I don't like to travel. Is that okay?
March 4, 2019 10:15 AM   Subscribe

I just don't enjoy traveling, and my spouse does only marginally more than me. It's expensive and exhausting. Our families are all big travelers, and they are constantly encouraging us to travel, even offering to help pay. I still don't want to go. Is that okay? How do we tell them?

Growing up, traveling was mostly road trips to visit family or occasionally to the beach or the mountains. We did a few sight-seeing type trips when I was a kid, and I remember having fun going to DC or Disney or whatever. As an adult, we mostly just do road trips to visit family. My spouse and I have also done a few bigger sight-seeing type trips together (and had fun!), but we have also turned down a couple of big family cruises and similar group opportunities.

Honestly, our favorite trip is just to go camping or to the beach together for a few days with a bunch of books and no plans. We both do better with lots of sleep and downtime, which is one factor that makes the sorts of trips other people enjoy less fun. Maybe if I had lots of time off, no stress, and lots of money I would feel different, but none of those things are going to happen any time soon.

Our families are horrified by our lack of travel and sure that all we need is more financial support and encouragement. My spouse has a close family member who lives overseas in a really popular tourist destination who really wants us to visit. I don't know how to say "No, we just don't really want to go." Is it okay to feel this way? How do we explain this to our families?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
"I just don't enjoy eating broccoli, and my spouse does only marginally more than me. It's expensive and exhausting. Our families are all big broccoli eaters, and they are constantly encouraging us to eat broccoli, even offering to help pay. I still don't want to eat it. Is that okay? How do we tell them?"

When you switch out "travel" for something else, it becomes obvious how silly they're being. You're allowed like and dislike whatever you choose.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:25 AM on March 4, 2019 [18 favorites]

I also hate to travel. I've only recently fully admitted that to myself. I feel like you're SUPPOSED to be a free spirit wandering the planet having grand adventures. And I like to HEAR about those grand adventures and see pictures and get postcards, but I don't actually want to go myself. Plus, I feel like with the environmental costs of travel, I'd better REALLY want to go if I'm going to burn jet fuel, you know? I like home. I like my bed, I like my shower, I like my routines, and the way my home smells. I'm good, thanks.

It might seem self-serving of me to say that it's 100% okay to hate to travel and not want to do it recreationally.
posted by Aquifer at 10:31 AM on March 4, 2019 [19 favorites]

I'm in a similar boat. Unfortunately my wife and kids love to travel. So we try to compromise - I go with them on the shorter trips, but when it comes to flying overseas or staying somewhere for more than a few days, they let do my own thing and stay at home. They often go with my wife's parents.

I don't think you need to make excuses, but if you need one, you could say that you're trying to reduce your carbon footprint - that's what I tell people who can't accept the actual reason.
posted by pipeski at 10:34 AM on March 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

I love travel. I don't understand why people who love something feel they need to insist that everybody else should do it, too. It is okay to not like travel, or to only like certain kinds of travel. I 100% bless you not wanting to do a busy cruise or hike the Inca Trail or whatever else; you guys do you. It's fine for someone to not like to travel; more space for those of us who like it.

I will note that is possible to go to a city that is a popular tourist destination and just hang out with close family, or to just go and chill somewhere, even if most people who visit do tourist things. If your partner's close family is for some reason weird about you doing having to do the tourist thing, there's no reason you can't spend the day sitting in a cafe eating pastries and reading books, and then when you get back to their place say that the Louvre was totally jammed and you were surprised at how small the Mona Lisa is or whatever.

However, it seems to me you are really talking about not liking visiting family, not travelling per se -- you even describe travel you do (going to the beach) that you in fact do enjoy. The travel you are talking about not wanting to do are either "big family" trips, or visiting "a close family member". And it's okay for adults to decide that they don't want to participate in relationships with their family, or only want to do so under certain circumstances, or only a certain number of times a year; but the tradeoff is the adults in your family get to make their own decisions about how they want to respond. And I don't know enough about your family dynamics and priorities to make any more suggestions than that.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:35 AM on March 4, 2019 [28 favorites]

"Not liking travel" is perfectly legitimate, but it sounds as if this might be shading over into "not seeing your relatives," which again is a choice you are free to make, but a considerably weightier one. If you do want to keep in touch with family, you can't expect them to be the only ones who go to the trouble to make it possible.
posted by praemunire at 10:36 AM on March 4, 2019 [13 favorites]

The problem with this sort of situation is that they want you to go so they can feel good about themselves since you are there with them. (Generally speaking.) People feel like when you say no to a vacation with them you are rejecting them. They don't really understand how uncomfortable it is for you. It is probably more about them than you.

