Do We Actually Like Traveling?
My friend Sam has a Fender Rhodes Electric Piano. It’s like an electric guitar, but it’s a Piano. Every key strikes a metal tine, and above each tine is a pickup (like a mini microphone). The whole thing plugs into an amp. It’s big, heavy, fragile, goes out of tune easily, and it’s expensive.
But most of all, it sounds amazing.
(Here’s my favorite song that uses an electric piano, if you want to hear it.)
I was thinking about getting a Rhodes for myself, but I got discouraged after a quick google search showed me they were at least $1500. Usually more. Around the same time, I was looking into plane tickets to go back to Bali. They were about $800, which is a middle of the road cost to get out there. A two-week trip to Bali could cost about $1300, if you’re eating out every day.
This got me thinking. Why am I so comfortable considering a $1300 trip to Bali (for the 4th time), but so discouraged thinking about buying a Rhodes for $1500? Which one is a new experience? Which one will last me longer? Which one is an asset I own and could make money with?
From there, I had my own mini existential crisis. I thought a lot about how our culture trophy-wifes traveling. American social media creates an economy around travel content. It’s larger than life now! A photo in another country earns so much more engagement than anything else. When our friends travel, now we’re more likely to travel, which makes our friends even more likely. And the ratchet keeps getting higher and tighter and higher and tighter. We “knock countries off our bucket lists”. We plan $800 trips every four months. We dismiss entire cultures if they’re “too popular”.
I understand my perspective comes from a privileged place. As an American male with means and a flexible schedule, I can do more traveling than most of the world. I don’t intend to be discouraging to those who haven’t had many opportunities to travel. I’m not trying to say “it’s not that great”. I am trying to say this: for those of us who have the opportunity to travel often, we must beware of the cultural slippery slope of consumerist travel.
I commit to traveling in moderation, just often enough to yearn for it again. I commit to learning from each place I go. I commit to not consuming, checking off, or collecting travel. Travel discovers culture, makes friends, gets lost. I commit to that.
Here’s my final stanza:
If you haven’t traveled out of your country or state, do so as soon as you can. Sacrifice what you must to make it happen. It’s well worth it. The perspectives you’ll gain will alter your life in a very positive way. If you travel often, take a step back and consider if you’ve slipped into consumerism of travel, which is tourism. Weigh the investment against your other options, and remember how heavily American culture influences your decision.
Make the best investments for your community and yourself.