Monday, March 20, 2017

I Don't Want to Travel

If you want to feel out of place tell your friends you don’t want to travel. The looks you’ll receive in return will run the gamut from shock and disgust to quiet pity. Admitting this is pretty much declaring ignorance and isolationism. It’s tripping down the stairs while crawling back into your doomsday bunker. Good, self-actualized people travel. If they don’t, they want to.

Somehow getting on a plane and going far away became the highest form of purchasable enlightenment. To experience real life is to experience it somewhere else. As a homesteader I chose the opposite. I haven’t left this farm for a single night in over five years, but I think my experiences have been just as life changing as the inkiest passport.  

To love travel is to love the feeling of being uncomfortable in a controlled environment. It’s a very expensive roller coaster ride. You board the plane knowing that some new experiences will slide out of your comfort zone, but they are usually still choices you made. We’ve all seen the Instagram feeds of zip lines, SCUBA trips, long hikes, and drinks on the beach. Whatever the itinerary it’s understood there’s a safe hotel room booked, plenty of cash set aside for meals, and soon they’ll be home again to explain to you how the temperature of beer served in restaurants varies based on region.

I see these pictures and feel nothing. No sense of envy or desire. I always saw travel as something anyone can do with enough money, time, and the will to book a flight. By its nature travel is flirting. There is no commitment to the destination, only pleasure. Guest is a title travelers learn to accept. That word makes me cringe.

If travel is being recreationally uncomfortable in a controlled environment - I chose the opposite. I’ve spent half a decade being cozy in a very volatile environment. I nested hard on a few acres on the side of a mountain. I run a four-season livestock farm alone. 

Imagine taking yourself out of your regular career and sticking yourself on a mountain farm with a flock of sheep. You have lambs to raise, a horse to ride, pigs to butcher, poultry to sell, vegetables to grow,  honey to harvest and your without a spouse, children, or family members. It's just you, baby. You and the network of fellow farmers and friends you managed to cultivate. Now throw in hobbies like falconry, fly fishing, river swimming, archery, home brewing and the fiddle. Welcome to your new vacation! Now don’t leave for 20 seasons and see what kind of person you turned into after all that. Beer temperatures vary based on exhaustion levels.

Both sides sound romantic and unrealistic to most people. Few people can afford the time or money to travel the world or buy Heidi’s Grandfather’s place on the side of a mountain and get rid of their cell phone. The traveler and the homesteader are two sides of the same escape fantasy. Rivendell or the Shire? Do you want to relax around a different culture without responsibility or dig into your own so deep you’re weeding your tomatoes for fun?

I see how people could assume my farm is a cage. Some people bluntly call it that to my face which is a funny thing to hear from people who will get in trouble with another adult if they aren’t sitting in a particular chair on Monday morning.

I don’t want to work a job I tolerate just to afford two weeks of entertained distraction from the previous fifty. If that means choosing this life that feeds me, needs me, and keeps me learning from mistakes and celebrating constant resourcefulness - so be it. My vacations come two hours at a time every day. I can leave my computer to ride my horse up mountain trails outside my front door. I can gear up for a hunt with my hawk. I can choose to take a ten mile run across the landscape I know as well as the sidewalks I strolled to school as a child. I can just nap in a hammock or watch a movie. Not as sexy as a story about band I loved in a Dublin bar, but tangible every day. I chose commitment over flirtation. It suits me.

Travel if you want to. Don't travel if your couch and a Game of Thrones marathon makes you happier. No one is winning if they're chasing someone else's idea of happiness even if they were tricked into thinking it was their own.

The truth is you can't buy enlightenment from a travel agent or garden it from the vegetables in your own backyard. We grow over time. It doesn't matter if you're in an Ashram or Akron - becoming a better person is putting in the work of getting older. For some it's raising babies. For others, it's taking up political causes, art, athletic endeavor or public service. Finding what you want out of life and working to keep it is the trick, without being sold any fantasy as salvation. You can't speed up life lessons by changing your coordinates or refusing to chart them. But you can feel happiness if you learn how to read your own damn compass. Mine points to here.

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary donation. The photo was taken by Tara Alan.


Blogger Jeane said...

I love this post.

March 20, 2017 at 8:46 PM  
Blogger Autumn Smith said...

Love this post. Fed my soul this morning and stoked my enthusiasm for my own little homestead

March 21, 2017 at 6:57 AM  
Blogger Autumn Smith said...

Love this post! It fed my soul this morning, and helped ease the feelings of isolation that come along with the preference of farms and farm animals over sandy beaches ❤

March 21, 2017 at 6:59 AM  
Blogger Tricky Wolf said...

