PEOPLE OFTEN SAY they are travel addicts in a positive manner. Still, after researching this topic, it got me thinking – is travel addiction a real thing? And if so, is it always so innocent and fun as it sounds? Or maybe it can get ugly like all addictions.

Traveling fills you with joy and excitement of what will happen next. It makes your life adventurous. Then there is a curiosity of what new surprising things you will see and new people you will meet. And the moment you first see those places or do something crazy you haven’t done before like jump into a sea from an 18-m high cliff, taste something that you didn’t think was edible or join locals in their rituals is indescribable. The sense of feeling something new, something unexperienced before flows all the way from your head to toes and vice versa. It fills you. And you start to crave for more.

Is travel addiction a real thing?

This question is still open. Even if it’s not an approved clinical disorder, the fact is that there are people around the web telling their stories of feeling down after a “high” of travel or if they haven’t had their usual dose of wanderlust. After looking at these cases it seems to me they could be identified as a form of behavioral addiction, which according to studies have similar psychological and behavioral features like substance addictions including craving, impaired control over the behavior, tolerance, withdrawal, and high rates of relapse.

Where did the buzz go?

Like all addictions, it makes you numb after a while. Beautiful, breathtaking, and exotic places are not so beautiful anymore, they are not so exotic now, and no longer surprise you. They are your everyday life now. Your routine. You have got used to them as we get used to going to work every day, working for 8 hours (or more) a day, and coming back home only to do it again the next day.

You might get upset or in worst cases even depressed of not seeing the initial beauty anymore and not feeling that buzz — oh, that wonderful inner buzz — the sense of feeling alive and full of life energy, feeling excited about life. It’s gone.

And then you start to crave more and more — more beautiful, more exciting, more exotic… more beautiful, more exciting, more beautiful, more, more, more… It doesn’t stop.

Travel withdrawal syndrome

In times when you haven’t traveled for quite long for some reason (financial, work etc.), you can feel exhausted, anxious and even depressed. You feel the urge for your dose of travel. You feel the jones.

From Travel Addict to Travel Lover

Fortunately, an addiction can be beaten or let’s say transformed. Into what? It’s simple. Love. Love for life — life as it is now in this moment. And love for traveling and exploring new places and cultures. Love is more powerful than addiction. It is conscious, sustainable, and unconditional. Love doesn’t cause cravings or depression.

Learn to be present

If you have been traveling for a while and those pristine islands and beaches start to look the same to you, stop and look more carefully. Are they really the same or you just haven’t paid attention to them?

Feel the moment, be in the now, not the past or the future. Now. Forget about your thoughts and worries and most importantly forget about other places you are comparing this one to. If you are here why not enjoy the moment? You will see that this place is amazingly beautiful too. And unique. Every place is. No matter how exotic and unseen.

By practicing being present you appreciate where you are now – your home and your loved ones. Even if you have lived here for decades, you can see a place or person from new perspective if you change the way you look at it.

Express gratitude

Be grateful for what you have and where you are. Even if you are not traveling to dreamlike places, there are beautiful things happening right now in your everyday life. Learn to appreciate the small things.

Practice gratitude by keeping a gratitude journal. Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology, has found out that writing a gratitude journal where you write something you feel grateful for can increase happiness by 25%. Writing a journal for a few weeks can make an effect that lasts 6 months or even more.

Meditate

There are many methods and forms but the core idea is to clear your mind from thoughts and be present, be conscious. Try it. And this is the time when the expression practice makes perfect fits great. The more you practice the more you will notice the difference.

Meditation can help you with the things mentioned before — being present, appreciating what you have and where you are and eventually turning you from a travel addict to travel lover: someone who loves traveling and is grateful for every place he gets to see and still appreciates where he is when he is not on the road. No cravings. Healthy love for traveling.

Nurture your relationships

Enjoy life and appreciate what you have. Spend more time with your family and loved ones. Work is not all there is. I recently heard a TED talk by Robert Waldinger where studies of 75 years have shown that the most important thing that makes us happier and healthier are good relationships. Period. How simple is that? No money, success and fame as many of us think. No. The answer is love. Pure and simple.

To conclude…

This is how I distinguish travel addiction from love of traveling. I also say I’m a travel addict now and then. It’s still just an expression. However, now I know that love for traveling can get messy and turn into a real addiction. And from this point of view I chose to be a travel lover who lives in the moment and appreciates the life that he has now – traveling or not.

This article originally appeared on Balticmuse and is republished here with permission.

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