DEBATE: Should You "Challenge" Yourself While Traveling?
Do you travel to "better" yourself? Or does that kill some of the joy?
I have an idea for one of our online debates that comes up fairly regularly in conversations with fellow travelers.
Namely, should you try to “challenge yourself” while traveling? Push yourself to do things you otherwise might not? Is part of the point of travel to become a “better” person?
I have a feeling you and I disagree a bit on this topic. Because I think I answer the question with a qualified, “Nah, I’m good. I don’t feel the need to challenge myself.”
Which isn’t to say I think I’m a perfect person — oh, gawd, no — or that I’m against challenging myself in general. We should all try as much as possible to become better people.
But in the immortal words of Lili Von Shtupp, I’m tired.
I’ve been working my ass off as a writer of fiction for more than twenty years now — making my living as a frickin’ artist. This has been the primary project of my life, and it’s been so much harder than I expected. Frankly, sometimes it’s been downright hell.
But I’ve done it — I’m still doing it — and I’m really proud of that fact.
As a result, I don’t really feel like I want to spend the other parts of my life “bettering” myself. These days, when I’m not writing, I want to relax and enjoy life (and help make the world a better place, which is a different topic entirely).
Sure, travel is inherently challenging in many ways, and I think that’s great. Since we left America five years ago, I’ve changed profoundly, in ways I never would have imagined.
But I’m really glad I didn’t force it. Never once have I said, “I think I should do XXX thing, because it’ll make me a better person.”
I did it because it sounded fun or interesting.
Which means, Michael, that sometimes you’ve done stuff that I didn’t. It involves getting up at five AM? And/or spending six hours on a stuffy bus?
“Why don’t you go alone?” I’m inclined to say. “Knock yourself out. But try not to wake me up in the morning, okay?”
And, looking back, I’m totally okay with my choices.
So, Michael, what do you think? Should people “challenge” themselves while traveling? Are you?
Hmm, I’m not sure I’m exactly “bettering” myself more than you. And I’m not sure I exactly challenge myself more. Except when it came to eating as much gelato as possible in Italy. But that’s not really a question of self-improvement.
But if we define “challenging” and “bettering” oneself as perhaps “doing more” in our various destinations then, yeah, we do make different choices.
I’m the one who was hellbent on flying over Lake Como in a floatplane. And I’m the one who made time to go river rafting in Bosnia. But you missed those events in part because (a) our friend only had room for one in his plane, and you saw how much I wanted to go, and (b) you had a project you were determined to finish. So I don’t think those really count.
That being said, I am the one more likely to do those things, and other risky things like exploring abandoned buildings even at the risk of falling through the floor. I mean, you would have done the floatplane and rafting if it had worked out. But if I’d said, “Nah, not interested,” I don’t think you would have pushed to make them happen.
And I certainly tend to talk to strangers more than you. In Budapest, I met a terrific young woman named Manjushri that led to a wonderful conversation. And in Ohrid, Macedonia, I struck up a conversation with a stranger on a bench that led to our being invited to spend an amazing day visiting a very remote Macedonian village (the subject of a future newsletter article!).
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