Travelholics Anonymous


Farming and gardening have a beneficial effect on society beyond providing food. They make staying at home a pleasure. They could become an effective treatment for travelholism, the affliction that affects people who can’t stop travelling.

Countless benefits would flow into society if we could cure travelholism. First of all there would be plenty of good food around— maybe so much that lots of it would be free. Secondly, unemployment would be reduced. Thirdly, with more people realizing how enjoyable and challenging it is to make the place where they live a homey little paradise, there would be less temptation to anti-social behavior. Fourthly, there would be no counting how many gallons of fuel would be saved. We could stop global warming in its tracks maybe. Fifthly, hundreds of thousands of people would not die or end up crippled from traffic accidents.

If someone started a blogsite called Travelholics Anonymous, it would probably go viral. Travelling is as much a part of our culture as the pursuit of sex and money but more and more people are realizing that it is just not that much fun anymore. But they can’t help themselves. Just as drunks understand the misery of hangovers but still keep on drinking, so travelholics keep on driving even though it means spending grueling hours on big highways fearfully staring at huge semi trucks lurching along on all sides.

Travelholics need to be able to call for help when they are suddenly seized with the urge to go some place. They need to talk to a garden farmer about the joys of staying home. They need a list on their refrigerators of all the reasons why they will live longer and happier if they can kick the travel habit. Like:

l. Sitting motionless on your butt while your wheels do the movement will not relieve your boredom. It will only transfer it to another place. The cause of boredom is in your head, not outside it.

2. With television screens the size of barn doors now and sound tracks accurate enough to pick up the sound of hummingbird wings on the other side of the lawn, you can watch sports or listen to music much better from your living room than from the stadium, theater or music hall.

Cultivating a garden is an effective antidote to travelholism because plants are very cunning. Strawberries, peas, muskmelons and sweet corn can sense when you are going on a trip and that’s when they will reach their highest level of eating quality. If you love really good food, you will soon schedule all travel during the winter and then when you get caught in a blizzard you will swear off highways and airports forever.

What is finally going to cure many travelholics is the electronic revolution. Instant illustrated messaging on smart phones keeps us constantly in contact with family and friends and so cabin fever will become a thing of the past. Also, although it is not yet generally publicized, certainly not in all those boring travel magazines, we will soon be able to recreate any place on earth (or moon) so realistically on huge computer screens, that you will feel as if you are actually there. You will be able to view the Grand Canyon electronically and swear that you are sitting in one of those glass cages that jut out over the real place. Eventually, if not already, there will be movie houses where you can sit comfortably while you seem to be actually walking through a jungle with tigers snarling at you and gorgeous butterflies fluttering about— you may even be able to hear mosquitoes but not get stung. The only reason this form of travel hasn’t been developed so much yet is that it is bad for the travel business.

Travelholics might conquer their addiction so completely that they would joyfully embrace working at home just for the privilege of never having to endure rush hour traffic again. The utter joy of being able to walk to work instead of driving will keep them happy even at minimum wages.


Scott: Hooray for you. One of my pet peeves is how hundreds, maybe thousands, of scientific experts on weather descry the situation while they bustle around the earth burning up fuel. Some of them don’t really know much about climate change but just like to travel around, descrying. They get paid for doing it, and so the whole system is hypocritical, warning about climate change but continuing business as usual. Gene

This analysis of the carbon footprint of scientists traveling to the American Geophysical Union meeting from a few years ago might be of interest. I’ve been thinking about the irony of people (like myself) using large amounts of jet fuel to travel all over the world to get to scientific meetings for a while. I’ve scaled back as a result and my small farm in hilly southern Indiana makes it that much easier. I enjoy your posts.

You’re welcom, Phil, but warn me ahead of time or I will be off on a day trip of my own. 🙂 Betty, continue to be bad. Gene

I must say that I need the occasional glimpse around the bend to stay fully juiced. Family camping trips to the Dakotas and New England and bayou country and the Ozarks and circling Lake Superior are powerful memory bonds. Half of those trips with four young children were made in a $200 station wagon and the others in a 10 year old van The breakdowns and delays are as much a part of the lore as the magnificent things we saw and pondered. A clear August night with all six of us on blankets on top of a northern Michigan sand dune watching the Perseid meteor shower with almost no local light pollution would be hard to replicate at home. I always advised my children while they were growing up to settle close to home so that they could take interesting vacations.

I find your alternative to travel interesting. I remember once hearing your good friend Wendel saying in your presence that the only good screen was one that lets in air and keeps out flies ( or something to that effect ). Even great minds of similar vein sometimes disagree.

