Monday, April 16, 2012

The art of staying put. When to lay down roots and stop travelling?

"And remember, no matter where you go, there you are."- Confucius

People travel for a lot of reasons. To escape, to discover new places, for a holiday, for pleasure, for business etc.

Sometimes people move to a new place to escape how they feel about their own life. I once read a book "The Art of Travel" by Alain de Botton.  In the book, Botton describes how people tend to grossly overestimate how much of a difference travelling to a new place will make them feel. A person may fantasise about all the wonders going to a new place will bring.

"But the reality of travel seldom matches our daydreams. The tragi-comic disappointments are well-known: the disorientation, the mid-afternoon despair, the lethargy before ancient ruins. And yet the reasons behind such disappointments are rarely explored."

Our thoughts, our emotions and desires will come with us to a new place. We'll still feel hungry, tired or frustrated like we would at home.

I often imagined that everything will be different once I got to a new city or country. While my exterior circumstances did change, my internal feelings and state of mind remained quite consistent.

I recently moved to a new city and decided to settle here with my girlfriend in an attempt to get some stability and routine in my life.

Some of the advantages of staying put are that you can network, join clubs, regularly see friends and family and, importantly, find a stable job where you can earn money.

Thankfully, I'm finally in a place where things in my life are coming together. I've found a cool flat with a great group of people (nearly all Couch Surfers) and job opportunities are gradually presenting themselves.

There are disadvantages to settling down too.
You face a kind of groundhog day - constantly seeing the same people and doing slight variations on the same thing. Settling down also means finding a job and potentially a shitty job, especially in this tight-economy of ours.

Life as Bill Murray wouldn't be so bad..
A question that has crossed my mind is what if settling down just means a mediocre life? If you spend most of your time working and if your job is crap and the money isn't that great, what is the point of it all?

I'm starting to get the impression that a lot of people just switch off when they go to work and concentrate on their other pursuits outside of the office. The fact is, staying in work you are indifferent to, or worse, hate is bad for your health.

Status plays a big part in Western Society and it's hard not to join the rat race when you are trading so much of your time in to do something that you are not necessarily passionate about. If you don't feel fulfilled by your work then it would seem ones only measure of value is how much you earn. If my life was just all about earning dosh that's a pretty empty approach to life.

I've had periods where I had comparatively large sums of money and while it made things a bit easier, it didn't magically make everything perfect.
If I knew that I wasn't really going to find a job I really loved in the long-term then my attitude would be, fuck it, may as well get as much money as I can and take a career in something I feel is a bit soulless such as advertising.

What should you do in a tight economy? Knuckle down and keep trying to find that special job or just fuck around and do what you want?
I guess staying put and travelling are not entirely mutually exclusive but having a job is going to pretty much limit your holiday breaks to a month a year. If you want some serious travel, a month doesn't suffice!

I'm staying put for a least a while but travel always beckons.. When I was in Europe and Asia, there were always places I wish I could have stayed longer or new cities that I wished I could have seen but it didn't fit into my schedule.

I'll be back on the road someday and next trip, I'll book a round the world ticket and be gone for a year or more! 

I can imagine there will be a time when I get itchy feet once again but for now I'm happy enough staying put. 

Why do you travel and what would it take to make you settle down in one city?


  1. Hi Fei, I enjoy reading your blog. I adore the way you put word after word on your blogs. I wonder why didn't you became a pro journalist or author??
    anyway, I'm planning to travel around Aus and NZ sometimes in June or july, since you are a great traveller any tips to share ? thank you.

  2. Hi there, thanks for your comment. I guess it will depend on your time frame. How long will you be in those countries for?
    If you are only in each country for a short time then I'd say the best places to see in Australia are Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast and the Outback.
    In New Zealand if you have a short time I'd go to Auckland, Wellington, Rotorua, West Coast (South Island), Queenstown, Milford Sound..
    Aim to spend about three to four days in each place.