I think it's somewhat easy to ascertain that I'm addicted to traveling. Having hit up most of the world's most popular tourist destinations, I've now moved on to places that are off the grid – in search of new experiences to shock my senses – where people may confuse me for some rich, successful, charming socialite, rather than a poor, bumbling neanderthal.
My addiction carries over to everything I do.
At the end of Schindler's List, Oskar Schindler is nearly in tears as he looks upon the hundreds of Jews he's saved and realized that he could've saved even more by selling his valuable personal items, or having never bought them in the first place. When it comes to traveling, I'm like Oskar Schindler, only I'm not saving persecuted Jews from death, I'm crying over each dollar that could've been spent on a trip where I could've posted a shirtless selfie.
(Having re-read the above paragraph, I'm quite certain Hell would usher me to the front of the line ahead of Bill Cosby. If it helps, I do donate to charitable causes.)
Anyhow, every dollar that I make and spend I think about in terms of what else I could be doing with that money. In the economic world, we call this "opportunity cost." (BAM. Take that to everyone who thought I didn't pay attention in school! I not only spent countless hours looking at the clock, but I also occasionally listened. Just call me Mr. Microeconomics.)
When I see someone with an iPad, I think about how I'd rather put that $500 towards a plane ticket to Central America. When I see someone wearing a pair of $200 jeans, I think about how that would be a week's worth of expenses in a foreign country. When I see a stoplight, I run right through it, to save the wear and tear on my brakes, so that I can avoid buying new ones. When I decide between two-ply and single-ply toilet paper, I always choose single-ply even though I love Mexican food.
To all my travels and my fellow travelers, no matter what type you are, I pay you tribute:
1. THE WEEKEND WARRIOR
Yes, this is a traveler as well. Their escapism takes place in their homes. Not everyone is fortunate to be able to get away for a weekend or an extended trip – either financially, occupationally, or familial(y) – and that's what makes these guys and gals so much fun to be around. Going to a barbecue and/or sporting event at their house is like going to an amusement park for your midsection and a viewing of SkyMall's best products all in one place. Barbecue grill made from stainless steel 24 karat gold with built-in air-conditioning? Got it. Zombie figurine crawling out of the garden? Of course. Best alcohol collection in the neighborhood? Beer pong table? Cornhole? Bacon-wrapped everything? Two-ply toilet paper? 1000 thread count Egyptian combed cotton sateen sheets? You bet.
2. THE WEEKEND GONER
Living in Northern California – truly one of the world's best and most underrated areas – plenty of people depart every weekend for a few days in Napa/Sonoma (the precedent and standard-bearer in wine-tasting escapism), or Lake Tahoe (snowboarding/skiing in winter and watersports/outdoor recreation in summer), Las Vegas (a one hour flight), Santa Cruz (for beaches), or Yosemite National Park (for Mother Nature's masterpieces). These people may not always be able to go overseas for vacation, but they're gone every weekend exploring their surrounding areas and loving every moment of it.
3. THE ROADTRIPPER
Back when I was young, my Dad was fanatical about road trips all across the United States. While I hated it as a kid, because I had to sit in a car all day long (mind you this is before Nintendo's Gameboy had been invented and WAY before TV/DVD players were a standard in every family vehicle), I now feel fortunate to have been able to see so much of the countryside. So many cars I saw (while playing the ABC game) and McDonald's visited (this is also WAAAY before artificial flavors, sugars, pesticides, organic, and gluten had been "invented") as we drove from Texas to Florida, Texas to New York, Texas to Chicago, Texas to California... I carried on the tradition in college, back when people in the same age bracket could also conceivably throw away responsibility for a few days. Now, it's relegated to my solo vacations, where I am the most irresponsible person on earth.
