The Traveler's Paradox

March 23, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

I enjoy talking with people that travel a lot, whether they be sailors, scuba divers, photographers, or everyday people. When they tell their stories and chat about their adventures, their faces light up. Ask them where they are off to next, and you see a surge of energy. One of my sayings is: “If you travel, you know.” People who travel a lot understand immediately what that means.

I am not a perfectionist. Instead, I see life as a series of trade-offs: some good, some bad with most of our decisions. Travelers also face trade-offs, and I call this “The Traveler’s Paradox.” Travelers are always on the move—off from this place to the next, excited about the prospects of the upcoming trip. When they arrive at their destinations, they see the locals or ex-pats meandering down cobbled lanes or dirt streets, loitering over long meals, chatting with friends on park benches in the middle of the day, patiently tying their fishing nets. The traveler is often envious, sensing the peace and quiescence of their lives. But the traveler’s life is different: the clock is always ticking. Whether their trip is measured in days, weeks or even years, there is a subliminal urgency to prolong the time, to maximize the experience. For photographers, the sense of urgency isn’t subliminal at all: our days are governed by the clock and the light. So simply put, “The Traveler’s Paradox” is this: the traveler is always going, but the resident is already there. We are always moving, planning, going. But the resident is already where he or she needs to be. Thus, their days are longer, their pace slower, their lives seem more peaceful. Travelers imagine what it must be like to live there, to walk home with baguette in hand, to loiter over meals, to sit on the park bench. And yet, we know we cannot be that; we have the traveler’s soul. When we start to settle down in our own homes, something stirs deep inside us. Before long, we are back planning the next trip; what will be the next adventure? We have to go over the horizon: there are places to see, and experiences to be had. And the cycle starts again. All the while, the residents that we envy are strolling down cobbled streets, playing dominoes in the park, and sipping espresso in cafés. We are going, they are already there.


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