End of a Long Trip - Warsaw Airport

Everybody Told Me I Was A Useless Bum

Derek Personal Stuff, Perspectives 183 Comments

End of a Long Trip - Warsaw Airport
You’re a no good, life-wasting, rotten, monkey-loving, responsibility-avoiding, useless, bum. That’s right, if you choose to avoid the normal routine in life and replace it with travel, whether for a few months, a year or even a decade or more, you’re a bum, without exception.

When we voice our desire to travel, it is unfortunately common to be met with such lines, something that I’ve been reminded of lately after receiving six emails in the past three days from readers who are dealing with such a situation right now.

As soon as they informed their family and friends of their decision to choose a path in life that truly excites them, a path that involves travel, they immediately were told that such a decision is simply not acceptable, such a decision is a waste of time and extremely childish. They were told to stop daydreaming and to start thinking about the real world, just like everyone else.

Maybe you’ve heard similar words from those around you every time you talk about your travel goals. Maybe you haven’t heard talk as intense as the lines above, but it’s likely that at least a handful of people have stared at you blankly, laughed off your dreams as nonsense or demanded that you ‘snap out of this phase’.

And every time we are met with such negativity, that all-encompassing, blissful excitement we feel whenever we close our eyes and think about our upcoming adventures around the world, suddenly disappears, vanishes in an instant…ZAP! Then, with head down, and a hint of tears in our eyes, we spend the next few days confused, frustrated and no longer certain that travel is such a good idea after all.

Let me tell you this. If you close your eyes right now and think of travel, and a smile forms on your face and you feel a surge of positive energy spread throughout your body, then travel is definitely a good idea for you.

Don’t let others dictate your life or influence what you know in your heart is the right decision. I know it’s not easy to ignore such negative reactions, but you must push forward.

Boy Was I Naive!

When I first started traveling and I made the decision back in 2000 to turn my 3-month trip into a more permanent adventure, one of the first things I did was to naturally inform my family and friends. However, at the time, I was definitely quite naïve as I had expected everyone to congratulate me on such a wonderful idea (even though I had almost no money and no plan at all), to offer their full support, to wish me the best with the path I now chose.

Of course, that didn’t happen at all. Instead, I found myself listening to people tell me that I’m wasting my life, that I didn’t go to university in order to roam around the world doing nothing. There were heated arguments, angry exchanges and more confusion than I have ever experienced at any other point in my life. Many a night I would stay awake, questioning whether or not I was making the right decision to remain overseas and not return home to get a normal job. I was feeling so lost that on several occasions, I was completely on the verge of packing up my backpack, giving up on my goals and booking a flight home.

But then, I would step outside in the morning and proceed to have yet another rewarding travel day, the kind of day so full of positive interactions and lessons, amazing food and amazing people, so full of new sights and sounds and moments that I never dreamed I would experience, that I again became convinced that a life of travel was indeed the right decision for me.

Eventually, after so many of these kind of days, I chose to ignore forever all of the people who told me that I was wasting my life. Sure enough, once I took this big step, my confusion and frustration soon turned to confidence, a confidence that began to increase with every passing day. And while I still had no idea what lay ahead, the fact that my decision to continue my travels felt infinitely better than any other decision I’d ever made, was more than enough to convince me that I would find a way to succeed.

Does This All Sound Familiar?

If you’re in a similar situation, feeling lost at the lack of support your travel goals have received from those around you, just know that you are not alone. It’s common for those around us, especially those who care about us, to worry about the decisions we make, most often when our decisions are so different from theirs.

People will tell you that you’re just confused or that your goals are impossible and that you need to come back to reality. They’ll tell you to stop being selfish, to stop daydreaming and to get a regular job because that’s what people do.

But again, if you know deep down that you must travel, just as I knew it, then you need to go forth and travel, regardless of what others think. You won’t be wasting your life, you won’t be avoiding responsibility. You’ll be achieving your goals, living a life without regrets and in the end, giving yourself an opportunity to create an actual, sustainable lifestyle that revolves around your truest interests.

That’s certainly not being a bum. That’s being smart, that’s being courageous, that’s making the absolute most out of your short time on this planet.

How did others react to your travel plans? If you haven’t told anyone yet, are you nervous about how they might react?

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Comments 183

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  1. Pingback: What Being a Travel Blogger Really Means (To Me). Lessons From My 4 Favorite Bloggers. - KEEP CALM AND TRAVEL

  2. Dawn Curzon

    I feel sorry for those people, they’re all stuck on a senseless merry go round of life that was created to control the masses…….go to school, go to uni, get a job, buy a house, have kids, retire, then die…..all the while dreaming of a life that they’re too afraid to follow and telling you not to because it will make them feel even worse that someone else is doing it instead of them.
    Don’t get me wrong…..there are plenty of people who are happy living their lives like that but they won’t be the ones telling you not to go.
    Travel teaches you more about life and yourself than any university ever will.

    “The world is a book and those that do not travel read only one page” – St. Augustine

    “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it is lethal” – Paulo Coelho

    1. Michael Muschner

      I agree with you but i always think that having a family is something important in my life. How could i erver get Kids or the love of my life if i never have a home?

  3. J.

    Hi Earl,

    this is a great article, I can see myself in what you said. Coming from a little town of 80,000 people, I have been called like that by many people when I decided not to go to university (whaaat?) and to make my first trip to the US for 2 months of pure travelling.

    This article is recommended for people who are exactly in this time, between the decision and the moment you are actually starting your travel. May this article help and be a support for these people! 🙂

    All the best,


  4. Maxine

    Hey Earl!

