It’s fine when you’re at home. When you’re sitting at your desk, as you probably are now, you can be excused for wanting to be somewhere else.
You’re probably daydreaming about a beach in Thailand, or the taste of fresh bread in France, or the silhouette of acacia trees on a plain in Tanzania. Well, I would be, anyway.
And that’s OK. When you’ve got the travel bug you can safely accept that you’ll spend a lot of your time at home wishing you were somewhere more exciting.
The problem, however, comes when you catch yourself doing this daydreaming when you’re already away; when you’re supposed to be having the time of your life but your mind starts wandering to the next destination, or the next big trip, or even what’s happening in the last place you visited.
That’s the curse of the traveller: the more places you’ve been to, the more places you want to be in right now. And you forget to enjoy what’s right there in front of you.
You might say it’s a First World problem, but it happens. I know it happens to me all the time.
I’m in Iran right now, and it’s turning out to be one of the most amazing countries I’ve ever visited. Even still, it has been difficult to stop from casting my mind forward a week or so to when I’ll be in Burma, and to all the things I’ll be doing there. And other times I’ll find myself thinking about home, in Australia, where I’ll be in a fortnight or so, and what I’ve got to look forward to when I get there.
This is all while exploring labyrinthine bazaars and wandering through centuries-old mosques. I wonder where I should go after Mandalay, I catch myself thinking, as I stroll down a street in Esfahan. It’s crazy.
You can find yourself with a perpetual yearning to be somewhere else. And it’s not just things to look forward to, either, but places you’ve already been to. Right now there must be 10 or so cities that I’d love to be staying in. Buenos Aires and Berlin are up there near the top, but they’re strange places to be daydreaming about when you’re supposed to be exploring Tehran.
It’s basically a giant case of FOMO – fear of missing out. It afflicts me constantly when I’m on the road.
I always fear missing out on the good life in Western Europe, the ease of travel there and the amazing sights, the great food. But when I’m there living that good life, eating the pasta and drinking the wine, I fear I’m missing out on all the craziness of Asia and the stories that travelling there brings, or the huge landscapes and rugged adventure of somewhere in Africa. And vice versa.
What all of this adds up to is a potential failure to appreciate the place I’m in right now, what I’m doing at the present moment. (Strap yourselves in people, this is about to get a little self-helpie.)
But what’s the point of paying to go somewhere amazing if you’re just going to spend your time wishing you were somewhere else? There is no point. So occasionally it might take an effort of will, but you have to ignore those nagging feelings of daydreaming about somewhere else and just have the best freakin’ time you can in the place you’ve wound up in.
I’ve managed that in Iran. I’ve found you can look forward to Burma and Australia while still concentrating on the bazaars and the mosques and the friendly people who just want to know where you’re from and what you think of their country. You just have to tuck the thoughts of elsewhere away for some quiet moment. Keep them at bay.
After all, next week I’ll almost certainly be wishing I was back in Iran.
Do you ever find yourself thinking about other destinations while you’re on the road? Or always wanting to be somewhere else? How do you fight it?
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Australian Festival of Travel Writing
Melbourne dwellers! If you’ve always wanted to abuse me in person rather than just anonymously over the internet, I’ll be appearing at the Australian Festival of Travel Writing later this month. Acclaimed author Brian Thacker and I will be talking about using humour in travel writing – it promises to be a very funny hour or so, mostly thanks to Brian. Details here.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.