We are young, and like many young people, we are addicted to traveling. New places, new people, new cultures – but as soon as the excitement of arrival has worn off we set about planning the next trip. No arrival is final, and no goal so satisfying in reality as the idea and anticipation of it.
But what causes this addiction?
I think to understand it fully we need to take a step back, and consider one of the fundamental failings of our society.
We are a society trained to acheve. Everything is defined by goals, especially for the young. We have to finish school, to finish university, to buy a car, a house, find a partner, to get promoted… our goal is always to reach the next stage. And every time we reach the next stage, and find it unfulfilling, we find a new goal to pursue in its place. An yet during the whole process, each dream and it’s fulfilment, we are unhappy. We are unhappy until we reach our goal; we are unhappy when we do reach it and then have none.
And so it is with traveling. So long as we have a goal, a target, an ambition, we are fulfilled by it. And every time we reach it the disillusionment has us asking for more, rather than questioning that need.
The problem is not a new problem, and the solution is ancient. Instead of being motivated by goals, we must learn to be motivated by processes. If we focus on goals, we are first dissatisfied, and then disillusioned. We let the beauty of each moment slip past unappreciated.
If we focus on the process we still reach every goal, but don’t miss the value of life’s ebb and flow. More than that, by valuing each tiny step we progress more consistently, and even feel more successful. Each presumed social goal that is achieved is just another tiny step through life, so we are no longer crippled by a feeling of loss and emptiness after every achievement but stay driven and motivated through every phase.
Travelling is life, and the same applies. Satisfaction comes through appreciating the present and not only the next step.
When we stop traveling I hope we remember this lesson. A career is a journey to be appreciated, as are children, even illness. We are always on a journey, and can only be happy when we remember that the journey is the purpose, not its end.
If we focus on the process we find more opportunities, more purpose, and more satisfaction with ourselves.
People keep asking us what we will do next. Happily enough, for now we don’t need an answer. For the moment we are travelling, and that, for me, means more than thinking forward to our arrival.