So, that said, get rid of guilt for making your vacations about you and about how you want to spend that time. Think of it this way. I doubt they'd eagerly accept invitations to camp in the woods and read and sleep for most of that time. They sound like they'd be bored silly. Kind and firm repeated refusals, given consistently, are really probably your best bet.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 10:37 AM on March 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

"hey family, i just don't like international travel / airports / ..."

and maybe "if you ever want to come visit / go hiking / ... come on over"
posted by zippy at 10:45 AM on March 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

It is obviously okay not to want to travel. I suspect you feel guilty about missing out on family time. Can you guide suggestions towards trips that would work both for you and for your larger family? That seems better than just turning down undesirable plans without making any suggestions yourself.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:46 AM on March 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have always found travel to be very stressful. I was dragged along on many miserable holidays as a child. My parents and sister love to travel. Fortunately my husband and I are both on the same page. I haven't spent a single night away from home in several years and I'm happy with that. We spend out time off doing nice things in our home city and relaxing at home. Do what best suits you.
posted by pandabort at 11:00 AM on March 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nthing everyone that says it's okay to not want to travel. For myself, I like traveling but I only get so many days off of work. If I two week long vacation there are less opportunities to take 3 day weekends in the summer.

Only you and your spouse get to decide what trade off is right for you.

I think you are really asking about what to say to your families. I'm not always so good at these difficult conversations either but I would probably try to stick as close to the truth as possible. Maybe you've already booked your time off for the year so no further vacations are possible. Maybe your coworkers are going out on maternity leave and you can't take a big vacation for awhile.

Maybe you share with a few close family members that travel is really stressful for you both and you hope that the larger family can understand if you turn down some opportunities.
posted by MadMadam at 11:04 AM on March 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

My constant refrain is "I have a rich inner life, thanks"
posted by Dressed to Kill at 11:09 AM on March 4, 2019 [13 favorites]

I’ve lived abroad multiple times and I’ve found that I don’t like trips to new places all that much, but I really enjoy living somewhere new. Before it was easier when I had more time off, but I don’t have all that much and like you I want to come home refreshed not jet lagged.

You may find some middle grounds that you do like (I really enjoyed visiting my friend in St. Croix because 1. It’s gorgeous 2. I didn’t feel pressured to do ALL THE THINGS every day 3. Since I was staying with a friend I wasn’t dropping an insane amount of money. )

There may very well be aspects of travel that you would enjoy if you tried a few different things but it sounds like you have some stuff that works for you already anyway (hiking, camping, beach trips).
posted by raccoon409 at 11:16 AM on March 4, 2019

"look, family, we really appreciate and love that you'd like us to travel with you, we love you, and it's incredibly generous of you to offer to pay for us to do so. unfortunately, we just don't really enjoy the whole travel experience - it causes great anxiety in us both. we prefer to take very calm vacations, close by and quiet. if you'd like to join us for that, we're all for it."
posted by koroshiya at 11:23 AM on March 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

I know some people like this--they channel energy into making their home cosy and exactly as they like it because they don't enjoy travel--and I think it's totally ok. And it's great that your spouse is on the same page as you!
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:35 AM on March 4, 2019

If your problem is that you don't want to travel around but you do want to see your family, you can solve that by clubbing together to rent a nice big house somewhere near you, maybe in the snow for Christmas, or on a beach or lake for a summer holiday, and have everyone to stay in it, be cozy, play board games.

If you just don't want to leave your house at all and are looking for an excuse, you can tell them you have a bad back and can't sleep anywhere comfortably but your own bed.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:52 AM on March 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

I love to travel, but I would love it a ton more if it could be the way you describe, with plenty of sleeping and lounging. It's always so exhausting! That part is terrible. Then there are the terrifying parts. Those parts are also terrible. I think your way is more than okay.
posted by Don Pepino at 11:58 AM on March 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

How do you tell them you don't want to go? First validate their excitement and make it clear that you understand what the trip is about for them. Then say ways that does (but mostly doesn't) match up with your dream vacation. Then say how you'd have to modify the trip to make it fun for you.

