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Gen Y Speaks: The travel bug has lost its hold on me. I haven't travelled since the pandemic and I’m in no hurry

In the British philosopher Alain de Botton’s book The Art of Travel, there was a mention of well-travelled military man Xavier de Maistre, who wrote a parody travelogue titled Voyage Around My Room.

Gen Y Speaks: The travel bug has lost its hold on me. I haven't travelled since the pandemic and I’m in no hurry
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In the British philosopher Alain de Botton’s book The Art of Travel, there was a mention of well-travelled military man Xavier de Maistre, who wrote a parody travelogue titled Voyage Around My Room.

In the book, De Maistre describes the contents and furniture of his small room shaped in a parallelogram, as well as imaginary situations and dialogues that take place during his ‘’travels’’. 

I read this book while trying to fall asleep in a nice room in Kyoto years ago and suddenly missed my scrappy bedroom. 

For some reason, I would always long for my own bed at home every time I travelled, even on the occasions the hotel’s bed was clearly superior.  

Whenever I meet my friends, the topic of travel plans would usually surface. For the first time in a while, I have been telling them I had no plans.

Like most of my peers, I had survived the drudgeries of life with thoughts of the next getaway. I had the opportunity to travel extensively while on exchange in university and would take at least two trips a year since I started my first job about 10 years ago. 

Then the pandemic happened.

During the lockdown, I was down with cabin fever like everyone else. 

But in that uncertainty — as we wondered if we would ever get to leave our rooms, much less travel to another country again — I also felt almost relieved to have travelled when I could.

Still, when the borders reopened with some restrictions, I did not jump into travelling right away. 

I thought there was too much risk and trouble involved. What if I got stranded in another country? Will their hospitals be nice? How much extra clothes should I pack for this emergency? 

I remember how I was “trapped” in Dublin back in 2010 when an erupting Icelandic volcano caused several days of travel chaos. It’s a first world issue, but I don’t ever want to re-wear dirty clothes as I had to back then.


Travel rules have since been relaxed significantly, but it also meant a surge of travellers eager to escape the confines of their national borders, as evidenced by my Instagram feed.

It’s been described as “revenge travel”, and I think this urge is perfectly understandable after two years of lockdowns and staycations within Singapore.

But not for me. For some odd reason, I realised that I no longer felt the desire to hop on the next flight out of Changi Airport.

To set out the context, I do have some personal qualms about travelling abroad, though in the past the allure of travel has always overcome these individual hurdles.

For one, I never liked plane rides, and in recent years I have been taking sleeping pills to help me endure them. Perhaps it’s because my morbid curiosity has led me to watch one too many episodes of Air Crash Investigation on Disney+, where there are a whopping nine seasons available.

I also dislike the long queues and huge crowds that come hand-in-hand with the travel experience, whether it is at immigration counters in busy airports, or waiting in line for a Disneyland ride.

According to a recent poll by Tripadvisor, revenge travel is showing no signs of slowing, despite increasing concerns about the economy.

Over three-quarters of those surveyed (78 per cent) are planning leisure trips between June and August, and a whopping majority (93 per cent) plan to spend more or the same amount on travel compared with the same period last year.

I shuddered when I saw a 2022 picture of throngs of maskless tourists at Rome’s Trevi Fountain. It still looks as sweltering and packed as I remember from my encounter more than a decade ago. 

I also recall how I used to cringe at tourists with their strange poses while brandishing selfie sticks, only to whip out my own camera for a picture at the same spot.

These are perennial concerns, which any traveller would no doubt face. 

But it was always the pros of travel that outweighed these cons, which explains why people would still happily fork out thousands of dollars to be stuck on a flying metal box for hours.

To be honest, the anticipation of travel has nearly always been better than reality. 

I have to admit that I was often aimlessly passing through various museums and attractions in major tourist cities, just looking out for a bench to rest my tired legs. 

Travel has always been romanticised. Sometimes, I felt like I was just ticking off destinations from my bucket list. 

Instead of feeling as awed as the poets and painters who visited these places, I felt like I was often noticing the downsides of travel.

No one talks about the strange toilets and toiletries that you will forget to pack. 

Still, I sometimes returned from these trips with a collection of random and occasionally life-enhancing knowledge that I would arguably not have gotten if I had not travelled: Bog people in a Copenhagen museum (arguably cooler than mummified humans), whale sharks in an Okinawa aquarium (a majestic sight but they really belonged in the ocean), and a live adult-only show in Amsterdam (my mother thought I visited the city for its famed tulips and windmills). 

It is often said that travelling is about stepping out of your comfort zone and realising that you can survive anything.

Without indulging too much in hyperbole, I have had several brushes with serious accidents while travelling. 

My cousins and I were woken up by firefighters in hazmat suits while sleeping in a hotel in Taipei (we were featured by the local TV news in our unglamorous pyjamas).

I also recall literally being swept off my feet by torrential winds while trying to get to a Mumford & Sons concert in Reykjavik. They were harrowing but also somewhat hilarious two-star experiences.

I’m not saying that reading a book or watching a documentary could ever replace these experiences, just that for now, I’m happy being home.


Holidays were meant to be a breather from the daily grind. For me, however, the anxieties of life always still sneakily find its way to creep in during and after my trip. 

Growing up, I had aspirations of so many cool careers, becoming a bento maker, bone collector, book store assistant, just to name a few. When I travel and observe life elsewhere, it does make me wonder about what path my own journey could have gone down. 

I admit that exposure to these experiences made me feel inspired for a while.

Perhaps for others, travel can trigger recessed ambitions and lead to seismic changes in their life, but I’ve never felt brave enough to make the leap.

Real life still beckons after the break.

In the end, rather than feel inspired, I sometimes feel that returning to Singapore is like waking up from a daydream.

I guess I actually gained some painful perspectives from all these trips, that perhaps I am just lazy and spoiled.

Maybe my current reluctance with jumping back on the revenge travel bandwagon was because I am not in the right state of mind to process new discoveries. 

To me, instead of regarding these as worldly experiences, I elect to view these experiences with weariness and wariness.

The bedroom voyager de Maistre points out that the pleasure we derive from a journey may be dependent more on the mindset we travel with rather than the destination we travel to. 

If we applied this travelling mindset to our familiar surroundings, we might find these places no less interesting than the Alps or the Amazon jungle.

I still daydream of staying in a place with breathtaking views.

But over the past three years, I have also been looking at the unkempt tree outside my bedroom window with new eyes and contentment. 

To be clear, I am not swearing off travelling forever. 

When I finally get over my reluctance and buy that plane ticket, I would want to treat travel less as an escape from life. 

Instead, I will appreciate it as a new way of experiencing life with all its messiness and inconveniences and beauty.


Linette Heng, 33, is a freelance writer.

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