Itchy Feet vs. Integration
For the greater part of two years, I have been away from home, skipping around the globe, and nothing is as assured as the swapping of travel stories with fellow wanderers.
I find I’m consistently meeting people who feel the urge to settle and work in a country in order to feel as though they are completely immersing themselves in another country’s culture, but for me, I have never been able to keep my feet still. This seems to be a sore point among other travellers. Like every other aspect of life, travel has its arrogance. Swapping stories of where you’ve been and competing for who has had the craziest adventures is ubiquitous with travel, and I almost feel it is almost frowned upon to have travelled so extensively without ever truly settling into a place.
I like to believe that when I travel, I embrace local customs, indulge as much local cuisine as my vegetarian diet allows, generally disregard tours in order to interact with locals and prefer to roam the streets than visit the top sights in Lonely Planet, but in no way do I fool myself into thinking that I am, in any way, truly integrating with these communities. I am sleeping in hostels swarming with tourists, in areas of the city which are designed to accommodate us foreigners, and even though I personally am not one for major landmarks, I’m hardly hanging out in suburbia.
So while I try to understand where this pressure to settle comes from, I can certainly grasp the motivations for doing so. The prospect of integrating within a community, embracing local customs and the celebration of traditions holds a definite appeal. However, I question how often this ideal is truly achieved.
From experience, most people move overseas to countries which almost replicate the comforts of their home or find themselves socialising in circles predominantly comprised of other expats. As humans, it is natural to seek comfort, to seek people that you can relate to, and in no way am I demeaning these urges, but I do find it unfair to criticise someone for not embracing the pressure to settle down in a foreign country when the end result is likely to just mimic your home comforts.
A competitive streak is natural among most: I find myself frequently falling into the trap of one-upping when exchanging travel tales, but I find it important not to put down others’ idea of what it is to travel meaningfully. If your idea is to live in a foreign country and work, then that is fantastic and you should do everything you can to achieve that. I personally, though, am not the same. I am aware I would fall into routine, the one true thing that drives me to leave home and explore in the first place. Travel is relief from my monotony and the few responsibilities I have at home, therefore for me the idea of embracing a routine and having
Travel is relief from my monotony and the few responsibilities I have at home, so for me, embracing a routine and having a responsibility to go to work and pay rent while travelling just doesn’t emanate. So before you jump to knock someone for indulging in what you may believe is not a true or authentic way to travel, remember that each traveller has their own motivations in being on the road.