"Wow, a whole week in London! So a day for the British Museum, and a day trip that goes to Bath and Stonehenge, do they know yet how they carried those blocks so far?? And of course you're going to the Tower, that would be really cool to see. That day trip to Greenwich - you say there are ferries that just go up and down the Thames all day? I'd love that, it sounds really restful. I think the museum schedule is just too much for me, though. What I really love from a vacation is when I get home feeling better than I left. For you, that's when you've seen something you've only ever read about but for me, it's when I've had a chance to sit and relax, and let my body catch up. My favorite vacation ever was that time we spent 5 days with the house at Virginia Beach, and (describe). What I think I'd like best about the London trip would be the food and the ambiance, just sitting in a pub, get the full English fryup breakfast I'd probably opt out of the city trips you've got scheduled and just stay in the one neighborhood. It seems kind of silly to go all that way just to drink tea."

Then decide if you're actually willing to do that modified vacation. "But it would be lovely to see you, cousin. So long as you understand we're not planning on the tourist vacation, I'd enjoy a visit." or "Though it would be really lovely to see you, cousin, I just have to confess that the London vacation concept isn't one that really resonates with us." If you're feeling sociable, suggest an alternative. "Maybe you'd like to join us on our next beach trip?"

But in short no, you don't have to go. You don't have make excuses or pretend you wish you could go. In fact, the sooner you explain what your criteria are that would make travel worthwhile to you (if any) the less hassle you'll subject yourself to over the coming years.
posted by aimedwander at 12:02 PM on March 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

I’m the traveling relative that invites non-travelers along. If you don’t want to do the trip I am doing, please just tell me as soon as you can. I won’t be insulted that you and I have different priorities. There are lots of trips I would never want to take, so I understand. The only thing that annoys me is if you say maybe or yes and then just avoid the topic or keep putting it off. I’d like to know you aren’t coming along so I can get on with my own planning.

I do agree that you have to make an effort to go see far away family and not expect them to always come to you unless they have money or miles to burn. It sounds like you do that already.
posted by soelo at 1:39 PM on March 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

It is completely ok. Travel has somehow become the prized set of bourgeois merit badges, but you know, it's just not everyone's thing and there is no inherent human-worth-enhancing quality to it. It's potentially broadening in a way to see how other places look and other people live, but one thing I've learned by traveling some (I like travel much less than most people but do sometimes enjoy it) and seeing the other people who are traveling is that it is very possible to travel and still be an uninteresting person. And really, unless you speak the language in a place and stay a while and get to know some people, it tends to be some version of this.

I think if you don't like travel, it can be nice to know some other people who don't, because it is so central to people's conversation. And yes, there are people who really won't understand that you don't want to go to Macchu Picchu, and may look down on you. Whether that matters to you is for you to decide.

If you want to, on top of feeling ok about not traveling, feel good about it, think about the environmental impact of 100,000 airplane flights a day.
posted by Smearcase at 2:34 PM on March 4, 2019 [6 favorites]

I used to like traveling a lot. And I traveled for work all the time. And totally enjoyed it. And then my life got a little more complicated and my health got a little worse (not much worse, just a little!) and the country got a little worse and I enjoyed traveling less. And it was a hard adjustment. Because of course it's fine to not like the things other people like. But then when you get to family situations...

My spouse has a close family member who lives overseas in a really popular tourist destination who really wants us to visit. I don't know how to say "No, we just don't really want to go." Is it okay to feel this way? How do we explain this to our families?

Part of what you're dealing with is if you dislike traveling so much that it's okay to never see this person again. Or to only see them when they come to visit. Because that's not quite disliking traveling, that's refusing to travel. Which is also okay! but then you're getting out to one end on the normative bell curve and it's more difficult for people to deal with, and it's a worse message than "I just dislike traveling"

My partner's mom lives a plane ride away. And I'm not phobic about flying, I just don't like the whole process. Being in a plane is mostly fine with me. And she's older and doesn't come out our way. So honestly I have to make a choice... do I dislike traveling so much that I never see her again? Or do we do some complicated meet-in-the-middle thing that we could drive to (we love road trips)? Or do I get over myself enough to go visit her?

I think there can be a tendency in nerd communities to be like "Yes, it's okay to be how you are!" which is true. But what is also true is that we (mostly) live in communities and there is a certain amount of work that goes into keeping communities going. With family particularly. It is always okay to not visit your family. But there is value in doing that, value to other people as well as yourselves, and that needs to be balanced against your own feelings. So I think some of this is just getting you to a place where you can tell other people honestly "Hey thanks so much but international travel is just not something we're likely to do" so you can set expectations and, possibly, deal with fallout. Because explaining it to your families is as simple as saying you don't want to. But you seem to have family who are just not hearing that. And that's a different issue than you not traveling, that's a communication thing.

