Xeno Hemlock


3 Signs You're Traveling for the Wrong Reasons

“Holy shit.”

That’s the first statement that came out of my mouth when my laptop didn’t recognise my external hard drive. I unplugged and plugged the power cable, then switched off and on the power button. Ears pressed close to the hard drive’s enclosure, I listened for some whirring or even some hissing. Nothing.

My thousands of pictures of beaches, mountains and hills, sunrises and sunsets, airports, cities, and famous landmarks, I feared for them. There was no back-up. Only pictures with my friends’ mugs on them (because I HAD to upload ALL of THEIR travel photos) and a few ones of my own were uploaded on my Facebook profile, which would’ve provided a way for me to obtain copies. I cringed at the possibility of losing them.

What about my solo pictures in front of Singapore’s Merlion where I pretended to drink the water spouting off its mouth? What about those picturesque photos of beautiful churches taken from a local province? What about those photographs of lush beaches that would make anyone say ‘Wow’ (because don’t we all love beaches)? What’s going to happen to them?

I took a deep breath, checked the power cable and power button again. I pressed my ear against the enclosure once more and tuned out all the other sound in the room. Nothing. No sign of life. A wave of gloom enveloped me. “Holy shit.” I wanted to cry. 


The Travel Game/Signs You're Traveling for the Wrong Reaons


Those pictures were taken during a phase in my life when I was trapped in what I personally call the Travel Game. 

There are three ways to tell if you are trapped in the Travel Game or you're traveling for the wrong reasons:


You travel often with the strong need to show it off to others

Sharing your travel photos is not a total crime. It can be a form of expression of the appreciation of the world’s beauty. A few good things can come out of doing it:

  • You introduce new places to people who are not aware of them.
  • You can form a bond with other people who possess the same enthusiasm for traveling.
  • Your family and friends get updated with your life events.

Now where does sharing go wrong? If it is your way of quenching your thirst for likes, shares, and comments, and seeking validation that you are living the good and the right life, then you’re trapped in the Travel Game.

The experience and insights you gain from travel itself should be your source of satisfaction, not whether someone likes the photo of you eating a rare kind of sushi, or LOLs at the photo of you pretending the drink the Merlion’s water (yes, I love the Merlion), or shares the photo of you hugging a group of locals with a caption underneath on how you’ve learned to appreciate the things you have back home and how fortunate you are (like, please, who’re you kidding? You’ll be back to bitching about every minute thing on Facebook once your trip ends). You should never travel if it’s your way of convincing yourself and others that you are living “the life”.

Lights out by Leo Hidalgo

Lights out by Leo Hidalgo

You travel often even if you don’t fully have the financial means to support it

If you don’t have the money to pay for your travel or if you have to acquire debt to make it happen, then DON’T DO IT. You’ll be trapped in the Travel Game.

Traveling can become a form of instant gratification when finance comes into play. You don’t have enough money to fund your travel so you try other means (e.g., borrowing from someone else, using a credit card). When you do this, you succumb to instant gratification. “Travel now, pay later” becomes the irresponsible motto. Sure, you’ll be happy soon (during and briefly after travel) but will you be happy later when the time to pay the debt arrives? Shouldn’t your motto be “Save (or earn) now, travel later” instead? Employing delayed gratification is a much better approach to traveling. You’ll be happy during travel and still be happy after it since you have no debt to pay.

“Buy experience, not things.” This statement has become popular lately, especially when traveling became “common” (thanks to social media). And I strongly agree with that four-word sentence. Using money to attend a seminar for self-improvement, enrolling in a course, or getting a gym membership yields lots of return on investment over buying a new pair of sneakers, a new smartphone, or even (dear Mermaid, forgive me for what you’re about to hear) a Venti Coffee Jelly frappé (whew, I still love you coffee 😍). But when this statement is used and twisted by people trapped in the Travel Game to justify their insatiable desire to keep on traveling, it becomes a hammer placed in the hands of a baker. “Well, I bought a plane ticket that will take me to the Bahamas instead of buying a new pair of Nike. That will be experience!” @@But if that plane ticket puts you in debt, you’re only fooling yourself.@@

Hanging around by Leo Hidalgo

Hanging around by Leo Hidalgo

You travel often to escape a life you have no intention of improving

Traveling is a good means to get away from the stress and busyness of our regular lives, a temporary oasis in a desert. It refreshes the mind, rejuvenates the spirit, and reinvigorates the soul (okay, I got carried away with that last one). This is one of the many benefits traveling can do for you. Now where does it go wrong?

If you abuse travel to escape from your life’s problems and gaps with no intention of truly finding the solution for them, you’ve fallen victim to the Travel Game. Your life has no purpose so you travel a lot to make it seem like it has. Or your life has no zest so you travel a lot to make it appear like it has. Or your life has no direction so you travel a lot so you and everyone else will believe it has, you and your life is going somewhere. Not!

Seth Godin gave life to a great saying:

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”

You can’t live a life where you are only happy when you’re traveling and glum when you’re not. Travel should add colour to an already colourful life, not merely the only source of it. @@Don’t travel to live. Instead, live to travel.@@

Sunket by Leo Hidalgo

Sunket by Leo Hidalgo


It's Time to Draw the Curtains


The Travel Game is a glittery curtain designed to conceal a directionless life. It’s a competition in which nobody wins, a “Look at me, I’m living a fantastic life you should envy” type of game when it’s exactly the opposite. A life that seeks validation from others is nothing to be envied of. A life that sinks financially in the name of hedonistic pursuits is nothing to be envied of. A life with plenty of holes patched by plane tickets is nothing to be envied of. @@Clean your house first before you go out and see the world.@@

Will it not be better if you travel for you and not for the approval of others, which you’ll never gain anyway? Will it not be better if you travel without hurting your finances and make dear, old Responsibility proud? Will it not be better if you travel worry free so you can fully see the world with clear eyes and give it the rightful appreciation it deserves? Perhaps it’s time to do some traveling within for the mean time?

A wandering mind is an unhappy mind.
— Daniel Gilbert

I’m not telling you to lock yourself up in your home and never venture to see the sun. The world is a wide ocean of diversity: people, language, culture, flora and fauna, and legends. It’s meant to be experienced and explored. Traveling is not evil but the Travel Game is. 

I didn’t recover the photos, didn’t even bother to try. They’re gone. I can no longer show anyone evidence of my previous travels should they ask. But it doesn’t matter. My memory of seeing Singapore’s impressive MRT for the first time will remain with me, so will the day I greeted dawn on a floating house at sea, and even my photo-op with our beloved mouse Mickey. After realising I was prisoned in the Travel Game, I decided never to be caught in its grasp again. Letting go of those photos became a symbol of that.

The Travel Game is a lie. It promises you happiness but only gives it temporarily. You must get out of it, fast. Fix your identity first. Improve your finances second. Make your life an oasis and no longer a desert third. Remember, don’t travel to live. Instead, live to travel.

Photography: Leo Hidalgo - www.yompyz.com

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