Defending Travel as a Lifestyle

It’s been a long five days of being sick with everything from altitude sickness to severe indigestion to general moodiness.  Thankfully I’m finally feeling well enough to string words together as a sentence and am here to report on the amazing insights into one’s psyche that can only be gleaned from five days of near solitude while stuck in a tiny hotel room.

Being sick while traveling around the world is an expected, but less than ideal situation.  Being sick alone is even more less than ideal.  And being a lonely sick nomad while having your dreams belittled, is just downright suboptimal.  Luckily, I find writing therapeutic, and now that I’m in the clear medically speaking, it’s time to filter out the frustrations that have been building up in my mind ever since I made the decision to travel.

Good Intentions Gone Awry

First, I am aware that the people in my life have good intentions when they make innocent remarks such as: “You’ve already seen enough of the world” or “How do you think you’ll manage coming back to a normal life?”  Still when I hear these comments, I can’t help but wonder if they would be as understanding as I am if I turned the critiques around and said, “You’ve been married long enough” or “Don’t you have enough kids already?”  Something tells me that would not go over as smoothly even though it seems fair to me to put somebody else’s life on trial if they’re doing the same to me.

Thus it’s hard not to get slightly bitter over time with the continued well-intentioned but misguided comments that seem to be finding their way to either my earlobes or facebook wall.  What makes matters worse is that I think sometimes people are playing off the fact that I am having a more difficult time than expected.  The “Just come home” comments, while I know are well-intentioned, are more hurtful than anything because they insinuate that what I’m doing out here in the world is meaningless.  Perhaps in the grand scheme of things it is, but if you really think about it, whose life taken alone isn’t?  I don’t buy into the whole “My life is more important than yours because I do this” argument because I believe that in society, everybody is dependent upon each other, regardless of their role.  Getting back on point however, to this day it still frustrates me that people close to me don’t understand that traveling is my passion.  It is my life, what I consider to be a normal life, and it is not something I can just quit or easily give up because of a couple of speed bumps.

Constantly on the Defense

The truth of the matter is that I very well could end up spending my entire life trying to figure out how to make living as a nomad a sustainable lifestyle.   I hear the stories about people who go on career break and never come back and think, “Yep, I’m definitely a prime candidate for that role.” I think it just suits me and my personality really well and as far as I’m concerned, I fail to see how this is a negative personality trait.  Yet, somehow I always seem to be put on the defensive about why I want to live this kind of life as opposed to the more traditional married with children approach.  I don’t understand it and my patience with diplomatically defending my lifestyle without hurting the feelings of others is starting to grow very thin.

But alas, I have writing as my therapeutic relief and I’ve come up with a list of the biggest misconceptions about my motivations to travel and hopefully, some clarification:

  • I am not trying to punish my parents with a rebellious teenager act of running away from home.  I do love and care for my family a great deal, and so far nobody has provided a legitimate reason for why traveling around the world challenges that.
  • I am not running away from my problems.  Quite frankly, I don’t see myself as a person who grew up with many obstacles and I don’t otherwise have any serious life problems.  Therefore I don’t think there is anything from which to run.  Sure I’ve moved around between several cities after college and now I’m transitioning careers but that’s simply the standard trial and error of life.
  • I’m not selfish for wanting to travel around the world by myself.  No, I’m simply a person of action and traveling is my particular passion.  Life is a gift and so what do I prove to anybody by wasting my life waiting for something great to happen to me?
  • I’m not celebristalking Anthony Bourdain.  Just kidding, no one’s ever accused me of that even though that theory probably has the most credibility.
  • Traveling around the world isn’t my Plan B because I couldn’t find a man.  This one really gets under my skin because I actually had been dumped, rejected, heartbroken and even humiliated by more men than I care to recount and I don’t appreciate these past experiences being used to explain the theory that I’m now giving up and settling for a life as a spinster.  Quite frankly, I view each and every one of those suboptimal experiences as divine intervention because with the hindsight I have now, I can’t possibly fathom being married in my 20’s as being a more fulfilling life than the one I’m leading now and I will happily wait an entire lifetime for the right man.
  • “Being married isn’t a better life, it’s just a different one.”  I read this in an article that really spoke to me at a time when I was feeling disparaged about being single and about not being upset by that fact.  Though, I think the “being married” part can really be substituted with anybody’s lifestyle choice including mine, traveling around the world.  I don’t think that quitting my job and traveling around the world for a few years makes me a better person than the next, it just made me in particular happy.  Though I’m not going to lie, I still think that being able to responsibly quit your job at 28 without the safety net of grad school is pretty cool.