I love the way you continually set a pot of soup stock to simmer and invite your cyber friends to start contributing. Invariably it turns into a fine stew.

Well, I can see your point. A friend and I take day trips many weekends. One result is that of all our good plans, we don’t quite achieve them because we are out seeing nearish sights. Most of our day trips are from W.Pa, where we live, into the mild west, that is eastern Ohio.

The trips are somewhat randomly directed. Once we in the area, say near Ohio 87 or south of Kidron, turns are directed by coin toss or “say, I don’t remember that road” or a hand lettered sign pointing to some shop back some road. We’ve discovered Traffic Jam, Yoder Blacksmith supply, some great surplus stores that sell that Knuter valve I need for … well, better get it just in case, the flea market in Kidron, the other Lehman’s location, stores without Muzak, and farms which inspire me to …someday…start renovating the farm.

Ok, I got your point but it may take a while to wean us off those day trips. Still haven’t made it to Upper Sandusky, where I hear there are some interesting writers.

Maybe instead of traveling to these places, we should all buy drones and send them out in our stead? We could watch from the comfort of our Lazyboys! 😉 (Yes, Betty’s bein’ bad again!)

I’m in your league of those who’d prefer to go deeper rather than farther. Though I wonder if I would be here, in this state of mind, without the opportunity that this rural Wisconsin girl had to travel solo some years back.

I do think the privileging of travel as somehow more inherently valuable smacks as lacking depth of observation. As an example, the university where I teach has long been happy to applaud any faculty trip outside the US as research even when the real focus was cocktails on the beach. No such merit is associated with time spent here at home.

Gene, your book, “Mother of all Arts,” has me thinking about how a day trip with some hands-on in work in the nearby agricultural district might more deeply move my studio art students than countless visits to art fairs and biennials.

What bothers me about the people who laud travelling and seeing all the far and exotic places of the world is the truth of the saying “what we love, we destroy”. Machu Picchu is overrun with tourists, massive crowds of people shove to get into the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, even 40 years ago I could barely glimpse Mona Lisa from the back of the crowd in the Louvre.
I look very much forward (hoping in my lifetime) for virtual reality helmets that will bring me the experience of the Greek islands, feeling the hot sun on my back and smelling the herbs on the hillside above the sanctuary at Eleusis. Let them be preserved forever by barring the crowds, just as they have done with the Altamira caves in Spain.

bloom where you are planted, it takes courage and a step out of the consumerism motto to just BE and be satisfied there. Thanks for getting us thinking.

“Home keeping youth have ever homely wits.”

Heroes in stories go forth on quests and some real-life people travel to discover what lies beyond what they know, to learn, and if they don’t have “home,” they may travel to find it. Traveling always makes you compare the new place to where you came from–kind of what Karen is describing. In the end, successful journeyers always seem to learn the most about themselves. They go back home or they make a new home. This is different from traveling simply to be entertained or out of boredom. That is consumerism. After having seen some of what’s out there, many of us homesteading types are lucky enough to come home to ourselves, and are truly content to stay put.

Gene, I agree with you on almost everything, but this one thing – no. Man is a wandering animal, always has been. You don’t like to travel, but it’s not the perfect state of being for everyone that you make it out to be. You have traveled in the past (and so did your forebears) and so you can understand how other people live. Unfortunately, many others have not, and consequently their minds are closed to others’ points of view. As Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Not traveling can lead to the conviction that your way is the only good way.
I have a homestead and I love it (, and coming home is one of the greatest joys (except, you’re right, something always peaked while I was away), but only by traveling have I come to understand the incredible resource of the diversity and basic goodness of people. Also, although you and I are lucky enough to have a wonderful home place to inhabit, most people are not. They may travel just to experience the kind of joy of being that you can have every day right at home.
I agree with you that travel eats a lot of resources, but I also know from experience that people visiting a wilderness spot with endangered species will help to convince the local people that there is a better way of earning a living than destroying it. Also, seeing these places on a screen is no more like being there than reading your books is like homesteading your own place. There is just so much more to it.
I don’t hope to change your irascible mind, and in all the half century I’ve been reading your books, you haven’t changed mine either (just as ornery). When I travel, I try to diminish my footprint and leave as many of my resources in the country to which I travel as I can, but I intend to get out there and see it as long as possible.

