Myth: The Curse of the Traveler

There have been a lot of discussions and articles about the “Curse of the Traveler” lately and since it keeps coming up over and over again I’m throwing my two cents in.

The gist of the curse is this: the more you travel and the more you experience it will always be harder to find the next place to blow your mind. You’ll never be satisfied and you’ll never find the perfect place.

Looking for the
Looking for the “curse of the traveler” in Kathmandu and not finding it.

It seems that a lot of people accept this theory of a “curse,” but like anything in life its all mindset. Frankly, I think its bullshit. I’m not mad at it or getting emotional here, but to me the “Curse of the Traveler” is an excuse, for what I’m not sure, maybe blindness. To stand behind my blunt assessment, the way you approach traveling is the way you approach life. Because really, that’s what traveling is, experiencing life. And in life every experience begins in the mind. What you set your mind to every morning when you wake up, that is what you will get. In the immortal words of Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.” Whether you are in Paris, France or the jungles of Laos you have to immerse yourself to get the most out of it. The places I’ve lost time trying to see the big tourist attractions by having spent time hanging out with the locals have been some of my favorites. The best things I’ve experienced are the conversations I’ve had with strangers.

Talking about food with monks in Bangkok.
Talking about food with monks in Bangkok.

While hiking through a forest outside of Kyoto, Japan I met a local man and in the little vocabulary we shared we struck up a conversation. We had both stopped at a small monument near the top of a small mountain where a downed tree lay encased in cement and had several fabric ribbons wrapped around it.  After a few moments of introduction and small talk I asked the man what was supposed to be in the encased tree. At that moment surrounded by nature in the total stillness of the forest the man thought for a second and thoughtfully replied, “Maybe God.” We both sat there quietly for a few moments at the shrine thinking impossibly big ideas about what was inside that tree and everything else and then went our separate ways. Did I discover the Eiffel Tower, did I climb the great wall? No. Did I encounter someone to re-shape the way I thought about the plainness of the things I saw, did I encounter something that changed me? Yes.

The man and the tree in Kyoto, Japan.
The man and the tree in Kyoto, Japan.

Currently, I’m living for a period in my hometown in Ohio, in the U.S.A. after the better part of 2 years of traveling; I’m taking a little break. This would be the easiest time in my life to say I’ve been cursed. Everyone speaks English, I’m neither special nor exotic to anyone, and I recognize everything. Initially there seems to be no surprises. Yet, everyday it is no different than when I traveled. There are no excuses. In Asia I’d take a train 19 hours in a hard seat to see a city, so now when I bitch about driving 40 minutes to see something it is madness. The truth is there are amazing things everywhere, even at home. The catch is our own ability to take the time, to have the patience to see things as they really are, which is incredible. The curse isn’t something that exists lurking for us in the darkness; it is inside our own approach to every moment. Yeah, there are no temples or tribes to be found here, but there are people to meet and conversations to be had in undiscovered forests. Anywhere I’ve never been is a destination. What made us ever think we were so important that we could be cursed when the world is so much bigger than we could ever be? The truth may be that the traveler is the least cursed of all people. You make your own luck fellow travelers and livers of life. The adventure is always just beginning, until next time - Shameless Traveler      

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