Having been overseas for over two months, I’ve occasionally wondered what the purpose of travel is for other people and for myself. Other personal questions include:
- How much of the non-material things that I’ve gained here will I actually be able to take home?
- Are these experiences with people real (and repeatable) or are people only nice because I’m a visitor? (Or both?)
- Is all of this personal development I’m experiencing going to the right box, or will that box be put away when I go home and everything reset to normal? How bad will the mood crash be once I get home?
Aside: how INTPs feel about travel
It’s kind of funny especially relating to that last point: in an informal survey of INTPs, I found that many of us don’t like to talk about our travel experiences with family, friends, and colleagues. Some of us will pretend like our trip never happened. We only want to talk about it in a high quality conversation and to say exactly what we want to say. This usually requires a friend who’s trusted for that purpose. People who ask about the trip but don’t have to the right or capacity to receive our full enthusiastic answer will often just get a minimal response like “It was fun.” Something that can be annoying is when someone feels they have the privilege to hear your full answer and when they don’t get it they keep asking the wrong questions. We like relevant deepening questions the most. Broadening questions can surprise us but are not unwelcome. Irrelevant and presumptuous deepening questions that are about how the listener wants or expects to think are bad. (INTPs are often highly misunderstood by women, especially the kind of women who think they understand us despite virtually every past experience contributing to evidence of the contrary. Another thing that’s kind of funny. I talk slow when I’m recalling things and I want to pick the right words to describe something. When it comes to abstract ideas, people who habitually try to guess how I’ll complete my sentence almost never guess the right way.) It can very quickly send us to the conclusion “Okay, this conversation is pointless. Minimal answers from now on, end as soon as possible.”
In short, we often prefer to solicit the right listener, and preferably a listener who is actually good at listening. I should point out that being a good listener is a relative thing; you can be a good listener to most people yet fail spectacularly when it comes to INTPs, for example.
All of the above coupled with never finding the right words in a conversation is why I’ve gravitated to writing as the most faithful form of expression. (As a minor benefit, why explain something poorly multiple times in online correspondences when I could just refer to a blog post with my exact thoughts?)
Why do other people travel?
This was my first completely independent solo trip, so it made sense for me to consult on other people’s thoughts. Here are some of the answers to “What is the purpose of travel?”
The simplest reasons
- For business/employment purposes
- For medical tourism
- For religious purposes
- For shopping
- For study or conference purposes
- For training purposes
- To attend a specific event (e.g., concert or marathon)
- To challenge oneself and expand one’s comfort zone
- To escape stress and other burdens
- To find or experience adventure
- To learn about culture
- To learn more about yourself, others, and the world
- To meet new people and make new friends
- To not be bored
- To party
- To see the nature/beauty of the world
- To take a break from routine
- To visit family/friends/other
More involved answers and indirect answers referring to benefits
To share experiences with people you’ll never see again
I think exploring that common humanity is nice, but it doesn’t really sound like a reason.
To tick items off a list so you can brag about it or in response to a fear of missing out
People can do what they wanna do, even if that means visiting Belgrade for one day just to “see how un-European it is.” Despite my inexperience and tragic lack of knowledge about geography/history, I’ve realized that I’m not the least aware traveler when it comes to cultural appreciation.
I’ve certainly experienced the fear of missing out and it has influenced some of my decisions. I’m slowly learning to let it go, because I think it’s not a constructive feeling and it stems from emotional insecurity rather than rational considerations. If you’re comfortable with who you are and what you’re doing, and you choose to be genuine in the moment, there’s no good reason to be anxious about the (often false) perceived consensus of what everyone else thinks is universally worthwhile.
Travel gives us the chance to be truly engaged in an activity, to develop new skills and to discover new cultures. It brings us closer to ourselves and others.
I agree with this; in my own words I’d say:
You get to enjoy things you usually wouldn’t, sometimes because you don’t have a better choice but to enjoy it since you’re already there.
That said, it seems hard to pin this down as a specific reason for traveling, especially if you often have no idea what you might come across once you get to your destination.
To explore the unknown, and to just go with the flow
I suppose this is something you can “plan”, in a manner of speaking.