Great post but what you’re describing would destroy the US economy as it is now,not necessarily a bad thing.The whole economy is now dependent on no one doing anything for themselves or anyone being satisfied with what they now have the economy depends on everyone wanting the next new thing.As each sale and work order is taxed at every step.I’m their worst nightmare.I’m perfectly happy with older used furniture bought at an auciton or yard sale,buy most of my clothes at yard sales and wear them plumb out and have no idea whats in or out of fashion.My tractors,equipment and vehicles are older models that my friends and myself work on to keep running.Needed a new small table for the basement large section of a cedar tree worked just fine and was the right price.With all the economic signs I see I think I’m just a man ahead of his time,some others say I’m just cheap.Maybe both are right.BTW I hate to leave the farm to even go to the farm store.

I’ve been from Puerto Rico (where I worked at saving souls among the poor folks there) to Alaska where I worked at making money from catching, killing and selling fish, but I’m homesteading on my one acre not too far from where my grandfather first rode his horse into this beautiful desert valley after swimming his horse across the Columbia River. The travel was great but it’s good to be home.

Our home place was literally a local dump when we first came here, but with thirty years of work it is slowly becoming a beautiful productive oasis. My wife and I are still not there yet in regard to growing all our own food sustainably, but the food we do grow is beautiful and delicious.

Furthermore, we’ve been able to harvest at least some of our wood supply from trees and shrubs planted on the place and some that were volunteers. My wife installed a very small but beautiful garden pool, which , although not the waters of Alaska is still beautiful and very much a pleasure to sit by enjoying the shade from an apple tree I planted while drinking a cool drink on a warm day.

It is to the point that traveling away means that much more time away from working on adding to the amenities and sustainability of the oasis. There is enough work here in making dreams come true to fill several lifetimes. As examples, I”m hopeful of building a small combination garden pool/ swimming/ snorkeling/ aquaculture facility, building some greenhouses based upon Eliot Coleman’s year around gardening models and making fuel pellets from sawdust and dried grass and finishing the shop we constructed from scratch in order to make fine wood and bamboo furniture and .. well you get the idea.

Hopefully, because my own kids are grown, I can obtain the assistance of young folks from single parent homes on a mentoring basis to pass on the skill set, (much of which I learned the basics from Gene’s writings). Pulling them away from video games might be a challenge however. In addition as the grandchildren come of age it is a blast to teach them the joys of collecting eggs, milking goats, planting seeds preserving fruit,making hay etc. o reiterate: travel becomes an annoyance after a while.

However, I think there is both a sense of longing for home, coupled with an urge to see what is beyond the next ride or around the next bend that drove our ancestors, else why would they leave good farms and homes to come clear out west in covered wagons, facing cholera and dangers and hardships we can only imagine along the way. The difference between them and our modern travel being they traveled in order to set up new homes and farms as well as scratch itchy feet. Which raises an even larger question, If humans were solely content to stay in one place, would so many regions of the world be populated today?

Our local Indian Nations definitely have a sense of place or home, but since time immemorial they too traveled with the seasons to harvest fish, game , berries, other plant foods and/or socialize, escape enemies, make war etc. This tradition carries on even today except now the war making is carried on overseas.

So maybe the history of mankind could be summarized as humans are beings that like to be home but also like to travel and are constantly in conflict with themselves and each other in resolving this internal conflict.

The cold hard fact is that care-taking a small piece of earth can provide a full life, full of hardship and ease, joy and sorrow, hard work and leisure but it seems there is always that urge to see if the grass is greener elsewhere lurking in the back of the proverbial mind.

When I feed my goats I note that the goats will leave the fresh good hay and corn I put out for them to check out hay and corn I lay down a ways away, just to make sure the other goats don’t get all the good stuff before they do. In the process the aggressive ones get something to eat along with lots of exercise while the timid ones feast on what the aggressive ones left behind so they all get fed well. Maybe our urge to travel is something like what the goats do.

Wow– Gene you sure get my mental gears going about what makes humans and nature and human nature work they way they do!

This begets the question of whose life is more enriched. Is it the person who constantly travels the globe and knows a little bit about a lot of places, or the person who knows only one place they call home but knows this place intimately well? I’d guess the latter.

I totally agree in every way but one. It’s not that electronic travel can replace the real thing. It’s that there’s a counterbalance offered by those of us who are de facto members of Travelholics Anonymous. We demonstrate the fullness found in simple rituals and deep observation—–often a natural byproduct of a rooted life. Sure, it’s all about the journey. But life is a journey, every single moment that we’re wide awake and fully participating in the process of living.

I write about the opposite of wanderlust here, in Mine is the Wrong Kind of Lust:

Another nice thing about the stay-at-home lifestyle: no motion sickness from trains, and boats and planes and cars and elevators and escalators…

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s