Travel is awful

View of Tawang town

There seems to be no lack of pithy sentences promising you the world if only you travel. One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. The journey is the reward. Travel makes you modest. Focus on the journey, not the destination. Nothing is as tedious as a journey. No two journeys are the same. The beauty of a journey is that it’s unpredictable. If you are 22, I urge you to travel. Wisdom comes with age. Travel teaches tolerance. Travel long enough, and you forget your passwords. Travel stretches the mind. Tourists don’t know where they’ve been. Amazing how much stuff gets done the day before you leave. I have seen more than I remember. To understand a foreign country, smell it. Go see for yourself. There’s no foreign land, it’s the traveller who is foreign.

Bird photography in Arunachal with the wrong lens

The truth is travel is tedious, and not always comfortable. You only have to eavesdrop on two backpackers chatting to figure out how expensive, inconvenient, and downright unhealthy travel can be. I’ve found more disconcerting things about my hometown by overhearing conversations between backpackers than by reading newspapers or doomscrolling. If travelling has taught me anything, it is that it is far more comfortable to stay at home, drinking a tea or a beer as the mood takes you, eating food that you like, and generally being in an environment that you have grown used to.

Fountain in Hamburg when the temperature was below freezing

I learnt that on a freezing winter’s day in Hamburg you should not take a ferry ride through the harbour, or take long walks with a camera in hand. Much better to do what locals do, and stay inside a shopping arcade or sit in a warm restaurant. Better still, go to Hamburg in a different season.

If you focus on details you find that Rome’s most famous fountains require cleaning

Do not look for the telling detail in Rome. Better to step back and take a long shot of the piazza. It would be even better if you just step back into the crowd, find a table to site down at, and order something to drink. i had more fun drinking a coffee and eating a cake at Piazza Navona that I had taking photos of the fountains.

Contrary to what brochures say, Goa is not full of locals busy having a holiday

Do not go off the tourist map. Do not follow the white rabbit. There is no wonderland waiting for you in Goa. Remain where the tourists are, in the places marked out for you. Enjoy the inauthenticity of a big tourist destination. Remember that Alice did not have a great time in wonderland. The world is full of people trying to make a living. Most of them do not have the money to travel.

Bhutan may or may not be the happiest country in the world. But it is not the world’s richest. The always photographable gho and kira which people are required to wear in public are not cheap. The result is that most people only have a small number of outfits, and they cannot always dress for work or leisure appropriately. Do not assume that everyone treats work as a such a joyful activity that they dress their best to work.

The most interesting thing in a village is always the foreigner

Life in a small small village is not carefree. It is often boring and pointless, much like our own, no matter where we come from. If you look different, then you are as much of an attraction for them as they are for you. Even better, you give them an opportunity to forgo dangerous travel to broaden their mind. Also, be sure that any local politician worth his salt will tell his constituents that he has worked hard to make sure that the village is the most attractive in the world, which is why people come from far to see it.

It is not travel which broadens the mind, it is thinking about what you have seen. Anthony Bourdain probably never said that, but Mark Twain may have. Maybe travel has taught me that. Intercontinental flights are boring enough that I get a lot of reading done on trips.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.

43 comments

  1. That’s why I like to move to a new place every few months.
    I have a new home, cozy and comfortable, yet I am in a new environment and get to know new people. It’s not a bad combination of travel and home.
    (Moving to Bad Mergentheim in two weeks and then to Leipzig for the summer. After that, I don’t know yet.)

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I love this wry post. Increasingly these days I avoid the ‘must sees’ because it will be crowded with tourists. A coffee in a back-street square is much more fun. And air travel? Avoid, avoid, avoid!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Yes, travel is less comfortable than staying home. But comfort isn’t everything as you show anyone able to read between your lines ๐Ÿ˜† And there’s a balance to be struck as you point out. Sitting in a Rome cafe with a coffee is pretty comfortable, it’s only the getting there that might be tough!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Thank you for your excellent commentary
    I could not agree more. Speaking candidly, I do not like the many photographers who boastfully post photos from far-flung travels or exotic locations that cost literally thousands of $$ to reach. They are showing off their affluence, which is a distasteful way to cross something off their bucket list.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. You’re welcome and I agree. What I find distasteful are the posts that are boastful. Not all are like that indeed, but some are. Anyway I always enjoy your own writings. Thanks.

        Liked by 3 people

  5. Well said about travel, IJ. I enjoy reading your thoughts. I agree, travel is not all that comfortable and can be risky sometimes. Love the photos especially the village people.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. HA ha ha ha! PERFECT, I.J.!!! Very, very, very well expressed, not only on the vagaries of travel for some 1.4 BILLION tourist arrivals pre-pandemic (down to 400 million after, a precipitous drop), but also on the fact that many, many more are struggling with daily tasks in agricultural fields, rice paddies, herding goats on Asian steppes perhaps, sweatshop factories, etc etc., without a glimmer of hope (or interest?) in getting a photo of the Eiffel Tower on a 20-day, 20-city whirlwind tour.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. “It is not travel which broadens the mind, it is thinking about what you have seen.” Comments on your interesting post seem to reflect the minds of the readers. But I guess that is always so. I didn’t know what to think, so I focused on the quote above.
    The older we get, the slower we go. I tell myself this is because it is the journey that counts, not the destination. But it may be that I just move slower.
    On the other hand, I drive when I can and sleep when I can, and I almost always sleep on a plane. That is by choice. There was a time, when I considered a plane to be a refuge from my business activities [in an era before there were laptops and Internet connections]. Now it is just a means to an end, a way to get to where I begin my travel. And then, I take back roads so I can drive slowly and see and think about what I am seeing.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Your post has me thinking, IJ. I love that. True. Travel can be miserable, exhausting and bad for your health. It’s definitely not a list a places to check off. “Been there. Done that.” It can be so much more. A chance to open our minds. To meet and get to know others. That’s travel in the best sense. I agree that it doesn’t always happen that way. The drudgery of travel during covid takes away a lot of the excitement and fun…that’s for sure.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Oh my, you are disenchanted with travel. It is my greatest joy and planning a trip is the love of my life. Work is a hardship, the daily grind,slogging till I can scrounge enough money to go on a vacation and explore.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have found that travel takes you far out of your comfort zone. It often seems to go against the rose-tinted description so many people place on it. But it pushes your comfort zone to new levels and can be wonderful. I have loved it and hated it all at the same time. I loved this post and think more pieces need to be written like this.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I agree. Most travel descriptions focus on the wonderful, the amazing, the charming… but travel can be frustrating, boring, lonely and bloody hard work. The main pleasure is not to be there, but to have been.

    Liked by 2 people

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