Not everyone likes to travel. It just happens to be that I do. Just like someone may like country music (I don’t) or thinks people wearing glasses aren’t cute (I very much do), everyone forms their own set of preferences in life.
For me I was fortunate to have one of my preferences turn into a passion; a passion that I chose to pursue as a lifestyle. While yes, it is not the traditional path that I was encouraged to take, I chose, like Robert Frost, to take the path less traveled. And it made all the difference.
So though people have, and will continue, to comment on my decision to travel, I have decided to learn to try and accept what they say, not as a criticism of my choices, but merely as a probing curiosity to try and understand something that is outside of their world.
Below are my attempts at explaining my answers to some common statements I hear when I announce a new adventure:
1.“You’re so lucky.”
Let me start by saying I worked really hard to travel. Yes, of course I will say I’m lucky to be an American citizen. I am lucky to speak more than one language. I am lucky that my people generally support my adventures.
However, outside of that, traveling was something I dreamed of doing and worked to achieve. I didn’t have the luxury of being gifted a post-high school or post-university European adventure. Nope. I worked two jobs and went to college full time to study abroad. I saved all my pennies to go to Asia. I quit my high paying job to spend 16 months very poor and getting to take wonderful photos in Europe.
Therefore I do not appreciate hearing this phrase, which I often interpret as a guilt trip. Often it can feel like people are saying, “Well, you didn’t really have any real responsibilities (children, mortgage, debt, etc).” My reply is: I chose my lifestyle just as your chose yours.
We all make choices. We must learn to be happy with them.
2. “Wow, I wish I could do that.”
Similar to #1, just don’t say that. I’ll give you a hint about travelling. If you actually want to do it then you will. Like many other things when it comes to travelling it’s a question of priorities.
Which brings me to the third thing that I dislike being told when I share my travel plans:
3. “How do you afford it?”
The short answer is I save, a lot. Although sometimes I would like nothing better than a cushy bank account and lots of money flowing through the pipelines to fund spontaneous adventures, most of the time when I go places it’s because I plan very carefully.
In fact, I have slept on park benches, I have shared bedrooms with strangers, I have skipped meals, and I have even worn holes through my shoes.
This is the part of travelling that most people don’t ever get the joy of seeing. The unglamorous underbelly is, however, what makes doing this such a wonderful way to experience life. How else would I have learned patience, persistence, and the ability to forego instant gratification?
4. “What about your boyfriend?!”
Is it so incomprehensible to think that in the 21st century my relationship does not fit the traditional mold? It shouldn’t be. Actually, not only does my Frenchman support my wanderings, but he is a wanderer himself. He is an expat. He is an adventurous spirit. He wants to see the world. He also took the path less travelled by, and together our separate dreams and separate paths converged to make us who we are together.
5. “You’re going alone?”
Yep, and that’s the way I like it.
6. “What are you going to do there?”
This question generally follows the one above. As if I were incapable of occupying myself in a foreign country. However, I find that going on solo adventures really opens up my itinerary and allows me to experience a city the way I want to. Perhaps that is the selfish view, but I enjoy ambling aimlessly through streets and pausing to capture the perfect image (which may take me 10 tries) on my own schedule.
Just like anyone else, I have dreams. And just like everyone else, no two dreams are the same.
I hope that next time people will take that into consideration when they comment on a traveller’s “extended vacations.” Remember, they too are just trying to carve out their place on this earth.
So to all of you other dreamers working towards your next big something: Dream on.