guilty of not heeding that very advice but that’s why I write these posts – to remind myself and have others remind me too! 🙂

I like the “dressing nicely everyday”… it’s amazing how being lazy about the way you dress and look can often reflect on your whole day. By not making an effort from the beginning, it’s often the case for me that my day is wasted.
Happiness is not, you’re right, found in the foreign bazaars or the clubs, the safaris or the pyramids, but simply where you are at any moment, and living it as fun and spirited as you can.

Thanks for posting your thoughtful comment and giving me something to think about today. I hope you find other articles around here that are as thought-provoking! 🙂


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