“Why would you NOT want to give up
everything to travel the world?”
While this question has never been asked of me, it’s a feeling I can’t seem to shed especially since it seems each year more and more are going down this path, eschewing the type of life many consider to be normal in favor of one less normal, i.e. one filled with a never-ending array of global adventures. Simply put, there are just times where I feel inferior to those types of travelers.
I know travel shouldn’t be about competition, that it should be what you make of it. And yet travel, I feel, is one of those institutions that invokes jealously (hopefully of the benign, non-life threatening kind) the most. Personal challenges aside, 2016 was a great year of travel for me and yet I feel it didn’t remotely compare (i.e. shabby is the word that comes to mind) to those individuals who visited ten new countries on multiple continents. I know what I’ve just said is like comparing apples to oranges-my life is entirely different from those individuals living on the road and more importantly, living and traveling in areas of the world where the standard of living is a fraction of what it is in Pittsburgh. And yet they were in countries I can only dream about visiting right now due to their remote locations and lengthy travels required to get there (Nepal…Namibia).
Those individuals who have said no to cubicle life make it seem like it’s black and white in terms of giving up everything to hit the global road, that you’re crazy to not be joining them. Because why would you ever want to be stuck working the same job 40 hours a week with only a couple of weeks of vacation each year? I honestly feel that many of these travelers, in their new-found idealistic bubble, just don’t get it. They can’t possibly fathom that no, not everyone wants to sell all of their worldly possessions to live out of a backpack just so they can say “to hell with the 9-5 grind.” Those same individuals make it seem that if you haven’t gone the “to hell” route, well, you must be scared to pull the trigger. Umm, no.
My ideal dream travel world does involve traveling full-time, but doing so as an expat, not based from a place like Chiang Mai, Thailand or Goa, India just because it’s full of other expats and ridiculously cheap to live (that’s not to say I don’t want to ever visit those places). I don’t want to travel in a part of the world for an extended period of time just because it’s inexpensive and my money will go further. I want to see the places I want to see and not be bound by the unspoken backpacker ideology that you travel where it’s cheap.
I think many of the anti-9-5ers envision themselves as modern day explorers-the Mark Twains (he did a heck of a lot of traveling abroad…in the mid-19th century), Nellie Blys of the world. But they’re not…not even remotely close. As Oneika the Traveler so awesomely wrote recently (hitting the nail exactly on the head), “traveling to off the beaten path places is near impossible in a globalized world where traversing the earth is far easier, speedier, and affordable in days gone by.” If you can Google it, sorry, but it’s not off the beaten path.
Like a lot of people, both young and old, I struggle with what I’m doing versus what I’d like to be doing. But the grass is always greener. What you envision in your head as being the perfect solution doesn’t always turn out to be just that. Moreover, I think a lot of those travelers who give up their former lives to permanently live on the road don’t always disclose that on their blog when they’re touting the “no more cubicle life.” It’s infinitely easier to tout the praises of the content you want to project to the online world versus the content you want to stay deeply hidden lest your new mantra shows signs of cracking or worse, being broken.
Compared to the average person, I still feel I travel a decent amount each year, even with the “shackles” of a 9-5 job. So when people say “I don’t want to look back with regret that I didn’t go here or do this,” I don’t feel I have to (entirely) worry about that. I’ve been to Hawaii twice, visited countless European capitals, and crossed off the top item on my bucket list when I made it to Machu Picchu.
I don’t give up everything to travel the world because it’s not for me. I’ve never been one to subscribe to the “it” thing, which is what the whole “giving up everything to travel full-time” seems to be anymore (case in point-I only started using Pinterest last year, shocking, I know). I’m always going to want to travel; that’s never going to change. I’m always going to want to see and do more in the world; that’s also never going to change. But most importantly, I’m always going to want to travel in the way I want and while it’s hard (in a very non-life threatening kind of way) to not see as many places as I’d like in any given year, I know I need to accept that. Because at the end of the day, I’m eternally grateful for all that I have seen and done and am most thankful for having the health and means to do the traveling I have. Because no, anti-cubicle people, not everyone can travel. It’s a whole lot more complicated than just selling your belongings and up and leaving even if you have the financial means and are physically able to. And at the end of the day, that’s what you should remind yourself before you try to make everyone to be “just like you.” Just because a person doesn’t travel full-time doesn’t mean they’re not passionate about travel.
If I really wanted to travel the world full-time, don’t you think I would have by now?