What is Destination Addiction?

Are you consumed by thoughts of travel? Is your constant daydreaming about exotic destinations having a negative impact on your work and personal life? Do you find yourself becoming uninterested in daily activities? Only to find enjoyment in these same activities while traveling? i.e. going to the market, sitting in a café? If you answered yes to any of these then you may be suffering from destination addiction.

drug of choice

What is it and who does it affect?

Destination addiction is defined as a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, whether that’s a new city, country or continent. This is a dangerous disorder that plagues those travelers whose lives become consumed by getting their next “fix”, the librarian-like thud of a new passport stamp. They essentially become addicted to travel and are dependent on it for their happiness and sense of purpose. Destination addiction can prevent its addicts from living in the present moment and makes internal happiness an elusive thing that can never be obtained with the exception of a few short-lived bursts of happiness experienced while traveling.  Travel addicts also greatly suffer withdrawals during the periods of time in between their trips in the form of anxiety and depression. In extreme cases, destination addiction may even hinder the travel experience, especially for those on long journeys, because some may start to obsess with the next phase of their trip rather than enjoying their current location. For those living with destination addiction life becomes a constant struggle, always anticipating the next place.

Symptoms

  • You literally count down the days until your next trip
  • You think of money in terms of plane tickets “I can’t spend $300 on a pair of shoes! That’s a round trip ticket to Central America”
  • You work 2, sometimes 3, jobs at a time and forgo doing activities with your friends and family to save money for your travel fund
  • You sit in the travel section of the book store for hours fantasizing about future trips
  • You start to feel like a caged animal if you stay in a fixed location for any extended period of time
  • You become irrationally envious of anyone who has been to more countries than you
  • You become overwhelmed with anxiety when talking about travel, realizing the enormous amount of places on your bucket list

Travel’s addictive properties and Causes

  • Travel forces you to live in the present – Not to sound like a yoga-doing, granola-crunching hippie but so few of us ever truly live in the present moment. We are usually plagued with thoughts of the past and consumed with worries for the future. According to Buddha, living in the present is the main ingredient in the recipe for happiness. This is one of the reasons why I believe travel is so addictive, it’s one of the few experiences that not only provides a great opportunity to appreciate the present but it also demands it. While traveling you need to be fully alert and aware of your surroundings. It also makes you focus on the task at hand since you are constantly encountering the unfamiliar, making the menial things in life fresh and exciting. For example, going to the supermarket after work may seem like an annoying inconvenience but going to a bazaar in Morocco to haggle over fresh spices is an exhilarating experience.
  • Travel provides us with a sense of accomplishment – With each newly acquired passport stamp, epic photo op and world wonder checked off our list we feel like we’ve conquered something. We become addicted to this satisfying feeling and revel in the glory each time we are given the opportunity to share our travel stories. The hike we did to Machu Picchu or that time we rode camels in the Sahara becomes our go-to cocktail party convo
  • We live in a western dominated Society – The final and probably most surprising cause behind why some of us develop destination addiction could simply be explained by our western heritage. As Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now explains,

“The undercurrent of constant unease started long before the rise of Western industrial civilization, of course, but in Western civilization, which now covers almost the entire globe, including most of the East, it manifests in an unprecedentedly acute form. Carl Jung tells in one of his books of a conversation he had with a Native American chief who pointed out to him that in his perception most white people have tense faces, staring eyes, and a cruel demeanor. He said: “They are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something. They are always uneasy and restless. We don’t know what they want. We think they are mad.”

Destination addiction is more than just the travel bug. The term travel bug, like the common stomach bug, implies that there’s a cure, an inconvenient irritation that will go away with time. The typical college student who wants to take a break upon graduation and see the world! (aka Euro trip) before settling down and getting a real job has the travel bug, a temporary itch that will go away once scratched. But for those with destination addiction the problem is more like a travel virus, something that will stay with you forever, the herpes version of the travel bug if you will. Even though there’s no cure there are ways to manage it so that you can go on to live a happy life, regardless of your location.

Coping Methods

see tab: Travel Addicts Anonymous (TAA)