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Are Long-Term Travelers Avoiding "Real" Life?

by Christine DeSadeleer Oct 20, 2009
Staying away from home does not equal being a responsibility-phobe.

Everyone’s favorite traveling mover and shaker, Nomadic Matt, recently wrote about a question that many – no, most – long-term travelers eventually have to face: ‘What in the bejesus are you running away from?’

Matt states:

…For those who make being a nomad a way of life or people who just linger a bit too long before they make that final stretch home, we are accused of running away…People assume that we are simply running away from our problems- running away from “the real world.”

There is certainly an attitude in much of the world that travel is for fun and should be enjoyed as a break, but sooner than later, you need to ‘get back to work.’ If for some reason you decide that you want travel to be your work, then, well, you’re a) not taking responsibility for something, b) a trust fund baby, c) lazy and incompetent, or d) all three rolled into one.

This is certainly a topic we’ve explored from many different angles here at BNT. As Josh Kearns waxes poetic in The Tao Of Vagabond Travel, Western culture in particular insinuates the importance of “getting somewhere in life” (i.e. becoming a professional of some sort that makes a decent wage), and that unfortunately, very few people believe that experiencing life and its beauty is worthy enough in and of itself.

Travel Envy

Fact is, long term travel is not easy, nor is it something that many people can withstand. As Matt adds:

People may want to travel, tell you they envy what you do, wish they could do the same thing but really, they don’t. They are simply fascinated by a lifestyle so outside the norm.

Or, as Cameron Karsten points out in his piece, 10 Things To Learn About Yourself When Traveling Alone, to travel sometimes means taking on greater responsibility, something that not everyone is ready to do: “To take one’s life within one’s hands and have the freedom and maturity to mold it into shapes, forms and experiences of one’s desires is to embrace (responsibility)…(which) provides us with the power to change.”

Don’t forget, travel can sometimes be more healing than staying at home, as I pondered in Healing a Broken Heart Through Travel.

But, there is an important distinction between two types of travelers, as F. Daniel Harbecke notes is his piece, Response: Would You Be A Perpetual Traveler Or World Citizen? The perpetual traveler “discards the sense of home…for a more profound sense of privacy or non-affiliation,” while the world citizen “sees the entire planet as home, and one’s citizenship as only a historic formality.”

Neither one is better than the other, but both help in defining the ‘why’ of the long-term traveler – some people are not made to stay in one place. Something deep within calls them to roam the Earth, and no manner of guilt, skepticism or attempted coercion will persuade this person otherwise.

And why should they?

What are other reasons that long-term travel does not necessarily mean running away? Share your thoughts below.

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