We all like going on holiday, just as most of us like a drink. But is there such a thing as overindulging and being addicted to travel? Some people think so. Not least some opposition politicians in the Australian parliament, where the new prime minister Kevin Rudd, returning for a second term, has made 28 trips in 34 days since resuming office in June.
The globetrotting Aussie PM is of course travelling for work, but his opponents claim that his love of – or maybe ‘addiction’ to – jet setting is a serious problem. In doing so, they have inadvertently raised an important point about the role of travel and the desire to get away in our stressed-out and anxious society. Even for those of us who don’t have access to an executive fleet of air force jets: is there such a thing as travel addiction?
In an age where internet addiction is now regarded as a genuine malady treatable by medical professionals, it’s certainly no more of a stretch to accept that some people may not just have itchy feet, but are psychologically dependent on travelling to new places and living the nomadic lifestyle. The evidence of compulsive travelling is hardly scant.
Many travel forums contain the same stories, no doubt typed from the cubicles of some dingy internet café thousands of miles from home. They tell of lives which don’t feel complete without discovering pastures new; a fear of being old and regretting not seeing more of the world. But also, they contain a reflexive notion that spending so much time with their eyes on the road could be detrimental to other aspects of their lives. In trying to get away from one problem, they have simply bought a series of tickets to another problem in their lives.
It’s so widespread there’s even a name being bandied around for this supposed new complex – Nonstop Travel Need (NTN). But like so many other supposed psychological disorders, it’s important to consider whether this really is an illness or a condition which needs treatment like other addictions, or if the desire for travel is merely a symptom of something else.
The desire to get away is something we all feel once in a while, or quite a lot, depending on how comfortable we are with our current lives. That’s why we go on holiday, whether we go away backpacking or to luxury resorts. As well as fulfilling our desire to see more of the world, it gives us a feeling of being away from that which has become commonplace, boring or tedious.
But when one’s travelling has become a spiral not unlike other forms of harmful behavior, what then? Pack the bags and go home? It’s not that easy if you no longer have a home, as many of the worried wanderlusts frequently remind us. Settle down? Many have tried that before, only to end up saving all their money to hit the road again.
For the Australian prime minister, travel is perhaps an overindulgence which is affecting his work, and needs to be addressed. For others, the desire to see the world could well be nothing more than an adventurous streak, or a dedication to exploring which is a common strand running through humans since the origin of the species.
Sometimes there are problems only the road can heal. But once that’s become a problem in itself, where next – the moon?