To travel or not to travel, that is the question

This morning, artificial intelligence knew that I had decided to start writing about my travels and sent me a notification of an article by philosopher Agnes Callard, entitled “The Case Against Travel“, published in the New Yorker magazine on 24 June 2023. The title had already caught my eye, but then I read the subtitle “Travelling turns us into the worst version of ourselves, while convincing us that we are at our best.” “Outrage!” I thought, but I couldn’t help feeling curious and read the article in full. Admittedly, the article focuses mainly on what I consider to be “tourist” travel, but it does have some interesting arguments and one sentence got me thinking:

“Travel prevents us from feeling the presence of those we have travelled such great distances to be near.”

Let yourself dwell on this phrase for at least a minute. When you travel, who do you want to be close to?

Your family? Your modern family? The family that rushes around every day, between chores, wakes up between six and seven in the morning, gets the kids ready for school, gets stuck in traffic to drop the children off at school and still get to work on time, works at least seven and a half hours a day, then gets stuck in traffic again at the end of the day to pick the kids up from school, then accompany them to their piano or karate lesson, prepare something for dinner, eat and prepare what there is to prepare for tomorrow; only to start all over again the next day. And in the meantime, you wait for the weekend to arrive, the problem is that those two days are so few, because you have to go shopping, do some cleaning at home or do the washing or, if you’re lucky, accompany the children to their weekly game and two birthday parties. And then you wait for the holidays! There’s the popular resort option, where parents can sip cocktails to their heart’s content while the children stay at the kids’ club; or the tailor-made city holiday that parents prepare because it’s important for the children to learn the culture of the other country and because they are unaware of (or ignore) the true pace, needs and desires of their own children.

Or do you travel because you want to be close to yourself, to find your essence?

I, who had been almost upset when I started reading the article, had to stop here and seriously ask myself: why have you always wanted to travel, Ana? Yes, I love seeing different landscapes, exploring new towns, cities and countries, speaking different languages, coming across different foods or habits, but why such a strong desire? Did I simply want to escape from where I was? Or did I, who have this primal need to connect intimately with others, perhaps think that by travelling I would finally find people to connect with? And after having lived in seven different countries and travelled to many more, what has it really brought me?

At the age of 41, living in Strasbourg – or having travelled through many countries until finally living here – has brought meaning to my life, which I’ve been looking for more than anything. After so many kilometres, having met so many people and having had many different addresses, here I found ME, here I finally began to understand how I function, to know how to name my needs, my values and my aspirations. Here I began the real journey, the only one that counts in life, that of knowing who we really are, so that we can finally discover and experience the other as well. Yes, I could have found my own essence by staying exactly where I was born, but the truth is that it took a lot of travelling to finally discover myself and start on my own path. That’s what travelling has meant to me. And for you?