Telling others about your travels

In one of his stories, humorist David Sedaris describes how, as a child, he looks forward to a trip to Greece because it is his chance to prove to his friends at home that he is worldly and continental. He imagines his classmates saying, “Did you hear? David has a passport now. Hurry, let’s run before he judges us.”

If each one of us were given a shot of truth serum, we would probably admit to a similar feeling of self-satisfaction after taking a long trip. After my first trip, I embarrassingly thought that everyone I met would be dying to hear my tales of foreign intrigue. Turns out, few cared, and even if they had, I didn’t have a very satisfying response. “So, how was it?” the more inquiring would ask. “It was good,” I’d answer. What more could I say? How could I condense a several-month-long trip into a several-second-long response? In Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad addresses just this topic:

No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence– that which makes its truth, its meaning– its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream– alone.

A little bleak, sure. But it’s true– we can’t explain, especially in casual conversation, what a long trip has meant to us. Worse yet, not many people would want to hear it even if we could. I myself confess to lacking patience when someone recounts the details of a long trip. I roll my eyes when I hear people relate everything in life back to their semester abroad in London:

“I’m hungry.”
“One time, in London, I was hungry, and…”

But perhaps it’s best that most people aren’t terribly impressed or interested in other people’s travel exploits. It makes traveling for the sake of status seem foolish and desperate. It encourages us to create new memories rather than constantly trotting out old ones. In short, it helps to keep us from livin’ in the past, man.

There are so many good reasons to travel that we shouldn’t have to rely on bad ones, such as gaining status, or being more interesting at cocktail parties, or impressing our friends and neighbors. These may be the results of travel sometimes, but they should never be its motivation.

Posted by | Comments (1)  | November 30, 2007
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind

One Response to “Telling others about your travels”

  1. Olivia Says:

    I remember the first time I went abroad was when I was moving to Moscow for a spell. I ran from New York to my old hometown for the holidays and was telling everyone with whom I used to go to school or work my high school jobs that I was moving to Russia thinking I’d be hot stuff and finally have the upper hand over all the little snots who summered in Paris and Rome. I got a lot of “Yeah?”s and “Okay”s. But I still get passport high whenever I see mine (which now has gotten more play than Paris Hilton during Fleet Week).