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?