Is travel a selfish thing to do? A topic that has come up many times in the travel world, and has been talked about by bloggers probably a few too many times. But this is the topic that is currently on my mind, and a topic I think is worth discussing again.
How Selfish is Travel Actually?
To answer this question accurately you need to ask yourself how long you travel for or how long you plan on traveling for. A one week all-inclusive vacation isn’t that long, I’m sure your parents, siblings, significant other or cat can bear being without you for that long. But what about people who go on longer trips? Like 2, 3 months to a year or even longer? The longer you’re away from home, the longer you’re away from your loved ones and the more selfish the act of traveling becomes.
Travel is Your Choice
Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that travel is our choice. Not our loved ones. We aren’t the ones who have to watch someone dear to them walk away. And a lot of the time we’re too busy thinking about the adventure that lies ahead of us to think about what our loved ones might be going through.
I know I’m personally guilty for this, for not thinking about my family, and only myself as I prepared to travel Canada and then move to Thailand for a year. It wasn’t until I was sitting in Vancouver Skyping my Mom in Ottawa before my flight to Bangkok when she started crying knowing I was leaving the country for a long time that I realized how much of an affect it has on people around me.
Why Do You Travel?
Do you travel to see the beaches? Drink cocktails with your toes in the sand and skin warm from the sun? Do you volunteer as you travel? To see the sites or to experience another culture, becoming immersed in something new? I think most people will agree that just beach hopping or all-inclusive resorts are a selfish way to travel. You are literally just traveling so you can relax somewhere, have others wait on you and clean your room while you eat and drink all your heart desires. No judgement, I’ve been there and it’s fabulous, but you are doing nothing for anyone other than yourself.
What about those who volunteer? This one is tricky. Are you really volunteering to help animals or other people? Or are you volunteering to feel good about yourself? Some people get more pleasure out of feeling like they’re doing good than from actually doing good. Then there’s the whole topic of if volunteerism is actually helping to benefit those being helped or not. But that’s a whole other post in itself.
Do you like to travel for the sites and culture? I certainly do. And though I haven’t been partially great at experiencing the culture always, it’s something that I like to make an effort to understand wherever I am now. I like to believe that a lot of locals love it when tourists and travelers make an attempt to understand their culture (you should always be respectful of every culture). I certainly have seen people beam bright smiles when someone tries to speak their language, is interested in a local dish, or asks questions about what they’re seeing. This, to me, makes travel seem a lot less selfish.
Are You Sharing Your Knowledge?
Yes, I am obviously a travel blogger. But I like to write about my experiences as much as I like to share what I’ve learned. Does this make my traveling habits less selfish? In a way I think it does, but ultimately I started this blog as an escape for me, so probably not.
I do think that sharing what you’ve learned and what you’ve seen makes travel less selfish. And no I’m not talking about sharing all those edited selfies of you standing in front of temples, lounging on beaches, or smiling in front of a sunset on Instagram. That’s not sharing knowledge.
Sharing knowledge is the gorgeous pictures of the Northern Lights that so many won’t have the opportunity to see, sharing knowledge is telling a friend about a local dish that they hadn’t tried, sharing knowledge is helping other’s avoid mistakes on the road that you may have made, sharing knowledge is informing other’s of other cultures, their customs, and how to be respectful.
If you are helping other’s see the world who want to see it, and if you’re helping people understand other ideas, places, religions, anything travel related, then you are not traveling selfishly.
So, is Travel Selfish?
A difficult question to answer, but I believe that if you are helping people to learn, if you’re helping anyone or anything, and if you’re not leaving behind a family that will miss you dearly then you are not a selfish traveler.
In general most people travel for them, they travel because they want to see the world. So I’d say that travel really is a selfish act. But there are ways to make it less selfish. There are ways you may be able to help yourself justify that what you’re doing for you is actually benefitting others, but for the most part traveling is selfish.
But I have to point how that I think with the amount of people traveling today that it’s actually making the world a better place. We’re more knowledgeable about what’s occupying this world with us, and most of us, not all of us, are becoming more accepting of one another.