Is travel or long-term travel about avoiding responsibility?
I’ve met many people from all walks of life and ages in my travels. There’s a little niche group I keep bumping into that seem stuck on a roundabout in life and can’t seem to find the exit. But are quite happy to keep going back to that endless circle.
They are the people who travel to find something better than life back home.
Generally they can be broken up into many categories but for me these are the four most common ones I’ve come across who want to travel long-term. The Twenty-somethings. The mid-life crises. The relationship issue. The senior citizen on one last adventure.
What is the something all of these people who are continually wanting to travel have in common? Nearly all of them will have at least somebody back home saying: “Stop running away and face up to your responsibilities”.
Who’s right? Is travel the great getaway from facing up to your responsibilities? Or are you just doing your own thing?
The twenty-something’s great travel escape
Who can argue that in your twenties life is your oyster. Anything is possible and nothing can’t be taken on. For many they’ve spent the majority of their lives being told what to do and how to do it in school and at home. The sheer idea of escaping into the great unknown to see the world without any constraints is a lure that few could or should avoid.
Unlike running away from the responsibility of getting a job and having a career some of these twenty-somethings are in fact about to become very responsible. They will see, hear, taste, touch and experience things that will make them into adults faster than any educational facility back home.
Perhaps the person back home beckoning you back to a “responsible” life is the same person who’s stuck in their own world
The twenty-something crossroads of responsibility
Some will go on package tours and never veer off the nightly alcohol fueled parties and hostel bed swapping. Aside from some that evolution will take care of due to obscene acts of stupidity many will return just as ignorant and a lot more cocky than before they left.
Other’s though will veer off the beaten path. They will see the hungry street child, the Chinese guard hissing at people to stop photographing, truck loads of armed men on the streets, and they will question it. They will ponder over the delicate art work on a temples gilding and think of the reasoning being it.
They will eat food that will be unlike anything else they’ve tasted. Some will end up clutching their stomachs but remember exactly why for next time. They will grasp this responsibility: learn and become better people.
The danger is never wanting to let go of this feeling of true knowledge and freedom
The parent funded twenty-something traveling with no responsibility
I’ll interject one small note here about some of the twenty something’s I’ve met. Only a few have truly stood out. The ones that have are invariably the one’s who’ve paid for it all themselves. The very worst I’ve encountered are the ones on year-long round the world trips sponsored by their families.
I know of one father who sent his son overseas upon graduation. He gave him a few hundred dollars in cash and told him to come back with a thousand. The son said it was the greatest learning experience of his life.
He was a very interesting twenty-something traveler to meet
The mid-life crises traveler chasing after their tails
They left school. Found a career. Got married. Bought a house. Had children. Woke up one morning saw grey hair and said “Where’s my life gone?”
A shrill of panic envelops and they begin to think of ways to instill some form of passion or accomplishment back into their lives. Affairs, new cars, a second home, a new career, and the great escape of long-term travel whilst throwing caution of lessened responsibility to the wind.
Traveling to find themselves or find the big answer
Next to the twenty-somethings this is the biggest group of long-term travelers I’ve come across. Many don’t openly say any of this. They push their former lives to the back of their minds and invent a big adventure when you meet them. And for the most part it works. They do enjoy themselves. They find the holiday romance. They take up the mantel of adventure sports and feel alive again.
They live in a house in Italy and write that book.
They volunteer to help others and end up realizing it actually helped them more.
They traveled and woke up from the 24/7 grind of life. They escape a prison from one world and enjoy complete freedom in another. They re-awake old passions. And hopefully they return home embracing them rather than going demented trying to get out again.
Coming home to the same old drag after long-term travel
Sometimes they come back to the depressing grind of a job they no longer like. Debts, bills and the trauma of some family crises that pales in comparison to what they saw only last week in a faraway place. And so they grind away saving and dreaming of another escape. The midlife crises of travel for no-responsibility roundabout has begun.
The solution to mid-life crises travel
It depends on the person and their circumstances. But generally what people fail to grasp when escaping is the responsibility of actually solving the problem rather than leaving it. Sure it feels good to just get up and go. And if you can do it indefinitely then yes, problem solved.
However for most people you can’t indefinitely keep moving. Solve the problem of what’s wrong with your life first. Otherwise it will just be waiting for you when you get back.
Be honest about it. Sick of the daily grind. Great, what do you want to do? Don’t know? Well, figure it our before you travel otherwise you’ll get caught up in the rush of travel to figure it out. And before long you’ll be back at square one again. If you can’t figure out what you want from life before travel then there’s a strong chance travel will only be a temporary solution.