Learn to take care of yourself
I definitely see this as a side effect of traveling; by learning about culture, food, language, people, art, economy, etc, we inevitably pick up some new ideas on how to live our own lives. Learn from people who do it better than you. I’m a hypocrite for saying this (and not in the sense of the usual negative connotation), but I think this is usually a side effect rather than a primary intention.
Traveling is an art.
Okay, I think that explains. All artists are crazy (the question is just to what degree and in what way) so we travel because we’re crazy enough to.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did do….” — Mark Twain
Travel is not a reward for working, it’s an education for living.
Multiple people mention that quote from Mark Twain. The full quote does seem to be referring to travel specifically. Except Mark Twain never actually wrote this, and it’s also a stupid quote so I don’t think he’d be happy to have it wrongly attributed to him. Referring to this quote really does not support a specific reason and it’s not like anyone will respond like “I’m so convinced about going traveling now; I don’t want to feel that disappointment in twenty years,” unless they already had other motivations.
“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” — William Shakespeare, Pablo Picasso, and whoever else you want to misattribute it to.
The purpose of life is to discover your gift.
The work of life is to develop it.
The meaning of life is to give your gift away.
The first one is another meaningless quote. The second one which might be considered the original statement makes a bit more sense. I suppose that by traveling and exploring the unknown, one might come to stumble upon some clues as to what they want to do with their lives.
Would you regret NOT traveling the world?
I’m pretty sure many INTPs including myself would answer no. However, I might regret not finding a place where I feel like I belong, but I don’t have to travel the world to find it.
Maybe travel can help you find the purpose that you’re lacking in the first place.
Other general comments and discussion
Travel broadens the mind.
Travel helps you learn about yourself and increase your resilience.
Although there are many unpredictable aspects of travel, I think we encourage other people to travel for the first time because we know, at a certain level, that it can very much be an eye-opening, life-changing experience. It’s not necessarily that for everyone, but overall it is not unlikely to be the beginning of a journey of many things. The part where we’re forced to adapt and grow and be challenged and surprised and reconsider—one might argue that that is in fact foreseeable on an intuitive level, just not a logical one. The only practical advice, then, is “Do it!”
A personal example is the number of times I’ve told myself: I’m done with churches. There is nothing that can possibly impress me anymore. Oh, how I’ve been made a believer. I guess that’s the thing. You don’t know what might really fascinate you in the moment. In rational terms, our understanding of other places and cultures is so so limited that there’s almost bound to be something we’ve never seen, never thought about, never experienced before that will leave us a strong impression. There are precious opportunities for our preconceptions to be proven wrong if we allow it.
It opens up your possibilities and your horizons and the kinds of conversations you can have, the kinds of experiences you can have.
My goodness, I’ve had so many new normal experiences that I’ve never experienced at home. The conditions aren’t favorable where I live and it’s hard to do something when you don’t know how to and you don’t know it’s even possible. For one thing, people over here actually think I’m an interesting person and a worthwhile friend, whereas life has always told me the opposite must be true. I’m able to form genuine connections here, and what this means is that the same should be possible at home. There must be some people I can connect with like this. Maybe it’ll require a different approach to find these people, but I’m inspired to keep trying despite the odds.
I want to visit every country in the world.
This kinda makes me cringe because I can’t understand it. I’ve met someone who has visited over 100 countries. He didn’t seem particularly different to someone who’s visited 40 or even “just” 10 countries. I get that trying different things is a path of learning. I get that surrounding yourself by the unknown is a unique experience. But if there’s really any objective goal aside from being able to say you’ve been to every country, I feel that this approach necessarily sacrifices depth for the sake of breadth. Although INTPs usually have our fingers in a lot of pies, we definitely value quality over quantity. For me, I would rather explore “just enough” to figure out some favorite places to visit, then mostly revisit around those places. (That said, tastes change with the seasons of life, as do people and places.) One could think of it in terms of the diminishing returns on visiting new countries when you already have some favorites that are very suitable for further enjoyment. One thing I’m starting to realize about myself:
Life is too short to be objective.
