How to Maintain Your Passion for Travel: The Importance of Purpose

How to Maintain your Passion for Travel: The Importance of Purpose

A thought stirred in my mind during a recent trip to Cambodia. It related to a question I’ve frequently asked myself: how long could I travel for before it lost its appeal? Ultimately, in the pursuit for an answer I found myself considering how we can maintain our passion for travel while on the road. In so doing, I landed on the importance of purpose.

However, I’ll start at the beginning. My questions began with a chance meeting with a Brazilian girl, who I’ll call Ana.

Ana was staying in the same tiny guesthouse, on the same tiny beach, on the same tiny Island as me- a short boat ride off the southern coast of Cambodia. On our first afternoon we got talking at the bar and, after a beer or two, stumbled into a conversation about travelling and the reasons we were in Cambodia. Her reasons turned out to be far more interesting than mine.

 The idyllic island guesthouse, complete with boats and white sand beaches, where I met Ana.

The idyllic island guesthouse, complete with boats and white sand beaches, where I met Ana.

I found Ana’s story fascinating. It was one of real meaning and personal significance; a tale full of intrigue and cultural points of interest.

Essentially, feeling no connection and seeing no real future in her home country, Brazil, she set out on an epic quest to find ‘home’. Now, after six years, multiple continents and four new languages later, she’s still searching.

Ana settled in New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Spain and numerous South-East Asian countries, working in hostels, hotels and bars along the way. She met beautiful people, made friendships for life and developed as an individual in all manner of ways. But she hadn’t yet found home.

She had once come close in Barcelona, where she fell in love with the city, the language, the people and the culture. However, after some time she felt that same, silent, nagging need to be on the move again. Having continued her journey, she found herself back in South-East Asia, in Cambodia, where she was taking some time to recharge her batteries before heading back to Brazil to see family and friends.

Yes, back to Brazil, but (she assured me) just for a short time before getting back on the road.

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As we spoke, Ana commented, amusingly, that she didn’t even really enjoy travelling- the moving around, the tiredness, the uncertainty. No, she prefers stability, a base, a routine...a home. I told her she should write a book- she said she’s not a writer. Not a writer, perhaps, but an explorer on a specific quest.

Travel for her had a purpose, and it wasn’t like the ones I’d heard before. I was staggered by the length of time she’d been away and it made me reflect on my own, comparatively limited (by Ana’s standards) experience of travel.

The Travel Apathy Issue

It was here that I began to question how long I could travel for without losing my passion for it. 

The longevity of Ana’s trip and her goal to find ‘home’ reminded me of a certain aspect of travel: a phenomenon I’ll call ‘travel apathy’.

Essentially, when you go away for a lengthy period of time, the glamour and allure of travel can wear thin. Over weeks and months, the travel motivation that once burned with intensity wilts and wanes.

For me, the first time this happened I was caught off guard. In a stunningly beautiful part of New Zealand’s North Island- a place called Whangarei Heads, with two good friends and the luxury of a bach (holiday home) with its own private beach, I suddenly felt this deep, queasy sense of listlessness. A question burned in my mind:

“what am I actually doing here?”

Having done whatever I wanted, gone wherever I wished, seen such beauty, met so many new and interesting people and learned so much, I’d lost track of my ‘why’- the reasons I was travelling in the first place.

 The stunning view from our bach at sunset, where I first felt the travel apathy.

The stunning view from our bach at sunset, where I first felt the travel apathy.

In some ways travel apathy only seems natural. Intense highs, whether chemically induced or naturally occurring, never exist in isolation- what goes up must come down, right? Travel will provide you with highs and lows almost daily. There’s a physical and emotional intensity to it that’s difficult to sustain.

So, what’s the antidote to travel apathy and aimlessness?

Purpose.

The Importance of Purpose in Tackling Travel Apathy

If you ever find yourself struggling with travel apathy, find something to aim for- a goal that will provide meaning to your day to day.

Whether that simply means travelling in a novel way- swapping the car for a bike, moving around less and settling somewhere, or, conversely, getting back on the move having been settled somewhere; whether it’s volunteering at a charity or NGO, working at a bar, writing a book, starting a blog, throwing away your mobile phone, living more simply, waking up earlier, beginning a project...

Whatever it is, establishing a foundation of purpose through action or intent will protect you from travel apathy.

Ultimately, establishing a sense of purpose will help you continue to enjoy your travels. If you have your purpose from the outset, well, you’re onto a winner.

For Ana, she had it sorted from that start. There was/is no travel end date for her.

Instead, her aim to find home keeps her going, maintains the itchiness of her feet and imbues her travels with a poignancy that leaves no place for pesky apathy.

That isn’t to say that your goal should be to travel indefinitely.

Indeed, though I was impressed by Ana I was also struck by the ongoing nature of her pursuit. I wondered, presumptuously and only to myself, whether there was more to her story than there seemed. Whether, somehow, the search for ‘home’ was more a quest for something deeper. Often, I think we’re all driven by motivations of which we may be entirely unaware.

Personal musings aside though, it seems undeniable that Ana is able to sustain her passion for her trip through the purpose with which she travels. So, if you’re reading this as an aspiring traveller, consider thinking on what yours might be.

To fully understand what you’re trying to achieve with any trip is a great way to make the most of it. Know what you want to get out of your travels; define it, write it down, and keep it in mind.

Ultimately, such purpose will help you stave off the apathy that can develop over time. In this way, you might maintain your passion and get more from your trip than just a tan.

What purpose do you plan to travel with? What do you want to achieve? What would you like to gain from your time away? Let me know in the comments! I'd love to hear about them :)