Under the microscope: Discussing your addiction to international travel with those who just don’t get it

By Randy Keck
This item appears on page 63 of the August 2011 issue.

Many ITN readers who are addicted to international travel find themselves, periodically, in discussions with relatives, friends and acquaintances who express not being able to understand the lure, attraction, charm, etc., of international travel, particularly to very adventurous, challenging destinations.

How should the international travel addict respond?

One thing is certain. It makes no sense to ever try to force your love of international travel down someone else’s throat.

I contend that, in general, these “don’t get it” inquisitors fall into two camps. The first comprises those who truly have no interest in undertaking such travel. Often, their motivation for engaging in the discussion is simply to defend their “lack of interest” position.

The second encompasses those who, on some level, desire to gain greater understanding of the travel addict’s lure to lands beyond. This person likely suspects that he/she may be missing out on something important and, covertly or subconsciously, hopes to pick the travel addict’s brain to glean some related insights.

Discussion with the “lack of interest” inquisitor

The “lack of interest” inquisitor may have a long list of reasons why spending time and money on international travel is not a worthwhile pursuit. His/her stated reasons may be genuine or they may be covering up what are more accurate reasons, such as insufficient finances or even some type of fear or discomfort regarding international travel.

These may include fear of air travel as well as real or perceived discomfort with foreign cultures in regard to language, cuisine, personal safety or hygiene concerns. This can typically be viewed as fear or discomfort concerning the unfamiliar and unknown.

While I’m generalizing, it is my experience that persons in this category are usually not open to being enlightened by the seasoned world traveler’s presumably well-intentioned and sage advice. With this type of person, it is best to avoid reciting all of the wonderful benefits of international travel, including the type of personal growth that can result only from experiencing foreign cultures.

While such benefits are indeed real, with these individuals that is hardly the point. By exercising restraint, you will avoid not only frustration but the levying of unintentional slights in the direction of the nontraveler, which can easily result from perceived inferences that people who are not interested in international travel are not capable of experiencing the level of personal growth that globetrotters do and, so, cannot possibly be as “worldly” in their thinking.

Please save your time, effort and energy for those who are interested. This applies even when the uninterested party is someone close to you and you are feeling hurt or disappointed by his/her lack of interest in your travel experiences. Been there, felt that.

Remember, there is always a choice of perspectives when it comes to processing the behavior of others.

Discussion with the potentially interested inquisitor

It is with someone in the other category of inquisitor that it is appropriate to focus your efforts, as he/she may well be interested in learning a little or a lot about and from your international travel experiences. Do, however, tread carefully in terms of awareness. Avoid the temptation to think of this person as a potential convert or, worse, your convert, with you as his/her Pied Piper, of sorts.

Allow, even encourage, the inquisitor to control the questioning and the flow of the travel-related conversation. Keep in mind that receiving an earful from the addicted international traveler all at once can be overwhelming for the uninitiated.

Remember, in the old days, the temptation to launch into projection mode when someone finally, possibly seemed to show interest in seeing your travel slides? Don’t go there.

In discussions with this type of inquisitor, there is a good yardstick for determining if the communication is going well: are you insuring that the focus remains on the inquisitor’s stated or inferred interests and needs as opposed to your own? The answer should be ‘Yes.’

Even while your comments are being directed toward the inquisitor’s particular interests, make it a point to be sensitive to any limitations that may inhibit the person’s ability to undertake international travel despite his/her possible interest.

Keep in mind the wise counsel that less is often more when applied to giving advice. It almost always is. Underwhelming can most definitely be an admirable goal. In fact, why not go out and underwhelm a new prospective international traveler today?

You may reach Randy at ASI Australia Tours, 80 America Way, Jamestown, RI 02835; 401/560-0350.

Keck's Beyond the Garden Wall

❝ The thought which evolves with deliberate purity of intention creates an illuminated pathway for behavior to follow ❞
— Randy visioning on the topic of this column