Too Much Travel is Bad for the Soul

There’s an interesting little nugget of reality near the end of the first page of Ask the Pilot this week:

If I have grown more cynical in recent years, it is travel, I think, that has pushed me in this direction. Exploring other parts of the world is beneficial in all the ways it is typically given credit for… But traveling can also burn you out, suck away your faith in humanity. You will see, right there in front of you, how the world is falling to pieces; the planet has been ravaged, life is cheap, and there is little that you, as the Western observer, with or without your good conscience, are going to do about it.

This is something I discovered a while ago as well. Perhaps it is because my work with MSF always takes me to shitholes (*). But even when I happen to not be in a shithole, I find that the cultural constants I find alongside the beautiful ones like “love of family”, “pride in home”, etc are the ugly ones: corruption, apathy, greed. There are just not enough of us on the us team, and way too many them.

I take exception to Patrick’s injection of Western values and/or class into it. It’s just true that everywhere in the world there are shitheads and they are intent on pulling down that which society is struggling to put up around them. If you took a poor African on a tour of all of the sad things you can see in the rich world, he’d start feeling cynical and sad too.

* And I do mean shithole in the kindest, most respectful way. I’m always humbled by how proud people are of home in all the different forms home takes — even the shitholes. And no matter what form home takes, it’s residents should always have their human rights protected.

Update: Read to the end of the article for a touching snapshot inside the heart of a humanitarian worker. What am I doing? Why? Is this right? Is this misguided? All I know is it’s what I’m supposed to be doing…for this hedgehog.


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