The point of travel has become lost on some people. I’ve noticed great travel writers who have stopped writing about the experience and instead focus on “the product” – the planes, the indistinguishable lie-flat seats, the fancy hotels, and of course everything that wasn’t up to par about the experience. As Louis CK put it, “Everything is amazing and nobody is happy.” Seriously, watch this video (skip to 2:40) – it will not only make you laugh, it will set you straight. Quick.
I’ve certainly been guilty of it myself. While reading about luxury travel is great escapism, it can also make you vapid and shallow if it’s done in excess. Here are five ways the points and miles hobby and constant, pointless travel, may be turning you into a non-contributing zero:
1. You can’t appreciate what you’ve been given (free). The flight attendant didn’t bow after she handed you your chardonnay. The front desk agent didn’t explain all the free stuff your elite membership gets you (even though you have them memorized and will fight to the end to maintain them), and the suite you shamed the agent into upgrading you to didn’t have the high thread count and designer bath products you’re used to. Look outside your window and you may notice a row of homeless people sleeping in the alley across the street. That’s something to complain about (for them, not you) – not how your free hotel room isn’t up to your country club standards.
Think back to a time when travel was simple: You saved up and bought yourself an economy ticket to somewhere. You stayed at cheap hotels and ate at moderately priced restaurants. You had a great time and wished you could do it more often. Then came points and miles and turned you into a “non-contributing zero.” Dial it back, be grateful, and remember that while all the material aspects of travel are great, it’s the overall experience that should be treasured.
2. You are constantly complaining (for free stuff). The airlines suck. They take olives out of our salads to save money and make us pay to take our luggage with us on vacation. It probably won’t change. Lower your standards or buy a private jet. If you’re not an elite whose given years of business to the airline, try to let some things go and don’t milk every inconvenience for more freebies.
Wanting the maximum return for minimum investment is part of what makes us tick. However, some people feel genuinely entitled to things they do not want to pay for. They think because they got status matched to Hyatt Diamond, hotels should bend over backwards to accommodate them. They want upgrades and nothing short of a suite will do – they complain constantly (almost professionally) in order to get free stuff. Because that’s what seems to be what this hobby is focusing on: Stuff. The stuff you get when you’re on the plane, at the 5-star hotel, from the hotel when your toilet doesn’t flush in the right direction, etc.
3. You are spending exorbitant amounts of money on upgrades. There was a time when most of us wouldn’t consider paying $300 per night on a hotel room, let alone on an upgrade. Yet the longer we entrench ourselves into the shallow aspects of this hobby, the more we’re willing to pay to maintain them. It’s very easy to lose sight of reality and think of pricey upgrades as “good value.” They’re not.
4. You don’t want to talk to actual people. Even the ones whose countries you are visiting. You prefer enjoying that hotel suite you embarrassed yourself over. And besides – talking to the hotel staff counts, right? You don’t speak their language and have no interest in learning it. Why can’t everyone learn English already?!
5. Apathy. You stop watching the news and caring about the world around you. After all, it’s so much more fun to watch Youtube videos of a faceless person eating a 5-course meal on the Emirates A380, than to watch another news report about children dying in illegal drone strikes. This hobby distracts us, and who wants to give that up for the bleakness of the real world?
We all want a comfortable place to sleep, a nice meal, and a bed in the sky. But when the only reason you’re traveling is to hole yourself up in a cocoon of luxury, you’re missing out on the most amazing part.
My advice? Go back to the basics. Go camping for a weekend, maybe even take a drive to a shady part of town and get some perspective. Watch the news for a little bit. Talk to people who aren’t like you. Then come back and tell me these experiences weren’t more meaningful than sipping champagne on an airplane for 14 hours.
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