|Impact Hub Westminster, London|
Last year, a member of my team quit to travel the world. She would leave behind most of her possessions, with only a first destination in mind, and no return date or location.
For a risk-averse, routine-seeking person like me, her news was mostly shocking. I wondered how she would ground her thoughts if she was always on the go, how she would appease the stress of travel anxiety, how she would deal if she got sick, how she planned to find a job upon her return, how she would support herself financially, and most importantly, how she would combat the pressure of making the most of her time. But buried even deeper beneath these “mom” questions, was a worrisome question about myself: Was I missing that special gene for worldly curiosity? I had, after all, no desire to do something similar.
Though hers is an exciting story, it isn’t a unique one in my circle. There’s one whose South American backpacking trip starts this November, one who is currently visiting her third city, two who returned from a year in Southeast Asia, and just this week, I met one who knew only that he was presently in London, with no guess as to when or to where his travels would end.
Extending to travel in the more conventional sense — a weekend trip within the country or a half-a-month trip to Africa — I could say that most people I know use travel as a way to break up their lives.
If it’s right for you, there is nothing wrong with this, with travel for travel’s sake.
|Sunset at Ocean Beach, San Francisco|
During a conversation early this year, an overworked Silicon Valley employee told me, “Work is crazy. I need to get away so I can rest.” His statement was problematic for two reasons. First, he saw no opportunity to rejuvenate himself in his own hometown, and second he thought somehow the work left behind would disappear before his return. More than a means of exploration, travel, for him, was a means of escape.
He is not unique in thinking this way. For most of us, it is too easy to associate travel’s physical departure with the opportunity for mental departure.
That same overworked guy then asked, “Do you have any travel planned?” When his question was met with a dismissive shrug and “no,” he was visibly alarmed. “So you don’t like to travel,” he decided, clearly wondering whether I was actually alive inside. He was not right, but he was not entirely wrong.
I like to travel, but I do not need to travel, especially for his reasons. Perhaps because I cannot compartmentalize my thoughts, perhaps because I have seen both the good and bad of life’s realities follow me abroad, travel is not my “getaway.” And if travel is meant to inspire, to grow, and to teach, I do not always need to hop on a plane to enjoy its benefits.
So far this year, I have made ten museum visits. Eight were in the San Francisco area, where I have lived for the better part of twenty-six years. From the history of Bulgari to the iPad art of Hockney to the pottery of Korea to thing paint strokes of European Impressionists, I have seen the world from my backyard (here’s how I could afford it). And in some ways, it has been less stressful than the museum pressures that accompany travel. Reminding myself that I could always return, I moseyed through each slowly, often by myself, stopping where I wanted and leaving when I needed.
I always left fulfilled.
|Hockney at de Young Museum, San Francisco|
|Levinthal at San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose|
|Intimate Impressionism at Legion of Honor, San Francisco|
|Rain Forest at California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco|
|Gorgeous at Asian Art Museum, San Francisco|
|Print publications of Livefyre customers|
This week, I am in London for work. In my first hours here, I accepted that despite being in LONDON, my travel would not be romantic (though I do love meeting with customers). Instead, it would be packed with the everyday craziness of work, the stress of navigating an unfamiliar city, the pressure of learning and practicing local business etiquette, and the struggle of dealing with an 8-hour time difference. It would be business-fun, not pleasure-fun. I still managed a lunch at Borough Market and a knock at Charles Dickens’ door, but there was no “escape” from my day-to-day.
In fact, the absence of escape allowed me to discover London in a way I never would have otherwise.
|Entrance to The News UK|
In commuting to work with Londoners, meeting with product managers who may as well be product managers at startups in the Valley, and paying for groceries at the self-service kiosks just as I do at Safeway, it was oddly comforting to see how life is not “easier” or “better” just because you live in some romantic European city.
Though work travel does not afford “escape” as an option to begin with, I would go so far (as far as London, at least) as to say that no travel’s purpose should be escape. Traveling for the right reasons — to grow, to understand, to rest, to learn — will move you forward. But travel to escape will only bring you back where you started, problems and all.
Friday night, after three hours on a train and two three hour meetings, I went to the British Museum. Rather than pressuring myself to see it all because “who knows when I will come back here?”, I meandered where my heart took me (the Rosetta Stone). In some ways, it felt like I was back home doing any old museum visit. I welcomed this part of my San Francisco routine with open arms because after this week, the thought of escaping into my own bed is “brilliant.”