Deciding not to travel

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“Anybody out there?” A radio telescope close to Canberra, in country Australia.

My native country of Australia is incredibly isolated. For me, travelling abroad and travelling overseas are pretty much the same thing. Even our closest neighbours like Vanauatu, Indonesia, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea are a long-ish flight away (depending on which city you’re embarking from). Often people in the UK talk of ‘Australia and New Zealand’ in a single breath, but it takes at least three hours to fly between them.

One of the exciting things about moving to Europe is the easy and exciting proximity to heaps of countries. It’s as quick to get to parts of Northern Africa from London as it is to get between some Australian cities. It isn’t however, as cheap or spontaneous as I thought it would be. I spent my first few months here realising that if you want to travel through Europe, you’d best book well in advance.

Nonetheless, Australians in Europe tend to get a bit over-stimulated with the range of travel options available here. And I’m no exception.

Here’s an overview of the travel I’ve done so far this year, after I realised that I needed to take an organised approach to the whole thing:

  • In January and February, I was in Norway.
  • In March I went to Belgium and The Netherlands.
  • In April I went to Sweden.
  • In May I went to France.
  • In June I was in Belgium again.
  • In July I was in France again.
  • In August and September I lived in Norway and also visited Denmark.
  • In October I road tripped around Scotland.

I have no travel plans for November. I love to see new places and travelling is a tremendous privilege and opportunity. Every day I can’t believe how lucky it is that I can go to countries I’ve dreamed of going to within the space of hours. The novelty hasn’t warn off – hopefully it never does. But at least for a month, I need to stop.

I need to accrue financial savings. You know, for the future? They say that “travel is the only thing you can spend money on and be richer”. And it’s true, exhilarating experiences can’t simply be valued in monetary terms. But I think the sentiment that travelling a lot is a unique path to greater wisdom is privileged BS. Unless you’re super-wealthy, travel always needs to be weighed up against the future and your financial limitations. It’s wise to be aware of these considerations. It’s wise to cultivate a little realism in your life. You can be both literally and figuratively “richer” by not travelling.

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A normal sight in Oxford.

I need to experience life in Oxford. I’d estimate that in the 13 months I’ve been here, I’ve been away for over three of them. While I’m interested in the world at large, I’m also interested in my locality. I want to discover new things that directly surround me.

But the most persuasive reason to stop travelling for a bit is that I’m exhausted. Travel requires heaps of energy. For the expense to be worthwhile, you need to be open to experiences rather than perennially on the cusp of sleep. Lugging around a suitcase and waking up early and staying up late for a train or flight takes a big physical toll. Trying to operate in a geography, language, and currency you don’t necessarily understand is likewise challenging. Travel isn’t just a leisurely activity (unless you’re going on a cruise or staying in a villa), it’s effortful. It’s a considerable undertaking.

And so, in November I’m saying no, enough. The bright lights and wonderful foods and fascinating cultures will need to stay unknown until I can encounter them with the wide eyes and enthusiasm they deserve.

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