Totally agree with everything you've said, What a post! (And what a woman!)

March 21, 2017 at 8:15 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

Love this Jenna, thank you

March 21, 2017 at 8:34 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Hey guys, thanks! If you want to support the farm in an easy, cheap, way - please share the Huffpo version of this story!

March 21, 2017 at 8:40 AM  
OpenID jamiecromartie said...

Delighted by this post. The ambivalence of humankind towards roving and settling is wonderfully put.

March 21, 2017 at 9:07 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

I am not as benevolent as you are Jenna. I think that people who want to travel are dissatisfied with their lives and need to escape. My theory is to make a life that you don't need to escape from in the first place.
If I had my way I would spend every day of my life here on my little homestead. I don't travel either. I didn't even like sleepovers as a kid. And now I have to go to a family wedding 4 hours away OVERNIGHT this summer and I am dreading this already. Lol. I like my feet firmly planted on the earth. My little patch of earth, to be exact. I know exactly how you feel.

March 21, 2017 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger Margaret said...

I love being at home making a life, my life. Thanks for this post, Jenna.

March 21, 2017 at 9:24 AM  
Blogger Luann said...

Woman after my own heart!

March 21, 2017 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger Shelley said...

Wonderful post Jenna. I totally agree. I'd rather be home with my dogs and my garden and my kids then anywhere else. Top regret of the dying: "I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me." You are living a life true to yourself....and I hope others are able to do the same.

March 21, 2017 at 10:32 AM  
Blogger Deb said...

Jenna - Thank you! Thank you! VALIDATION! I'm sending your article to friends & family & then I am printing it for a frame! I've been trying to justify my loathing of traveling for over 50years & you just gave me the proper words. Thanks again & again!

March 21, 2017 at 11:54 AM  
Blogger Geoff Pool said...

Jenna - read your post on Huffpo. Growing up on a small farm in Southern Oregon gave me a love for the saying "Where we love is home - home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.". In today's world, traveling somewhere else for a vacation feels like work. There are many places where we can travel. Not all are far away and many close by are far more soothing than reporting to prison (boarding a plane). Thank you for a thoughtful and cheery post!

March 21, 2017 at 1:29 PM  
Blogger Sparkless said...

I think being in nature is a holiday. I don't need to travel anywhere but my backyard to enjoy nature. I feel sad for all the people who can't go outside and enjoy nature. I don't need to travel to far lands or spend a ton of money. I'm with you in that I don't really need or want to travel far.

March 21, 2017 at 2:33 PM  
Blogger Lesley said...

I agree with YOU, Jenna, and with these other comments. I remember Amy D (of the Tightwad Gazette) talking about just this, that she would rather be scraping paint off her barn than lying on a hot beach somewhere ... that it was about being content right where she was. KUDOS to you for being brave, as usual, and for walking the walk.

March 21, 2017 at 3:46 PM  
Blogger gz said...


March 21, 2017 at 4:21 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

This is an interesting post, Jenna. I have lived a life tied to a farm, garden, and animals. It has taken it's time to make me unhappy. The endless, relentless work, the continued yearly cycle to grow my own food and put it up, to watch beloved animals grow old and die, and the money needed to maintain the farm and home. I long to be able to take a long weekend away for some fun. I just don't trust my non-farmer friends to take care of everything. I am struggling with the idea of putting it all behind me. I don't want to travel the world...I just need downtime.

March 21, 2017 at 11:59 PM  
Blogger aart said...

Many people are truly comfortable traveling, but I am one of the ones who is not.
Serious travel anxiety, learned when young, has kept me mostly at home during my adult life.
Tho I have traveled some, thanks to an understanding companion mostly overcame my anxiety enough to appreciate being in another environment. It was enlightening, and also exhausting not to mention expensive, but definitely could give me a perspective boost to be in another place for awhile.

Now that I have no real income, I can't afford financially or trust-wise to have someone take care of the critters let alone cover the travel costs, and the anxiety is still there tho for different reasons. I have several friends and family members that think nothing of hopping on a plane to the Caribbean, Europe, Tahoe, Cali, or wherever for a few days, weeks, even months. For some it is an extension of their work or just the traveling culture they were raised with and are accustomed to. But I see those 'vacation' pictures and think, "there's 1,2, maybe 3 mortgage payments"...same thing I think when folks buy some unnecessary(for sustenance) 'luxury' product, "there's 1 or 2 weeks worth of groceries". Tho I alsothink, it would be nice to see/feel that place, I'm just not willing to do what it takes to go there.

