You are wrong, Jeffrey. Travel makes you a better person.

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Believe it or not, moving out of your Mom's basement and following the road less-traveled around the world will make you a better person. And that is worth something.
Believe it or not, moving out of your Mom’s basement and following the road less-traveled around the world will make you a better person. And that is worth something.

Let us pause for a moment and allow a wave of compassion wash over us for Jeffrey Grey.

The self-defined millennial recently wrote a piece for the blog “Thought Catalog” titled, “Why Your Obsession with Travel Means You’re Living a Mediocre Life.”

I’m sure we can all deduce what we need to know about Jeffrey from the title, and it is puzzling and sad, but let’s hear some more from the author:

You don't happen upon sights like this while sitting in your high-productivity cubicle at CorporateWorld Inc.
You don’t happen upon sights like this while sitting in your high-productivity cubicle at CorporateWorld Inc.

“The truth is that my generation has been completely brainwashed by bullshit #millennial propaganda. Cute little listicles featuring chic pictures of young sexy people standing on the edge of waterfalls, that tell our generation that life is only worth living if we ‘travel.’ Instagram travelers who ~perfectly~ filter every single picture they’ve taken while exploring Europe on daddy’s dime.

“Do you want to know what I believe, honestly? The only people who want to travel incessantly are people who have, or want, completely mediocre lives.”

I will concede one point to Jeffrey: Some globetrotters can be annoyingly shallow reporters. I’ve had enough of fascinating pictures posted to Instagram or Facebook that are entirely void of context. And I’ll say the same for selfies. Your face in the foreground does not enhance your pictures of the Bujang Valley temple ruins or the Baatara Gorge waterfalls.

Taking the big walk around the world is a frightening prospect for many. It was for me. I didn't begin to take it until late in life. I wish that I'd walked straight out of high school graduation and on to a cheap flight to anywhere in the world where I could get my passport stamped. I'm sure I would have seen life very differently when I returned.
Taking the big walk around the world is a frightening prospect for many. It was for me. I didn’t begin to take it until late in life. I wish that I’d walked straight out of high school graduation and on to a cheap flight to anywhere in the world where I could get my passport stamped. I’m sure I would have seen life very differently when I returned.

In fact, stop with the selfies. Now.

Take them but keep them for your old age, so you can lament your lost youthful looks as you try to recall exactly which ruins those are in the background.

But that wasn’t Jeffrey’s main point.

His point is fascinatingly absurd: If you live to travel, you aren’t living at all.

Go ahead, look puzzled.

Gratuitously pleasant picture of conch shells. You are welcome.
Gratuitously pleasant picture of conch shells. You are welcome.

Jeffrey’s statements grow loonier with every paragraph: “You don’t make an impact by being a ‘traveler.’ You don’t actually do anything at all. You just see. You just enjoy. You just leech off of people who are actually living lives worth living and doing jobs worth doing.”

Good heavens, world travelers as zombies? Who knew?

And, yes, that is the second time that Jeffrey suggests that people who travel the world are doing so on their daddy’s credit card, or some such thing.

I know, I know. Jeffrey needs to get out more. Like, out of the country, or his Mom’s basement.

This is by far my favorite line: “Did Albert Einstein wake up one day and think, ‘Wow I just need to do some sightseeing, and then maybe sometime later in my life I’ll do something that’s actually significant!’ ”

The reality is that Einstein happened to be traveling in the United States when Hitler came to power in 1933. Had he not been traveling — you know, visiting a foreign country —  he might have been swept up with millions of other Jews and exterminated. Time travel defined Einstein’s life, but world travel saved it.

In Jeffrey’s world, people work hard and get ahead and prosper and tuck lots of money into their 401k so that some day, after the kids are gone and no longer talk to you and the divorce is settled and the company has pushed you upstairs and out the door with a gold watch … well, maybe then you can travel, see the world. You’ve earned it.

But you know, Jeffrey has so many absolutist statements in this essay, I suspect his real goal is provocation rather than enlightenment. So be it. Provocative statements can lead to discussion, which can lead to a better understanding.

