"When you travel often, you will be addicted to it forever. Our destination is not the place, but new way to see things." - Henry Miller
It is claimed that there are so-called gateway drugs that take you on to higher highs from humble beginnings. Could the same be said for travel addiction?
I fondly recall the lazy lake-side cottage summer vacations of my youth. We all remember our first time. I can distinctly evoke my first family road trip -- Cedar Point, Gettysburg, Washington D.C., Williamsburg, and Ocean City, Maryland. It was a mild good buzz. I memorized my first plane ride from Los Angeles to Detroit -- it was utterly thrilling! I vaguely recall as I got older I had graduated onto Spring Break holidays in Florida and Mexico, and then cross-country buddy road trips. My taste for adventure was growing. But my first international adventure to Southeast Asia was the coup de graĉe...the travel bug was now coursing through my veins. I was hooked. It had heightened both my senses and consciousness. I was alive, engaged and absorbed. It was utterly exhilarating.
My name is William Chalmers and I am a travel addict. There, I said it!
Recently, I got to wondering about that gateway drug reference and narcotic feeling as it pertains to travel. We have the infamous affliction informally known as 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 and hoarders, 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; you only date international airlines flight attendants; 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 is on another continent is the first-step!
Clearly the impulse, the compulsion to travel, must have come from somewhere. After some research and surveys among famous travelers I know, I found that simple nostalgic family vacations do indeed lead to bigger and more elaborate travel wants, needs and desires -- addictions as it were -- higher highs. Travelers sometimes are keen to visit the newest hot list destination, or an increasingly remote and isolated or obscure off-the-beaten path locale; and we know adrenaline junkies are always looking for another crazy Jackass-like thrill. 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 summer months I began sharing that question along with my own point of view with scores of other passionate fellow travelers, as well as in getting the input from a few of the adventure and travel clubs I know. I talked with a lot of amazing travelers, in fact some of the world's greatest travelers themselves, about what their next high was and what their ideals of the ultimate travel high were. 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, ala the famous psychologists Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs -- for the first time I have created an escalating ladder of travel experiences showing the progression of types of trips, travels and adventures. From humble beginnings in origin, you can see how quickly the journey travelers take climb them up the travel ladder in order to achieve higher and higher travel experiences.
Again, these are travel thresholds, not unique personal experiences or specific destinations which are both unquantifiable and endless in nature. No matter 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; that unless you are risking your life you aren't taking a truly daring adventure; whatever...bring it on!
And you would be missing the point...the point of travel is simply to have fun. Who amongst us knows what my definition of fun is? And again, I loudly stipulate now 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 high can I get?
The Ultimate Traveler's Index 1.0
(Bold designates significant gateway travel thresholds):
.10 - Being an armchair traveler watching travel & food shows on TV
.20 - Reading newspaper travel sections weekly
.4 - Two-week summer family vacation
.5 - Student spring break trip
.75 - Visiting Disneyland/Las Vegas
1.0 - Purchasing 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
4.0 - Obtaining your passport
4.15 - Attending an overseas conference/convention
4.2 - Studying a semester abroad
4.3 - Taking an exotic honeymoon
4.5 - Visiting a Club Med/all-inclusive resort
4.6 - Being a business road warrior
4.7 - Applying for The Amazing Race
5.5 - Visiting a non-English speaking country
5.7 - Backpacking through Europe
6.75 - Obtaining a visa for a foreign nation
6.8 - Taking a gap year traveling
6.85 - Becoming a paid travel writer
6.9 - Competing in The Amazing Race
7.0 - Having lived in more than two countries
7.2 - Having visited more than four continents
8.5 - Visiting India
9.0 - Taking an around the world (RTW) trip
9.5 - Visiting 50+ countries
9.7 - Competing in The Global Scavenger Hunt annual travel adventure competition
9.8 - Being considered one of The World's Greatest Travelers
9.9 - Travel rapture
Of course, I welcome your comments so that I can present a 2.0 version in the New Year.
Follow William D. Chalmers on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@wmchalmers