Actually, I have no idea what this means. The words just popped out.
Travel provides context apart from me.
This context can include, for example, awareness of and compassion for others. I’m not one of those people that can naturally sympathize like that. I care about people on a personal basis, but I cannot feel the pain of a whole nation. Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. I think it’s irrational and non-beneficial. If I were a philanthropist, I’d rather be one who pretends not to care.
Travel as an escape does not make up for having a soul-destroying job or other unsatisfactory life conditions. You can’t escape reality by traveling.
Actually, I traveled in order to escape my studies (which I no longer consider to be important) and search for reality away from the corruption of my past. Anyhow, I don’t really know, but I feel like some people cope really well with difficult jobs and then have really good holidays too. I’m too lazy to persist in doing something I don’t enjoy, even though I’ve basically been persisting like that with education for most of my young adult life. The key difference is that I didn’t realize what was going on.
That said, I feel that there are definitely some jobs that you can’t recover from through travel (or anything else). I mean, can you really enjoy money and travel after you’ve sold your soul?
It’s about the adventure of exploring the unknown, and going with the flow of the unplanned.
Adventure for the sake of adventure. So not me. I like experiments for the sake of learning, but adventure is another thing. This kind of reminds me of what is said about BJJ: To train in BJJ is to continually drown—or, rather, to be drowned, in sudden and ingenious ways—and to be taught, again and again, how to swim. Maybe those adrenaline junkies should try it.
Travel should always have a purpose.
I agree; I think you’ll get less out of something if you don’t at least have some idea of what you want. Locals say this a lot too: “depends on what you’re looking for.”
If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. — Lewis Carroll
Mom: Was your trip fun?
Traveler: I learned a lot.
The purpose of my trip
As cheesy as it may sound, the purpose of my trip was to find, learn more about, and develop the real me. I had specific ideas for how I was to go about doing that, though a lot of it went differently to how I expected.
The reason for traveling, as opposed to just taking time off at home, was to distance myself from everyone in my life and all that might have reminded me of my past. Traveling solo is good for not caring what other people think about you. I chose my destinations (originally only Romania and Hungary) in order to not spend too much more than I would usually at home. (There were other contenders of course, but in the wrong season.) It was never really about traveling so much as travel being a good way to experience a fresh, unfamiliar environment and expand my comfort zone and gain a better understanding of myself through the trials to come. The opportunity to practice interacting with people without lasting repercussions on failing was another perceived benefit.
I have to say that I miscalculated on the ideal length of this trip. One month less would have been perfect as there were clear diminishing returns. No matter how much freedom I have, I still need an actual haven in the end. About halfway through, I’d absorbed all that I needed and more. I was tired. I was inspired enough. What I needed was a private space to play; to create and internalize some of the things I learned and make them my own.
As much as I really started getting into this travel thing, my instincts assert that I’m not a traveler or explorer. I simply happened to need travel at the time.
Quotes I like
People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.
To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.
I really hope these are true.
Not until we are lost do we begin to find ourselves.
Basically the right idea.
If an ass goes traveling he will not return a horse.
I like it 😛
(If you’re confused, this is supposedly a proverb, not a travel quote.)
My final answer
I never intended to submit my own answer since my trip initially had clear objectives. However, I started asking the question because I was drawn to the experiences that travel brings in a way that distracted me from my goals. I couldn’t explain why I had to try things that I didn’t need to or even want to. I wanted justification or assurance that I wasn’t wasting my time chasing after the fleeting. For better or worse, I went along with it mostly. When one of your secondary goals is to have the bravery to make mistakes, you’re bound to achieve either way ;). Besides, this is hopefully not going to be my last trip. I’m very slow at processing the general picture and it’s completely fine if I overlooked some things. It’ll come one day.
So, for my “answer.” Actually, it’s part of the indirect / non-answer category, but I’d like to share it anyway.
Travel is an investment in one’s personal growth and development.
Although my trip has not officially ended, I’m inclined to summarize my overall experience as follows:
I never wanted to be this happy, but soon I won’t have to be. (º̩̩́⌣º̩̩̀ʃƪ)