I’ve never been a smoker, so I wouldn’t know that feeling of physical need, that ache for another cigarette that gnaws at you all day. But I’m pretty sure I have had other addictions.
I guess there are all sorts of things you can become addicted to – coffee, heroin, alcohol, sex, golf – but is travel one of them?
You often hear of people saying they’ve got “the bug”, meaning they’ve discovered the joy of travel and are keen for more. It’s something of a badge of honour for hardcore travellers to claim to be addicted to the lifestyle as well.
There are certainly those that display the signs of an addict. Travel can become more than just a passion. When you’re making poor financial decisions in favour of travel, when you’re missing family events and ruining relationships and losing friendships because of your deep need to get out on the road and explore, you might just have to face the possibility that you’re hooked.
There are definitely elements of the experience that you can become addicted to. Travel is a high of sorts; it’s the buzz of finding yourself somewhere new every day, of tackling a foreign land, of pitting your wits against a strange society. There’s also the thrill of finding yourself accepted in those societies, and the feeling you’ve discovered things that no one else will ever understand.
You can become addicted to that. You only realise how addicted you are when you return home to normalcy and have to get used to the idea that maybe things aren’t going to be that exciting or unusual today – maybe they’ll just be the same as they were yesterday. That can be a hard thing for some people to get their head around.
Do you try to go cold turkey? I’ve seen plenty of people attempt it. These are the travellers who’ve just returned from a few years overseas, maybe living the London life or just roving around the world.
Those people have developed a long-term acceptance that travel will be part of their everyday lives, that they’re only ever a cheap Ryanair flight away from somewhere amazing. And then they move home to Australia, and they’re not.
There are withdrawal symptoms. You get grumpy. You torture yourself looking through old photos trying to get some of that old feeling back. You get frustrated at friends who seem completely satisfied with their old lives that you left behind a few years ago for something more.
So yes, you can become addicted to travel. Plenty of people do. The big question is what do you do to fight it? Because for a lot of people there will eventually come a time when they’ll need to settle down a bit, to scale back the travel to reasonable levels and attempt to have a life approaching something normal.
One of the answers is bizarrely similar to the solution to any other addiction: support. Call it Travellers Anonymous. You need other addicts around you, people to share the pain. You need fellow travellers who aren’t going to groan every time you begin a story with, “This one time, when I was in…”
Reformed travel addicts are good people. They’re the ones who’ll want to go to the pub with you on a Tuesday for no good reason. They’re the ones with a keen interest in the world around them, the ones who know how to have a good time in their home city. They know where the good bars and restaurants are, they know about upcoming events.
They’ve probably already figured out the secret to coping with travel addiction, and that’s rediscovering the joy and excitement of life at home. Think of all the things you’d do when you travel, the places you’d check out, the people you’d meet, the adventures you’d set yourself up for. Now, do the same thing back home.
Explore your city. Throw yourself into its foreign pockets. Hang out with the friends you missed while you were away. Plan to do things you’ve never done before.
And remember: travel will always be there. It’s right outside your door.
Are you a travel addict? How do you deal with it when you’re at home?