I LOVE the world -- I'm a travel blogger, so that was probably a given -- but I don't really like the (mostly western) society that's in it.
I don't like our obsession with celebrity, our misconceived notion of beauty, our dependence on what ever is our drug of choice -- be it technology, alcohol or something more illicit, and the availability of such vices. Then there is the big stuff: racism, violence, terrorism, (and, dare I say it?!) religion. I could go on, but I'm sure everyone has their own idea's about what is wrong with society (if they think there is anything wrong at all!) But I am a firm believer that, whatever you think is the problem with 21st Century society -- travel is the solution.
Now, I know what you're thinking. You're sick and tired of reading why travel is so good for you. That it teaches you patience, cultural awareness and blah blah blah. That you're sick of people trotting out the same romanticized sentiments that don't really translate to anything but idealized notions of living a better life. I get it. If you don't travel, posts like that could be seen as condescending, patronizing, even and in some cases downright narcissistic. And if you do travel - you've read it all before. I really hope that this post doesn't read in either negative way(!) but I would like to share with you why I think travel makes me a better version of myself and how that can be reflected in this messed up 21st Century Society we find ourselves in.
♪♪ Money talks, money talks, dirty cash I want you, dirty cash I need you oh.. ♪♪
I'm not sure how many of you will recognize the song lyrics above -- I don't think it was ever that famous, that sentence just always sticks with me -- but we have an unhealthy obsession with money whilst at the same time a frivolous uncaring attitude about how we spend it.
We all need money -- those bills won't pay themselves (and those plane tickets aren't free!) but do we need all the money? Why do we not realize that having enough to live comfortably -- or to finance the lifestyle you want (in my case it's a life of travel) that that is the perfect amount. Society drives us to work harder and for longer hours in the pursuit of a bigger paycheck. Which we then never have the time to spend -- or we spend it on worthless things. I notice such a stark difference in how I treat my money when I'm traveling compared to working a 9-5. When I travel, I am conscious of every dollar/euro/dong/baht (you get the idea) that I spend. I budget so that we live frugally enough to sustain our travels, but have enough cash there to splurge where necessary to ensure we get the best experience. Yet at my 9-5, I am less likely to think twice about spending $10 on lunch, or buying that super cute dress that I might wear once before it joins my already bulging walk in robe.
I value money more as a traveler. Yes I still go to the pub for lunch on a Friday and I have a nice handbag every couple of years -- but compared to the me I was before I traveled, I am much more responsible with my money and traveling on a budget, I appreciate how far a little bit of money can go.
2. My Health
I read a post the other day about how our lives have been dictated to us by the working week - that we are forced to conform to a 5 day working week to keep the corporate big wigs in business yet we leave very little time for ourselves and feel guilty when we don't have time to exercise and keep ourselves fit and healthy. I resonated with this post so much in relation to my 9-5 life -- I used to spend money on gym memberships and sneak out on my lunch breaks -- but I'm not a saint (pub-lunch Fridays anyone?!) and when work is busy, it's hard to keep it up day to day. Plus I felt like I was wasting money on a gym when walking outside is free!
None of this is even a concern when traveling. If I don't have my backpack on my back (which is a workout in itself -- I don't pack light!), I'm walking 15,000 -- 20,000+ steps per day and I enjoy just being outside. I love walking and exploring and I am not counting the hours whilst doing it, or even worse, counting the hours I don't have time to do it.
Travel makes you go outside -- makes you exercise without you even realizing and your body is better for it -- we are not designed to sit at desks 8 hours a day -- and a world of people with back problems is a testament to that!
3. My diet
Ah, fast food, you're such a convenience -- but could you try to be a little bit healthier? Now, I don't actually eat fast food, but my sentiments around food are the same. The food (and alcohol) we have access to is for the most part on the unhealthy side. Yes, there is a push for salads, grains and other healthy options -- but the fact remains that unless combined with the exercise bit above, counting calories can have little to no effect on our health or weight management and I'm a firm believer in eating/drinking in moderation.
