Tuesday, December 7, 2010

No dreams allowed?

No dreams allowed?
(Image from Fibonnaci,
Wikimedia Commons)
Most travelers know that, while their next trip often occupies 75% or more of their brainpower, traveling isn't for everyone. Even among travel lovers, sometimes you meet people who have no interest in going to a certain type of destination - for some people, anything outside of Europe or North America isn't worth their time; for others, anything on the beaten path is a place they have no interest in visiting. Most travel lovers embrace their common ground, whether or not they share many dream destinations. But what happens when someone thinks your dreams are wrong?

I don't have a lot of patience for people who criticize the dreams of others to begin with - after all, dreams are personal and usually have nothing to do with the person disparaging them - but it can be especially frustrating when the person who wants to tell you why you're nuts is someone you care about. When someone I meet in passing thinks I'm crazy for wanting to visit Rwanda, Thailand or Antarctica, it's easy to shrug it off, smile and say "to each her own." But when people I love are adamant that I shouldn't travel to certain places, or that I shouldn't travel alone so much, it hurts on multiple levels: that they don't think I can keep myself safe, that they're more concerned about their own preconceptions about a region than they are about my desire to connect with the people and the history there, and that they're so set on talking me out of going that they won't let me share my excitement about the possibilities ahead of me.

Alone in a new city (Prague) - and loving it!
Be happy for me.
It may seem to the people who discourage me from going somewhere or doing something I'm excited about that they're only demonstrating concern for my well-being, but to me it feels like a kick in the face. Whether traveling solo or with friends, I'm not inexperienced at this, nor am I careless or cavalier about...well, anything. I'm meticulous to the point of neurosis about planning (just ask anyone who's traveled with me!) and I have good instincts that I make a point of following. Why can't they leave worrying about logistics and safety to me and be happy that I'm following my dreams?

It's even more frustrating when the criticism comes from people who love to travel themselves and are no strangers to venturing off the beaten path. I'd love to hear about their experiences in places similar to the ones I want to visit and compare notes on the best seasons to go, great local guides and foods or activities not to be missed, but instead I'm treated to a lengthy monologue about why I should avoid certain countries, cities or even entire regions of the world. I'm left to conclude that they don't think I deserve the same right to choose my own path that they've enjoyed, that they think I'm incapable of taking care of myself or that they think because I often travel solo, I'd be better off staying home.

Arguments about travel don't benefit anyone, so my new plan is this: I'm still happy to talk to anyone who will listen about my travel plans, but I'm keeping a mental list of people who really don't want to hear about my plans to venture off the beaten path (or even to explore slightly-less-well-trod sections of it). That way, I'll remember who's more interested in telling me why I shouldn't go than in being excited about my travels, and I can steer any travel-related conversation to areas and activities I know they're comfortable with. I'm happy to hear recommendations for great reefs to snorkel or dive, challenging hikes to take and beautiful beaches to explore, and I certainly don't mind someone expressing concern for me once in a while, but I'm not interested in being told repeatedly why I shouldn't go to a particular country or in having my dreams excoriated - especially by people who aren't really interested in hearing about them anyway.

So from now on, I'll be focusing on planning my adventures, sharing them with the people I care about who want to hear about them and avoiding the headache - on both sides - of arguing about specific pieces of my plans with those who don't. Knowing that list of people is necessary hurts, but it will help keep things less frustrating for everyone, and will let me keep my eye on the ball rather than being distracted by arguments that leave everyone involved distressed. And knowing that the people not on that list support my dreams - and sometimes share them! - and will be happy to get a postcard saying I'm having a great time, no matter where it's from, never fails to make me smile.

What are your tricks for dealing with people who argue with your dreams?


Cindy said...

It makes my heart sad to hear people are so negative towards you dreams to visit new cultures and new regions. You are such an intelligent and capable person, and are willing to plan and not just jot off at the spur of the moment. I find your travel adventures & dreams inspiring and hope you keep doing everything in the world you can to make yourself happy!

zablon said...

it sucks when you wan to get someones opinion about your ideas and the opinions turn out to be negative. it really sucks if the person giving you their opinion is someone you love and respect

Jade said...

Let it roll off your back! I know that can be difficult (and your situation seems very difficult regarding loved ones) but, to me, it seems like no amount of energy trying to change their minds will be worth it. It will probably just make you more upset and they'll go home and not really think too much else about it!
My parents didn't really like the idea of us going to Asia, mainly because it was so far away and they had never been. But after discussing our plans and telling them it was what I was going to do and not leave it up for discussion, they actually started getting excited for me, too.

I would also say- for every one person who wants to crush your dreams, you have so many more who are supporting you and excited to see you succeed! I'm one of them!!

Caz Makepeace said...

Yep. The best thing you can do is just ignore them and keep your eyes forward on your goals. I am very selective about who I tell about my dreams and plans. Dream stealers are everywhere and you have enough to worry about in overcoming your own fears and doubts to be worrying about them stoking those fires.
You quickly learn who your friends are. Save all your enthusiasm and celebration with them. Stick with those who celebrate you not tolerate you.

Jessalyn Pinneo said...

@Cindy - Thank you so much! It "makes my heart sad" too - that's a great phrase. But it's wonderful to know there are so many people who would never think of being anything but encouraging. I will absolutely keep following my dreams and making my own happiness. (And thanks for the "capable" - that's one of my favorite descriptors, and I think it's very underrated! :-) )

@zablon - It does indeed. Fortunately for me, it usually just makes me more determined to follow my dreams.

@Jade - It's great that your parents came around about your travel plans in Asia! One of the things I'm most grateful for is that my mom supports my plans 100%. I know some of the places I want to go make her nervous, but she trusts me to know enough about them to take care of myself, and to follow my instincts if anything feels wrong. You're so right that people who are supportive and excited for us as travelers far outnumber the ones who shake their heads at our dreams. Thanks for the support!!

@Caz - I like that, "Stick with those who celebrate you," it's great advice. I look at travel as such a wonderful, exciting experience that I'm always stunned when people are against it - it's disheartening. You're so right about keeping your eyes on your goals and only sharing them with those who really believe in you. Thanks!