All in all, the point I want to make is that each person’s life is as equally important as the next and we could all probably benefit from treating each other as such.  Live and let live folks…it’s really that simple.

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11 thoughts on “Defending Travel as a Lifestyle

  1. I think it’s great that you are following your own wishes and not succumbing to GAPS (love that acronym!). Some people do mean well, but are also tactless. Unfortunately the caring message (“I love you and want you to be safe”) gets lost in “Come home now!”. People tend to question anything other than the standard “normal” choices anyway, just because they are different.

    In my personal experience, I have found that being married has not hindered my worldly experiences, but in fact has expanded them (probably because I have a husband that loves to travel and doesn’t want kids young). I have seen people on the road with kiddos, but lets be honest, it’s harder to travel with wee ones, and you spend so much time and energy making sure they aren’t run over by a rickshaw that you don’t see the beautiful temples across the street. Kids change your life in a way that marriage doesn’t, I think so anyway. And if you decide to get married one day, brace yourself for the “So when are you having kids?” or, even worse, “WHEN (as if it’s for sure) you start a family…” implying that procreation is the only way to have a family, or the only path in life.

    I also want to comment on your point about people thinking you are selfish about wanting to travel. I think many people (not all) are selfish for having kids. They either have them to simply continue their bloodline, to have someone to take care of them one day, or by simply not making sure they are protected during sex and getting knocked up “accidentally” and then expecting other people, or the government, to take care of them. Now that’s selfish.

    Keep on keepin’ on, Lisa darlin.

  2. Hi Lisa!

    I really enjoyed this post. I got married young (I am 23 and going on 2 years of marriage), but we don’t want to have kids until we’re closer to 30. Mainly because we want to travel. I have more of a passion for it than Sean, but he is such a happy-go-lucky guy and will come with me to Spain, Germany, France, Austria, etc with a smile on his face. A handful of my friends are married with children already (one has her 2nd on the way, which totally freaks me out!) and they have a hard time understanding why I am not pregnant yet. As if that is what I should be doing since I’m married. No thank you! I’m not interested in having such immense restrictions on being able to live my own life yet. Sometimes I think some of my friends think I am selfish for this fact. But wouldn’t it to be worse to have a baby before I am ready, and not be truly happy about being a mom yet? Isn’t it worse to have a child because society tells me that’s what I should do?

    I see my sister’s comment above, and smiled when ready the sentence about people without children being family-less. So ridiculous! We’ve talked about that many times and I’m actually working on a blog post about it myself!

    Just because someone is living a life that is different than the norm doesn’t mean their life is less valid or has less purpose.

    I really enjoy your blog! =)

  3. Hey Lisa!

    Good to hear you are feeling better!
    Would love to hear about those dreams & what those messages were someday; maybe over tea in a few years, hahaha 🙂

    I love this message, as I am a 56 year old who did listen to family and had that family because my dad kept making that comment after my cousins started having kids “I’ll never be a Grandpa”. I was guilted into it. I don’t waste time anymore “wondering how it would have been”, it just is. I have three kids, you know them all, and I love them all. I like to witness people’s choices as judging puts one in a place of huge responsibility, and I just don’t have the energy for judgement 🙂

    Following your dreams is what it is about & you get that. Love these posts & hope to be doing some traveling this year myself. Great opportunity to practice ti chi naturally, & keeping that intuitive “piece” sharp is so very necessary.

    Much Peace & Love, Tanya

  4. I think it is wonderful that you are following your passion. Nothing is an easy road to follow and just because you have had some bumps is no reason to give it up and change course. Marriage has bumps, raising kids, a new job, the list goes on. Life is not without obstacles no matter what path we seek. The most important thing is to follow your heart. I admire what you are doing because it goes against the grain and you are doing it anyways! The happiest and most successful people are the ones that met the obstacle and moved forward anyways. The brick walls are what stops people who really don’t desire or want it bad enough! I believe we are all tested in our lives and come to crossroads of very tough/torn decisions. We cannot stop others from remarks and judgement, but we can choose how we will respond to them.

    Both of my daughters have chosen different paths in life. I have done my best to support them in their individuality. They are living happy lives because they are following their own callings and passions. I am so proud of both of them as I live vicariously through them and I am enjoying this stage of my life as I watch and share the dreams come true that they have created for themselves.

    We all have our own dreams and only one life to live. So live authentically to your passions, bumps and all, as that is what you will grow and learn from.

    A favorite site of mine is http://www.tinybuddha.com (Allison introduced me to). Very inspiring on living your own life.

    Never give up your passions!

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