Some folks do travel for that 'geographical cure', unable to roll with the ups and downs of a life in one place, they strike out for excitement, yes enlightenment, adventure or many other justification/ start anew in new place, they are just not happy with the status quo, often not realizing they take themselves wherever they go.

To each their own, the only thing I can take care of is me, in my own way. I do not need to defend it to anyone else, as they won't understand anyway....because I can see, that they can't see.

March 22, 2017 at 8:16 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Thanks for the kind words and discussion points here, guys!

I think some people took this post as anti-travel or bashing it. It's not. It's just sharing why I don't and don't feel the pressure to right now. Some day I will travel more, when my life is different. I also might change my mind entirely. This was explaining why right now, right here, I don't. I chose a different kind of immersion.

March 22, 2017 at 8:19 AM  
Blogger multitaskingmissus said...

Yes! That is exactly how I've been feeling. I used to be one hooked for travel. But, lately I cringe at all of the planned vacations. I love seeing friends from far away. But, I don't want to go far away to do it. I'd like to stay home and have all of the things you talked about and the commitment to the place. Thinking about that 9-5 life with only a couple weeks a year to do what you enjoy makes me want to cry. Thankfully, I enjoy my job at the moment. Though, I know my ultimate happiness would be to run a homestead, similar to yours (though I'm no shepherd!). Next time I will do that and look for the scared faces. I already say things about buying a home and staying there and see the look of terror on my friend's face. "What if you want to move to Europe?" He always asks. To which I reply, "what if I don't?"

March 22, 2017 at 6:33 PM  
Blogger Bindu Vidyadhar said...

I loved reading this!!!

March 23, 2017 at 6:58 AM  
Blogger Heather Hopkins said...

While I appreciate that you've found happiness and fulfillment in your life, I have to say that parts of this article came out as incredibly condescending to those of us who do love to travel. It seems that you assume all of us who travel just sit around at resorts sipping cocktails and posting pictures of ourselves by the pool on Instagram. That's not the case for me or for so many others I know, but it's also besides the point. What makes me happy is exploration and the discovery of something new. Just as you are happy riding your horse, I thrive on new sights, sounds, and experiences. I live for it and it gets me through those dark times in my life because I know another adventure is on the horizon. To me, there is nothing more exciting than the discovery of the unknown. I love cramming myself onto a crowded Tokyo subway, the feeling of accomplishment after I hike 12 miles of rugged terrain and finally reach that waterfall. I love the challenge of getting by in a country where I don't speak the language. These things bring me the same happiness and fulfillment that you get from your farm life. For those who do sit at resorts sipping cocktails, that's ok too. Maybe that's what makes them happy.
I think the issue I have with this article is not the point you made that some people are snooty to you when they find out you don't travel...nobody should be snooty to anybody else who is living their own personal dreams. The problem I have is that after making that statement, you turned it back around and basically made the same condescending statements about those of us who do live to travel.
I would argue that although those of us who work to fund our travels might be obligated to show up at work, but you're obligated to show up at your farm. You can get two hours per day to ride your horse, but I can get two weeks to fly somewhere exciting. Both are valid ways of living life and both have their pros and cons.
My philosophy in life has always been to live and let live, and that people should live the life that makes them happy.

March 23, 2017 at 11:52 AM  
Blogger Mademoiselle Nomad said...

I have anxiety and travel with it. Because whether or not I travel or stay home it doesn't matter - the anxiety is still here. Travel allows me to train my mind that all is ok. Travel makes me meet other people who are different to me in culture, religion or race and to share about anxiety and also share about life in general.

March 24, 2017 at 3:55 AM  
Blogger Jenni G said...

Heather said what I have been struggling to put into words. Plus, it's so ironic that the photo credit in this piece goes to someone who co-wrote an incredible travel blog.

But then, this:
"The traveler and the homesteader are two sides of the same escape fantasy. Rivendell or the Shire? Do you want to relax around a different culture without responsibility or dig into your own so deep you’re weeding your tomatoes for fun?"
And this:
"No one is winning if they're chasing someone else's idea of happiness even if they were tricked into thinking it was their own.
The truth is you can't buy enlightenment from a travel agent or garden it from the vegetables in your own backyard. We grow over time. It doesn't matter if you're in an Ashram or Akron - becoming a better person is putting in the work of getting older."
These have some ring of truth.

March 24, 2017 at 6:39 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

Jenna, I think that is my favorite post of yours of all time- well one of the top 5. And I am a traveler pursuing a goal to see all 50 states by age 50 (six more to go). What you say still resonates with me, thanks for the inspiration and insight and reminder that everyone should do what they love.

March 25, 2017 at 7:23 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home