4. THE ONCE-A-YEAR
I've often spoken out against the arcane, and archaic, vacation policies afforded Americans. While the rest of the developed world is given up to five weeks vacation (25+ days: France, U.K., Brazil), or four weeks (20 days: Germany, Australia, Switzerland, Sweden... heck, even Afghanistan, no joke), the United States is not required to give ANY! Most employers still end up offering vacation time, but, on average, it only amounts to 10 days. And with using a vacation day here and there for a wedding, a birthday, or a weekend trip, that vacation time – by the time you use it – ends up being more like five days for you to plan a week-long getaway. Americans end up settling with going to Mexico, Hawaii, or the Bahamas, EVERY year, because traveling any further would take up two entire days of travel just getting to and from the destination. But... those five days, that person will be the happiest and drunkest (and most sunburnt) person on the beach!
5. THE CRUISE SHIPPER/TOUR ADDICT
Many people like the comfort of a set itinerary, a tour where the destinations, hotels, and even food may be laid out to them under a set cost. My father, for instance, loves the mindless-ness of it all. He doesn't have to think about one thing, other than enjoying the sights and sounds before him. (Unless I'm with him, then he is thinking about what a complete failure and disappointment I am to him. Each new tourist site becomes a reminder of how mankind has evolved, except for his only son. Great Wall of China?!? A symbol of the accomplishments of man and the lack of accomplishments of his son. The Forbidden City?!? A reminder of all the dynasties and family-building as the generations continued through children and how his only son is still not married and without kids.) Whoops. Did this paragraph devolve into my relationship with my dad, Ike Turner? Anyhow, the Tour Addict only needs to worry about their cocktail-in-hand, tan, what shot glass to buy at each port, and getting their hair braided.
6. THE TOPICAL HIGHLIGHTER
This person has graduated from the local beach destinations and has maybe accrued more vacation over the years as his/her wealth and occupational position has grown. On top of an annual beach locale, they're now going to a new destination each year. They start out with the major ones that have been around since the beginning of the invention of international tourism, like London, Paris, Rome, Greece, Spain, Germany, before moving on to a second-tier of up-and-comers, that Clark Griswold would never have thought of, like Thailand, Rio De Janeiro, Australia, Croatia, China, Costa Rica. With each new destination, more foreign to them than the last, the Topical Highlighter becomes more addicted to exploring new destinations and spends much of the year thinking and planning out their next trip.
7. THE INDIANA JONES
This traveler has done all the highlights and no longer finds solace in places that have a Lonely Planet book dedicated to them. He/she needs to forge their own path in a country, spending time with the people, learning the culture, and discovering gems down streets and trails forgotten. The Indiana Jones makes new friends in every country and somehow ends up living in that complete stranger's home a few days afterwards. He/she walks, bikes, takes public transportation, rents scooters and cars... without a map. The less information the Indi knows about a destination, the less preconceived notions, which allows the formulation of his/her own ideas. The Jones can be a loner, spending hours by himself, yet being the most sociable person when around people. I, myself, relate closest to this traveler, along with my personal kinship towards Count Chocula. In the end, the Indiana Jones still needs to periodically return to a rooted existence as he's missed and revered by thousands... probably even millions of people.
8. THE PERPETUAL NOMAD
This traveler is the envy of all their friends, having the guts to take all of society's expectations, capitalistic brainwashing, and familial pressures, and challenge them by living their life in foreign countries. Whether they bounce from country to country every few months, or live for a few years in each destination, they are showing that not everyone has to choose a life where they graduate college, get a job, get married, have kids, and pay off their mortgage for the next 30 years – in that order. That's not to say they'll never do it, but they will do it within their own timeframe and have an amazing time in-between! This person's daily pictures might consist of a picture with a tiger, having a beer in the Rain Forest, lounging in a hammock on a desolate beach, or volunteering in a third world country with underprivileged kids. This person may or may not have it figured out, but they sure as heck don't care what you think. And they'd be the last to judge you on your decisions.
When it's all said and done, there is no wrong way to do a vacation. We all find our releases in different ways. A person doing yoga every day may find a spiritual connection with the world around them. When we read a book and allow our minds to drift off into a new world, completely unaware of our surroundings... When two people share each other's bodies and love one another... all these feelings can be euphoric – a release from physical and mental constraints and worries.
Might it be that's what it's all about?
There's a scene in Training Day where a doped up Ethan Hawke says he's got the streets figured out: "You gotta control your smiles and cries, because that's all you have and nobody can take that away from you."