I Squashed the Travel Bug

For me, it is the destination and not the journey

Mindi Boston
6 min readApr 30, 2024
A woman hangs out of a passenger train, looking concerned.
Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

I hate traveling. There, I said it. Cue the shocked faces and agape mouths. It’s true. I hate sleeping in strange beds, eating strange foods, and doing things that often defeat my expectations. What I hate the most, however, is how my unpopular opinion makes others respond.

I’m not sure how old I was the first time I realized how I felt about travel, maybe nine. We flew to Orlando, my first time in an airplane. I left the airport with my head on fire (early undiagnosed migraines) to see palm trees swaying before a magnificent sunset. We hopped a shuttle and rode past tropical landscapes, unlike anything I had ever seen. Our hotel lobby was littered with exotic birds and had a pool with a swim-up cave and waterslide. My parents paid a pretty penny for me to experience luaus on the beach, meet America’s sweethearts Mickey and Minnie, and ride rollercoasters galore. But all I wanted to do was go home.

“What kid doesn’t love Disney?!” my mom asked incredulously.

This kid! I hated it. Magical Schmagical. The rides, the people, the food, the carpeted character suits that smelled like Lysol and body odor — it all left me underwhelmed, or worse, homesick. My parents had saved for years for a vacation that fell flat for their strange fourth-grader. But it wasn’t the first time.

The Florida trip occurred just a few years after the fiasco that was church camp. Each time my mother packed a duffel bag, she added her conviction that I would have a blast. It never happened. My first experience at camp included a scorpion sting and strep throat, culminating in coming home four days early. The second year was just run-of-the-mill disappointment in their crappy crafts, long lecturing sermons, and kids who were boring at best and simple-minded at worst. My mom eventually gave up sending me to a simile of the 1950s camps she had so enjoyed.

Never ones to give up easily, my parents took me to a dude ranch in the Colorado mountains a couple of years later.

“What pre-teen would hate riding horses?” my mother asked my father.

You can’t see me, but I’m raising my hand. The horses were actually fine. The hoe-downs, trail rides by the river, campfires sing-a-longs, horny teenage cowpokes, etc. — that was a different story. I wanted to turn around before we even arrived. It was a long drive with stops in Amarillo (hello, food poisoning), New Mexico (why does everything look dead?), and several tourist traps throughout Colorado (did I mention a fear of heights?). The caves made me queasy and triggered vertigo, and I got scolded for repeatedly touching the walls by a frustrated tour guide. The waterfalls were too high and made my nose bleed. Pike’s Peak? More like Pike’s Puke for this homebody who was still recovering from food poisoning contracted at our first stop.

By the time I was a teenager, I dreaded vacations like trips to the dentist. Still, it wasn’t a blanket dislike of travel. Car trips across the country to see family were acceptable. Spending weeks with my grandparents felt like coming home. Camping in travel trailers or taking the boat out — fantastic. Even the long train rides back in Amtrak’s glory days were a fun detour from my daily life. The secret was to go somewhere familiar and stay there, with no pressure and no playing commercial tourist.

My fondest vacation memories don’t include expensive trips to theme parks, beaches, or fancy resorts. They are filled with recollections of watching my grandfather fish or accompanying my grandmother to the beauty parlor. I was guaranteed fresh-baked cookies and a cool basement where I could escape into a wicked romance novel I wasn’t allowed to read. Mickey Mouse and a stable of horses held nothing compared to observing people I loved doing what made them happy in a place that felt like home. Therein lay the magic of vacation for me.

As a young mother, I forced myself to take my kids to the places that had disappointed me. We went to the beach, the lake, camping, waterparks, theme parks, and resort-style hotels. We found a dead shark in Florida, lost my youngest in a waterpark in South Texas, and spent one vacation almost exclusively at a Walmart in the middle of Oklahoma. We visited family across the country on long car rides, enjoying the physical trips full of singalongs, travel bingo, and stops at roadside attractions. I relaxed a little through those years and looked forward to exploring new locations with my kids and seeing the sights through their young eyes.

Once they were older, I visited big cities like New York City for work and danced the Cha-Cha Slide with a boat captain in Montego Bay, Jamaica. I adventured around Mexico and visited the Cape Cod I had only read about in old novels. I drove for days to visit states I’d never thought about and visited museums to learn their history. I experienced classic bustling destinations like Vegas, New Orleans, and Boston. I survived it all, but each trip was a tiny brad nail in my wanderlust coffin. I found I dreaded the trips for weeks in advance and often needed a vacation from my vacation when I returned.

I could offer a laundry list of reasons why I now avoid travel, but it is exhausting for me and the listener. Experience and secondhand stories have not improved my outlook. CSI made sure I was wary of shared lodging. Experience taught me Dramamine is no match for an angry ocean and my dysfunctional inner ears. My battles with chronic illness made air travel all but impossible with the many ways my body protests such extreme pressure changes. Twice, while traveling alone in big cities, the front desk gave me keys to an occupied room. I won’t even start on my tour of out-of-town emergency rooms or trying to seek treatment in a foreign country. In the end, there is no monument, wonder of the world, or destination worth the pain of it all.

Thankfully, my husband is well-traveled and equally annoyed by the ever-increasing difficulty of travel, so we don’t find this a point of contention. My kids are grown and able to go where and how they see fit — and surprisingly love traveling. Years ago, I re-evaluated relationships that didn’t serve me and now I am doing so with ideals that don’t line up with my personal beliefs. So, I’ve decided to finally accept it — I hate traveling, or at least commercial travel and tourism. I am done trying to love something that doesn’t love me back, so I have broken up with the travel bug that grips everyone else like a virus.

That isn’t to say I have given up adventure. A travel trailer now serves as my home away from home. It eliminates our worries about forfeited deposits or missing flights due to illness. If disaster strikes, we pull over and pause without fear of ruining the whole trip. We pile up the medicine cabinet and the dogs, leaving our expectations behind. We travel alone without concrete plans for where, when, or how. These low-pressure trips mean not worrying about others’ expectations, itineraries, or disappointment. Our last vacation was essentially a tour of all the pizza joints within a thirty-mile radius and a lot of card playing. And we loved it.

And yet, when others hear I don’t like to travel in the typical fashion, the response is always the same. “Who doesn’t like to travel?!”

Me, okay! I also hate steak, think chocolate is overrated, and the travel others enjoy remains the antithesis of my idea of fun. Live with it; I do. Sometimes, I get defensive and argue that my grandparents’ generation often remained within a hundred-mile radius of where they grew up. Other times, it hurts my feelings — that unspoken accusation that something is wrong with me because I feel differently than what they consider normal. I am content with the majority of my traveling done through stories read and home videos of friends and family. At the end of the day, I have to accept myself, peccadilloes and all. Why should it be so hard for anyone else?



Mindi Boston

Mindi Boston is a novelist and freelance writer out of the Midwest. For more information, visit www.mindiboston.com