The Traveler's Curse

Has anyone ever heard of The Traveler’s Curse? I only heard of it from a friend yesterday (he said perhaps I have it), and what everyone is saying on the linked thread seems to hold true for me (well, not everything… since, I have lots of friends from back home who travel a lot and understand the forlorn feelings a traveler gets – and my wife, we’re birds of a feather!): … me/c68uit9

(One REALLY interesting thing is, that whenever someone who has lived in Taiwan starts talking about their traveling experiences, I totally know they’re talking about Taiwan, even before they mention Taiwan or anything too specific… maybe it’s because they mention “teaching” and BAM… haha…)

The best quotes, for those of you who don’t want to wade through all the responses:

Also, have you ever heard of The Curse of the Traveler?

An old vagabond in his 60s told me about it over a beer in Central America, goes something like this: The more places you see, the more things you see that appeal to you, but no one place has them all. In fact, each place has a smaller and smaller percentage of the things you love, the more things you see. It drives you, even subconsciously, to keep looking, for a place not that’s perfect (we all know there’s no Shangri-La), but just for a place that’s “just right for you.” But the curse is that the odds of finding “just right” get smaller, not larger, the more you experience. So you keep looking even more, but it always gets worse the more you see. This is Part A of the Curse.

Part B is relationships. The more you travel, the more numerous and profoundly varied the relationships you will have. But the more people you meet, the more diffused your time is with any of them. Since all these people can’t travel with you, it becomes more and more difficult to cultivate long term relationships the more you travel. Yet you keep traveling, and keep meeting amazing people, so it feels fulfilling, but eventually, you miss them all, and many have all but forgotten who you are. And then you make up for it by staying put somewhere long enough to develop roots and cultivate stronger relationships, but these people will never know what you know or see what you’ve seen, and you will always feel a tinge of loneliness, and you will want to tell your stories just a little bit more than they will want to hear them. The reason this is part of the Curse is that it gets worse the more you travel, yet travel seems to be a cure for a while.
None of this is to suggest that one should ever reduce travel. It’s just a warning to young Travelers, to expect, as part of the price, a rich life tinged with a bit of sadness and loneliness, and angst that’s like the same nostalgia everyone feels for special parts of their past, except multiplied by a thousand.

Thomas Jefferson wrote to his nephew on August 10, 1787:
Travelling. This makes men wiser, but less happy. When men of sober age travel, they gather knowledge, which they may apply usefully for their country; but they are subject ever after to recollections mixed with regret; their affections are weakened by being extended over more objects; & they learn new habits which cannot be gratified when they return home. Young men, who travel, are exposed to all these inconveniences in a higher degree, to others still more serious, and do not acquire that wisdom for which a previous foundation is requisite, by repeated and just observations at home. The glare of pomp and pleasure is analogous to the motion of the blood; it absorbs all their affection and attention, they are torn from it as from the only good in this world, and return to their home as to a place of exile & condemnation. Their eyes are forever turned back to the object they have lost, & its recollection poisons the residue of their lives. Their first & most delicate passions are hackneyed on unworthy objects here, & they carry home the dregs, insufficient to make themselves or anybody else happy. Add to this, that a habit of idleness, an inability to apply themselves to business is acquired, & renders them useless to themselves & their country. These observations are founded in experience. There is no place where your pursuit of knowledge will be so little obstructed by foreign objects, as in your own country, nor any, wherein the virtues of the heart will be less exposed to be weakened. Be good, be learned, & be industrious, & you will not want the aid of travelling, to render you precious to your country, dear to your friends, happy within yourself. I repeat my advice, to take a great deal of exercise, & on foot. Health is the first requisite after morality. Write to me often, & be assured of the interest I take in your success, as well as the warmth of those sentiments of attachment with which I am, dear Peter, your affectionate friend.

The traveller awaits the morning tide
He doesn’t know what’s on the other side
But something deep inside of him
Keeps telling him to go
He hasn’t found a reason to say no
The traveller is only passing through
He cannot understand your point of view
Abandoning reality, unsure of what he’ll find
The traveller in me is close behind

Robert Service: … 27t_Fit_In

There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don’t know how to rest.
If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they’re always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: “Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!”
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.
And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It’s the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that’s dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.
He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life’s been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He’s a rolling stone, and it’s bred in the bone;
He’s a man who won’t fit in.

Very insightful. Thank you.
You know what travelling feels similar to? Seeing the world with beginner’s eyes. You spend a lot of money to get into that state. For a while, you are very attentive, and this is what makes travel magical.
Instead, if you want, you could cultivate a state of spontaneity and full awareness (mindfulness) and have this beginner’s mind wherever you are, in any situation of life.
Of course you’ll still be hard pressed to find someone who could understand your way of seeing the world. Most people live like robots. This is the exact opposite. To be alive, to be into what you are doing with all your heart.
I’ve travelled to 15 countries but I also stayed put for years, “travelling” with my open awareness right here, in my own place. It’s just as great. It’s a matter of attitude, not of physical movement around the world.

