It’s one of my all-time favourite quotes and it was uttered by Susan Sontag, a writer and political activist who died back in 2004 at the relatively early age of 71. Susan was well known for travelling to and writing about areas of conflict around the world and in particular, Vietnam and Sarajevo and what brought her into my mind recently was the new biopic that has just been released about another fearless writer and journalist, Marie Colvin, who was tragically killed in the besieged Syrian city of Homs in 2012, aged 46. The film stars British actor Rosamund Pike who looks remarkably like Marie and whose acting (from the short clip that I’ve seen) looks remarkable!
I chose Susan’s famous quote for the title of this week’s blog because it probably sums up my attitude to travel but also because — for so many people out there — it is the antithesis of theirs! The fact is that many people resist novelty, change, adventure or difference. They like to stay well within their comfort zone. Such resistance to change probably permeates many aspects of their lives: the way they decorate their houses; the food they eat; the music they listen to; the political, philosophical or religious opinions they espouse. Change is their perceived enemy and a condition not to be entertained.
Which, to my mind, is such a terrible shame as the world out there has so much to offer in terms of stimulation, newness, differentness and novelty. Fear of change is of course a perfectly normal and common condition. Indeed, it is so common and universal that a whole profession of change management consultants has evolved to help people (primarily in work environments) to cope with and embrace change. If only such consultants could be engaged for people who want to move out of their comfort zones when it comes to the places they travel to or the experiences they, well, experience!
If, while reading the above, you identify as one of those people, fear not. You’re not alone. In fact, you probably represent the majority out there. It’s probably freaks like me that are the outliers in this conversation. Having said that, I can also empathise with you as I, too, have a tendency each year to return to a place that ticks all the boxes for me (it happens to be Costa Adeje in Tenerife, if you must know). When you’re spending a lot of money on a holiday or trip abroad — particularly if you only make such an undertaking once a year — the last thing you want to do is engage in a form of economic Russian roulette with your hard-earned money. If you’ve already found a city, resort or property that ticks all the boxes that you want ticked, then it’s totally understandable that you would want to play it safe and recreate that sweet spot/experience time and time again.
It’s a bit like dining out. If you like steak and if there’s a particular restaurant that cooks it just the way you like it, then you’re much more likely to seek out that restaurant time and again rather than experiment with some new menu item in some new restaurant that you’ve never tried before. And because the cost consequence of getting it wrong in choosing a new holiday destination or experience is so high in comparison to the simple act of choosing a place to dine out, then the less likely you’re going to be in putting your hard-earned money on the line. As I say, I totally get it!
There’s a problem though in the above scenario so, if you don’t mind, I’d like to revisit the analogy of dining out. The problem with repetition is that, over time, it tends to wear itself out and de-sensitize you to the very feelings or emotions that initially attracted you to something (or someplace) in the beginning. A simple example from my own experience: When I was a young teenager, I used to love rhubarb — specifically rhubarb and custard. It was my favourite dessert. I did some work for an elderly neighbour one day and in lieu of payment, presented me with a huge bunch of rhubarb that she had growing in her garden. I thought I had died and gone to heaven and duly set about stewing those rhubarb stalks day in and day out for several weeks and stuffing myself with my favourite dessert until the whole lot was gone. I learned a valuable lesson from that experience and it was this: No matter how much you love something, partake of it often enough and the novelty value wears off after a while. Because of my brief indulgence with rhubarb on that occasion, I got to the point where the smell of it made me feel sick and it was many years before I was able to re-appreciate the vegetable again.
They say familiarity breeds contempt. Familiarity can also do the same. My advice is to experiment a little every now and them when it comes to your travel choices. You may not like or appreciate everywhere you go although the likelihood of that happening will be greatly lessened if you consult with a travel agent who will listen attentively to your likes, dislikes and preferences and suggest something that more closely aligns with those preferences.
I tend to choose something on a menu that I’ve never had before. Occasionally, I don’t like the choice I’ve made and for all sorts of reasons but often, my punt on the unknown pays real dividends and I get to add yet another dish to my growing database of food experiences that I love. Travel is exactly like that. So be brave and choose something new next time. You’re unlikely to be disappointed.