Why Your Obsession with (Insulting) Travellers Means You’re Writing Mediocre Shit

Today, I read what was easily the worst piece of writing I’ve come across this year…and considering I read a lot and it’s part of my job to keep track of news and articles, that means it’s nothing short of abysmal.

It’s so awful on every single level, I’ve decided to have some fun with it. So here’s my response to this two-bit, second-rate hack who has the audacity to publish this travesty.

Mr. Jeffrey Grey, this aforementioned article of yours is the journalistic equivalent of what exits my rear end after I’ve had coffee with my breakfast, South Indian food for lunch, more coffee at teatime, Mexican food for dinner, and copious amounts of hard liquor for supper.

I say this not because I disagree with your opinions, but because this horribly negative view you have of people who love travelling is based on the very things any half-decent writer should avoid: oversimplification, sweeping generalizations and unwarranted condescension.

Let’s have a look, shall we?

Rubbish 01

You are right about the existence of young people for whom travel is a form of escape from the realities of life, like a career, a home, an actual future. And yes, they are usually privileged kids using their parents’ money to avoid growing up. You are right about this particular thing, I’ll give you that. But what’s it to you?

Rubbish 02

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And then you go on to destroy any credibility you might have had by asserting that the only people with a constant desire to travel have or even “want” mediocre lives. It could only go downhill from there and boy, did it hurtle downhill.

Rubbish 03

Firstly, what’s wrong with “just” seeing and enjoying? Secondly, who died and made you the authority on what constitutes a life worth living or a job worth doingI know for a fact that when I travel — and by golly, do I fucking love travelling — I make a positive impact on the economy. The money I pay for my flight and accommodations, the food I enjoy and the things I buy contribute to the livelihoods of the airline and hotel staff, the restaurateurs and business owners.

Rubbish 04

Oh, now you’re the authority on everyone’s creative process? Kind of contradicts the nature and defeats the purpose of creativity, doesn’t it?

No Suicide

Also, as someone who travels at least twice a year and wishes she could do so more often, I can assure you that the only thing people “obsessed” with travel are “conceding” is that there is so much worth doing, seeing and maybe even creating in so many parts of the world, we want to get out there and experience it. Didn’t think that one through, did you, genius?

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I didn’t think this abortion of an article could get any worse, but it just did. Firstly, you’re assuming everyone has / should have the genius-level IQ and therefore, the same priorities as Albert Einstein. Secondly, now you’re the authority on what Einstein thought and didn’t think? Damn!

I’m sorry (not really) to break it to you, but people in real life don’t spend every waking moment wondering whether they can invent this generation’s super computer, or publish a judgmental article on Thought Catalog castigating people who dare enjoy themselves by travelling.

And no, it’s not because they live mediocre lives. It’s because, rich or poor, famous or not, male or female, they have bills to pay, jobs to do, households to keep in order…the list goes on. You know, the very responsibilities you accuse travellers of shirking.

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Aaaaaand…it gets worse! I don’t know about the rest of you, but it seems most people who love travelling are the opposite of “afraid to try anything”. Correct me if I’m wrong, but fear isn’t really a handy trait to have when travelling to foreign lands, especially for the first time.

And are you writing a fucking indie screenplay here? Running far away and taking menial jobs we would be ashamed to take back home just so we can continue running? What the fuck is this? The Travel Diaries of a #Hipster?

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Aww, that’s sweet. You spared a thought for us inferior beings and cared enough to validate our need to travel…but only if we take “periodic” vacations (in which case, “from time to time” is redundant, by the way).

Never mind that some of us can actually afford the time and money to travel for months at a time; it’s a pyramid scheme that’s duping an entire generation! Oh, it’s such a shame you care so much about people who care so little about what you think. They’d rather throw their future away than listen to your inane ramblings. Tsk tsk.

Now I don’t know if you’re unable (physically or financially) to travel, or just too afraid to leave the comfort of your own home to explore the rest of the world. But I do know that despite your efforts to mask it with false concern and a façade of wisdom beyond your years, all this cynical, scathing criticism of those who love to travel is just a projection of your envy and bitterness that you cannot and / or will not do the same.

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Travel, even if it’s just “for the sake of #travel”, is great. It gives us a break from work, affords us new experiences, and broadens our knowledge of different countries and cultures in ways merely watching it on TV or reading about it cannot.

It may not lead us to become famous entrepreneurs, inventors or philanthropists, but so what? You’re not entitled to the fruits of our potential greatness. And people may not remember me for my desire to travel, but the friends I’ve made on those travels are very unlikely to forget me, or me them. In fact, I met the most wonderful man I’ve ever known on one of my trips to Europe, and my life has most certainly grown much richer for it.

I’m not from a wealthy family, and I had to get a job that provided a stable income (yes, one of the things you assume constant travellers lack) before I could afford even an economy flight ticket. But I’m not escaping my responsibilities when I travel. I enjoy what I do for a living, but I also want to see as much of the world as I can. And I’m far from the only person I know with a similar story.

So really, instead of spreading your vitriol all over the Internet and attempting to disguise it as well-intentioned advice just because your life is mediocre, here’s some advice from me to you: Get your judgmental behind out there and experience life in countries besides your own. And if you can’t or won’t do that, don’t hate those who can and do. Bitterness is not a good look, especially on a grown man.

