"When you travel often, you will be addicted to it forever." -- Henry Miller
Gateway drugs push you on to higher highs. Could the same be said for travel addiction?
My name is William Chalmers and I am a travel addict. There, I said it!
I fondly recall the lazy lake-side cottage vacations of my youth. We all remember our first time! I can distinctly evoke family road trips -- Cedar Point, Gettysburg, Washington D.C., Williamsburg, and Ocean City, Maryland. It was a mild buzz. My first plane ride from Los Angeles to Detroit was utterly thrilling. I wanted more. I vaguely recall Spring Break holidays in Florida and Mexico -- utterly intoxicating. (Sorry.) Then cross-country buddy road trips.
My taste for adventure grew. My first international adventure to Southeast Asia was the coup de graĉe... the travel bug was now firmly coursing through my veins. I was hooked. And the feeling of traveling to exotic faraway destinations only heightened my senses and consciousness. I was alive, engaged and absorbed. It was utterly exhilarating and I wanted more. A lot more.
Recently, I got to wondering about that gateway drug reference and narcotic feeling as it pertains to travel. Many of us suffer from the affliction wanderlust, which describes a "craving to travel." But how does one contract an obsession and how does one go about feeding that habit?
Like foodies, there are tell-tale signs you are a travel addict: you talk about your next distant fix while you are already in an exotic destination; you book another trip as soon as you return from one; your Bucket List keeps getting longer instead of shorter; you only date international airlines flight attendants (Okay maybe just me?); you visibly shake at the sight of a map; you always carry your passport -- even at home; your Skype contacts list looks like the UN's phone book; your idea of art on your walls is thumb-tacking postcards; you can give tourists directions in places you are actually visiting; and finally, you know you are a travel addict when you accept the need for an intervention -- as long as rehab on another continent is the first-step!
Everyone is different when it comes to their drugs of choice -- be it tea, coffee, tobacco yoga, marathons, tequila, love, marijuana or chocolate -- so too in travel. Over the holidays I began sharing that question along with my own point of view with scores of other passionate fellow travelers. And I think I now have a good sense of how fellow travelers get hooked, deal with their dependencies and alleviate their constant cravings.
The results I have assembled below are rather subjective, but extremely interesting and thought-provoking. As a novel way to present these data points -- it is a work in progress to be sure, but one that presents as a simple barometer of sorts that for the first time presents an escalating ladder of travel experiences illustrating the progression of types of trips, travels and adventurous experiences. From humble beginnings in origin, you can see how quickly the journey travelers undergo quickly climbs them up the travel addiction ladder in order to achieve higher and higher travel experiences.
I readily admit it is a work in progress. I know that unique personal experiences or specific destinations are both unquantifiable and endless in nature. And no doubt, jaded travelers, over-intellectualizing critics and sanctimonious pooh-poohers, will all make the usual arguments, complaining that: roughing it is all that matters; that trips are different than personal journeys; that tourists are different than travelers; that travelers are different than wanderers; that you have to spend X amount of time to truly know the authenticity of a place; that there is a right and wrong way to travel; and that unless you are risking your life you aren't taking a truly daring adventure; whatever... bring it on!
Let's call this a budding thought experiment that I front and center stipulate immediately that travel is indeed a highly personal endeavor and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to it.
That said, on a scale of 0-to-10 (10 being really elusively high!), what all travel junkies want to know -- how can I get my next travel high?
The Traveler's Addiction Index 2.0
(Bold designates significant gateway travel addiction thresholds):
.1 - Armchair traveler watching TV travel & food shows
.2 - Reading newspaper travel sections weekly
.3 - A quick trip to neighboring Colorado to, well, you know...
.4 - Two-week family summer vacation
.5 - Taking a student spring break trip
.7 - Visiting Disneyland, Las Vegas, Branson or Orlando
1.0 - Subscribing to a travel-related magazine
2.0 - Taking a cross-country/multi-state road trip
2.2 - Visiting Canada
2.4 - Visiting Mexico
2.5 - Taking a weekend cruise
3.0 - Reading a famous travel memoir
3.5 - Obtaining your first passport (with the intent to use it)
3.6 - Buying a guidebook (with the dream of using it)
3.7 - Taking an extended international cruise
3.8 - Attending an overseas conference/convention
4.0 - Studying a semester abroad
4.1 - Taking a travel agent FAM trip
4.2 - Taking an exotic honeymoon
4.3 - Visiting a Club Med/all-inclusive-type resort
4.4 - Being a business road warrior (domestic)
4.5 - Taking a Medical Tourism excursion
4.6 - Applying for The Amazing Race
5.0 - Visiting a non-English speaking country
5.5 - Backpacking through Europe
5.6 - Doing the classic London, Paris, Rome trip
5.7 - Being a business road warrior (international)
6.0 - Obtaining a visa for a foreign nation
6.7 - Taking a Gap year traveling
6.8 - Becoming a paid travel writer (not a travel blogger)
6.9 - Competing in The Amazing Race
7.0 - Having lived in more than 2 countries
7.5 - Having visited more than 4 continents
7.7 - Seen these Seven Wonders: Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, Great Wall, Pyramids of Giza, Petra, Tikal.
8.0 - Visiting India
8.1 - Attended these Global Happenings: Rio Carnival, Winter Olympics, Summer Olympics, World Cup, Holi, Burning Man, Fiesta de San Fermin.
8.2 - Seen these Natural Wonders: Himalayas, Grand Canyon, Great Barrier Reef, Iguazu Falls, Victoria Falls, Mt. Fuji, Amazon.
9.0 - Circumnavigating the globe in one trip
9.3 - Taking an extended around the world (RTW) trip
9.4 - Reaching the 50+ countries threshold
9.5 - Reaching the 100+ countries threshold
9.6 - Competing in The Global Scavenger Hunt annual travel adventure competition
9.7 - Being considered one of The World's Greatest Travelers
9.8 - Travel rapture
9.9 - Travel nirvana
10.0 - Hmmm?
So, where are you at on the travel addict's ladder?