Wanderlust

All the Wrong Reasons Why I Traveled

While travel is a means to get gleefully lost, I found that somewhere along the way, travel itself lost its meaning to me.

Traveling has been one of the most rewarding and liberating experiences in my life. It started when, at barely 21, I flew alone to a foreign country where nobody knew me or even spoke my language. Life has changed ever since, and I became familiar with the methods of backpacking, couchsurfing and DIY traveling.

This first taste of travel spurred more bus rides, flight tickets and tours, but in the middle of it all, I took a pause. For more than a year, I have never booked a single flight (except ones my boyfriend surprised me with). Instead, I started rethinking the way I traveled, and looked within to identify my motivations and find out what kind of traveler I want to be.

During this break, I discovered some pitfalls of modern-day travel that I’ve fallen into. I’m sure some of you can relate to these:

Travel as a mere impulse

Sure, traveling is more fun with a hint of spontaneity and risk-taking. In fact, adventures that push people out of their comfort zones and leaping in faith deserve applause. But taking one too many “spontaneous” trips, and we’re bound to get lost on why we’re doing it in the first place.

During my travel pause, I have made it a point to be more intentional about the places I go to. This does not mean following a strict schedule of itineraries and not making way for serendipitous meetings. It only means that I identify where I wanted to go and why.

Planning trips meant researching for the best pit stops and the most budget-friendly options. It meant getting to know the place prior to setting foot on it, instead of leaving everything to luck. This kept my motivation in check, as it involves polishing details and not a matter of instant gratification and emotional stimulation.

Travel as a compulsion to consume

Most consumerist messages come in the form of “work hard, spend hard” in twisted, glittery wordings. I have come to see through hasty statements like, “You deserve a vacation”, and “Be a weekend roamer”. After all, the reason why most of us slave ourselves off to 9-to-5 jobs is that we are primed to pursue one luxury after another. One of which, is travel.

At first, I thought traveling was a way to connect with nature and people outside my bubble of familiarity. It was a fresh experience to discover beauty outside the cold four walls of a corporate office, and converse with people who are not dressed as if they are hurrying to another meeting after yours. Travel was my means to put myself and others as top priority.

But then, most messages that persuade people to travel have become mostly just a compulsion towards consumption. It is often pictured as the miracle potion to relieve overworked yuppies of their stresses, even for just two days. A quick fix to escape life. It was far from being sustainable.

We have been invited to find happiness in purchasing the next flight ticket or booking a pricey hotel accommodation. But often, the joys brought about by our momentary vacations do not last. We still hate our bosses and dread our Mondays. Nothing changed. And if we wanted to change something, I’m sure a spur-of-the-moment swipe of a credit card isn’t the answer.

Travel to maintain the status quo

Social media has altered the way we view travel. At first, I traveled so that I could get to know other cultures, widen my worldview and open my mind to amazing sights immortalized by a snap of a camera. It wasn’t just about the destination, but about the journey.

But as soon as photos get uploaded to social media sites, suddenly, it was about being seen at a new exotic place. And since everyone travels so hastily, it felt more like people are running to tick checklists of places they “must” go to before turning a certain age. Or rushing to say, “Ha! Been there, done that.”

Travel has also become a measure of success. The daily, behind-the-scenes grind that is far from being picturesque is being ignored for fancier, filter-heavy vacations that are devoid of an accurate picture of how things work. Truth is, I really would rather much have to endorse the hard work that comes in going out of your comfort zone and fighting for the kind of life you want than just seeing the beauty of so many destinations.

Travel without regard for the environment or local culture

There is a reason why I haven’t seen the sea of clouds of Mt. Pulag yet, got myself tattooed by Whang-Od, or beach bummed at the powdery white sands of Boracay. It’s not that I’m hipster enough to find these places too cliche. It’s that they are much too crowded for now to be enjoyed.

Plus, traveling has also caused damage to the environment because of poor tourism regulations and zero maintenance projects especially for natural wonders. Some players in the hospitality industry have short-sighted and profit-oriented goals, rather than going for sustainability and moderation.