Let’s get that head out of your arse.

Go.

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There is a profound sadness that envelops the entire being whenever it comes time to leave a place after a particularly lovely time. This is never truer than when one has to leave a faraway land and return home. The immensity of this unavoidable melancholy is often directly proportional to the length of time spent abroad and, in some cases, the distance between home and holiday.

It is a state of mind and being familiar to those of us with an insatiable wanderlust. And no matter how many times we fly away, how far we run, or where we go, the reluctance to return is never diminished.

It does not necessarily mean we dread going home to our friends and family, merely that there exists an unquenchable restlessness deep within us that gives birth to a constant desire to explore new places, take in new sights, and experience new things. It is a restlessness that can be quelled only temporarily, when we are somewhere new and exciting, collecting mementos and creating memories.

We return home with stories and souvenirs, and for a while, we are the stars of our own show, sating the curiosity of inquiring minds: where did we go? What did we see? Did we do anything interesting, or meet anyone intriguing? But of course, the questions eventually cease, and we are confined to revisiting the photos and memories and keepsakes on our own. That familiar longing – the longing to run away again, to absorb new information and immerse oneself in new experiences – sets in once more, and we find ourselves stressing over our schedules and finances, all in anticipation of the next great escape.

Much like a drug, travelling is an addictive pursuit that consistently produces an extreme high, and when the high inevitably wears off, we crave more. Unlike a drug, however, there is no known cure for such an addiction…well, except one: that is, to keep feeding it.

The world is so vast, and in comparison, we are but insignificant specks of life within it, pottering about and attending to our own daily affairs, often without a thought as to what lies beyond our homes, and the lives to which we have grown accustomed. There are many among us who, for various reasons, cannot afford (financially or otherwise) to travel. But for those of us who can – and this does not refer exclusively to the wealthy – it would be a crying shame not to explore the world and discover all it has to offer.

We never know what we may find, but should we (attempt to) traverse the wide expanse of this earth, what we find, whatever it may be, is exactly what makes travelling so worthwhile. The knowledge gained and experiences had while travelling are priceless, far superior to anything one can read in a book or on a website.

And sometimes, when you least expect it, you end up discovering something so amazing and precious, something that alters your perception significantly, something that, regardless of its permanence, changes your life forever. It is then that you will be glad you took the opportunity to travel.

So, go. Go out into this wide world of ours, and savour all that is in store. Take photographs, write down your observations, try everything once. Be a traveller, not a tourist; do your best to live like a local, wherever you may be. And above all: be free.

(Not) Your Typical Year-End Note

So in approximately three hours, it’ll be 2014. I’ve never been one to get all excited or misty-eyed when entering a new year — I’ve always believed that if you want to do something, you don’t have to wait till a new year comes around to make resolutions you’ll likely end up not keeping, anyway.

But I’m writing this because 2013 has been a particularly peculiar year for me. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a love-hate relationship with any other year of my life. I tendered my resignation from a two-year-old job on my first day back at work in 2013, after which I spent some months as a freelance writer, part-time private English tutor and full-time “bum”. I eventually got around to doing what I’d left my job to do: become a creative writing and speech and drama teacher, while still freelancing as a writer and focusing on my personal projects.

I went into the year with my heart smashed to smithereens, and spent nine months (take that, lousy, unsubstantiated survey) gradually piecing it back together with music, exercise, booze, dancing, literature, and even a little prayer here and there. I fought like hell for what I wanted, and learnt to let go of what I couldn’t have.

I did the most travelling this year, compared with previous years: Johor, Bangkok, Den Haag and Köln all experienced a little touch of Typhoon Tay (come on, indulge me a bit here). I came back from Europe broke and jobless, but richer for my experiences outside of Singapore.

I (rather gleefully) incinerated a few old bridges, and cautiously — and sometimes, drunkenly — constructed several new ones, documenting much of the process with my photos and writings. I became a redhead, and fully embraced the power of impressive cleavage display. And now, at the end of the year, I have plans that just so happen to be achievable only in 2014. So I guess you could say I am actually looking forward to the new year, not because it is a new year, but because of the potential it represents for me. But though 2013 has been the most challenging year of my life so far, I’m not quite as eager as I thought I would be to leave it behind.

I’ve loved, lost and learnt much. I finally learnt not to give a good goddamn about people or what they think of me, unless those people sincerely give a good goddamn about me. I learnt to snap my fingers and say, “On to the next” after every setback. I learnt to play it so cool, I am easily akin to a Russian winter. I learnt that I know more than I think I know, just as I know less than I want to know. I learnt to live fearlessly and unapologetically. And above all, I learnt to love myself with equal parts self-reproach and equal parts wild abandon.

So before my night descends into considerable intoxication, I would like to say, from the dark, dark heart of the baddest bitch on the block: a sincere “thank you” to both friend and foe — the former’s help has built me up immensely, and the latter’s harm has made me tougher than I’d ever thought I could be. My friends may or may not receive a tipsy text proclaiming my love and affection in the wee hours, so I’d best say it now.

Now excuse me while I light a cigar and pour myself some good old single malt. Happy new year, people. Let’s kick (more) ass in 2014.