A reader named Actuary_420 provided this response -
People who think that travel is anything but self-indulgence. I love traveling because it's a break from reality, not because it's some sort of meaningful journey.
I thought about their response quite often in the past few days, and then stepped back a bit. Why did this answer pique my curiosity? There's actually several points in this one answer, and I want to break them down, bit by bit.
Is travel a self-indulgence? Absolutely. But so is owning a television, or having a connection to the Internet in order to post on Reddit. Self indulgences aren't bad, per se. As with all indulgences, it depends on how one moderates them. Indulgence is about gratification, a sense of pleasure or satisfaction with a cost of some sort, usually a combination of time or money.
It is also a break from reality. The humdrum nature of many of our lives can be broken up by visiting someplace new, However, this conveniently sets aside the fact that some people's reality includes regular and routine travel. I need only to explain how many times I've been to Tucson, Arizona for business (twenty), and how quickly the bloom was washed off of that particular rose, in order to provide a contrary perspective to that point. But that's not what niggled in the back of my mind.
It was the statement that travel isn't a meaningful journey that set my mind off. Really? One shouldn't ascribe meaning to travel? Granted, landing at Schipol probably shouldn't result with a blinding light from the heavens, with Handel's Messiah blaring in the background. But neither is it a zero sum gain.
Travel has meaning due in large part because it's a break from reality. It has the ability to show us something different from what we take for granted. It doesn't need to be earth shattering, nor does it need to provide insight into some sort of metaphysical narrative. It could be something as simple as eating a Chicago deep dish pizza for the first time, when all you've had previous are hot slices from the ovens in New Haven, Connecticut.
At the very least, travel can provide the option for us to see something new and have it inform us in some way. If one chooses to have a religious experience having a slice of deep-dish for the first time, then more power to them. Or, if one simply chooses to shrug their shoulders and go "meh" at the experience, that's just as valid. But it's up to the individual doing the travel to make that call.
But to claim that travel isn't meaningful? I'm curious as to why someone would throw hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on an experience that left no lasting impression upon them. Because if travel isn't meaningful, then why go at all?