Travel: The Blessing and the Curse

People sometimes say that “you can never have too much of a good thing”. People are also often wrong, and in the case of those saying that, they definitely are. Too many vitamins may not kill you, but they’ll mess up your biological system. Sunlight? Skin cancer. Sleep? Talk to former coma patients. Even freedom can come in the form of “too much”. And, so can one of my favorite things in life: travel.

My grandfather passed on to my mother what my mother passed on to me and my sister: a deeply rooted appreciation for travel, for exploring the world and discovering new cultures. Seeing how different the people are on this beautiful planet we live on, and how much we all have in common nonetheless, is a valuable experience at any stage in life, but mostly so in the younger stages.

From Grand Canyons to hyper-modern metropolises, my days of traveling started almost immediately at my birth. Growing up in a small town in the Netherlands, traveling across the United States at the excitable age of 11 was quite the eye-opening experience—and one whose impact only increased later on in my life. My parents suspect that my love affair with the USA was born during that trip; be it true or not, there definitely is something about this country that appeals to me in ways no amount of words seem able to describe.

But I’ve learned something new regarding travel. Something obvious, yet subtle enough you may not have realized it about travel—just like I had not.

Travel kills your focus for work.

Ordinarily, this is a good thing—people tend to travel primarily while on vacation, away from work. Conversely, not everyone has difficulty maintaining focus over a long period of time while on the road; in fact, some people absolutely thrive on it.

Me, I thrive on the excitement of it, but I don’t get more productive. More inspired, yes; I usually end up with countless new ideas and exciting opportunities every time I travel somewhere. It’s liberating in a variety of ways, and as a results ideas get born and projects get started. But executing on them? Following them through? For me, that requires some routine.

Routine is powerful. Routine is useful. Routine helps you get the mundane and menial things in life done without any real investment on your mind’s behalf. Laundry, cooking, cleaning, travel to and from the office… when you live in a routine, none of these require any serious effort to accomplish. If you’re traveling, on the other hand, they can weigh you down, steal an ounce of attention here, a teaspoon of focus there, and before you know it your day is over and it seems like you only got the basic things done.

Travel can interfere with a schedule like nothing else—but boy is it fun! In the past six months I’ve stayed no longer than 24 days in any one single place, traveling over 12,000 miles by car, flying across continents multiple times, and I can safely say that they have been some of the best months of my entire life. It’s just so damn hard to get work done when you’re hanging out with a friend you typically only get to see once a year.

On a side note, CarbonFund.org will be seeing a pretty big donation from me soon to offset all that traveling—because it’s important to be responsible, environmentally and otherwise.

Traveling for such extended periods teaches you many things, like learning how to pack light, and not forget or lose things. Or, at least, it gives you the opportunity to learn these things—regularly. Traveling also broadens the mind, expanding one’s personal horizon. It offers new takes on things, and it is up to you what you do with this. Me, I try to make use of every little new experience, and will continue to do so as I travel around the world. But if I’m to turn any of these ideas into actual concrete plans, I’ll have to tell myself to hunker down from time to time and just create my own routine; you know, to get things done.

I’ll still consider travel as one of the best things any human can do in his or her life, but from now on it will come with a small warning: like with other good things in life, travel in moderation.

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