By Ethan Maurice | January 15th, 2019
“To travel or not to travel?” is the most common question I receive as a writer of wanderings and thrifty travels.
Whether the aim is a specific place (especially Hawaii and New Zealand), a specific way (by bicycle or in a Honda Element home on wheels), a specific job (deckhand for American Cruise Lines, season work through CoolWorks), or a general inquiry about whether to travel or not, I answer this question in one form or another dozens of times each year.
A couple months ago, I received a general ask of the “to travel or not to travel?” question and figured I’d publish my response, highlighting my approach to the question and offering a bit of insight into why I venture out. Below is the email and my response (with names and locations changed for privacy).
I live in Asheville, NC and feel utterly stuck. I love people, travel and personal finances. Want to retire early, and travel but need some motivation and a possible travel buddy. I own two homes so need to figure out a plan. Thankfully, I rent both of them out and just have the master bedroom to myself. So easy as getting another roommate to fill my room.
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated — or a road trip, if you have time!
Thanks for writing me, man!
I heavily relate with the struggle between the desire to travel and experience vs. being better set for the future. I see it as a spectrum: on one end, we could live purely for today with complete disregard for tomorrow. On the other end, we could live completely for a better tomorrow with complete disregard for today. I think it wise to be somewhere between the ends of the spectrum, but between them, it's ultimately up to each individual to decide where within those two points they want to be.
I tend more towards the today side of the spectrum. One reason being that I was bitten by a mosquito at sixteen that resulted in a brain-damaging stroke and nearly killed me. The drawn-out process of recovering my ability to speak drove the understanding of how fickle life can be deep. Live now, for later might not exist, was the potent takeaway. The second reason I side further with today is that we live in a country with such wealth and opportunity that covering the basics of survival (food, water, shelter etc.) isn't so difficult. In doing what we love now, while we definitely have the chance, it's doubtful we're setting ourselves up for future disaster.
But that's me, based on my life experiences. To try to tell anyone where they should lie on that spectrum is to neglect that their experience of life has been different from mine. However, I do think it's worthwhile to consider where we are on that spectrum, consciously decide where we want to be, and to do our best to align those two points.
You say you feel utterly stuck, though. As it’s opposite, I see travel as a great antidote to a pervasive feeling of stuckness. If you can fill that master bedroom to free yourself up to roam, I say do it! Like a pebble in your shoe that causes pain with every step, if you continue to feel stuck, perhaps it is time to try and take that pebble out of your shoe?
From my own experiences traveling, I imagine you feel a bit intimidated and are having trouble deciding where to go and what to do? As the first generation of young people with endless options available via the internet, this is our struggle. Elders we might turn to for advice have trouble relating to the incredible indecision that comes with this new phenomenon of unlimited, visible options. To avoid this torturous paralysis, rather than look for the perfect situation, I set about finding a good one and task myself with making it great when I arrive.
I have to turn down your invitation to join you on such a quest, as I'm looking to settle in a place and write a whole lot in the coming months. But know that as long as you go places that other travelers go, though it never feels like it, the friends you're hoping to share the experience with will be there waiting for you.
So, if you decide to act upon that stuck feeling, my suggestion would be to find a good answer to it and despite the unknown, jump in, embracing the adventure of creating a great answer out of it.
I'll leave you with the wise words of Terence McKenna:
"Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a feather bed."
Enjoy it all,