Do we travel for personal growth or bragging rights? This was the question posed by my esteemed friend @MalloryOnTravel who recently posted an interesting piece on his blog entitled, “Travel Egos & Bragging Rights”, which generated a bit of discussion in travel twitterville.
The post is about travelers who are constantly bragging about how many passport stamps they have, how many countries they’ve visited, how knowledgeable they are about the world—you get the idea—how superior they are to other travelers.
Perhaps the reason I found the article so compelling was because I spotted myself in there, figuratively...and was abashed! Well, I’d like to think that I was only in a small portion of it...but I was there! After all, on my Twitter profile, I do state the approximate number of countries visited. I respect people with humility, not braggarts. However, I also recognize the need to market oneself in our industry, and in our society. So, I suppose we must all undergo this delicate balancing act between modesty and braggadocio.
Well, I’m going to put myself out there, in an unpopular position, and play devil’s advocate. I’m going to defend those of us who ‘country count’. I have to admit that I do enjoy counting countries and looking at all the cool stamps in my passport! And, I bet you that most travelers do, but are unwilling to admit it because it has fallen out of fashion to say so.
I also enjoy collecting currencies from different countries, going to geographically extreme places, collecting postage stamps from different parts of the world (not a popular hobby anymore for obvious reasons), collecting shells, bringing home interesting stones (yeah rocks), pendants, etc., from different parts of the world. Why? Because I enjoy it. Because that’s who I am. Because it’s fun for me! And, because it reminds me of the places I’ve been, especially now, that I’m temporarily grounded. When I look at my travel mementos and passport stamps, well, it makes me smile!
I know what you’re thinking: “It’s about the culture and the people”! Well, yes, but for me that’s just a—dare I say it—part of my travel pie. You see, I’m a science geek: I love geography, geology, and basically anything that ends with the suffix -ology! I’m also a nature lover, and an admirer of aesthetic beauty, which I love capturing with my photography. I love doing crazy things like going to Earth’s geographical landmarks (i.e. like the equator), purely for my own amusement!
In addition, since I never had a ‘proper job’ (see my FB profile) my travels are a natural part of my resume (CV). It’s a fact of my life that I traveled constantly for 20 years—it’s not bragging—that’s just what I did for my work and for pleasure. I quite literally did not have a home base for about 10 years. I lived on the boats on which I worked, between backpacking trips. So, it’s quite impossible for me to talk about my life without talking about my travels.
So, in defense of “country counters” like myself, I’d like to say that some of us have paid our dues and ‘earned’ our bragging rights. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean we go around using them, but we are likely to mention our travels, and countries visited in conversation! Unlike the people to whom @MalloryOnTravel is referring in his post, I think there are a lot of us who feel that the more we travel, the more we find that there is to see, learn, and understand. Instead of feeling like we know-it-all, we discover there is so much more to learn.