today, a guest post by larry blanken
travel is a major activity in the lives of modern people. some of us travel by choice as a source of pleasure, while others only venture away from home when they are forced to. regardless of individual motivations, the act of traveling can have a deep psychological impact on those who engage in it. oddly enough, the same elements that bring excitement to one person can bring dread to others. these distinctly different responses are driven by very similar forces of human nature.
as evidenced by the billions of dollars spent each year in the travel industry, the world’s population is on the move. there are millions who scrimp and save for traveling, constantly wishing they had more time and money to explore strange new parts of the planet. for these folks, each trip becomes an adventure and experiencing travel embodies dreams being fulfilled. among the greatest goals for some people is to go to places they have never been.
there are others who simply accept it as a permanent or temporary part of daily life. because of professional, educational or social necessity, they regularly wake up each day in a different location and give little thought to what it would be like to live a stationary life. an international businessperson, an airline pilot or a truck driver might view travel as just part of the routine. travel for some is just a chore required to get from one place to another.
at the other end of the spectrum are those who feel apprehension at the mere thought of straying from their own doorstep. they have built their own ideas of comfort zones that rely on familiar spaces to give them a sense of safety and security. for this group, the unknown is a threat to be avoided. they are perfectly content with remaining in their own backyards.
what are the basic motivations that make people crave or shy away from travel?
while the impulses that make people want to travel or stay at home are complicated and unique to every person, there are underlying characteristics that are similar in all personality types. the most fundamental of these has to do with self-esteem, along with our definitions of achievements and rewards. essentially, travelers usually place greater value in experiencing places and things than in possessing them. however, both are actually manifestations of control over one’s life.
humans have a basic need to feel better about themselves and elevate their self-image of who they are. naturally, everyone will have their own yardstick by which they measure their accomplishments. we all have our own methods to prove our self worth in our own eyes while we strive to gain the respect and admiration of others. the avid traveler will generally see their journeys as evidence of their ability to set and achieve their goals. those who do not care for travel have similar desires, but keep them close to home.
in this sense, traveling fulfills the same needs that growing a garden, owning a boat or building furniture might do for someone else. it is a way to replicate something we have given importance in our own minds in order to associate ourselves with it. travel also gives us the opportunity to get close to things that we have decided to identify with for the same reasons. it is a another way of transforming a mental image into actual experience.
like many other human activities, travel is a way of expressing individuality by re-creating and sharing the acts of others. when we stand on the same spot where kings stood, touch the eiffel tower or cruise the caribbean, we are participating in the experiences of those who have gone before us. these things become a part of us and expand our identities. in this way, we are able to somehow share the the accomplishments of the people we observe.
in fact, traveling is something almost everyone does for much the same reasons. if we remove the factors of distance and location, travelers and homebodies are essentially striving for the same things. in most cases, the basic difference is only a matter of the proximity of our connections to what we desire to be identified with.
for example, a fan of emeril lagasse will eagerly travel to the kitchen to recreate his cooking feats. some people visit their gardens to enjoy their collections of plants and flowers. others journey to the park to feed the pigeons and watch the people. however, when we take a plane, train or automobile to experience these same things, we call it travel. we all are curious about the world around us and want to repeat the actions of others who fascinate us to express our own self worth.
some of us simply prefer to do it in las vegas, hawaii or spain.
larry blanken is a freelance travel writer and semi-retired english instructor living near lexington, kentucky. in addition to teaching writer’s workshops and creating web content, his passions include creating travel articles.