The Point of Travel


What’s the point of travel? It’s to help make us into better people. It’s a sort of therapy. Without anything mystical being meant by this, all of us are, in one way or another, on what could be termed “an inner journey.” That is, we’re trying to develop in particular ways. In a nutshell, the point of travel is to go to places that can help us in our inner evolution. The outer journey should assist us with the inner one. Every location in the world contains qualities that can support some kind of beneficial change inside a person. Take these 200 million year old stones in America’s Utah Desert. It’s a place, but looked at psychologically. It’s also an inner destination, a place with perspective, free of preoccupation with the petty and the small-minded. Somewhere imbued with calm and resilience. Religions used to take travel much more seriously than we do now. For them, it was a therapeutic activity. In the Middle Ages, when there was something wrong with you, you were meant to head out for a pilgrimage to commune with relics of a saint or a member of the holy family. If you had toothache, you’d go to Rome, to the Basilica of San Lorenzo and touch the arm bones of Saint Appolonia, the patron saint of teeth. If you were unhappily married, you might go to Umbria to touch the shrine of Saint Rita of Cascia, patron saint of marital problems. Or, if you were worried about lightning, you were sent to Bad Münstereifel in Germany to touch the skull of Saint Donatus, believed to offer help against fires and explosions. We no longer believe in the divine power of journeys but certain parts of the world still have a power to change and mend the wounded parts of us. In an ideal world, travel agencies would be manned by a new kind of psychotherapist. They’d take care not just of the flights and the hotels, they’d start by finding out what was wrong with us and how we might want to change. The anxious might be sent to see the majestic, immemorial waves crashing into the cliffs on the west coast of Ireland. People a bit too concerned with being admired and famous might be sent to contemplate the ruins of Detroit. Someone out of touch with their body might be recommended a trip to Porto Seguro in Bahia in Brazil. Nowadays, too often, we head off without fully knowing what’s wrong with us or precisely understanding how our chosen destinations meant to help us. We should become more conscious travellers on a well articulated search for qualities that places possess, like calm or perspective, sensuality or rigor. We should follow old-fashioned pilgrims in striving to evolve our characters according to the suggestions offered up by the places we’ve been to. We need to relearn how to be ambitious about travel, seeing it as a way of helping us to grow into better versions of ourselves.

100 Replies to “The Point of Travel

  1. This is true, but not exclusively so. Of course, one could travel simply for the inherent value of exploring a place one has never been. The "inner" benefits that might arise from travel are valuable, but probably are not, I'd wager, the main motivation for most people who travel.

  2. I wonder if the narrator knows that Pagans, spiritualists, and other followers of certain religions still practice the pilgrimage to certain locations expecting to gain something. It's not even close to being a lost art.

  3. Even as a big fan of Mr. de Botton, I found this video too simplistic. Banking on this idea, I can only imagine the vacuous ways that our consumer culture and its mighty advertising machine would assign psychological problems to people and suggest expensive trips to cure them! For heaven's sake, wasn't that the plot of "Eat, Pray, Love"?!!

    Travel could be about things you cannot plan for or prescribe such as going out of your comfort zone, getting lost, providing stimulus to your brain, and learning to like things you had never imagined you would even consider. 

    On a plus side, I admire the attitude of the video. Travelling is – and should be – an essential part of life, and not as many believe: a luxury or leisure; and as always, whatever Mr. de Botton does is stimulating at the very least.

  4. Unfortunately there are a few small towns in the Welsh valleys you could visit that would fit the bill just as well as Detroit. I'm sure there a few in the north of England but I don't know that area so well.

  5. Can I crowdsource some travel consulting here ?  What destination would you suggest to someone who is seeking her "calling" in life.  I'm happy and grateful to have a job/career, freedom and a somewhat carefree life in my early 40s (in India). But remain stuck on the idea of finding my true calling/vocation/place in the world.

    Big fan of  +the schooloflife and @Alain de Botton  Thank you for what you do!

  6. There is one more interesting thing that seldom gets pointed out.. I think the reason why I would say that traveling is important is that it helps us unlearn. All throughout our lives, we are conditioned by the society that we grow up in – this consciously and unconsciously shapes our thought process, by traveling however.. people go to places where their previous beliefs are tested, broken and reformed. Through constant/periodic traveling – one might say, that the very foundation of our personality is given a chance to re-evolve. This iteration of beliefs is important and necessary because it lets us find the bedrock of our very being. In other words – it finds us a home; it's this home where our heart truly resides.

  7. I'm trying to find the courage to change my life, without knowing exactly how to do it. As I'm afraid I'll trigger a personal financial disaster, I'm thinking I should visit Mount St. Helens and see if disasters are all I imagine them to be.