The normative thing to do is to make non-committal noises about maybe going sometimes and then forgetting about it. Repeat.
posted by jessamyn at 3:07 PM on March 4, 2019 [17 favorites]

If your relationship with these people is important to you, tell them so. It's common to struggle with get-togethers when some of the family are inclined to do big ambitious trips and you're not for whatever reason. It could be money or scheduling difficulties or not getting many vacation weeks per year. But some people will think you just are making excuses and take it personally. As people have suggested above, come up with alternative ways to see them.

If you really prefer not to see them at all, that's different.
posted by BibiRose at 3:43 PM on March 4, 2019

I love to travel but I am currently dreading the day my cousin, who moved to a remoteish place in the south of France about 12 months ago, brings up the subject of when I will come to visit because I will have to explain that it won’t be any time soon. My cousin and her husband are nice enough, i get on well with them when we meet. But since she’s happily married she has been bad at staying in touch with everybody. Which, again, glad she’s happy but I don’t feel obliged to put in all the legwork.

Their location is not somewhere I’d ever go on vacation so this would be purely to visit them, say a long weekend (a weekend there plus travel). But then I looked up flights and train connections and how long it would take to drive. And it transpires that it is easier and faster to get from Zurich to LA, even if it’s not a direct flight, than it is to get to her town. Train is as bad. As Zürich has excellent connections to just about anywhere both by air and by train that is quite an achievement. So the fastest way to get to their place would be to drive, with minimal breaks for about 10 hrs, if I get stuck in a traffic jam it would be longer. And I won’t do that for the length of stay I was thinking about. If she wants to be in touch she knows how to get hold of me. But we have only FaceTimed once since she moved there. I am on the other hand in the process of planning two long-haul trips later this year, both with people I am in regular contact with, that I am very excited about. Should my cousin hold that against me that’d be her problem.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:47 AM on March 5, 2019

Travel makes me feel like an astronaut.

On a tether, clinging to limited amounts of life-saving supplies, constantly vigilant against misadventure, between panicked gasps trying to drink in some of the beautifully alien sensory overload.

I travel for my job. So I know I can get it done. I can grin and bear it. I can make lists, and imagine progress meters in my head counting down to sweet, sweet freedom.

But travelling for pleasure? Good gravy. What a chore. It's like being stressed out for kicks. The pillow isn't right and I have diarrhea, so I slept wrong and my bum hurts. What the hell time is it really? We're going to be late for the train! We're eating and walking, eating and walking, and in between we're paying and sitting. Oooh look, a cultural foible! Take a terrible picture of it with your telephone, quick!

Don't get me wrong, I like meeting new people and seeing different ways of life. Being in new places can be grand, but getting there and getting home and staying sane in between is a two-fisted challenge, not a soothing meditation. I admire those who can just walk it off. But for me every excursion over borders is a trip to the Moon.

You're not crazy for not loving it. A chacun son gout.
posted by Construction Concern at 2:35 PM on March 5, 2019 [5 favorites]

I'm so glad you asked this question. Yes, it is perfectly okay to not like traveling. In fact, you're probably the norm, not the exception. While most people won't say so out loud or even admit to themselves, the vast majority of people just don't like traveling. Plus, traveling for pleasure is a relatively new thing for the majority of humans. It used to be unfeasible for the vast majority of people (actually, kinda still is). It's a status thing. An openmindedness thing. And a complete myth that it's universally loved.

How do I know this? Just by looking around while traveling. So many tourists are pissed and exhausted and downright unhappy while traveling. Seriously, just people watch while in touristy locations. At European castles, lovely restaurants, even Disney World - you'll see a lot of miserable people whom just plain want to go home. HOWEVER, societal pressure is such that if they say so once they get home, people tell them to shut up and quit complaining and stop humble-bragging. So instead, they'll tell you about those lovely sights, and yummy cheese, whatever else. Which feeds in to the myth that it's a universally loved thing. It's not.

Also: IME, people claim that, "omg, I'm so jealous that you went to ____. I've always wanted to go to ____". But guess what? These are people with significantly more money than me (sometimes 3 or 4 times my household income), yet they pout and whine that they cannot travel. Meaning they have the means, but choose to spend their money elsewhere. And that's fine. But just saying, wade through the BS - that pout and whining is not due to a legitimate desire to travel.

So while I love traveling, I have great respect for those self-aware enough and courageous enough to admit that they don't like traveling. Bravo (brava) to you!!

Last data point: Traveling and hiking are two things that are almost always listed as loved activities on dating sites. Try asking them where and when they've travelled and hiked recently. Answer: crickets.
posted by Neekee at 1:13 PM on March 13, 2019

« Older My coworker offered to pay me for my help outside...   |   I ain't afraid of no ghosts Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.