I have a friend that I met in Thailand. He’s from Germany. Thailand was his first solo trip abroad.
Before he left home, he planned to go on the three week trip, return to Germany, and start working toward a Master’s Degree in his field.
When he got to Thailand, he made really close friends. These people had been traveling for months or years, and they were going to continue traveling. His eyes were opened to a whole new way of life.
By the time I met him, he was at the end of his trip, and he was dreading going home. He didn’t want to go back to his routine. He wasn’t sure if he still wanted to go for his Master’s Degree. He wasn’t sure if he even wanted to keep the career path that he was so certain about just weeks before. He was feeling really confused about his goals and confronted by the fact that he could choose a totally different life that he only just found out existed.
I knew exactly how he was feeling. I saw myself in him, one year ago, in the exact same state of mind. He’s a year younger, just turned twenty-five, and going through the same “quarter-life-crisis” that I went through at the same time.
I wonder – if he didn’t go on that trip to Thailand, would he be working on his Master’s Degree right now? Would he be happy at home with his “normal” life? Would he be working toward that promising career path in a promising country instead of dreaming of leaving it all behind?
Would I have been doing the same if I hadn’t gone on that trip to Puerto Rico last year – if I hadn’t met all those people that reminded me that there are other ways of living and a really big world to see?
I feel sorry for what my friend is going through. I know how crazy it feels to question everything you ever knew and try to grasp the concept of giving it all up for an unknown world. It’s especially hard when people from your everyday life have no idea what you’re talking about when you tell them you want to go travel long-term. They make you feel even crazier.
I encourage him wholeheartedly to quit his job and travel. I know that he would be happier after having been exposed to what could be.
It’s a blessing and a curse to be as travel-obsessed as we’ve become. I’m so much happier with this type of life, and I know he will be too when he leaves home to start his own journey, but the problem with this life is that we always want more, and I don’t know if many of us will ever be content to settle anywhere again.
He and I, and many other long-term travelers, may be ruined for life, because we may never adapt to the other world again, and we will forever be questioned by our peers and our families about when we are coming back to the “real” world.
Well, guess what? We are in it. I think this world is still the real world. It’s a different world, but everyone’s version of reality can be unique. It may not be typical, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
Meeting people from all over the world is real. Seeing how other people live, understanding other cultures, feeling what other people feel – that’s real.
Living in a bubble, in a routine way of life, punching in and out of a job or making a job your whole life; communicating with the same people day in and day out – to me, that didn’t feel real.
Since I’ll be home over the summer, I’ve started looking at jobs to get an idea of what’s out there. I see possibilities and get excited, thinking, “I could do this!” But then I start reading the descriptions more closely and start to feel a little less enthusiastic. I start picturing myself doing the job, and then I start to panic. I imagine myself making a life in one place, doing the same tasks each day, and having a mindless routine. When I picture a life that belongs to an employer instead of to myself, I freak out, close out of everything, and don’t apply.
I watch social media as everyone says they are trying to “get through” the week. I don’t want that. I don’t want to wish away my days because my daily life is not fulfilling. I’m afraid of this, which I talked about in my post, Why I’m Afraid To Go Home, that I wrote for The Travelled World.
Alternatively, I see other friends who have found ways to live their passions through something they created or discovered that is perfect for them. It’s so exciting to see their love for their work. Seeing that gives me hope, but I know that’s not the norm.
I think long-term travelers may forever be seen as rebels or bums, running from the “real” world, when in our minds, we are grasping more of reality than we ever could by staying in one place.
Maybe someday we can fit back into a normal society. We can adjust and adapt and find ways to live like we’re “supposed” to. Until then, we will keep on the move, happy to be meeting others who share our views. We will embrace the uncertainty of our lives and the fact that we may be ruined for life because of long-term travel.
We may be ruined, but it was worth it.