Long Term Travel – A Selfish Pursuit?

When we made our announcement about sailing around the Mediterranean, we were surprised by people’s positive energy and enthusiasm for our plans. We had expected a few naysayers and a few “you are crazy – no way – don’t do it!” type of comments. Instead, we were flooded with an avalanche of supportive emails. And then we got this message:

“Be aware. Any sort of long term travel is incredibly selfish.” – Anonymous

That sure made us stop and think.

We did not feel judged or upset at all. In fact, we were pleased. This was an incredibly intense comment. We wish the person had left more than an incorrect email address because a conversation on this topic could be very interesting! So … shall we?

Just so that we’re all on the same page, let’s first look at the definition of “selfish.” According to Merriam-Webster, “selfish” is “seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.” We looked at many other dictionaries and all have a similar definition. So for the sake of this post, let’s keep this definition for our discussion.

I started this blog because my true passion in life is not only travel, but also encouraging travel with a small dog. More than anything, I want to share with others the “how to” aspect of travel based on first hand experience. My hope is that my experience encourages people to step out and see the world, and take their canine companion along for the journey.

But why, why travel?

Because travel is absolutely positively amazing!

First, consider the extraordinary luxury we enjoy in this day and age. We are able to do things we couldn’t do even just a century ago. For example, my friend Millie La Rue and her biped just left NYC for Paris. Within 7 hours, they had crossed the Atlantic to see Pamela Rose and her parental units, who, in turn, had taken a train from Brussels to Paris.

Think about this for just a moment. I know we all like to complain about the horrible state of affairs when it comes to flying, but look at what these people and canines did in just half a day! Not that long ago, a trip like that would have taken weeks, if not months. Think of the miles covered and take a moment to be awed by this.

To us, it makes sense to take advantage of this luxury. But is that enough of a reason to travel? If not, then why do it. To see sights? Yes, I suppose that is a good reason. Yet there is so much beauty right where we live; seeing sights can’t be the primary driver either.

Do we travel to meet people? Travel for us has always been about meeting interesting individuals. But there’s more to it, isn’t there? So what is the primary motivation behind travel?

To enjoy yourself.

No matter how you cut it, travel is inherently selfish because we are the primary recipients of anything positive from the experience. That’s not only okay; I think it’s great and should be encouraged.

This is what I think:

Travel is all about us because it changes us in one way or another. Travel is an educational, enlightening process, whether we intend it to be or not. Travel snobs may look down their noses at someone who wants to sit on a beach in Cuba for a week. But they’re getting as much out of the experience as someone on an African Safari. Both are on trips that give them pleasure, and even the beach-bathing tourist will learn about the location and grow as a person, whether they intended or realized it.

No matter what we do, travel always changes us, always makes us different (sometimes better) individuals. Even for we canines. I learned a great deal about new foods and smells when in Tuscany. Rome and Paris taught me not to be frightened of large buses and lots of traffic. I, too, grew in character. I had fun!

I have noticed that humans are generally self-interested. Whatever the motivation, even acts of kindness boil down to “it makes me feel good”. It can be climbing the corporate ladder; it can mean having three kids; it can also mean helping to build a water well in Africa or volunteering to help in a school or orphanage in India. In the end, humans will do what they do because it makes them feel good – good about what they are doing and about themselves. Sometimes in life, in order to help other people, humans need to first help themselves.

As for the loved ones long term travelers “leave behind,” I believe it is ego centric to think we are so important that others can’t live without us for six months or even longer. Aren’t we making others less by giving ourselves that importance? Will our loved ones be sad to see us go? Certainly. I know my grandma in Quebec City will be very upset, not to mention my nannies. There will be tears, but because they aren’t selfish, they will be happy for us, even supportive. Because that is what real friends do and unless their life depends on your presence, so should family.

Humans, it seems, try to please others most of their lives. It starts with pleasing parents, then teachers, boyfriends and girlfriends, wives and husbands, children and so on. I look at my bipeds and see how much they just want to please me. Me. The dog. So I asked the bipeds, “If your greatest dream is to travel long term – in particular sail the Med. – isn’t it unfair to sacrifice that dream just to stay with friends and family (or in jobs you don’t love)? Of course they are important too, but ultimately isn’t it a selfish thing on their part to keep you away from your dreams? If they know you have these dreams and the sacrifice it represents for you not follow those dreams, just who is truly selfish?”

Will others worry about us while we are on our trip? Some will. They will worry about our safety, our future, our finances, our well-being. Some will even argue that the money that will be spent could have done so much more if went to a “greater purpose” such as helping animals or the less fortunate. They would be right.

