Travelling Is Not About Ticking Boxes

It’s all about experiences

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

I am currently on a road trip around Europe. A couple of friends and I have been driving around for nearly 6 months.

In that time we have seen a lot of places, had a few unfortunate moments and been to plenty of new countries.

The other day we got a ferry from Sweden to Finland. As we drove off the ferry and towards our destination, I realised that Finland was the 40th country I have visited.

While it was nice to reach this number, it was not my goal. Apart from a few select countries, I have not seen a lot of those 40 countries. A few of them I have entered and left again within an hour!

It’s a stretch to say I have even visited them, so brief was the time I spent in those places.

This got me thinking about why we are suddenly so obsessed with tracking how many countries we have visited and the desire to “tick them off.”

Travelling has never been about this for me. This is not Pokemon, where the aim is to catch them all, it should be an exercise in expanding your horizons, experiencing different cultures, stepping out of your comfort zone and seeing how life is led around the world.

In my eyes, to lower it to an exercise in ticking boxes is to devalue what makes travelling so fun in the first place.

Experiences Trump Lists

Since 2012, I have spent the majority of my time travelling. In that time I have lived in three different countries, learnt a new language and worked a variety of jobs.

The impetus for travelling came from wanting to live in Australia of a year rather than any desire to tick countries off a list. I don’t remember anyone stating that they were travelling solely to tick off countries.

However, the more time has progressed, the more I see this being mentioned. There are numerous news stories about people visiting every country in the world. While it’s an achievement, is it worth it?

Is it worth spending all that money, all that time just to say you have visited every country on the planet?

How much of those countries would you see? How much would you be able to immerse yourself in and understand the various cultures and their subtle differences?

It’s ok to have goals when you travel, I doubt there is anyone that doesn’t, but they shouldn’t become the overriding theme of the trip. Travelling is all about the journey, not the destination.

What happens when you have completed your tick list? What happens when you no longer have anywhere left to visit?

The common response is to come up with another list and take on another challenge. If that is what you want to do, fine, who I am to say otherwise. However, I do think this is missing the point somewhat.

The fun in travelling is going to places and being unsure of what you might find. The majority of my fondest moments while travelling have come from spontaneous trips, mishaps and not having much of a plan.

The thrill of coming across somewhere you’ve never heard of and being blown away far surpasses completing a checklist. Travelling is about being present in the moment rather than looking ahead to the endpoint.

Travelling is all about the experiences you have and the people you meet along the way. Yes, it’s nice to have a few goals as well, but it’s the journey that is more fulfilling.

I’m a big sports fan, and I like to visit as many football and sports stadiums as I can. However, I do no make this the overriding theme of my trip, I don’t make it the central plank around which everything is built.

It is merely a curiosity of mine that I have while I’m on the road. Meeting new people, experiencing different ways of life and making friends are the memories I cherish the most from my travels.

If your sole aim is to tick off as many boxes as you can while travelling, those boxes may end up full, but your trip will feel empty.

Travel to Experience

The same principle applies to the possessions in your life. Modern culture teaches us that it is important to own more and more and to always have the latest gadgets, but is it?

Often, your possessions end up owning you instead of the other way around. That same thing applies to tick lists and travelling. Once you devise one, the trip no longer becomes about the experience, it’s about ticking off places.

The need to complete your list outweighs everything else and you become bound to your list like a prisoner to their chains.

The simple reality is that for most of us, visiting every country in the world is a near impossibility. There are 197 countries! To visit all of them and have a worthwhile trip at the same time is a difficult undertaking.

This obsession with ticking off boxes is a symptom of our culture. We feel like we are missing out if we do not do everything if we do not go everywhere.

But it’s not the case.

There are so many weird and wonderful places to visit around the globe. Indeed, there are even places to this day, where no human may have set foot. No matter how much if the globe we want to cover, we cannot.

This impatience and desire to have everything, all at once and right away will lead to a life of misery. It’s better to accept that we are fortunate to travel at all and that we should slow down and appreciate what is in front of us.

After all, what will you remember when you’re older, will it be visiting every country, or will it be the experiences and people you meet along the way?

I bet that it will be the latter.

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