I had a bit of an epiphany today when, in the wee hours of the morning–thanks to one more sporadic case of insomnia–I came across a comment in a recent article by Seth Kugel, the New York Times‘ Frugal Traveler columnist.
In the piece, Kugel reviewed reader comments from the column over the past year for a bit of self-critique, using both praise and reproof as a barometer for his effectiveness as a travel writer. Brave man, that.
As I read through each response to his piece, my mouth fell agape as I read one particular paragraph by Nebraskim, a reader from Lincoln, Nebraska who wrote:
I enjoy good writing and good travel writing, which is why I enjoy your columns/stories, Seth. I actually do not enjoy traveling at all. If I never left my zip code I would be happy. […] But I do enjoy learning about the world and the excursions of others. Your writing is one way for me to do that. (Source) (italics mine)
Ten minutes after reading and re-reading those words, I was still catching flies.
While blogging about travel over the past two years, I’ve made a basic assumption: people who read this blog want to travel and possess the same level of near-crazed wanderlust that I do.
Color me enlightened.
It never dawned on me that some of you who visit this blog from time to time do so not because you want to be inspired to travel or because you’re looking for advice or guidance on traveling. It is possible that some of you navigate your way here to escape for a few minutes. Perhaps some of you merely want to learn more about the world beyond your doorstep with no intention of seeing it in person.
Despite our best efforts, most of us have a self-centered tendency to believe our ways of seeing the world and being in it make the most sense, and to project our thoughts and desires onto others, assuming the things we want are universal longings. There are a few common elemental needs we all share (food, water, shelter, safety, love) but beyond those core few, human desires and values fracture.
Some of us want large, sprawling mansions. Others embrace the tiny house movement. Some people want to be in lifelong committed relationships. Others prefer a more solitary life. Some people vote one way or the other.
Some of us want to travel. Some of us don’t.
And that’s okay. It would be sheer hubris to suggest otherwise.
I travel because I’ve found it to be utterly life-enriching but, then again, not everyone is like me. And while I’d like to believe anyone who claims not to enjoy traveling has tried it at least once, I know that’s not the case.
It is enticing to misappropriate quotes from the work of Mark Twain and trot out the “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness” bit from his Innocents Abroad, but it’s an inspiring ideal that it isn’t necessarily true. There are prejudiced, bigoted, and narrow-minded people who are also well-traveled, just as there are broad-minded, tolerant people who’ve never traveled more than fifty miles from the place they were born.
So, for those of you content to travel the heck out of your own zip code and who visit this blog just to get outside of yourself, if only for a little while, welcome. I see you.
Are you a reader who doesn’t like traveling? Or a reader who loves to travel but can still understand the viewpoint of someone who doesn’t enjoy traveling? Do you have a pulse? I really want to hear what you think.