Travel is also a paradox because while we are doing it for ourselves, what results, in our case, are strings of selfless acts. I’m convinced that travel brings out the best in my bipeds. They come back refreshed, happier, and better, more creative people. Me? I come back happier, and energized from traveling, and channel that energy into this blog, my charity work, my upcoming book and more. Not only that, but travel often brings things that are even more tangible, such as new recipes, ideas, inspiration, photos and stories, perhaps even a new language or skill set.

If travel didn’t have a positive effect for us, whether inward or outward, we wouldn’t do it. Travel gives our life added worth. I want to see people travel with their canines on long trips because the person who comes back is not the same person who went. The metamorphosis is fascinating.

Our conclusion? Travel is something that primarily benefits the individual doing the traveling, in this case the bipeds and myself. Will we share our experience with others? Yes. Will we try and help others also pursue the dream should they share in it? Absolutely. No matter what other benevolent activity comes from this big trip, when we look at that definition of selfish from the Merriam-Webster, the answer is yes: yes, long term travel is more than a little bit selfish. But we only live once and we have the support of those we love, so we are okay with that.

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

What do you think? Is long-term travel selfish and if so, is that okay?

31 Comments on “Long Term Travel – A Selfish Pursuit?

  1. Awesome!!! I agree with you 1000%! Do what you do – travel, enjoy living, love, meet new people – that’s the most important thing in the world! Live as you want! All of us – and your family and we, your friends are happy when you are happy!
    So – continues to inspire us! Thank you for this dear Friends!!!

    • Oh dearest friend thank you for this SHOUT of support. I can feel your excitement and your energy. It’s so positive and supportive. I am glad we can inspire such warm and welcoming a person as yourself. What a luxury to be living a life so rich, so wonderful that we do have the possibility of living life as we want to. Thank you dear friend. Follow your dreams … they have no limit.

  2. Extremely well put and explained!!

    How could wanting to broaden your horizons and expand your mind possibly be selfish?

    Everyones situation is different, but if you are relatively tie-free and in a position to pursue your passion I can’t believe anybody that loves you would be anything but delighted for you.

    The only time I might consider it selfish would be if you owned a dog (or other pets) and left them in kennels, or the like, long term. In which case, you shouldn’t really have committed to a pet in the first place.

    So many fans support you and your bipeds and I agree – “continue to inspire us” little family :)

    • We inspire? Awe … thanks for that!Lisa you warm our hearts with this beautiful comment. We particularly like your use of the word “tie-free” … very very true. Responsibilities will have a huge impact on whether or not long term travel is selfish. Either to a senior pet, or an ailing parent … these things must and should come first. As for dogs being left behind – I believe it is a reason why we write this blog.

  3. Wooow that was from the deeeeeeeepest love for travelling, so much so that even people who don’t like to travel (I like the “beam me up Scottie! ” style) will be excited about the “going” as well as the “being” there, wherever it may be!!

    Selfish I would not say so, as I am a selfish person. In addition, I do not see anything wrong with being Selfish or not being Selfish (one can be selfish and not be mean) it is just a way, like many others, to be. Travel opens the mind the heart and the spirit, it is then all good, is it not? (If you don’t travel how are you suppose to know which bits of World you do like ? and THE FOODS!! the music and all the nice stuff that make your lovely ears go up? Monte).

    I don’t believe in feeling guilty, the trick is in being happy making your decisions and sticking to them,regret nothing. If you don’t have this sense of guilt you wont have the notion of “selfish”, “proud” or any of them things, you just enjoy the bits of life that are enjoyable, bear the ones that are not and learn in between.

    So yes enjoy the travel you work hard enough for it!

    While we having this discussion Victor is picking out outfits to wear in his trip to USA and Canada…beware..the black Furo fur is first on the packing pile… (I think he is over the top and color blind) lol xx

    • “I do not see anything wrong with being Selfish or not being Selfish (one can be selfish and not be mean) it is just a way, like many others, to be.”

      WOW … that is a seriously deep and profound statement. I think you just made all of us seriously think. How incredibly inclusive and open minded. I particularly like the distinction between selfish and being mean you make. I’m goign to ponder that for a time!

      I was once told “Guilt is a waste of time” … I think we both agree with that!

      So you will be visiting us then? OH yipppeee!! Let us know the details as soon as you have them! You and Victor (with Furo of course – need a photo of that!) are Most most welcome! Let us know so we can arrange to be off work and available to you as much as possible.

