While I could go on forever about the benefits of travel and how it’s a life-enriching experience, I’ve found one major downside to immersing yourself in this world: Dealing with friends and family who don’t understand.

This is something I deal with on a regular basis. It’s not that these people aren’t happy for me that I’m getting to see the world. It’s more that it bothers them that I’m not fitting a certain mold.

While my family often wonders when I’m going to “grow up” and get a “real job,” my friends worry that I’ll never get married, have children, or own a house. In reality, I make an income writing that I can live on and believe traveling has made me wise beyond my years. Moreover, travel with children is possible, buying a house isn’t something I even necessarily want, and I’m dating a great guy who’s also a passionate traveler. In fact, our first month of dating we got to know each other very well, living together 24/7 during a month-long road trip through Colorado and a long weekend in Mexico.

They also worry for my safety — understandably — but often voice a negative view of the world to me.

  • “You can’t go to Bolivia by yourself, it’s not safe.”
  • “I heard they kill tourists in Rio de Janeiro.”
  • “Girls shouldn’t go hiking in South America because they’ll get captured and sold into the sex trade.”
  • “You’re going to sleep in a dorm? But haven’t you ever seen the movie Hostel?

These are just some of the reactions I received before embarking on my solo three-month backpacking trip through South America. I used to spend hours trying to convince people — who had never really been outside the United States — that I really was being careful and that not everything they thought they knew was true. However, it’s often no use. You can only really know and believe what a place is actually like by traveling there firsthand.

A big part of why I started my travel site was to discourage the negative stereotypes of worthwhile, culturally rich destinations that are perfectly safe to travel to as long as you use your brain. Moreover, I wanted to showcase lesser-known destinations that many people have never heard of, meaning they usually wouldn’t travel there.

So, how do I deal with these people in my life who just don’t get it? For one, I continue to write about topics like solo female backpacking, hiking in South America, adventurous options in Bolivia, and free things to do in Rio de Janeiro to show people that they too can experience these “dangerous” destinations.

Moreover, I make sure to keep focused on my personal goals. I think about my travel philosophy, and remember how travel has made me a smarter, more open-minded, happier, healthier, and more mature person. The truth is, if people don’t want to understand, you shouldn’t need to change what you’re doing to please them. If not buying a house and cooing over wedding dresses makes you weird in their eyes, embrace your weirdness. If traveling is your passion in life, pursue it.

* This post was originally published at Jessie on a Journey and was reprinted here with permission.