I have dreamt of traveling the world full-time and living in an incredible city like Barcelona for as long as I can remember. But today, as I was reading Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, a thought crossed my mind:
What if traveling full-time ruined travel for me? What if it took away my capacity to fully appreciate the destinations I visit?
Perhaps living an ordinary nine-to-five life in a perfectly ordinary city in Canada has made me a better traveler. How? By preventing me from being desensitized from all the things that make great destinations great.
Let me explain…
Quitting the nine-to-five to travel the world
Nowadays, it’s commonplace to hear about people quitting their nine-to-five lives to travel the world full-time. This has become a bit of an epidemic with the millennial generation, at least it seems that way to me. We find it difficult to find fulfillment with ordinary lives.
Often, the part of the experience you hear about is the very beginning of the “travel the world” journey, full of excitement and anticipation. Of course, who wouldn’t want to quit their job in exchange for airplane rides, hotel stays, and dinners overlooking breathtaking sunsets?
However, I’d love to speak to these brave travelers at the end of their “year of travel”. Do they still have the capacity to appreciate a destination’s beauty like they did on the very first day, week, or month? Do they admire the 20th cathedral or tropical white-sand beach as much as the very first one?
Is our capacity to appreciate beauty limited?
I once read about a study which concluded that humans have the capacity to fully appreciate a total of 7 pieces of art when they visit an art gallery. After the 7th piece, we simply become desensitized to the art. We could be standing in front of da Vinci’s The Last Supper (which is absolutely incredible in person) and not be moved by it.
So the questions is, can we become desensitized from travel like we can from the comforts of our home towns, tragedies in the news, or the 8th masterpiece in the Louvre?
Here’s my theory:
Maybe living an ordinary life in Canada has given me the ability to fully appreciate the beauty of the destinations I visit (well…. 7 destinations at a time to be exact!).
For example, living in Canada, where winters are nearly 6 months long, has certainly given me an appreciation for warm weather like I never had before. Or, when I visited Santorini three years ago, the beautiful sunset I experienced is engraved in my mind to this day. I can close my eyes and picture it as if I was there at this very moment. If I had seen a hundred more sunsets just like that one, would any single one really stand out to me?
Lets go back to my dream of living in Barcelona. I love Barcelona because of the crispness of the fresh sea-filled air, the eclectic architecture, and the energetic crowds on the Las Ramblas boulevard. If I got to experience these things day in and day out, would I still smell the sea in the air? Would Gaudi’s architecture continue to astonish me? And would I feel the energy of the crowds or would they simply become a nuisance?
I guess there is only one real way to find out – to move there. But if I do make the move, I fear that Barcelona would no longer be Barcelona for me. I fear it would become that dress I saw online only to find it dissatisfying when I finally owned it. Or that job I wanted more than anything only to secretly dread it when it became my reality.
Is balance the answer?
I don’t want Barcelona to become my dreaded nine-to-five job. Rather, I want traveling to continue to be a source of excitement and inspiration for me.
I think the answer lies in balance. As my grandma used to say: when you laugh too much you are certain to cry. To apply the saying to this topic, maybe too much travel leads to dissatisfaction, not satisfaction. Life tip – you should always listen to your elders, their advice is tried and true!
Does this mean I should continue living my ordinary life and venture out into the world two to three times per year? Maybe. There is certainly something to be said about embracing life to the fullest and hitting the road for a while. But there is also something to be said to coming back to the comforts of home.
To tie everything back to Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray that inspired this blog post in the first place, he writes:
“Always! That is a dreadful word. It makes me shudder when I hear it. It spoils every romance by trying to make it last forever. It is a meaningless word, too. The only difference between a caprice and a life-long passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer.”
What do you think – does living ordinary lives make us better travelers? I’d love to hear your thoughts – please let me know in the comments!