  4. You have worked very hard and long to have the opportunity to travel where you want and when you want. Life is so full of drama that works it’s way into your life as well as setbacks and other negative things. If this is what makes you happy then dont let anyone’s comments leave their mark. We all just want you to be safe as well as happy. You deserve it!!

    • Thanks Marlene! Doing what makes “us” happy could be selfish – but I think what is happening is that our friends our so excited and they want this for us so badly – we might actually be selfish if we didn’t go at this point! Your sweet and right: what others say shouldn’t matter.

  5. Really excellent topic, Monte!

    I love that you shared the definition of selfish…and the part that I think is most interesting is “without regard for others.” That’s the part that really rules long-term travel out as being completely selfish. Is it about bettering the self? Certainly! Is it about making yourself happy? Certainly! But without regard for others? No way!

    In every way, travel (and particularly longer-term travel) has made me a better friend, better contractor, better sister, and better human being. Getting outside our comfort zones, seeing real poverty, making an impact on a person’s life who lives thousands of miles from your hometown…these things change us to our very core. And, overall, travel has made me significantly less selfish, more concerned with the welfare of not only those in close proximity around me, but of the world at large. It’s why my business gives 10% of its profits to charity. It’s why I trained my dog for therapy work. Because I’ve seen too much of the world to think that everything is roses and butterflies–and because of my travel, I want to give freely of my time, my money, my love to people who need it around the world.

    Is travel focused on self? Yes. Is it also something that benefits every person I come into contact with? You better believe it!

    And, as you pointed out above, Luna has also grown from it. She is comfortable in all manner of places and spaces and with all manner of people. She is well exercised and well loved. She is able to be the happiest and most well-behaved version of herself. And she gets to bring a bright spot into every life she enters.

    • Thank you Gigi for your comment, for taking the time to so eloquently share your own sense of things on the issue. I agree. I think that travel – and long term travel in particular – is more powerful than anything else we can do in life. You can’t navel gaze when you travel like that. You can’t stay in your own world because you have thrust yourself into the “great unknown”. It’s being outside the comfort zone that expands who we are. Dogs and humans alike. We learn to have more patience with the world, and also to be kinder to ourselves.

      I did not know that about your business donating 10% … wow. That is absolutely awesome! When do you take off again?

      • Yeah. I’m re-doing my website later this year to better express our do-goodery mission. :) I’m leaving Colorado for California after voting (so probably Nov 7). The details after that are a bit fuzzy still, but I think I’m going to be applying for a European visa and jaunting back off to Europe late this year.

        • Oh Goodie!! Well we will be in Greece and then Bulgaria end of May early June 2013. Let’s see if we can meet for some good food and wine! What say you?

          Yes, you should revamp that website and showcase that. It’s an important part of your image! Not saying you want to shout it from rooftops or anything – but it is something your clients and readers would like to know about you. The where, the why … the how.

  6. WOW!!! What an amazing read. I too feel that though traveling may be just a tinsy bit selfish, what else are we living for but to enjoy life?! I have spent my life looking in books at all the amazing places in our world, knowing that I may never see any of these places myself. But to be able to see through the eyes of our friends that can is wonderful. The places I have been able to see, (locally of course) have changed me in so many ways. We have taken hikes and enjoyed nature in our gorgeous part of the world. Yes with our dogs too. They always have a little more bounce in their steps when we get home. Some trips have not been so fun and have still had a great impact on my life. By helping me to appreciate my tiny home. So I say, more power to those who can travel. One day I hope to join you. Hugs and puppy kisses from Oregon

    • Well, Amy maybe you can join us for a leg of our trip? How does that sound? You have 2 years to save up and plan for it! :) You are living your own dream, with the amazing craft you have chosen to pursue. We all have dreams – some of us it is travel – others it is a creative endeavour or business. The key is to listen to that dream and to not just talk about it – but do it. And you do!

  7. I loved reading your post, they are always so thoughtful and thought provoking. Travel should be viewed as the ultimate learning experience. Great culture, food, people, art and history are part of the deal, but travel also teaches us about ourselves. Maybe a shy person breaks out of his shell to dance at a local fete or tries a new dish. The intensity of the experience brings out qualities in ourselves we either never knew existed or were hidden away. All that was needed was the proper catalyst. Travel is the ultimate catalyst, but it certainly is not a selfish endeavor. The choice to travel for extended periods of time indicates a passion for things foreign that eventually become familiar. In my opinion, the ones who consider it a selfish endeavor are the ones waving you goodbye from the dock, wishing they could be taking this incredible journey.
    As always, you and your bipeds knock loose the cobwebs in our imagination and make us think about the world and ourselves. I wouldn’t expect anything less – thank you.

