Every few weeks, I have the opportunity to travel for my work. I have been to several major cities (Chicago, Atlanta [2x], New York City, Nashville, Little Rock, etc.) and this usually comes up in various conversations.
This fall, I had a conference in New York City that I was asked to attend for my office. When I told others I was going to be out of town, the inevitable question was, “Where are you going?” I would hesitantly reply, “New York City.” The response was almost always the same, “Oh! I love New York! I would love to go back. What are your plans when you’re there?” My snarky mind would reply, “Relive Home Alone 2: Lost in New York or something else low-key.”
My actual reply was kind and more generic, “I don’t know. I might go around to see some of the sights but I’m going to be working some long days while I’m there.” (The days were in fact 12-14 hour work days)
Perhaps you find yourself like me with a job that requires some type of travel on a regular basis. Or, perhaps you have a job or life situation that does not allow or require traveling out of your city or state. Whatever the case may be, traveling is a scenario that often breeds envy.
It may go something like this: We wish that our spouse would take us on a vacation like the one we see our friends posting on Instagram. Sometimes we wish that our job would let us travel and experience new places instead of being confined to our cubicle or office. When we don’t travel, we view it as an escape hatch from the mundane and routine of life.
We reason to ourselves, “If I could only travel and experience something new, then I’d be happy with my job. I just need some time to get away from it all! I’ve always wanted to know what it’d be like to go to (insert desired place) and do (inserted desired activity).”
Traveling can be a great source of rest and refreshment. Getting away from the routine of life and establishing a different rhythm to rest and recharge may in fact provide us with a renewed perspective on our work and life.
However, from my experience, traveling may in fact be the source of reverse-envy.
When I was in New York City, I stayed in a hotel just off of Time Square. The possibilities and opportunities for food and activity were just outside my door. However, for that week, New York was the last place that I wanted to be. The reason: my birthday landed right in the middle of my trip. My work colleague headed back to Dallas early to take his kids to school the next day. So that night, I walked along the crowded streets of New York in the cold rain and ducked into a nearby restaurant for a warm, dry place to eat my birthday dinner alone.
My purpose in sharing this is not to breed some type of self-pity. Rather, it is a reminder that we can be envious of others travels and the adventures we anticipate them having compared to the sad state of our present lives (or so it seems). However, we may find that those who travel are envious of us. Those who travel, I believe, are envious of people who have some level of predictability in their lives. People who have a full refrigerator, an oven and stove to cook food at home and not eating at another restaurant, a decent pillow to sleep on, and countless other predictable and subtle objects that traveling does not allow.
If you don’t believe me, next time you are at the airport and stand in the security line, look at the TSA Pre-check line or “Preferred Travel Lane.” Take note of how many smiles you see from these seasoned and savvy travelers. Notice the warmth of their eyes as they pass by you. Listen and notice the silence coming from those in line. When there is a conversation, it is often complaining about the line, the person ahead of them, or the trip they are going on.
Whether you travel or stay home, each group has the opportunity for contentment in the exact place where they are located. Each group may be envious of the other for what seems like the better deal of traveling or a sense of normalcy and predictability. Regardless of where you are or aren’t, we can learn to appreciate wherever we are at and whoever is with us. If we don’t, we may miss out on the adventure right in front of us.