Traveling Man

Scott Francis
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I can really relate to this blog post that I ran across thanks to Twitter.

I’ve accumulated over 1 million miles on one airline, and at least a million more on the other airlines combined.  I’ve been in jobs that require a significant amount of travel my whole career, though there are plenty of others who have traveled even more than I have.  I do a few things to mitigate travel. I like to find truly local restaurants when I’m traveling.  I try to catch up with friends that might live in the area.  I try to bring family when it works out.  But the blog post quotes a more negative take on the subject.

I thought the perspective was particularly interesting:

The more places you see, the more things you see that appeal to you, but no one place has them all. In fact, each place has a smaller and smaller percentage of the things you love, the more things you see. It drives you, even subconsciously, to keep looking, for a place not that’s perfect (we all know there’s no Shangri-La), but just for a place that’s “just right for you.” But the curse is that the odds of finding “just right” get smaller, not larger, the more you experience. So you keep looking even more, but it always gets worse the more you see. This is Part A of the Curse.

I’m lucky.  I found Austin early in my life (just after college).  It took the travel around the country and the world to figure out that Austin was really home. I don’t know if I would have figured that out without the travel.  That feeling of “home” is strongest when I land in Austin, and when I set foot on campus at Stanford.

Part B is relationships. The more you travel, the more numerous and profoundly varied the relationships you will have. But the more people you meet, the more diffused your time is with any of them. Since all these people can’t travel with you, it becomes more and more difficult to cultivate long term relationships the more you travel. Yet you keep traveling, and keep meeting amazing people, so it feels fulfilling, but eventually, you miss them all, and many have all but forgotten who you are. And then you make up for it by staying put somewhere long enough to develop roots and cultivate stronger relationships, but these people will never know what you know or see what you’ve seen, and you will always feel a tinge of loneliness, and you will want to tell your stories just a little bit more than they will want to hear them. The reason this is part of the Curse is that it gets worse the more you travel, yet travel seems to be a cure for a while.

I have had a completely different experience.  My friendships pick up where they left off . Absence makes the heart grow fonder.  You forgive the small trespasses and what you remember is the bright arc of friendship and inspiration you receive from these people you meet.

Some of my very best friends are friends I see only rarely – years passing between each visit.  But I don’t love them any less for the time inbetween.  Do you love your kids less after a few days apart?  No, you don’t.  I was recently reminded of this visiting my childhood home while on a work trip, and visiting with family friends.

If you feel like you’re suffering from missing all of these amazing people you’ve met in your travels, I have a piece of advice- move somewhere that they’ll all want to come visit.  And then make sure they do.  Buy them tickets if you have to.  And once in a while, get on a plane and go visit them. Bring your family. It will be fun.

 

  • Richard Welke

    Thanks for this post, Scott. I, too, can relate. While I just became a 1M mile member of Delta, many of my miles were flown before there were FF programs, on now-defunct airlines in a variety of countries. My close friends (BFF’s) live in Michigan, Illinois, Georgia, Ontario, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Hong Kong, etc.

    An unaddressed dimension to this is that as you become older, maintaining these linkages becomes harder. Skype and social media allow some form of connection, but not the F2F kind that one increasingly yearns for. And, as the unattributed Vagabond states, the rich experiences of having travelled to (and in my case lived in) such a variety of places makes it very difficult to find an acceptable end (or even next) destination. Contrast and compare with a number of my grade school and high school friends who’ve always lived in the same place and find it very easy to pick an alternate destination. None of their choices would be remotely acceptable to me (or my wife). Nor can they understand why one would even go to another country, eat “foreign” food, etc.

    But I envy them for their ease of selection. Knowing and experiencing cultural and geographical diversity, while enriching, does have a price. Loss of long-term proximal relationships; a far more complex objective function for choosing alternative living destinations. Which I think is the essence of the Vagabond’s message.