    • “Travel is the ultimate catalyst, but it certainly is not a selfish endeavor.” Brad my friend LOVE that sentence. That blew us away. Wow. I think we could write a post just using that one sentence as the foundation. You’ve made all of us here smile ear to ear. But that wasn’t enough because you follow with: “The choice to travel for extended periods of time indicates a passion for things foreign that eventually become familiar.” … things foreign that eventually become familiar. Again. Wow. That is travel isn’t it? right there… stretching the parameters of your own comfort zone over and over .., making the “strange” familiar is the ultimate satisfaction. Thank you so much for this insightful comment Brad. You never disappoint!

  8. The enjoyment most of us get from travel makes it *seem* selfish, but the mental benefits improve us as people, and that’s a gift to the world. Travel makes us more tolerant, diplomatic, resourceful, and accepting of change and the unexpected. It teaches us that the way we do things “back home” isn’t the only way to do things. It may not even be the best. It shows us that different people have different challenges, and yet we’re all trying to do the best we can. It teaches us humility. Whoever “we” are, we are not the best and most important people. We’re one small part of the global community, and the more people experience that, the more they can set aside their own interests and be open to helping others.

    • Esri … I think you best described all the Plus sides to travel. I read your comment and the entire time my head was nodding in agreement. Your insight shows a deep understanding on this topic. So glad you added your voice to the foray. “We are only a small part of a global community” … you are correct, nothing like travel to really drive that point home. I read your comment and all I can think is: What trip did she take that made her this “aware”?!

  9. If we are to consider this a philosophical argument (double philosophy & english major here) then, I think if you go by the original definition you gave, YOUR long term travel (in particular) is NOT selfish at all. The most important part of the definition, the defining part of the definition if you will, is that the selfish action must be defined as being “without regard to others”. As soon as you consider anyone else in your decision making, it makes that decision no longer a selfish one, by definition. It looks like you’ve considered not just one but many, many people in you decision for long-term travel. Therefore your decision would not be a selfish one.

    If we are to consider this more of a cultural argument, I would say that society has a different definition for selfish actions, one that is much more constrictive than the dictionary definition. As an “I” centered society (and let’s face it, species), we are always concerned with self-preservation, and always looking out for being hard-done-by. Therefore, I think we usually see someone else’s actions as being selfish if they don’t (or even just don’t seem to) consider us in them, no matter how many other people they ARE considering. Therefore, a decision for long-term travel might be seen by society as selfish if you are at all viewed as not giving regard to every single person possible…and even then, there’s always someone who can find something to be critical about…

    Personally, my libertarian philosophy of self & society thinks that as long as you’re not infringing on the freedom of anyone else to do what they want, they by all means you should do what you want, and enjoy it! I think that we fulfill our humanity best when we do things which benefit ourselves & others at the same time, thereby satisfying biological urges and moral/spiritual/theological (etc) imperatives; long-term travel definitely falls into that category since you can experience amazing things not only for yourselves but you can then bring those experiences back for those who are not able, for a myriad of reasons, to experience them first hand.

    • as soon as we considered others it no longer was selfish. Wow … read the words and had a total paw to forehead slap moment! of course!! And then your next paragraph … just wow … seriously … the depth of that thought. The “i” centred … there will always be one right? so to someone out there it will be selfish but only because they are in turn … self cantered.

      I love LOVE the last paragraph. We aren’t hurting anyone. Love these lines you wrote …because we’ve had a lot of friends SAY this but not one that put it so succinctly and eloquently. My dear Aemelia … comment here ANYTIME my dear … ANY.TIME.

      WOW”

  10. Oh my….deep article Monte. In my opinion, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with being selfish, as long as no one is hurt by it. Life is too short to not enjoy yourself to the max! As you know, I was diagnosed with cancer last year, and it sure puts your life in perspective. Live life to its fullest with no regrets!!! If you have the chance to make your dream of sailing through the Mediterranean come true, then GO FOR IT!!!! If you don’t, you will always wonder “what if?”.

    Honestly, I don’t believe travelling is selfish. We all do things that benefit us in some way or another. After all, human kind is naturally hedonistic. I’m not sure I would call it selfish. Some may love to go shopping, some may love to dance/sing, some may love to cook, and others love to travel. That does not make us selfish, it mainly satisfies our needs and in return makes us a better person. Deprive anyone of something they love to do, and they will not be happy, and it will show in their personality and how they interact with others. A happy person is more likely to be pleasant and be more giving.