  8. I find travel to be a very egoistical institution. Mostly, it is for people to expand their curriculum of life and confirm out of narcissistic desire that they "achieved" something tangible. To add to the superficiality of it all, we attach to the word a very consumerist definition; in order for one to legitimately say he did travel one has to go outside a preconceived border that others can relate to. I could argue walking down two blocks from my house is travelling, even if it's a path I've taken before. Of course, this would sound silly because to the majority of us travelling means going out on a trip using certain means of transportation or moving across national/geographical frontiers. We're being sold the idea that travel is only something you can buy yourself through planes and hotels.

    From an existentialist point of view, travel is not viable to me. If everyone would travel it would remove any authenticity to the nature of the act. There wouldn't be this exotic village in Asia/Africa/South America to travel to because their residents would probably let go of their archaic traditions in favor of global ideas. This is just one example, but the point is that we associate travel with something that is very bourgeois/capitalist/colonialist even when we pretend it's okay because it's ecotourism. People would rather visit the slums of other countries then the slums in their own cities out of shame and lack of compassion. It's also very easy to travel, let's say to Europe, and then close your eyes to the harsh reality behind the scenery: illegal migrants working/living in poor conditions, economical disparity, ultra-nationalist laws …

    You don't have to travel to become a better person, otherwise you're just spitting at the faces of those who can't afford it or don't travel out of personal unwillingness. You want advice on how to become a better person? Don't judge others by whether they travel or not and don't enforce the idea that in order to fully experiment life one has to travel. I don't say "you shouldn't travel" or "thinking you like to travel makes you a bad person", I'm just trying to offer a counterview to this video.

  9. I love traveling because I can experience new things different weather countries that are better than mine

  10. God having people who will give you surveys to find out what's wrong with you just to go somewhere would be so annoying! I just want to go… I don't need second thoughts or for someone to schedule anything other then what I asked .-.

  11. If I have problems with procrastination, time management, and organization, should I go to an organized country (e.g. for example Germany), maybe live there. Will that help me overcome those habits?

  12. This is such a great video! Thank you, you have helped answer lot of questions for me.
    Ever since I was a teenager, I have always had this urge to travel, sometimes to the point that I would get frustrated that the life I imagined travelling wasn't transpiring as expected. I would be angry with myself about it too. I would be jealous of people who traveled as if they were having some experience that I craved. I looked at people who traveled as the most successful.
    But in last 4 years, I have taken up to meditation (guided and mindfulness) and I was surprised that the urge I had to travel slowly vanished. I still like travelling but I don't get angry or frustrated if it doesn't happen. After watching this video, I realize that it was that need to grow and understand myself but not really knowing HOW is what made me so angry. But now that I found a tool, I am more at peace.

  13. Why people really travel: They have too much money to blow and they're bored of being at home.
    Then they return after spending a week in some tourist spot and act like they've become enlightened by their time in a Disney resort and bore everyone with crappy pictures.

  14. Have to respectfully disagree here SOL.
    I think travel can purely be for enjoyment and the sake of seeing somewhere new or opening up new horizons. It doesn't have to 'fix' anything in you (though it can) it can just give you new places to see. Life is short, and we only have one world. What better excuse to travel then wanting to see as much of that world as is possible in your life time? Or you may not like where you currently live and wish to see somewhere else to see if you have better outlets there.

  15. Interesting. So you say we should try to choose a destination that solves a problem for us. Will keep that in mind 🙂

  16. Trying to save money for a mortgage deposit and I'm 22.5 years old, but I fear I will never have enough funds to travel once I have a mortgage. 🙁

  17. So if we don't travel, do our minds implode or something? Because I feel like stabbing something after 3 yrs no travel.

  18. This is a great opinion on why we should travel! I feel pity towards the travelers/tourists who go to a destination, snap photos, and remain shut off to the experiences that could change their perspective.

  19. What about being aware of your impact on culture and the environment when you travel? Seems like everyone's traveling to "find themselves" and just taking, taking, taking and giving nothing back to these places.

  20. Most school of life videos I've seen hit the nail on the head. Not sure I agree with this one though. Isn't it a bit negative to say that we are travelling so we can solve our inner problems? If we don't have any problems does that mean we shouldn't bother travelling? Maybe you could argue that everyone has some kind of problems. But always thinking in terms of problems is not going to help solve them. Have a positive mind.

    For me, travelling is not about specific attractions that you go and see. It's about the journey. Just travelling long distances makes my mind feel free, and I enjoy seeing how things are different in other places, not the big attractions but just little everyday things that are different. We need to visit attractions to give us a goal and purpose but really the journey is the important part.