I disagree wholeheartedly. I think the solution lies in being an introvert. When I travel, I 'm not looking for a place that’s “just right for me,” because I know all places are just places - what makes it right for you is whether your mind is in the right place. If you center that, ALL places become right no matter how they are.
As for relationships, people can be interesting but the vast majority are dull with an overinflated sense of the importance of their opinions (like me, can’t you tell?). I’ll talk, I’ll meet, I’ll enjoy it, but I don’t want lasting friendships and deep heart-to-hearts. I enjoy the solitude of traveling. I enjoy not knowing where anything is in the town I live in, or the deep twists and ties that others deal with as they interact with the people in said town.
Trying to hold on to the relationships of yesterday when you are a traveler is futile. Meet people, enjoy them while you are together, and move on when you…well, move on. I don’t miss people. I don’t keep in contact with old friends. I am gone from their life, as they are from mine. The memories hold and they are nice. I look forward to making new memories with new people.
tl;dr - the Curse of the Traveler is only a curse if you desire to settle down.

Yeah, so what do you guys think?

I know this as the emigrants curse. Personally I’m no traveller and I think the insight gained as a traveller is not especially deep anyway.

'Tis is true, for I knoweth that my uncleth hadeth thiseth curseth wheneth he firseth emigratedeth to Canadaeth.

Then, he (both of them, actually) went back to India for a while, but both realized there was no future there, so they had to go back to Canada.

But, headhonchoII, what about those feelings of always wanting to be somewhere new? I don’t feel any loneliness… but, I do feel the yearning to always be somewhere new.

Well I would like to visit more places sure, but not because they are new only, but because they are interesting to me. There many places I’d like to visit again to relive my memories or see it at a different time in my life or in a different season.

The massive numbers of degenerates on the Banana Pancake Trail all claiming to be having some sort of deep, insightful experience has largely put me off travel now. It’s often just another form of consumerism, escapism and irresponsibility.

You say that like it’s a bad thing!

But yeah, those who pretend tourism/travel is some kind of pilgrimage, rather than a mildly educational lark, are annoying.

im largely cured of any love of travelling because i absolutely HATE flying :slight_smile:

Travel is over rated. Every where in the world is the same. The people are just people , nothing different. Maybe they dress different and speak a different language, but its all the same under the surface.

Sights? Yeah there are sights, but there are sights near where most of us live anyway.

2011 I had a week off and i couldnt decide where to go. I decided that all i wanted to do is get to a hotel and sit by the pool and watch girls in bikinis and drink a few brews. Then i had an eureka spurt of thinking? I had that right at home. So what i did was hang out at my pool at the complex every afternoon in the hot sun (40c) and drink a few brews and watch all the young ladies on summer vacation (the ones back from college). At night, go out to an agreeable restaurant and maybe take in a movie? Was an awesome stay-ca-tion. Cheap too.

Sometimes there really is no place like home, no matter how far you go or where you go.

And if you are a wanderer without a home, you are a ship without a port. And that is a sad sad state of affairs bud.

But yes, get all that wandering and world exploration done when you are young, then you can have stuff to talk about (again and again even if everyone heard it before) in your wizened years.

I guess the next best time is when your kids are grown and out of the house and your wife has gone elsewhere too. And provided you are still of sound mind and body (and fat bank account) you could once again set sail for yonder shores and be “Free” again. Just remember its NOT Free out there (you need money, the more the better).

Tommy: If your wife has gone elsewhere, you sure as hell aren’t going to have a fat bank account!

well s’long as you can pay her alimony or she married someone else that is :slight_smile:

I’ve been traveling since childhood. Over 35 countries. Still traveling. 15 countries last year, 6 new ones. At least 15 new cities in Taiwan in last few weeks, still traveling Taiwan when not traveling the world.

A: I love every moment of it and still find new great things in the small or the large. Burj Al Arab, the tallest building in the world was interesting as well as the mall and other immense sites in Dubai in recent months. And so were those little Chinese spring roles made by a little old Chinese lady in a small town in south Taiwan recently.

B: Traveling relationships aren’t really that different than roaming around your own small town, meeting strangers, never seeing them again. Except these days, with worldwide communication, we can keep up with friends and family, near and far.

I guess my travelers curse might be that I can’t get to enough places, spend enough time to really absorb as much as I want. It would take a lifetime in each location, so I just happily absorb what I can.

I’ll go with one of my favorite travel quotes…

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson