How to Overcome Travel Jealousy
Travel blogs love to talk about the backpacking community. There’s this idea that all travelers are bound to one another by some cosmic energy; that their like-mindedness is the basis of a utopian society on the go. In many ways I agree. Mutual experience traveling – or even just a shared desire to travel – is an instant conversation starter. Put me in a room with anyone who’s been anywhere and I’m interested to know their story.
But this world of Travelers Without Borders is not wholly perfect. Just like in any community there is competition, misleading (intentional and unintentional) and jealousy. Jealousy is a big one.
After all there are many places you want to go. And yet there are so many other people who are the lucky ones to actually go while you sit at home and study maps. No matter how many places you’ve been, it always seems there’s someone with more time, money and opportunity to travel than you. It’s hard not to be jealous when you spent last month stuck at the office while your travel buddies climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. But, as easy as it is to succumb to travel jealousy, it’s a hobby that will morph you into a self-pitying slug.
Jealousy in the real world is the root of all evil; for global trekkers it’s even worse. In the world of unshaven travelers, jealousy is the root of all rootedness. The more time you spend focusing on your travel jealousy – on all the places other people are going – the less time you spend focusing on where you are going next. The more energy you put into resenting Sally Sunshine for visiting Switzerland, the less energy you have to get yourself into the EU.
You could argue that jealousy can be motivating. After you turn green with envy from hearing the adventures of World Wandering Willy, you might be spurred to action. You might begin to plan your next trip to Suriname so that you can be the one to impress at the next gathering of travelers. The problem is that if your motivation to travel is tainted by ego, travel bragging rights or jealousy – if it’s tainted by impure incentives – you’ve missed the whole point. Why bother going anywhere if it’s only to one-up someone else?
The only way I know of to avoid travel jealousy is obnoxiously cliché, but it’ll have to do. It seems the key to overcoming travel jealousy is to be happy with yourself. If your life stinks, then other people’s lives will seem all the more glorious by comparison. If your typical day is filled with unsatisfying work, take away food and TV reruns, you’re bound to get swallowed up by travel jealousy. If you feel lousy about your job/friends/self then you’ll quickly come to resent those who are out doing things you’re not. But, if you can find happiness with your life – either just as it is or after a few key changes – you can appreciate other people’s happiness without it damaging your own. Suddenly hearing about your pal’s amazing overland adventure seems inspirational. You’re glad she’s doing well. And if she can do it, so can you.
Unfortunately this is one of those things that’s easy to say and hard to do. You may be able to recite the dangers of travel jealousy, but it doesn’t mean you won’t still feel it when you look at your cousin’s trip pictures on Facebook.
Still, it’s worth trying.