In the past year, the term “revenge travel” started popping up all over the internet-verse, passed around by media outlets predicting a post-pandemic boom in travel.
Which is a hopeful, welcome projection. But.
When you hear “revenge travel”, what comes to mind first?
For me, before I was able make any conscious sense of it, my mind free-associated it with “revenge porn” (yikes!) But there is nothing actually reveng-y or porn-y about the kind of travel meant by this term.
Basically, “revenge travel” refers to the way many of us are reeling from being grounded by the pandemic so long and are expected to overcompensate for it with extensive travel. Like, by traveling to the max and “with a vengeance”, we're “sticking it” to the virus somehow, or maybe to the incompetent governments that failed to protect, organize and support their citizens. Or maybe to the gods themselves...
I get it. I've had it up to here with the pandemic immobilization myself. And it's not exactly a novel concept to travel – or do whatever – as an act of rebellion against the forces of life and society (e.g. China's “revenge spending” trend of the 1980's following the harsh impoverishment of the preceding Cultural Revolution).
Still, calling it “revenge travel” gives the whole idea several sinister undertones that don't really belong there.
Specifically, the troublesome word “revenge” implies a couple of rather unwholesome motivations for traveling:
The conscious intent to harm / upset someone. I mean, if your travel plans involve ransacking and pillaging the settlements of your mortal enemies, I suppose the term fits. Otherwise – why call it that??
The unintended (or maybe intended) consequences of hurting oneself in the process of hurting others. More often than not, revenge is a self-destructive endeavor to some degree. As countless fables, movies and psychologists keep telling us: in getting revenge, one takes on the burden of living with the negative consequences and / or losing a part of themselves to “the dark side”.
And remember how, in the days of yore, men used to sign up to go to far-away wars to as kind of a “revenge” over unrequited love or break-ups. Like, “watch me perish in a battle, you heartless byotch!” And perish in a battle they did. Payback accomplished, I guess? Mmmkay, but it doesn't sound like a healthy way to see the world.
It feels like we need a better term that captures our collective impatience and yearning for the freedom of mobility and breath – the freedom of loving life and getting to know the big wide world we no longer take for granted. A term that does not imply Machiavellian villainy or self-demise, maybe?
Whomever came up with “revenge travel” did not think it through very much beyond its clickbait value. Hey, I can do some misguided term-coining too! Get a load of these off-the-top-of-my-head suggestions:
"Survivor Travel": the first one that came to mind, 'cause it sounds so badass. Like, you've survived something hardcore and now you're rewarding yourself with movement and discovery.
On second thought, however, it's insensitive toward the victims we lost to the pandemic along the way. Maybe some years down the road it will be not too soon to humble-brag about pandemic survivorship, but we are so not there at the moment (not even done with the pandemic yet)!
"Life-With-Parole Travel": many people report the feeling of being indefinitely trapped and isolated against their will during the pandemic, so it can be said that being allowed to travel in the future will feel like receiving parole after being handed a life sentence in prison. Too bad it also suggests that we all did something "bad" to get locked up in the first place (and maybe there's a wake-up message in there somewhere...)
It's also not fair to actual prisoners doing actual time. Many people have compared the pandemic lockdown to jailtime, but those people haven't been to / inside a real prison. Real prison shows you just what really being stripped of rights, privacy and identity against your will. The pandemic just made us stuck in a confinement of our own making with people we're supposed to care about most. If that feels like an unbearable prison sentence, it might be time to re-evaluate a thing or ten about what you want out of life beyond just taking a vacation -- and that's where not being surrounded by actual prison walls and guards really comes in handy.
"Remission Travel": the metaphor here is being incapacitated by an indefinite illness which at some point goes away -- and you can suddenly do things you thought you would never do again. Like going dancing after healing from a leg injury you thought was permanent. It's more than fun, it's everything. I kind of like this one – 'cause I've been sick a lot in my life and I do see a parallel between post-pandemic travel and recovery from illness. However, I can't shake the feeling that, like "survivor travel", "remission travel" kind of gets its name at the expense of those who didn't make it out... So, it's a no-go for "remission travel" either.
"Aestivation Travel": Don't worry if you don't know what “aestivation” means – I didn't either until I googled “What do you call it when animals wake up from hibernation?”
You know how bears come out in the spring, after a several-month-long state of dormancy -- all stretching their limbs, yawing and sniffing at the fresh air, leaving behind the lair in search for nutritious sustenance and sensory experiences?
I think for many of us, post-pandemic travel has any number of things in common with coming out of hibernation. We're depleted of nutrients, fresh air and sunshine from being stuck indoors, but we're also bursting with accumulated physical and social energy from having been so “out of it” for so long. It's a good combination of impulses to get one's dingleberry-ridden bear butt out the door and into the fields and forests full of honeycombs and berries and streams full of fish. Or, in the case of humans – explore new cultures, taste new cuisines, meet new peeps, etc. The term seems legit – but we all know that ain't nobody gonna embrace the word “aestiviation” for any reason, so scratch that one too ..
Eh, so it turns out it's not so easy to come up with a new term that elegantly captures the illusive, impatient experience of post-pandemic travel restlessness without also sounding crass or pretentious. But that's never stopped anyone before – and I'm on a roll -- so here's some more substitute terms for “revenge travel” for y'all to cringe over:
Cabin Fever Travel
The Gazillion-Yard Dash
EXTREME Social Distancing
The Border-Bustin' Blitz
The Post-Lockdown Lunge After The Plop-Down Plunge
GMDFAFTP!!! (Get me DA FUCK away from these people!!!) Tourism
Post-Pandemic Restlessness Disorder (PPRD), aka a case of "the isolation jimmies"
Alice in Wanderlust
The Eager Egress
Alright, I'll stop now... Hopefully, someone will invent the perfect term for letting loose after a long drought in mobility and socializing: one that rolls off the tongue without sounding menacing or insensitive.
Until then, I guess I'll just keep calling it plain old “travel” and hope that “revenge travelers” don't mind (I hear they hold a grudge...)
***And how do you feel about the term “revenge travel”? Can you come up with something better? Let's hear it in the comments :)))