Is Travel Selfish?

Recently, a work friend of mine quit his job, packed his 23kg and flew across the world from Brisbane to Italy to have the time of his life on the quintessential Australian Eurotrip. Mostly we were happy for him. There were some tears in the bar where he held his going away party, and some laments over his departure whilst training new staff; but his Instastories of his Akubra hat next to his authentic Italian pizza, replete with his new tan and impossible to fake smile made it difficult to deny that he was undoubtedly very happy on his adventure, in spite of the extra work load and the loss of our favourite Insta photographer for us.

Having done the same thing myself two years earlier it was interesting to see the decision from the perspective of the life left behind. Whilst we miss him terribly, and there’s been teething problems with training his replacements, mostly life has gone on as it always has. But it got me thinking, is travel selfish? Whether it’s a long term sojourn like my friend here, or a short trip to Thailand to get drunk in a pool bar, travel involves taking time out from your practical, everyday life and doing something purely for your own enjoyment. Hard earned money is spent on Italian pizzas and Long Island Iced Teas, and our Instagrids fill up with snaps of us living our best lives designed almost exclusively to make our friends back home sickeningly jealous. So in a society where we’re conditioned to have to justify everything that benefits ourselves as something that also benefits someone or something else; is travel selfish?

Hitting the streets of Shanghai like I don’t have a job to get back to.

I’ll tell you now, my answer is yes. And as you’re reading this on a travel magazine website that probably seems a little out of place to you. But let me show my working a little before you tune completely out.

By now I’m sure you’re all over the self care mantra sweeping social media encouraging everyone to take some time out for themselves, their mental, physical and emotional health, and their own recuperation. It’s a movement about slowing down, drawing back and focusing on ourselves. And it’s a little bit selfish let’s be honest. Only here, selfish isn’t a dirty word. Sometimes we need to be a little bit selfish on a Sunday afternoon so we can be a little more selfless on a Monday morning. It’s all about balance, and, as a psychic told another of my friends; filling your cup. When it comes to travel it might be extreme, but it’s a type of self care that will have your cup overflowing.

To me a balanced lifestyle is evenly tanned legs

But here is where we diverge from my work friend living his best life in Greece now, according to social media. Not because men are exempt from the self care movement, its 2019 and we’re all pushing for equality here; but because of the very specific set of female circumstances that are at play in this particular topic.

Historically speaking women have never had the freedom or the economic capital to travel at whim in the ways that we do now. From 1950s ideologies of the woman as wife and homemaker, whose place was in the kitchen and with the kids, to the gender pay gap which still unfortunately plagues our societies today, even to the threat of physical and sexual assault that surrounds women living their lives in modern society; solo travel, or indeed, travel in any form, represents not just an extreme variant of self care, but also an act of unbridled feminism. We’re in a position now, more than ever before throughout history to travel solo as women and not fear for our lives; to be able to afford to do so without the financial support or physical protection of a man, and to do something purely for ourselves that allows us to be fully immersed in the world in ways that women before us haven’t always been able to do.

Solo travel can be a daunting, isolating, and totally badass thing to do as a woman

So maybe travel is selfish. But who cares? Selfish doesn’t have to be a dirty word, on a Sunday in your bathroom with your charcoal face mask, or sipping cocktails on a beach in Bali on a Wednesday. As long as you take that time to reflect on who you are, what you have to offer the world and how you can be more open-minded, open-hearted and more compassionate, I say be as selfish as you like and travel as far and wide as you can before you have to get back to the grind to earn more money to go again.

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Maddie Clarey

It all started when my parents took me to Vanuatu when I was 15 and now I can't stop. 52 countries and counting.

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