Misinformation runs abound. If we took to heart every tidbit of advice from someone who’s “living the dream” or its negative cousin, “escaping the American dream,” we’d all wake up every single day feeling a tad shittier about our unexciting and mundane lives.
As much as the incredible exploits of these escapees affect our mood and make us believe we are doing something fundamentally wrong and uninteresting with our lives, behind each of these travel myths, pushed forth in best-selling books and on blogs with followings that could take on small European countries, is the raw, un-sensationalized truth.
Let’s look at a few, shall we?
1. Travel = Happiness.
I can’t think of a phrase more overused in lifestyle design and travel blogging. And it’s easy to see why. There’s a grain of truth in there.
Travel does bring joy. The aesthetic of transplanting yourself into an unfamiliar place is strangely beautiful, an inexplicable warmth that only grows fonder with each journey.
But it isn’t happiness.
At best, travel is bliss, a fleeting moment of euphoria that’s anchored in a specific time and place. True happiness is more than that. It floods every cell in your body and follows you wherever you go, whether at home or abroad.
You can’t create happiness by simply changing your surroundings; it comes from within, not without.
2. Travel cures depression.
Believing this myth is simply dangerous. Escaping an unhappy situation at home for a life of bliss trotting around the world often feels like a step in the right direction. But it’s not the only step you need to take.
Travel doesn’t fix problems; it simply ignores them. If you’re legitimately depressed, no amount of travel will cure it—as much as you’d love to believe it.
What happens when the smoke clears and reality once again rears its ragged face? You’re broke, miserable, and back to where you started, except severed from your entire support network.
Want to cure your depression? Don’t book a plane ticket, book a psychiatrist appointment.
3. Travel is always exciting.
Sensationalized: That’s the word that best describes most of what you’d read about travel. (It would be a boring narrative otherwise, no?)
Travel writers chop mundane details from their prose like dead branches. Ignored are all those 20-hour bus rides, plane delays, and, of course, those days where you do absolutely nothing.
It’s easy to avoid recognizing that travel has its ups and downs when all the boring—and irksome—details are conveniently omitted. Even when you’re living as an expat in an exciting place, it wears off—eventually it too becomes home, and soon, you’ll find yourself settling down to do the same things you would elsewhere.
Don’t get fooled into thinking you need to travel—or become an expat—to live an exciting life. Excitement’s a state of mind, not a state of place.
4. The grass is always greener on the other side.
Let’s tie these myths together. Is travel an incredible experience? Of course. (I wouldn’t spend my time on it otherwise.)
But does travel automatically make life more exciting? Definitely not.
The idea that quitting your job, buying a plane ticket, and never looking back is the only way to live needs to be reevaluated. Life is only what you make of it. And whether you live out your dreams at home or in some foreign place is irrelevant.
What matters more is that you spend life in the company of good people and experience as much as you can in the time you have. Avoid the trap of believing that the grass is always greener on the other side (of the world). You can be happy anywhere—if you let yourself.