Photograph by Herbie Springer, Alamy via the Guardian UK.
Photograph by Herbie Springer, Alamy via the Guardian UK.

I’ve heard about this sport termed, by some, “competitive traveling,” some time ago, but I was reminded of it the other day while reading an article on it.

Competitive travel is essentially just what it sounds like it means – travel for sport. Basically, it is travel to see how many places one can get to, or how many stamps one can accrue in their passport, perhaps before a certain age. This is really just a narrow answer; broadly, this term covers any travel taken for the sake of merely accumulating locations traveled to. Instead of traveling for a long-awaited reprieve from work, or a holiday to visit friends and family, competitive travel has a goal of collecting destinations one’s been to.

At face value, for anyone that shares with me the love of travel in order to grow and better oneself, this “quantity over quality” way of traveling seems to be a boastful waste of time and money; I’ve likened it, in the past, in my mind, to be akin to collecting leather-bound literature for its aesthetic properties on a shelf for display to visitors rather than as materials to shape one’s knowledge, worldview, and vocabulary.

Here’s a great quote that describes people like myself, who travel for a purpose of self-enrichment:

“One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.” – Henry Miller

This quote concisely sums up the way I feel about travel, but a here’s a great idea in favor of the competition travelers:

“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” – Arthur Ashe

Though my opinion is just my opinion, I urge you this once (or once more) to hear me out. A year ago, I would have scoffed at someone if they told me that their goal is to visit X-hundred places by the time they turn 35. On this website, I’ve tried to promote a socially-conscious, culturally-aware, educational sort 0f travel. I believe that the best way to educate ourselves, our society, and the people we come into contact with is to travel, but to do it in a way that we are able to soak up the culture, history, art, food, etc. of the places we are traveling to. How can we say we’ve been to Amsterdam if KLM only allowed us a quick layover there while en route to Cairo?

BUT – and this is a big but – my opinion on this matter has evolved in the past year. With competitive travel – sure, you’re likely not gonna experience much while in each destination than, say, a person who travels to one destination for a week or more – but it is still travel.

And when I say that “it is still travel,” I mean that a person who travels to places for a quick moment is still accomplishing something, still experiencing a new destination, even if it is brief. There is no harm, and perhaps even a net positive that this form of travel can offer a person, as far as culture and education are concerned. A person who has traveled to 100 countries in a year is still going to have plenty of stories – that’s incontestable; perhaps the amount of stories can equal or surpass the stories of a person who traveled through one country in a year. One point in the favor of competitive travelers – these guys are more likely to be around people more often, as frequent journeys to and from destinations usually force one to submit to the headache joys that are travel transportation, such as planes. And being around people in a foreign destination is a learning experience, more times than not.

And, to tell you the truth, I have taken trips that are merely for the purpose of earning mileage, flying to a distant destination to keep my frequent-flier elite status for the following year (what’s called a mileage run). And those trips have always taught me something new.

Another point that these competitive travelers have over travelers with goals such as myself is that their journey is usually much longer than the time spent at the destination; and, as I afore-quoted from the tennis champion, sometimes, and to some people, the journey is more important and valued than reaching the destination. This is the case even for me when I take those mileage runs, though I’ve never had this feeling until now.

Finally, as long as someone is happy with what they are doing, who’s to say it’s wrong? These people aren’t hurting anybody, and they are living their dream, though it may differ from ours. I’m not about to travel to countries simply for the stamp in my passport, but I am doing what makes me happy.