    Is long term travel selfish? Well, we have to define what long term is. Long term for one, may not be the same as for another. 6 months may seem long for some, but it is but a small slice of one’s lifetime! For another person, 2 weeks may be long. It is all very relative.

    So there you have it Monte. I believe we all have the right to be happy and make our dreams come true! Life really is short. You never know what tomorrow may bring. So enjoy every moment like it’s your last!!! Play, sing, dance, travel, love… whatever makes your heart happy! Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t follow your dreams because it is selfish!

    love you!
    hugs

    p.s. plus, i’m looking forward to reading “blogs from the sea” and maybe even read about an encounter with a “real life Moby” ! :-)

    • A real life Moby!! OMGosh … Eeeeeeek!!! *happy dance*

      Thank you for the thoughtful response. I especially like: “Deprive anyone of something they love to do, and they will not be happy, and it will show in their personality and how they interact with others.” because it is true. I know this to be absolute truth. So, if you take the “not hurting others. as the barometer for it being selfish or not … I think making people around you miserable because you are not following your dream … might be more selfish.

      We have had a lot of “life lessons” in our family. As you know, like you Mom had a cancer. Also grandpa Roman died at 56 rather suddenly and tragically. All the dreams all the plans … snuffed out. So yes … YES… one life to live. so LIVE IT!! right?

      Love you!

  11. You open the world to many people who cannot travel by themselves ( too many dogs, or other reasons). So, this long travel cannot be selfish as well, as you generously share your wonderful reviews and photoes, and all your friends can’t wait to see them! I am absolutely sure that you have full support from your relatives. Go, Montecristo Travels!

    • Thank you Val! Travel is not everyones dream! I know that for some it is a big house in the country and horses to ride. For others it is a quiet cottage in a Mountain and never having to see any people. Some want families … and lots and lots of dogs! I think in the end – we need to follow our dreams. Following our dreams makes us better, kinder more patient.

      Thanks for your enthusiasm Val! One day we will meet up with you and get to hug you in person!

  12. Thanks for sharing the anonymous comment accusing you of being “selfish” instead of stewing about it privately. Obviously, it has been a great catalyst for important conversation. So, thanks, Mr./Ms. Anonymous.

    I think Mark Twain had it right and expresses the most important aspects of travel. (I suspect that Anonymous would be one of those who would be vastly improved by travel.)

    ““Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Mark Twain from Innocents Abroad

    Yes, as you discuss, we travelers feel competing pulls. However, I will never forget when my father was hospitalized for five weeks after complications from a fractured hip. I was supposed to leave on a three week trip to New Zealand and Australia and was getting very close to cancelling because of my concern for him and my mother. However, this was the man who took us to live in Mexico for a year when I was 9 and to live in England for a year when I was 15. He informed me in no uncertain terms that if I didn’t go on the trip, he was going to refuse to leave the hospital. He considered one of his parenting triumphs to be that he passed along his wanderlust, his fascination with the world, his love of learning, and his insistence that we respect and learn from people who come from different backgrounds and cultures. He was the most holy irreligious person I have ever known. We lost him last year. I honor his memory by traveling on.

    • Love that quote, just love it. I admire your father. What a man. Thank you Suzanne for sharing this story. I think it has most eloquently argued the point in a way no other words could. You do indeed honour his memory … and I believe so does your son! What an amazing family tradition this has become.

      I don’t like to stew on things that sting for a moment. Learned a while back that if it stung … there is something to explore. :) I am so glad I did – this exchange with everyone has been the best ever on this blog. WIN!

      • Great attitude and approach to things that “sting for a moment”. And you’re right. Anonymous’ barb has produced a most interesting conversation—one that epitomizes the best of blogging. Montecristo obviously found himself some excellent bipeds.

  13. Hi Monte. I think your anonymous commentor was likely a troll just trying to stir up trouble. The comment itself is really a non-starter. It doesn’t make any sense to me without any context. Certainly if your bi-peds were to leave you in a kennel for 6 months, or one of the bi-peds were to travel extensively without the other, this might be considered selfish. But to say that long term travel for a family is selfish, is just jibberish. It’ll be a great opportunity that, if one can do it, should not be passed up. In fact, I think the world would be a better place if more people traveled. There would be more understanding and less ignorance. xo

    • A troll?? wow .. yes you are likely correct! Amazing how you can find inspiration in the strangest places … even a troll’s attempt to stir things up! Opportunity. That is a fabulous word that hasn’t come up yet. I like seeing it that way. I believe that is exactly what long term travel is. An opportunity. Thanks for weighing in always so happy to see you here!

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