Let me try to contribute some perspective from the other side of 65, Jeffrey. I was someone who, like you, eschewed travel and sometimes family life in the name of productivity. Fortunately (or unfortunately in the eyes of many) I loved my work. Somehow, I came out of it all with three sons who still love me and speak to me. A lot of highly productive people aren’t that lucky. But some are.

Somewhere close to my own retirement, I fell in love and married a woman who loves traveling the world. She has done it all her life, while contributing to society in many productive ways, among which are as a ballet dancer, a teacher and a mother. We now live in Belize.  (That’s a story you can read elsewhere on this blog.) She saved my life. Well, at the least, she showed me how to live my life on a bigger stage. And I am so grateful for that.

Between us we have five children who, at various times, have lived to travel — and all are better, more well-rounded, more sensitive, more aware — just plain better people — for their experiences. And all are productive by any standard, even Jeffrey’s.

This is a big world with lots of people in it. Very very different people. It can absorb the tiny percentage who choose to spend their lives traveling. Not everyone needs to be productive in the stifling corporate/consumer loop that has turned the United States into one of the most repressive nations in the world. Our world travelers are tomorrow’s poets and authors and artists and journalists — people who may well bring us back to sanity.

We need them. Especially in this era when certain types of politicians are promoting fear of the rest of the world as a legitimate lifestyle. We need world travelers to show the rest of the world that we are not the political batshit crazy phobics and racists that they see on TV.

I would encourage every young man and woman to get out as soon as you can and travel somewhere far from your comfort zone, far from your parents and far from your home-grown prejudices. Travel for as long as it takes to turn you into a Human Being.

Eventually most of you will come back and take your place in society — but as smarter, more-aware and just better adjusted people than your parents and all those corporate-consumer dupes who chose to stay home and be productive servants to a false god.

Go for it. Now. Before it is too late.

You, too, Jeffrey.

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9 thoughts on “You are wrong, Jeffrey. Travel makes you a better person.

    Susan said:
    March 27, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    Jeffrey, where would you be if your ancestors hadn’t traveled to America? I’m taking a huge leap and guessing you are not a Native American…with ancestral ties to the land. So SOMEBODY had to travel here for you to be here. To me it sounds like you are just a teeny weeny bit scared to leave your security blanket of a false sense of accomplishments in a mediocre job. Personally, I would rather be a mediocre traveler than a mediocre “guest” blogger. Just sayin…

    Liked by 1 person

    P Johnson said:
    March 27, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    Jeffery, as my great grandmother, who died in 1920, was quoted ” you don’t know nothin’ til you start traveling.”

    Liked by 1 person

    Heather Gill said:
    March 28, 2016 at 7:36 am

    Well said Robert. The only thing I feel about Jeffrey is sad that he doesnt experience the wonders of another Country and Culture to broaden his very closed mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    donalddavis42 said:
    March 28, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    Bob, i wish i had your closing statement years ago to share with my friends and contacts in Utah where i went to college and most of the friends/people in New Jersey where i grew up. I re-read it 3 times and will cut and paste it and hopefully attach it to my future emails when i am ready to say good bye to the work a day world. (with your permission of course)

    Thanks ands thanks again for the posting.

    Donald

    Liked by 1 person

    Jack said:
    March 30, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    Hey Jeffery make sure you turn the lights out when you done!

    Like

    Michael Capps said:
    March 31, 2016 at 7:01 am

    Highlights from “Generation Slack.” Thanks for the insight Jeffrey. I was blessed growing up that my parents had the time & means to take us different places. I am a better person for my experiences.

    Like

    Explorgasm said:
    March 31, 2016 at 8:02 am

    Great! I love traveling but understand his point to an extent. While traveling, unless you’re working/volunteering, it’s difficult to do things that actually contribute to others lives. Sometimes I do feel selfish when traveling

    Like

    Gretchen said:
    April 1, 2016 at 11:30 am

    Had it not been for an ex-husband and custody issues, my daughter’s education would have been Travel, starting at age 8. Now 25, she’s been all over the world, thank goodness.

    Like

    […] In March, essayist Jeffrey Grey posited that people obsessed with travel lead mediocre lives. I had to respond to that. […]

    Like

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