An example of this is Mt. Pico de Loro, the peak of which I think is too eroded already because of heavy foot traffic. Another is the whale sharks of Oslob and the tarsiers of Bohol that are being weaned away from their natural rhythms just to feed the whims of selfie-obsessed tourists. Finally, there is Mt. Batulao and its multiple registration booths and requirements, none of which have a legal mandate to operate.

Travel to keep content flowing

Choosing travel as my writing niche also invites a pressure to live up to the reputation of being a well-traveled person. The more I write, the more I am compelled to travel more so that I can provide the most comprehensive guides, the most complete itineraries, the prettiest photos, the most accurate reviews and so on.

Soon, site views and website traffic became currencies of validation. I paused to remind myself to go back to storytelling and to veer away from being at the forefront of manufacturing travel trends that really do not speak to the heart.

Make no mistake, my wanderlust hasn’t been quelled by all these. But taking a pause and traveling slower and nearer my locality was the best decision I ever made. It kept me from being burnt out and from being focused on the mundane fluff that people tend to associate with traveling.

Altering the way I view travel – not as an impulse or need – has enriched it even more.

This article was later published at Manila Bulletin’s Lifestyle-Travel Section on March 13.
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25 Comments

  • Reply
    stephdobson
    January 17, 2018 at 12:47 PM

    I believe that the environmental impact of travel is definitely an issue to address. I recently read an article about how people in Death Valley National Park, California have destroyed the pristine landscape with their footprints, etc. It utterly breaks my heart that we all choose not to take better care of Mother Nature.

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      January 17, 2018 at 10:18 PM

      That’s true… When a place gets popular with tourists, sometimes exploitation happens. The place is packed with people who appreciate the beauty but damage it because the traffic and behaviors are not regulated.

  • Reply
    ROBERT LEE
    September 7, 2016 at 9:45 PM

    Whenever I talk to people regarding business opportunity, the top three needs/dreams in order are as follows:

    1. House
    2. Car
    3. Travel

    So what do they do? A typical person would want to save money. Now, growing money is another matter and sad to say, the mindset of most people is not to put time to learn how to.

    Today, travel has become a necessity. Why? A lot of people are doing it and all over social media, people are posting about their travels and how affordable it is. The truth is, travel can be affordable. It depends on the location. Affordable being able to save and use the money to travel. I am concerned though with many of the frequent travelers going by the motto of “you only live once” and not thinking of future needs as much as thinking of the next destination.

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      September 7, 2016 at 10:53 PM

      I agree. Like most activities, my concern is making it sustainable. I’ve tried traveling with a YOLO mindset, but after a while, it gets old. You think about how you’re mainly consuming from the world but not contributing to it. And to contribute to the world significantly, sometimes you really have to stay long enough to see things improve.

  • Reply
    Martine de Luna
    August 11, 2016 at 9:19 PM

    We need to travel because it enriches us. I agree that the reasons above aren’t the best, but you’re right that social media and societal pressures have made travel ability a kind of status symbol. I’d like to think we can go back to a way of traveling that wasn’t about these pressures, but about the real pleasures in life.

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      August 11, 2016 at 9:39 PM

      I agree. I think I have a lot of angst about traveling not being a status symbol so I take it out on writing. Unfortunately we also have to adapt to social media and accept that some reasons, though not the best, are still valid. :\ Thanks for commenting Martine! 🙂

  • Reply
    Jane Rosewood
    July 29, 2016 at 1:38 AM

    I totally agree that all these reasons are the wrong reasons to go travel. I hope that most people are traveling from the right ones although it’s probably isn’t true. What is your reason to travel?

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      August 11, 2016 at 9:40 PM

      Thanks for asking. For me, it’s the one thing that picks me up. I feel like a child about to absorb magical stories whenever I’m traveling. Only this time, I’m the main character 🙂

  • Reply
    Dunja
    April 21, 2016 at 11:09 PM

    I travel mostly because it makes me really happy and it’s a food for my soul. But i must admit – i do like posting pics of my travels on Instagram. Not to show off, but simply because instagram it’s like my photo diary where i share some memorable moments. And the point about places that are too crowded to be enjoyable is very true.. it’s not easy to appreciate something when there is TOO MANY people around you (and blocking your view).

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      April 22, 2016 at 4:05 PM

      Same here. I used to think I enjoy street festivals, but considering the foot traffic, I’ll just walk away. Unfortunately.

