‘Traveling to Europe Didn’t Change My Life’

Travel Blog  •  Michael Yessis  •  03.23.11 | 3:28 PM ET

A contrarian take on the power of travel at Thought Catalog. Caitlin Rolls writes:

Travel is supposed to be this other-worldly experience. People always start looking all moony when they mention their travels, like suddenly they’re back in that musky tent in Morocco wrapped up in the paisley sarong they bought because they just, you know, really wanted to live it. They’ll explain that it was a really amazing experience that they can’t exactly put into words so why don’t they just show you the slide show they set to the music of Ravi Shankar? Super moving stuff but maybe the reason they don’t want to talk about it is because they’re afraid to admit that they came home exactly the same person they were when they left.

Of course, the sentiment has polarized the commentariat.

13 Comments for ‘Traveling to Europe Didn’t Change My Life’

Monica 03.24.11 | 12:53 AM ET

I didn’t want to come back from travelling a different person but I think it does effect you. Seeing so many different cultures and different types of people makes you realise what a big world it is.

Jennifer 03.24.11 | 1:06 PM ET

Traveling doesn’t have to change who you are on a fundamental level - it certainly can and does but when people say that traveling changed them they don’t always mean it in this way.  I think Caitlin Rolls is looking at the idea way too literally - perhaps trying to play the devil’s advocate, stir up a little controversy?  Or maybe she’s trying to lump people in with her personal experience so as not to feel “guilty” for coming home as exactly the same person she left as?  In most cases, traveling changes us in ways that are hard or downright impossible to explain, even when it’s something that isn’t super profound or “life altering”.  And even if you can put your feelings into words, that doesn’t guarantee that the other person will get it unless they had a similar experience!  You can think about things diferently, have a broader/more sympathetic/different view of the big world out there without becoming a different person.  Come on!!

pam 03.24.11 | 7:50 PM ET

This. Is. Awesome. Plus, Mike, you used the word “commentariat” and now, my life is better.

Michael Yessis 03.24.11 | 8:58 PM ET

I do love the media jargon, Pam. Glad I could do my part.

Roger 03.25.11 | 1:51 PM ET

This person is obviously jaded to the point where she is not impressed with anything.

Laura 03.31.11 | 1:01 PM ET

I think this is a fair point.  While travel can hold the power to shift and challenge fundamental ideas and stances, I think expecting a trip to change your life is misplacing the responsibility.  Like most things in life, you get out of travel what you want.

Renee Radia 04.06.11 | 2:32 PM ET

“They’ll explain that it was a really amazing experience that they can’t exactly put into words so why don’t they just show you the slide show they set to the music of Ravi Shankar…”

Or maybe it’s just their way of tricking you into looking through that long photo album :)

But really, I think Monica nailed it when she said it’s all about actually experiencing the different cultures and seeing the different people out there in the world.  Peoples’ lives are so totally different throughout the world and it can be incredibly eye-opening if unprepared for the different culture.  I personally don’t travel to become a changed person, but to open my eyes firsthand to the different beauties in this huge world around me.

Rachel 04.08.11 | 10:17 PM ET

I feel it might just be all about perspectives and letting the experiences add to what you already are as a person.

As to the commentariat being jaded, I know the feeling - moving around my entire life, I can only explain studying in New York City as being just another place to me, yet I still find myself talking about my experiences here and letting the city change me in ways that I hope will get me ready for the world.  Mindset’s key.

Austin Beeman 04.12.11 | 9:17 PM ET

I wonder how tech-connected she was?
I wouldn’t have had half the travel experiences if I’d been plugged into an iPod or smartphone.  I try to not even take a computer.

Elizabeth 04.19.11 | 2:09 PM ET

You got me thinking…
Had I never traveled to Egypt, I would have read about the recent demonstrations in Cairo and hoped for a peaceful transition.  I also would have clicked through a mental slideshow of classic Egyptian images, first learned in grade school.

Having traveled to Egypt, I watched the news footage of Tahrir Square and remembered the days spent wandering the surrounding neighborhoods as well as through the temporarily threatened Egyptian Museum.  I also remembered encounters and conversations with locals of all walks of life who now quite possibly were among the crowds I was seeing on my TV screen or at the very least were now caught up in a dramatic turn in their country’s story.

I still hope that the demonstrations result in a peaceful transition, so no change there.  I would argue that the ways in which travel changes us are subtle and can even sneak up on a person, but that it’s impossible not to be changed.

Sarah 05.05.11 | 1:30 PM ET

Travel doesn’t change you, unless I think if you travel for months.  What it does is build a bigger world picture and stimulates your brain.  I actually think travel causes a dopamine release in my brain…there is no greater reward for me.  :-)

Jahnell 05.13.11 | 12:34 AM ET

I find this comment really ugly.  Beyond cynicism and just…ugly.  I see traveling as adding a memory that in turn adds an extra sparkle in your eye.  And while it might not change you fundamentally, I think people somehow see those sparkles and sense your adventures when they meet you.  Plus when you find yourself lost in moments of mundanity you remember the time in that musky tent in Morocco wrapped up in the paisley sarong.  Let’s not begrudge people their own adventure story script.

AnnieJames 05.17.11 | 10:12 AM ET

Almost all of the people have their own behaviour, their own ideas and plans in their life. Only while travelling to Europe no one can change their life. But The people can improve their ideas plans and behaviours through these Travels…Annie

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