Over the past couple of months, DH and I have been hanging out more often than usual with some couples who do not have kids. For many, it’s a choice; for a few, unfortunately not. What’s curious is that all of them have said how not having kids enables them to travel, along the lines of “Since we don’t have kids, we can travel as much as we like.”
Sure; kids, especially little ones, make travel difficult, but certainly not impossible. But why is being able to travel presumably undeterred so important anyway, why is it such a big deal?
To me, in the most abstract terms, having kids is really a long-term project with a potential to result in great personal fulfillment. I remember a while ago discussing a study with a friend, where the study conclusion was that humans in general draw considerable satisfaction from personally meaningful long-term projects (although, I assume, the conclusion probably only holds on average, the same as with just about anything in regards to people). I could certainly imagine devoting yourself to your career,working on the next great American novel, or doing whatever it takes to become the world’s best viola player as an alternative to having kids. One of my friends trains obsessively for Iron Man competitions. Or I could see deciding to do something like joining the Peace Corps, Doctors/Engineers without Borders, the Red Cross or UNICEF, or perhaps becoming politically active in order to affect change.
But when people talk about travel, they don’t talk about going to live in China to learn Mandarin or to Africa to help the poor, they talk about being able to take frequent vacations in varied exotic places. I can see how that might be fun, but that’s just what it is — it’s just fun and it’s vacationing, but it’s not very creative or very meaningful (near as I can tell) and it’s certainly transient. Sure, you are drinking from the beauty of mother nature and relaxing, recharging your batteries, but then you come back home and then what?
It could totally be that I have no imagination (I likely don’t have enough money to do travel “just right” so being constantly uncomfortable probably doesn’t help), but I am personally quite sick of travel and don’t see very much that casual, vacation-length travel (say, a week or two at a time) would do for my long-term personal fulfillment. I would say that a good book does more for my well-being than travel (alas, I am very picky about books), as do interactions with students, writing technical papers, and blogging.
I promise I am not trying to be a douche here and stereotype folks without kids. I am trying to understand what it is about travel that makes it such a big deal and so important and perhaps fulfilling to some people. Is this love for serial tourism ubiquitous and many more people would globe-trot for fun if only they could afford it, or do I just happen to know some very happy travelers?