For those who drop and leave everything to go traveling at this age to find themselves I can tell you now – you are back at home. All that’s happening is you are seeing and experiencing new things. Maybe it’s an aid to you. But remember the people you are leaving behind too.
Travel can be a cure but first you need to know what your disease (problem) is.
Traveling due to relationship issues
Very similar to the midlife crises. I’ve met many people traveling after a divorce, separation or break-up. Some are traveling with the mindset of the twenty-somethings trying to reclaim their “lost years”. Other’s are trying to “find” themselves again.
Many generally find a solution by volunteering somewhere. They quickly realize that life wasn’t too bad back home. Or they find something new to envelop their lives around.
There are also those that set off to travel together. Either to solve a relationship issue or to celebrate their relationship.
The truth is: travel will put your relationship to the test more so than just about anything else in life.
Travel will make or break a relationship for better or worse.
The senior citizen on one last big adventure
Lastly I’ve met a lot of retiree’s taking on all manner of great travel adventures. Be it the elderly Everest trekkers or the round the world pensioners. They are coming out in force to see the world.
Their days are counting down and they have every intention of making the most of them.
There are some strange older travelers out there though. The old men having one last fling with a much younger girls in Asia. Or the mature women that head to West Africa for their twenty-something adonis’. Though stay a while and you might see that there is a small percentage of good happening here too. Education being paid for, medical bills and lonely people finding comfort.
Not everything is as it seems on the face of it.
One last solo adventure
I’ve met older travelers whose partners have died and they are out traveling by themselves. At first when they tell you it’s a little sad. They seem lonely and mournful as if wanting their partners there with them.
Sometimes if you catch them alone you’ll even see them talking to someone. And while this might seem strange it’s actually quite beautiful. Almost like they are taking their partners with them for company. Sharing the experience. Maybe it’s just me but this is heartwarming to witness.
The beauty of senior citizen couples traveling
Of all the categories I’ve mentioned it’s the senior citizens in couples I like the most. I’ve met some outstanding older couples traveling together in all parts of the world. It’s a joy to see such team work. They know the in’s and out’s of life. They know their limitations. They enjoy each other’s company and go about things at their own pace.
They are taking care of their own responsibilities. And one of them is to enjoy life as much as they can, together.
They are making the most of their remaining time together and that’s a beautiful thing to witness.
Is long-term travel about avoiding responsibility?
Yes, there are many exceptions to the above such as the person who just “wants to travel”. But from what I’ve seen these are the four main groups of people where avoiding responsibilities and travel often run side by side. In all cases it’s important to realize that problems you left will still be there when you get back.
So if there is any hint of dread on returning home then I suggest you tackle them first, and then travel.
The responsibility of travel will then be embraced in a much better light that few can question.
Michael Robert Powell from The Candy Trail says:
“If there is a God – then Life itself is an irresponsible joke. Being a good person is the only responsibility on earth. I mean, one could say “normal life” – having a family and endless assets is irresponsible in terms of over-consumption and overpopulation against finite global resources; so if there’s any shit to be thrown, it should NOT be towards the simple life of a humble traveller.”
Christine from Grrrl Traveler says:
“What is responsibility? Only you will regret what dreams you didn’t pursue in your life. If you fail to attempt your dreams aren’t you avoiding the biggest responsibility… to yourself? When I took my gap year(s) and left my career to live abroad and travel, it was a choice I knew there might be consequences for and I was still responsible for making my travel dreams work. In Korea, I worked as an English teacher, had a savings account, budgeted my expenses, etc… “
Will life be the same when I come back from a life of no responsible travel?
For the first few weeks or even months no life will not be the same. You’ll either be bouncing around like a jack-in-the-box full of life about the excitement of the world and telling everybody to live their lives more. Or you’ll fall into some form of depression.
Because yes, you will have to go back to the same old routine again. Yes, you might not be watching television now nor care about the show everyone is talking about but in a few months you’ll start to watch it just to fit in again.
Is it that bad when you come back from a life of travel with no responsibility?
Well, if you really did travel well. Hopefully you’ll have created and brought back something pretty amazing.
Something that’s able to put a better perspective on your lot in your life. Something that’s got new goals and new aspirations. Something that’s got the ability to make a difference in the world.
That something is of course you.
Long-term travel planning is not something many people have written in-depth about from beginning to end. I’ve been long-term traveling for over 7+ years. And I’ve been long-term travel planning for most of my life. Read more of my articles on long-term travel
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