I think the overriding problem with western society and our diet is that we eat at the times our working day says we should. We have a designated hour for lunch -- so that would be a good time to eat, right? And to fit with that, we have breakfast and dinner either side. Plus maybe even morning or afternoon tea -- and who doesn't like a bit of supper?! I think we are in the habit of eating for the sake of eating and have created all these meal times to justify excessive food consumption.
When I travel I eat when I'm hungry and traveling on a budget, I don't eat for the sake of eating.
Then there's the booze -- ours is a society that works for the weekends and there's a feeling that after working a full week -- you deserve a drink on a Friday night (and some most weeks I completely agree!) and so we splurge on Friday and Saturday nights, drinking to excess in some cases, just because we can. You don't need me to tell you that this really isn't good for us.
When I travel, I class alcohol as a 'luxury' item. A once in a while treat. In stretching my money it's just not something I am willing to splurge on. And my diet and health is better for it.
I admit it. I would be lost without my iPhone and MacBookAir and I couldn't imagine living in a world where the internet did not exist. But at the same time, we are all so connected all the time and people feel like they have lost an arm when their phones are more than arms reach away. Did you know that the average user checks their phone 85 times a day? It's incredible! And it's great that we have such readily available access to whatever news, gossip (or in my case) travel sites that we could want. It really opens up the world and everyone can find a community, website or hub for something that they are passionate about and connect with likeminded people. But I think we have been spoilt by technology. And don't even get me started on the 24/7 availability! I feel like because we have the technology to facilitate instant communication, doesn't mean that it should be a mandatory part of our existence. Most devices and platforms now have a feature to tell the sender when their message or email was read by the recipient. Queue feelings of angst or even annoyance when you can see people have read it and not responded -- or even guilt from the recipient who knows they have seen it and not responded. I did not sign up to a world where I could be held accountable for my non-immediate (sometimes even slack!) responses -- and even though I might not reply immediately, it was never my intention to snub/disrespect or annoy the sender.
And this is another reason why I love travel. I can go all day without checking my phone, restricting my internet time to the evenings in a hotel using the benefit of their free wifi (a must-have feature of a hotel/hostel for the budget traveler) and I don't feel guilty for not being accessible 24/7. I am unplugged yet connected at the same time and it's just fantastic. And people understand that -- like traveling is a legitimate excuse for tardy communication -- whereas the inconvenience of 'real life' (which is often the reason I don't get back to people immediately) is just not a good enough reason to not respond immediately.
5. My Image
I hate society's obsession with celebrity, and the misguided notion of beauty that is constantly portrayed in the media. I hate the young girls are taught to think that being 'attractive' is the best way to succeed in life and that 'attractive' equals 'better' (and you have a 'better' chance of finding a husband!!). But what is even worse in all of this, is that, in some ways, it is true. What we class to be 'good looking' people are treated differently to those the media has deemed as less 'good looking'. And so people (mostly women) spend thousands to try an achieve the ideal - from make-up and gym memberships to cosmetic surgery, women believe they have to look a certain way to succeed and spend hours of their lives trying to achieve these unrealistic ideals.
I don't buy into it. I've never really been one to wear much make up but travel gives me the freedom to dispense with it all together (except mascara -- that's my one vice). I also don't really bother with my hair -- only getting it cut once or twice a year and washing it twice a week. I wear it up for work and only really 'style' it for special occasions like weddings! and I don't follow fashion and wear what I feel comfortable in. Travel has made me care less about what other people think about how I look -- and help me shed my insecurities over how I think I look. And I am so much happier for it.
So there you have it, 5 reasons why I think travel is the solution to (my problems) with 21st century society. I understand this post may not be well received by all, and I'm not saying I'm better than anyone else because I travel -- but I do think travel makes me a better version of myself and for me to make society better -- it would be to be more like travel me than working 9-5 me. And I promise to work on that every day.
**This post was originally posted on MakeTimeToSeeTheWorld @ 5 Reasons Why Travel is the Solution to 21st Century Society**