Emotional Tourism-Bon Voyage!


Emotional stability doesn’t come easy, folks. In fact, I’d bet money to say that the majority of people stand on an incredibly shaky see-saw, jostling back and forth and up and down on an emotional roller-coaster of highs and lows. But that’s just it- the highs and lows. Humans receive such an adrenaline rush from new experiences, or exciting prospects such as a new friendship or relationship, and we become addicted e a s i l y. The lows suck, but the thrill of the high keeps us coming back for more.

In situations of co-dependency and toxic relationships, people usually keep returning back to the same person (I’ll get around to this idea on a different post). But in general, humans gravitate towards people and situations momentarily to get their fix and then peace out. This is what the internet has described as emotional tourism:


UD image

Shout out to Paul, whoever you are.

Maybe Urban Dictionary isn’t the best source for a definition, but I find this to be most fitting. If you google emotional tourism, you’ll see a few variations of the term, but in general it means that a person feeds off of the energy of people and a situation until it no longer brings immediate gratification. 

A few examples that come to mind:

  • That one friend who avoids commitment and has a new boyfriend every month, until she gets bored and tosses them away for the next. (I think Tinder and other easy-access dating apps really fuel the fire for this one).
  • You receive a text from a friend about their stressful day, and reply with a well written and lengthy response to show your empathy and support. The next week, you text them something similar after a bad day at work and they leave you on read. (Or maybe they only say something along the lines of “that sucks”).
  • Hanging out with people mainly because they have access to drugs, or will give you drugs for free. (This could also apply to alcohol).
  • Dabbling in different diets and weight loss products constantly, purchasing all the needed foods and materials, only to try the system for a few days and fall off the band-wagon. (Think: WeightWatchers, P90X, Veganism, Paleo, Crossfit, etc).

Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, but these are relatively accurate examples. I use these because I feel like we all know at least one type of person from the above descriptions, and it is pretty obvious to see how each of these individuals escape the “lows” of their lives with a constant influx of “highs”.


What do you MEAN I can’t get engaged after knowing someone for two weeks?

New boyfriends provide a constant sensation of new love and butterflies in your stomach, and despite the stability a long term relationship provides, an emotional tourist (in this example) is too afraid of facing emotional commitment and perhaps personal insecurities to get close to someone and let things simmer down, for lack of better term. It is more fun to jump from person to person, hook-up to hook-up, with a constant influx of DM’s and compliments to fuel their ego.

The friend asking for comfort yet failing to provide it is a great way to see the instability in an emotional tourist’s lifestyle. “Serious” talk becomes too overwhelming for them, as they have a hard time thinking practically about another person’s needs and emotions when they can’t even understand their own! When life becomes chaotic for them, they seek gratification and support from whoever can provide it- however, no one should expect the same type of care in return.

I feel like the drugs example is pretty self explanatory. Drugs, alcohol, and other types of dangerous yet ‘exciting’ stimulations are an easy emotional “out” for emotional tourists. If they know an easy and perhaps free way of getting these substances, they are basically hitting two birds with one stone – a brief escape from reality and a thrilling, ‘fun’ time.

The last example is funny, in some ways, because I have family members that do JUST this as I roll my eyes. However, I think it is a really important element to this concept of “tourism” because these individuals are gaining the thrill of what a new life could look like for them (a better body! a healthier diet!) but ultimately are unable to maintain the discipline and responsibility that lifestyle requires. They want to feel as if they are going all in and investing something, but usually this completely fails and results in wasted money and a short-lived rush of adrenaline.


Okayyy cool story Natalie, what’s the point of all this info?

I think it is important to understand this concept of emotional tourism because it could be potentially harmful to you (if you happen to be doing this) or others (if they are affected by it). It is also a good concept to know in case you are ever the ‘victim’ of emotional tourism, so you can find ways to set proper boundaries and not become vulnerable to what could become a hurtful or problematic situation.

This article does a pretty good job in describing how emotional tourism could be a side-affect of a traumatic break-up or loss. This might help to explain the sensation of rebounds after break-ups or perhaps a mid-life crisis after losing a job or a loved one. So, with that being said, emotional tourism is not always a permanent thing nor is it necessarily a personality trait. It very well could be a circumstantial issue that resolves itself in time- and, in these instances, I think expressing this type of impulsiveness could actually be a good thing. I have definitely bought one-too-many handbags or shoes as a result of emotion and not actual need, and I have never once regretting a rather               *e x t r a* treat-yo’-self splurge here and there.

The problem comes when this behavior goes without insightfulness or any sort of self-actualization. A constant stream of reckless, thrill-seeking behavior will only have you steam-rolling over people and probably burning bridges to what could be great (and probably more stable) opportunities. Having fun is important, but it is more important to know when to press the stop button and focus on self care, obtaining healthy goals, and creating meaningful relationships.

Let me know what you think! Have you experienced emotional tourism, or do you know anyone who has?


xoxo Nat

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