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What Travelers REALLY Want When Traveling Abroad

All this money, all this time, all this travel, to do what?

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KATIKATI, New Zealand- Over the past three weeks we’ve traveled all over Australia and New Zealand, visiting amazing places, ogling over incredible animals, and checking out many things we’ve never seen before.

But what do my kids like the most? Playgrounds.

The same exact playgrounds with the blue plastic slides and the green monkey bars that they play on in Bangor, Maine.

We’d get right up close to a kangaroo and they’d go, “cool, it’s a kangaroo.” We’d stand at the base of a giant kauri tree and they’d say “wow, big.” We’d run all over some of the most beautiful beaches that I’ve ever been on in 18 years of travel, and they’d be like,”yay, fun.” But whenever we’d drive past a playground they freak out: “Playground! Playground! Playground! Can we stop!?! Please, please, please, can we stop!?!”

Then they go on the playground and no amount of enticement can make them want to leave.

WTF? We’re spending all of this money so they can have fun and memorable experiences in Oceania and they only want to go to the stinking playground?

“It’s better than traveling across the world just to go to bars,” my wife remarked.

I laughed. She was right.

My kids just wanting to go to playgrounds when traveling abroad is the same exact thing as the 90% of other tourists who travel just to drink in the same bars, listen to the same music, (ultimately) eat the same food, and hang out with the same people as they do back home.

I believe I’m often off base in these travelogue musings. The prime intrigue of travel isn’t to experience, observe, or find out about something new. It’s not to break through your comfort zone or to have to adapt your behaviors and thoughts to meet a new local dynamic. But it’s to find something that you can relate to — something that ultimately feels familiar, that’s not challenging, that you can understand and communicate about, which is all wrapped up in the same prescribed package of aesthetics that you expect to see.

From what I can tell, what most travelers really want is home.


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Filed under: New Zealand, Tourism, Travel Diary, Travel Philosophy

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3717 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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