Why is traveling around the world so overrated

Vacation trips are overrated

People believe they have to travel to be. A mistake, especially in times of the pandemic. Staying at home, on the other hand, offers revelation. A "steep thesis" that I wrote for the daily newspaper taz:


What about Bangkok remembered? The high pedestrian bridges over badly traveled multi-lane roads.

What of Athens? The hotel washbasin, in which all clothes had to be washed out because the brown Tyrolean nut oil, a sunscreen, leaked in the suitcase on the flight.

What do I think of when I hear London? The wall full of cornflakes in Sainsbury’s supermarket - a culture shock.

When I stood in front of the shelves in the supermarket, I got it: Freedom is the choice between what the world of goods offers me. After all, I lived in London for three years. I could have thought of something else spontaneously.

Anyway, I didn't have to leave for these world experiences. The trips were a long time ago, but the question of what remains of travel besides anecdotes, which are ideal for small talk, is becoming more and more urgent. Especially now, when there is no travel without questions about the risk of infection.

There are people who are unsteady, who cannot stay long in any place. People who only feel themselves and the world when they are in motion. Unfortunate, actually, when you follow Olga Tokarczuk, the 2018 Nobel Prize winner who wrote a book called “Unrest”. A driven first-person narrator speaks in it, one who wants to locate herself and for whom all location is just a pretext to move on. Such people do not go on vacation trips, they are seekers who never find what they are on the trail of.

The parents of this restless, narrative self in the novel, on the other hand, do exactly what is expected: They go on a trip every summer, and it is more the fulfillment of duty than desire. For two or three weeks we go out. The goal: to return home; only at home are they happy. The parents of the narrating self are mistaken. They think they have to travel.

A mistake that has prevailed

This error has prevailed and comes as a matter of course, like the earlier assumption that one had to go to church on Sundays. Error is a matter of belief and that is important because a huge industry depends on it, the tourism industry, and it takes advantage of it when the need to travel is a dogma. Dogmas have a normative claim to truth. You don't have to go back. In view of a second corona wave supported by vacation travel, this is currently becoming a problem.

Anyone who enters the superlative-heavy word combination “the most beautiful weeks of the year” in a search engine on the Internet will get hints that prove that the phrase is used synonymously and without contradiction for vacation travel. Who wants to put a stop to this when it's the best time? However, the information on the net also confirms that travel is a commodity.

On Tourismusanalyse.de, where the 2019 travel market was scrutinized, it says: "Singles and young seniors let the best weeks of the year cost themselves."

Deutschlandfunk provides information on legal questions on vacation: "Paragraphs for the most beautiful weeks of the year".

The Spardabank helps with the financing: "Enjoy the best weeks of the year with SpardaCleverReisen",

The star again, due to the corona, asked in March 2020: “Do the best weeks of the year have to be canceled this year?” No, as you can see.

They are only examples; they can be continued as desired. But the question of how do you want to know that these are "the most beautiful weeks of the year" is neither asked nor answered. That's not the point, because only the consumption of travel is the must. The fact that this is accepted shows that people can be manipulated. Images of blue skies, blue mountains, blue water, uniform palm trees and umbrellas are the icons of modernity.

“So vacation has long been a commodity?” She asked SZ the psychologist and lecturer for tourism science Jürgen Kagelmann ten years ago. And he replied: "Yes, because it is often bought like a pack of muesli or a can of Coke." At the beginning of the corona crisis, Kagelmann still believed that the virus would change travel in the long term, that it would be less and more expensive. The current pictures from Mallorca or from Wolfgangsee speak against it. Vacation trips are so important that it is accepted that the number of infected people - and thus the social follow-up costs - will rise again.

“Travel happiness” is another word with an interesting genesis. Probably once a simple description, as the tourism researcher Horst Opaschowski recently heard in the Mercury according to a causal connection: "Travel is the most popular form of happiness".

In his explanation of why travel is a necessary fulfillment of happiness, he refers to the philosopher Blaise Pascal, who lived in the 17th century and is said to have said that all unhappiness is due to the fact that people cannot sit still in their rooms.

To justify the necessity of travel with this Pascal’s observation is bizarre. Why should people crouch in the room as if it were a cell? They should go out, but not out of an idiotic need to consume and against all social reason to the other end of the world.

Experience the world on a small scale

There is one way in which the inevitability of traveling can be broken: you have to turn to those who stay at home. They look for small-scale world experience, see the new in the familiar, find, "Every book is better than vacation", as Sigrid Grajek, actress, comedian, non-traveler, wrote to me on Twitter.

Persistent ones like her question the effort that travel means. Because in the search for fulfillment, life goes by at check-ins and reception desks, in hotel rooms, on expressways and petrol stations, in train stations and transit halls. Those who stay don't go along with it, and I haven't been in the mood for it for a long time. However, I like to go where friends are.

The Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa is said to have been a great keeper at home. He wrote about life being what we make of it. “The journeys are the travelers. What we see is not what we see, but what we are. ”His best-known book is called:“ The Book of Unrest ”. Here is a quote from it:

"To travel? Existing is enough to travel. I drive from day to day like from station to station in the train of my body or my fate and look at streets and squares, at faces and gestures, always the same and always different, just like landscapes are.

I see what I imagine. What do I do differently when I travel? Only an extremely weak imagination justifies a change of location in order to be able to feel. "

I could never have said that so nicely. But now I still have two memories: In Thailand I fell asleep on the bus along the Mekong on the shoulder of someone I didn't know.

And on the London suburban train, it was one winter over thirty years ago, I grabbed a handle above me with ice-cold hands without looking. My hands were so stiff that I didn't realize I was clutching someone's wrist. He kept still. It was like love.