Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 July 2019

Even if life on the road can mean missing significant events, you shouldn’t feel bad about it

Why indulging your passion is good for your soul

Tourist with backpack relaxing on top of a mountain and enjoying sunrise. Getty Images
Tourist with backpack relaxing on top of a mountain and enjoying sunrise. Getty Images

As I write this week’s column, I’m in the middle of getting organised for a trip to Jordan. I’m flying to Amman tonight for a five-day trip that involves biking from Dana to Little Petra, hiking through the mountains on a Bedouin trail, riding horseback to Wadi Rum and summiting Jordan’s highest peak.

When that’s all finished, it will be straight into three days of travel networking at a conference in Aqaba.

But as I searched for my hiking shoes this week and tried to remember where I put my rucksack, I missed a call from a friend to whom I’ve not spoken in a few weeks.

She left a message inviting me to a barbecue this weekend to help her celebrate the end of her postgraduate studies. I felt a pang of guilt as I realised I’m not going to make it and promptly remembered that I’ve still not been to visit another friend, whose daughter’s second birthday I missed last week because I was busy reviewing a new hotel.

Travel is my passion but it also often fills me with guilt. And it seems that I’m not alone

Travel is my passion. Exploring new destinations, getting to grips with unfamiliar cultures and seeing different landscapes fulfils me. But travel also often fills me with guilt. And it seems that I’m not alone.

Earlier this week, I was reading Vanity Fair magazine, in which travel editor Michelle Jana Chan grappled with this subject. She wrote about a conversation she had with a monk in Bhutan, after which she questioned whether her job was selfish in a life filled with responsibility.

“I’m on the road a lot for work. My partner has his own business. I feel pulled and pushed and torn apart. And always guilty. Everyone says I should stop the travel,” she wrote.

It’s a question I’ve often asked myself. Having been in the UAE for 11 years, my friends here have become my family. And, as life has evolved, so has our group, which started out as a tight-knit group of women and now consists of husbands, partners, dogs, siblings and children, spread across three emirates.

Trying to keep up with everyone takes time and effort, and I often feel guilty when I can’t attend a get-together. I’m also a tad uncomfortable that the only time I regularly dedicate to my partner is a couple of sleepy hours in the evening after a three-hour round trip to the office and a nine-hour working day, and only if I don’t have a video call with family in Britain. Add in the regular work trips overseas, and it’s a busy schedule. Like Chan, I have pondered whether something has to give.

I continued reading the article. “I think you should travel more,” the monk said, before pointing out that Chan was a trifle arrogant to think things might fall apart if she’s not physically there.

It’s a piece of wisdom I’ve taken to heart. So ahead of my trip to Jordan, I focused on the pre-travel excitement and ignored the lingering guilt.

On my return, I’ll be filled with stories that my friends will love to hear. I’ll come back with presents for the little ones and new recipes that I can cook for my loved ones. Travel is a part of my very essence, it’s something that makes me who I am.

I realise I’ve spent too much time feeling guilty about something that’s fundamental to my life. After all, if the enlightened wisdom of a monk says travel is good for you, who am I to argue?

Updated: April 6, 2019 03:00 PM