Travel Isn’t Always the Answer

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Travel isn't always the answer

Lately I’ve seen many articles circulating the Internet that basically say this:

If you’re unhappy (or even just bored), you should quit your job, sell your stuff, buy a one-way ticket, go see the world, and find yourself. Right now.

True, I’m following this path to some extent. But still: I call bullshit.

I too have been guilty of believing this naïve idea that all you have to do is want it enough and travel will just happen; and that people who aren’t traveling just don’t desire it as much as I do. But this is far from the truth.

I’ve taken some time to reflect on this travel-snobbery mentality myself, and honestly, I’m torn.

People often write me messages saying how “lucky” I am to have this lifestyle. And yes, I am lucky. But it has taken me a lot of work and sacrificing to be able to maintain this lifestyle.

I want to share with the world that travel can be possible, even if you are paying student loans (like me) or are nervous about venturing abroad. I want to share the ways I have saved money and how I afford to do this. I want to share how I pack everything I need for a year into a backpack.

Travel is my passion and my hobby. I want to share it with others, and I want to be a resource and inspiration. But in doing so, I don’t want to send the message that this lifestyle is the only way to live fully, or that it’s an easy path for everyone.

Travel isn't always the answer

And there’s something that I have long been overlooking, or just plain ignoring… I am privileged. Lucky. Blessed. Whatever you’d like to call it. I was born into a life that gave me access to opportunities that I didn’t necessarily earn.

I was born in a country where English is the native tongue, which allowed me to teach English in Korea and save more than $22,000 to put toward traveling (and paying off stupid student loans). And while I’m on that subject… although student loans suck big time (that’s the nicest way I can phrase it), I am privileged that I had the opportunity to pursue higher education.

One of the most humbling parts of traveling has been meeting people who are native to the land I’m visiting, but have seen less of their country than I have.

Travel isn't always the answer

While in Vietnam, I had a dress tailor-made in Hoi An. The girl who was taking my measurements was about my age, and she kept trying to convince me to buy more clothing items. I replied innocently without thinking, “I won’t be home for a while, and I don’t have enough space to carry more with me.”

She looked at me, somewhat taken aback by my response. “You are traveling for a long time?” she asked as she wrapped the measuring tape around my waist. I nodded.

Her eyes welled up as she explained that she’d like to travel, even just in her country. She told me she was embarrassed that she’d never been outside the city in which she was born.

And what should I have done? Wiped her tears and say, “Don’t worry, sweetie. Just quit your job, sell some of your things, and it’ll all work out.”

This young woman reminded me that travel isn’t always possible. And it’s not always the answer. It won’t necessarily bring happiness or an “I know what I want to do with my life” epiphany like we so often assume.

Frangipani Plumeria Koh Tao

Travel isn’t always easily accessible for those who were born into privileged lives either.

There’s the practical reason of having a mortgage or other bills to pay. And while it can be done, travel isn’t always a high enough priority to convince people to reevaluate their lifestyle. And that’s okay.

Others have responsibilities – be it children, pets, or sick parents – that make it impossible to just quit their job and take off, for however short a time it may be. To tell these people that they are living a life unfulfilled because they haven’t shaded in enough countries on their scratch-off map is not only unfair, but it’s untrue.

And then there are medical conditions that make travel – long-term or short – difficult, if not nearly impossible. How ignorant of us to assume that the most difficult part of travel is packing a suitcase.

And you know what? Some people just don’t have the desire to travel long and far, and that’s fine too. They may have jobs they wouldn’t want to give up, or maybe they just don’t have the interest or motivation.

Perpetuating this notion that travel is the only fulfilling way to “discover one’s self” or “live life fully” is nonsense. I have encountered many long-term travelers who are doing neither during their time gallivanting around the globe. And likewise, I know people who have more self-awareness and purpose than most, but don’t often have the opportunity (or desire) to leave home.

Now, let’s pause for a minute. I do wholeheartedly think that travel is meaningful. It has shaped me into the person I am today and has taught me more about life than I learned in school. Travel is the best thing Ben and I have done for our relationship, and has strengthened our marriage unlike anything else. But this is our story.

I never want to insinuate that traveling is the only way to learn about the world or grow as a person. And travel certainly isn’t the only way to have adventures…

Bali Mount Batur

I share pictures and stories of my travels because I don’t have a dog or a house or a baby to snap pictures of. I am simply telling my story.

And I hope that my story says this: Travel is not the only rite of passage to a life well-lived. It is one path, yes, but certainly not the only one.

Now go and find your story – whether it includes travel or not – and tell it, because only you can.

We want to hear from you!

Can you relate at all? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Comments (13) on “Travel Isn’t Always the Answer

  1. charmaignenavaja@gmail.com says:

    Katie, you just said something I’d like to share to people who just risk everything to travel. Here in the Philippines, kids are expected to pay back to their parents once they get a job. I have been in a state where I wish to quit my job and chant "come what may" but gladly, reality slapped to my face that traveling is not my escape route on my responsibilities as the eldest. I decided to travel around my country instead from time to time to make up on my wanderlust.

    I created a blog or sort of my journal with my travels.

    • ktdieder@gmail.com says:

      Charmaigne, thanks so much for sharing your story. You’re lucky to be from such a beautiful country – the Philippines is one of our very favorite places in the world, and I don’t think I could ever get sick of exploring it 🙂 Best of luck to you, and we’d love to follow along on your blog!

      • charmaignenavaja@gmail.com says:

        I’m happy to know you’ve enjoyed your visit here. If you haven’t been to Siargao, PLEASE go there. The place is a MUST if you’re visiting the Philippines. You’ll love the island vibes. 😀

        I’d like to share this post on my blog, that’s if you don’t mind but I’m not sure how to do it.

          • ktdieder@gmail.com says:

            Hi again, Charmaigne, We didn’t make it to Siargo last time, but it is at the top of our list for our next visit (hopefully) soon!

            Of course you can share our article if you credit us (and a link back to our website would be much appreciated!).

            Best of luck to you! xo

  2. OASA1981@hotmail.com says:

    You guys have a terrific blog! Definitely happiness means different things to different people. Thanks for sharing your adventures. 🙂

    • ktdieder@gmail.com says:

      Thanks so much for the kind words, Oskar. That really means a lot to us. And we completely agree. Seeking happiness and peace means something different to everyone, and to insinuate that one person’s happiness is more worthwhile than another’s is silly. We wish a positive journey to everybody in their pursuit of finding out what happiness means to them 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to comment!

    • ktdieder@gmail.com says:

      I’m so glad to hear that this post resonated with you, Kristylle. Travel is something I too often take for granted, and it’s a good thing to remind myself that it isn’t always possible for everyone.

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