  21. I'm at a point of my life, that I'm just dying to go to London. Desperately. But with Brexit, I think the chances of that just dropped by fifty percent.

  22. Virginia, so why are you watching this? If this is "just an opinion"? By the way, Alain d. B. is a well known writer and philosopher. And who are you?

  23. People that are concerned with being to admired or famous should be sent to see the ruins of Detroit. Lol 😆. Now that's funny.

  24. That's how I think of travel too.
    Which is why I disagree with the idea that travelling as a way of running from your problems. While this can be our main intention in the beginning, it doesn't last long since travelling (at least for me) makes us reflect on ourselves, be aware of who we are and put things into perspective by comparing our behaviors and actions with what others do.

  25. ~ ~ THATS why I never understand people who travel abroad just to lay on the beach..drink milkshake..and do nothing… ~ ~
    zero action..zero journey…zero development..

  26. How does sex tourism fit in with this theory? If you are feeling horny the travel agent/therapist should send you to Thailand?

  27. What about us homebodies who are just as happy hearing a nice story about or seeing pictures of a remote location? Does this imply that we are not on our own internal journey? Perhaps we're just a little more in tune with our internal destinations. #HappyHermit

  28. Didn't there used to be a video on this channel called "Advert for Staying at Home"? Shame that one's gone. 'Twas a good one.

  29. When people traveled for pilgrimages, who said they were right? Just because they did it then doesn't mean they should have. So many humans have lived and died in the same place their whole lives; they didn't know of an extensive world. Now we're more educated and know about these places, why do we think any specific place will heal us? We know about the wonders of space and Mars, but are we not going to be well until we experience the vastness of space?!

  30. "The point of travel is Facebook likes" <- why isn't this in the comments? 😀
    Great video Alain and the SOL team.

  31. Amazingly insightful! And I feel really sorry that you have to deal with such ignorant schmucks in the comments section. Love from India.
    Namaste 🙏

  32. So pretty much, because it's considered healthy, because people did it in the past which means you should do it too, and because it will "make you a better version of yourself".
    So according to the logic, if I don't travel, I don't keep my health in check, I am not a human being and am a crappy version of myself.
    You do realize you need money and time for this spiritual "better version of yourself" nonsense, do you?

  33. I think travel is far too often romanticized in this way. In reality it's just used as a way for people to one-up other people at parties/gatherings.

  34. Most comments here are focus on the Rich people who travel but in actual fact it's not only the rich who travel, I know lots of students who saves up just so they could travel the world and gain more experience on how others live. Students for example who can't afford to travel every summer holiday would save for their travelling that is in 5 years for instance.

  35. There's absolutely no facts about the benefits of travel from this video. Just a bunch of unsubstantiated conjecture.

    May as well be talking about how sticking crystals up your ass heals your soul or something.

  36. Another cool unique edutainment Motion Picture from the One and Only The School of Life.

    The other side of this coin is to beware of destination addiction. That's a pre-occupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, with the next job, and with the next partner. And until one gives up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where they are.

  37. Dream what you want to dream, go where you want to go, be who you want to be. Because you only have one life, and one chance to do all the things that you want to do.

  38. I cant make any friends, really struggeling with opening up, so i never get good relationships, what i am getting really depressed by, where am i supposed to go?

  39. I read that tourists from China will soon (or by some metrics, have already) surpassed the number of American tourists. What does tourism, or "travel," mean to citizens of non-democratic countries? Is it different? What does it do to them? Is it different? The video appears to imply that travel makes us more tolerant, more democratic, it seems. Perhaps it does. If so, will more Chinese travel prepare the psychological grounds for political change?

  40. its not too often people travel for mental health reasons but what's interesting is that people travel to get away from their problems like vegas might be fun and help you forget but its only going to last as long as you put money in the machine… instead you travel to a cabin in the forest and break your gambling addiction. actually get to the root

  41. Some travel because of experience.
    Some travel to get away from there troubles.
    Some travel because they want change of scene.
    Some travel to grow and learn about other culture or visit sombody.
    Some love it – some don’t. Some have a point of traveling – some don’t.

  42. I loved this! Travelling is so beautiful and important. I wrote a blog post about why this is so important to me and why I think it's so importance. A lot of it aligns with what is on this video 🙂 if you are interested you can read more here: https://nalbatravels.com/the-5-reasons-behind-why-we-love-to-travel/

  43. I start to realise that travel could be yet another conspiracy, to severe our roots in the place we were born, and waste our money and time, via exploiting our novelty dopamine rush.

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