  • Reply
    Joanna
    April 20, 2016 at 11:12 PM

    I don’t think I ever traveled just to spend money. In fact, most of the times I manage to actually come back with money from my trips because I don’t spend them foolishly. I’d rather save them for another trip than buy a bottle of expensive wine for example. I think low cost traveling can be very enjoyable too (not very low cost though, as I think having a local meal or experiencing a local attraction are important things when traveling).

  • Reply
    filipinaxplorer
    March 1, 2016 at 8:06 PM

    Sam, I love how you discussed the temporary thrill and gratification that travel offers and how the “the joys brought about by our momentary vacations do not last.” The idea, I guess, is not really to escape, but to refresh oneself then always come back home to take action of the situation.

    Insightful piece! 🙂

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      March 2, 2016 at 8:57 PM

      Hi Gretchen! So happy you dropped by 🙂 It’s such a love-hate relationship with travel don’t you think? As with anything, people will try to overdo it if they see it as their source of happiness. Travel can change us, but it shouldn’t be our drug.

      Thank you Gretchen. Hope to see you around 🙂

  • Reply
    jared's mum
    February 8, 2016 at 6:43 PM

    it is sad that people these days travel for all the wrong reasons, but as they go out + explore more of the world, i hope they realize that there is more to traveling than merely posting awesome photos in social media or churning out a trending travel blog post.

    traveling loses its meaning when you start to feel like it is more of a chore than a new adventure, i do hope you find your traveling muse soon. forget about the trend or what social media dictates + travel for the reasons that your heart tells you to! 🙂

  • Reply
    Rob
    February 4, 2016 at 3:29 PM

    “A quick fix to escape life.” is a big mistake. Travelling should be about your journey. An important point i found here: “…I identify where I wanted to go and why.” 🙂

  • Reply
    Milton Coyne
    February 3, 2016 at 7:24 PM

    I came to a point that I really want to become a travel blogger but my budget forbids me from traveling other places haha.. Ako if I will travel, my intention is just to find a place where I can unwind… I prefer those unspoiled places kasi iwas stress from great crowds

    • Reply
      Samantha Coronado
      February 3, 2016 at 8:58 PM

      I agree! Haha. I used to think, for example, that I like going to festivals because of the “culture”. But really, the first time I tried I wanted to get out of there kasi andaming tao. #IntrovertProblems

  • Reply
    Milet Miranda
    February 1, 2016 at 10:22 PM

    Travel as a mere impulse. Ako yan dati! 2012 is my first year of travelling. It was like an amazing race kind of year because I tried to visit as many places as possible (without even thinking if I really want to go there). The years followed are quite different. I resolved to go to the places I really want to and NOT TO BOOK every destinations on Cebu Pac’s seat sale. 🙂 Nakakapagod kasi ang ganung lifestyle. But now, I am happier

    • Reply
      Samantha Coronado
      February 2, 2016 at 1:24 PM

      Thanks for sharing this Miletttt! I agree. I had my Amazing Race phase. It was awesome, albeit too wasteful. I’m so glad I stopped for some time 🙂

  • Reply
    franckxethee
    January 31, 2016 at 11:21 PM

    I guess some people travel just to have wonderful photos to post in social media. The more they travel, the more they realize that travel is more than the photos but the experience on its own.

  • Reply
    Jojo Vito
    January 31, 2016 at 12:26 PM

    i agree as I also have 2 travel blog. but I guess the worst amongst these is “Travel to maintain the status quo” 🙂

    • Reply
      Samantha Coronado
      February 2, 2016 at 1:23 PM

      All too true for most people. Haha. For me, the worst is the compulsion to consume. It puts your resources in things that won’t last.

  • Reply
    Arcee Miranda
    January 31, 2016 at 3:26 AM

    I can also feel this! Whenever I ned to feed my readers with a lot of bag to investigate and I really can’t use all of them. I think sometimes we just need to go with the flow and let things just fall into place.

    • Reply
      Samantha Coronado
      February 2, 2016 at 1:06 PM

      I agree. Sometimes you just forget what you’re doing it for when it becomes just work to you. Haha. Thanks for sharing your experience Arcee 🙂

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