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What We Travel For

What it’s really all about.

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UNDISCLOSED LOCATION- Imagine for a moment if Richard Halliburton never did any stupid shit? There would have never of been a Royal Road to Romance — an apologetically juvenile travel classic. He wouldn’t have swam the Panama Canal. And he definitely wouldn’t have attempted to cross the Pacific on a fucking raft. He would have been just another trust fund kid on vacation whose name we would never have known. He probably would have wore a suit to work, lived in Manhattan, and made a lot of money. Instead, he did stupid shit … and died.

The guy understood the value of stupid shit. He created an entire career off of it. He’d go out and circle the globe, stringing together concocted adventures, glorify them in books, and then cash in giving talks about them in high society social clubs. There was no rational reason for him to do what he did. He just did it because that’s what made life interesting — and, as most of us readily accept, an interesting life, pound for pound, is worth more than a long life.

He’d say things like:

“When impulse and spontaneity fail to make my way uneven then I shall sit up nights inventing means of making my life as conglomerate and vivid as possible…. And when my time comes to die, I’ll be able to die happy, for I will have done and seen and heard and experienced all the joy, pain and thrills—any emotion that any human ever had—and I’ll be especially happy if I am spared a stupid, common death in bed.”

Or:

“Realize your youth while you have it. Don’t squander the gold of your days, listening to the tedious, or giving your life away to the ignorant and the common. These are the sickly aims, the false ideals, of our age. Live the wonderful life that is in you. Be afraid of nothing. There is such a little time that your youth will last- such a little time.”

Halliburton traveled in what could be called the first age of tourism in the first stretch of the 20th century. By that time the world had already been charted, the maps have all been drawn, and travel alone was no longer a guarantee of adventure. The age of discovery was over, adventure itself became a commodity — something bought and sold but rarely delivered. No longer was simply going off to the far stretch of the world enough to produce incredible experiences and stories that people would actually want to hear. Travelers of this age were the first to realize that if you wanted adventure you had to purposefully create it. And the easiest way to do this? Stupid shit.

We spend our lives trying to avoid consequences, but consequences are precisely that which turns life into a story. What we remember from life are not those times when we made the best decision, when we played it safe, when we held fast to morality, common sense, and rationality. No, it’s the times that we veered off-course, roll the dice, and exposed ourselves to whatever may come. That’s the shit you’re going to remember, that’s the shit from which you will learn, and that’s the experiences that you will value more than anything …

… until you sink.

 

Filed under: Adventure, Travel Philosophy

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3623 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Astoria, New York

18 comments… add one

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  • Rusty Amoroso July 10, 2020, 3:52 pm Link Reply
    • Rusty Amoroso July 10, 2020, 4:29 pm

      “If something burns your soul with purpose and desire, it’s your duty to be reduced to ashes by it. Any other form of existence will be yet another dull book in the library of life.”
      ― Charles Bukowski

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      • Vagabond Journey July 11, 2020, 10:32 am

        Right on!

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    • Vagabond Journey July 11, 2020, 10:32 am

      Yes! That definitely qualifies as “stupid shit.”

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  • Trevor Warman July 10, 2020, 4:31 pm

    I need to do more stupid shit

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    • Vagabond Journey July 11, 2020, 10:33 am

      Dude, these days stupid shit seems to be doing you haha!

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      • Trevor Warman July 11, 2020, 2:15 pm

        If u get to a green country, stay 14 days Serbia is still green though off tye UK safe list. Am blocked over UK again ( 14 day Quarantine) then u can go UKr
        https://visitukraine.today/ in theory 🇺🇦

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        • Vagabond Journey July 13, 2020, 11:35 am

          Sounds like a good plan. May have to do that soon. I like that stretch of the world.

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          • Trevor Warman July 13, 2020, 11:42 am

            But its all theory Andy might go testing out the theory in Turkey re his latest vlog..

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            • Vagabond Journey July 13, 2020, 2:38 pm

              Haha, yes, very true. I’ve come to conclude that most immigration departments are made up of theory rather than rules. Like when I was kicked out of Hong Kong in December the immigration official who walked me to the flight they had arranged to take me away said, “They can’t deny you entry. You’re an American. You have the right to enter here.” So much for that.

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              • Trevor Warman July 13, 2020, 3:03 pm

                Did a backpacking in belgrade post….;)) all have been tweeted..

                am escaping tomorrow…. whilst i still can… hopefully no dramas

                4 posts lined up…. including an in depth one

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                • Vagabond Journey July 13, 2020, 9:00 pm

                  Excellent! Going to the Ukraine route?

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  • Jack July 13, 2020, 8:32 am

    Why does this piece make me think of the song, “That’s Why We Drink?” I’ve done crazy and stupid things when traveling. Nothing that risks my life, but I’ve still done a lot. It’s much more interesting than the life I have……most would say back home, but I’m nearing 50 and I still don’t have a home. I grew up in Oregon, but except for a few short trips, I haven’t been there in 30 years. I’ll just say back in the USA.

    I remember when I was a kid, some missionary couple had just got back from Africa and were sharing pictures and slideshows about what they saw, what they did, and what they experienced. I wonder how many people in history chose missionary work just because they really just wanted to travel and have new experiences?

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    • Vagabond Journey July 13, 2020, 11:39 am

      Dude, you’re like the master of finding yourself in stupid shit situations. Sometimes I’m like, man, how did Jack do that haha.

      Yes, many of us need some kind of excuse to justify travel. I say I’m working. Missionaries say they’re saving souls. Investors say they’re doing business. But in the end we all just really want to travel.

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      • Jack July 13, 2020, 11:58 am

        ha! You know it. In 2001, I managed to get myself surrounded by angry Muslim crowd in southern Thailand because I insulted Bin Laden. In 2019, I managed to get myself surrounded by an angry group of Mormon Fundamentalists in Mexico for calling their leader fat. In case you are wondering, crazy Mormon Fundies are somehow scarier than crazy Muslim extremists. Or maybe I’m less of a risk taker in my old age. LOL

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        • Vagabond Journey July 13, 2020, 2:41 pm

          Haha, yes, some people just aren’t born to be part of a mob.

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  • Trevor Warman July 14, 2020, 2:37 pm

    Not Ukraine Country 96 KOSOVO am in Pristina. Like the vibe. Less polished than Beograd

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    • Vagabond Journey July 15, 2020, 12:07 pm

      Cool. Go to North Macedonia too. I. really like it there.

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