Sure, people can live without travel. Countless people in this world do that, because they can’t afford travelling for various reasons. (And we don’t even count people who simply don’t want to travel. Or at least not to faraway places, but to the same ones they know and love.) Travel is not an essential need. It’s a privilege. Why does not being able to travel hurt so much then? Because it does.
This is what we’ve been thinking about quite often since this spring. And it’s not even just that, it feels like we’re somehow incomplete. Why?
A similar, still very different year of less travel: our 2019
If we think back to our 2019, the contrast is even stronger. We gave up on lots of things last year, because our priority was the safety of our soon-to-be-born baby. I was pregnant in the first half of 2019, and then we were busy with a newborn baby in the second half of the year.
We gave up on long flights and travelled inside Europe last spring. We gave up on hiking in the high mountains last summer, because I couldn’t carry my big belly up on those strenuous trails anymore. In my ninth month of pregnancy I gave up on mostly everything other than reading and some light yoga exercises, because life with a giant belly was sooo tiring. Then we gave up on months (or years?) of good, undisturbed sleep as Tomi was born.
Even using the world “give up” feels weird. Though we did give up on quite some things, it was also a choice (except for giving up on sleeping… hah, I won’t go into that now). We chose to have a baby. We were looking forward to our Tomi, and we wanted him to be safe. We expected this period to be challenging, but we knew that it would get better with time. We hoped that by 2020 spring we could carry on hiking and travelling more…
It’s the lack of freedom and loss of control that makes it so hard
Everyone knew that hadn’t happened. We planned several trips for 2020 already in February, only to cancel them throughout spring and summer. So for one, not being able to travel was hard for us, because we were looking forward to traveling again after more than a half year break. Also, we didn’t know how long COVID-19 lockdowns would last or what restrictions would different countries introduce. Everything was uncertain. Borders got closed. Period.
We might have chosen not to travel, anyway, but we didn’t have a choice. You can say it doesn’t matter, but it does. The result might be the same (no travelling), but emotionally there’s a huge difference between choosing not to travel or not being allowed to travel.
You can make travel happen – or can’t
We are strong believers that our lives depend on us in the first place. On our actions and our decisions. No, of course, not entirely, and we have not much power over lots of things, but that little we have, we can shape our lives with it. Like working hard for our goals and dreams instead of blaming the world for… everything? It was true for traveling, as well.
Do you want to travel? Make it happen. Save money. Search for cheap flights. Take advantage of vacation days, long weekends or flexible working hours. We know that not everyone can travel, but lots of people can if they make it a priority. Uhm.. Lots of people could have travelled.
Because now it’s not the question of money, affordable deals or vacation days. And there are barely any flights, cheap or expensive, to book. Not that we’re allowed to enter that many countries. And even if we’re, there are restrictions, and they can suddenly change. They might not make travel completely impossible, but they could easily kill the pleasure.
We are action takers, and now we can’t do anything to change these things. Being able to travel has been a priority in our lives, that’s why we could have made all those trips happen. Now it’s not in our control. Whether we can travel, where we can travel – they’re out of our control.
You might argue that we travelled this summer, so why the complaints? First of all, it’s not complaining. These are facts about the current state of international travel, and our thoughts about them. And yes, we did travel to several of our neighboring countries this summer. We took the chances we got. But our point now is not taking or not taking the chances, it’s the chances themselves. International travel as such still doesn’t exist, and travel opportunities within Europe are getting more limited again.
Seeing out of our personal lives: travel is progress
Okay, I’ve already talked a lot about our feelings, but it was on a personal level. It was the most selfish viewpoint, if you like. It was about our family, our travel plans for this year, our hopes and decisions – and the lack of decisions. I think lots of people around the world share these feelings – disappointment, fears and doubts, helplessness. But let’s take a look at the world to see all the other reasons why the lack of travel hurts so much.
It hurts countless people who make their living from tourism, obviously. It hurts the economies of lots of countries that heavily depend on tourism. It hurts families and couples who live in different countries and can’t meet now. But there’s another danger that might not be that obvious: travel is progress. And the lack of travel…?
A significant reason for the accelerated development of the world is the zillion connections. Between countries, businesses and people. Okay, I’m not an expert, so I’ll leave it at that. But what I can surely tell is that our travels have quite an important role in our personal development. Travel has been our best teacher.
It forced us out of our comfort zones and made us see the world as is – diverse and beautiful. It taught us more about nature, history and culture than any kind of school ever did. We experienced that despite all the differences in our cultures and languages, humans are essentially the same. Travel taught us new ways of approaching and solving problems. We learned that not everything is black or white – in fact, nothing is black or white.
We’re afraid of the lack of travel
We will be less without our travel experiences, much less. We knew that one can be educated, tolerant or open-minded even if they don’t travel, but we also experienced that the vast majority of travelers are just that: educated, tolerant, open-minded people. And their travels helped a lot in that.
The other side of this is that people are afraid of what they don’t know. We’ve seen that, too, especially in our own country, the one we know the best. If people are locked into their own little world, not knowing much about different people, cultures and different ways of thinking and solving problems, they become more suspicious of anything new or foreign. The world becomes more hostile.
And how will it be when we can travel again? Will travelers be welcomed in faraway countries? Or will they be seen as potential coronavirus carriers who risk local life? Will they be seen as the necessary bad to keep the tourism industry alive?
It hurts that everything is reversed
Making new connections is a bad thing now. Hugging and touching is also bad, because it’s dangerous. You’re supposed to minimize your interactions, keep your distance, prefer virtual to in-person.
It all hurts. We know there’s a pandemic going on here, and this is the way we try to defend ourselves and others. We don’t know any better ways. But still, hugging is a good thing, just like social life and new connections. Just like travel. It hurts that things that are so valuable are now to be avoided, even if we avoid them for a good reason.
What do you think? How do you feel about travelling or not travelling?
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