    This post was lovely! I’m 19 years old and very language oriented. My need to travel began at such a young age. I was always restless and at this point in my life it’s not a matter of whether it will happen, but when and how. I’ve thought of going to college and earning a BA in Linguistics to solidify 4 years of Japanese with a degree and then happily march off to Japan to teach English. Imagine my surprise when I discover that it’s not imperative to have a degree to teach English in many foreign countries! I think I may have been using that college degree scheme as a means to an end. Ultimately, I’m trying to decide if the 20 grand I’ve painstakingly raised for college should be implemented in other ways… nomadic ways, preferably.
    I want to see and experience as much of the world as I can. It’s never been a question for me, but the whole situation seems rather overwhelming for someone of my age to achieve. Is there any advice specifically that you can offer me? Especially about getting started and about making money while on a permanent vacation (And I don’t mean to make light of you or anyone’s hard work with such a comment, but it’s said that if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life and I intend to love every second!) Any commentary would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much!

    1. Fahimah

      Hello Maxine,
      While, I’m not Earl, (or by any means an accomplished traveler) I really liked your comment! I am 17 and graduating high school this year and I hope to go on all sorts of adventures soon enough. For me travel is not a should-or-shouldn’t matter as well, but rather a how (despite that I am a girl coming from a conservative home). I am doing university abroad, so I wanted to recommend that option to you if you’d still like to go to college 🙂 Assuming that you are from/in the US (20 grand is a steep tuition) it is actually possible to get your degree a lot cheaper abroad (not necessarily in Japan and the hunt for budget degrees in English can range from exciting to very dire). And in some places, undergrad degrees can be earned in three years rather than four.
      If you’re interested, please say so! (I have two years research under my belt and would love to share!)
      Don’t let people discourage you because of your age! If you must go, then you must!
      Wishing you luck from Egypt!

  5. yara Coelho

    After I turned 30, my mother knew I would probably live this life forever…. Now that I’m 35 and haven’t stopped since I was 18, she has quit hoping! It’s definitely chronic, I’m a vagabond at heart and proud of it. Life is too short to sit at an office all day and skip the beautiful sunsets and sunrises across the world! <3

  6. Cristel

    I’m leaving April 1 to live in Guatemala and perhaps slow travel around Central and South America.
    When I told my little sister, she replied, “Why has it taken you so long to do this?” HA!
    My other sister is jealous but will surely join me when her kids are grown.
    My parents were concerned but not surprised.

    Love your blog… I’ll be reading all your older posts to get inspiration.

  7. Andrew

    Thank you for posting this, I think the insight to your experience in this topic will come in handy soon enough!

    I have 18 months more work at my job before I hit 10 years, and in Australia we get 3 months paid leave for doing this, so that is looking like my goal date for wandering the world for a while, and then some more 🙂

    Keep up the amazing and inspiring work!

  8. Eric Z

    I regularly follow many travel bloggers. I love your site and your FB updates. This post has been my favorite article posted by a travel blogger ever since you published it. It resonates so much with my experience and how I feel. I’ve created a “mentality reminders” document that I read at the end of every week, to bring me back and keep me in the right mindset that I wish to remain in, regardless of external forces/negativity in my life. A link to this article is on the document, so that I can read it weekly and you can remind me to stay on the path towards a life of travel and the positivity it brings me.

    You’re helping and inspiring people more than you will ever know. Thank you so much Earl.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Eric – Thank you for that my friend and I shall look forward to receiving a message in which you tell me that your life of travel has begun!

  9. Samuel Thomson

    Hey Earl!

    Thanks so much for that post it really helped me, i want to travel in 2 years time and am trying to work out when to tell my parents, but i guess it will have to come out at some point.

    Quick question; You said something about university? If you don’t mind me asking what did you study?

  10. Cat

    Thank you so much for this post! I was born in Spain and changed houses every year because my parents were traveling missionaries. When I turned six they came to the U.S. and we travailed between Texas and Mexico. My parents then decided to stop in the most boring town in Texas so that me and by brothers could go to a public school. We’ve been here for six years and even when I somewhat enjoy having a best friend, I hated staying in one place. I hate when my days become a blur because I did the exact same thing for three month. I wanted to get out into the world. When ever I think about traveling I get such a longing for new places and people that I almost run out the door. When I saw your website I realized that I didn’t have to stay in one place and live my life they way everyone else does, I could travel. I could live my life free and adventurous. However, because I’m gifted in math and science my parents don’t want me to “waist my life and talents on some silly fantasy.” I’ve always been a stubborn person and the youngest in the family which was the reason my parents kept fighting so hard. It got to a point where I wasn’t even sure if I was still fighting because I was stubborn or because I truly wanted this. For the first time ever I was actually losing a battle of words. However when reading your post I close my eyes and think about traveling, I feel the energy flowing in my veins. I feel the wind on my face. I can see the world from the top of a mountain. I can see the road before me and I know this is right, this is what I want most in the world. I love my parents and I know they love me, when I start my adventure they will see this is what will make me truly happy and in time they will learn to except me for the wild cat I really am.

  11. Sonnie

    I’m glad I read this. All my life I’ve dreamed of “seeing and doing” everything before I died. I’ve been open about wanting to travel the world and after reading your and others blogs decided I wanted to go for it! With my husbands support we told my mom about our plans.
    I was expecting my mom to express her worry, but what I wasnt ready for was her (conservative and old fashioned) boyfriends opinion. He keeps calling it a “vacation”, which belittles it and asks, “sooo why? Whats the point?”
    I dont like arguing with him, but also dont like him influencing my mom and making me sound childish. Meanwhile, he hates his job!
    Im really nervous about explaining that theres more than one path in this world.
    I hope one he’ll understand, but really don’t think he will.

    P.S. Its also tough because i was always the saver and “good one” and now I feel like Im ruining that image

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Sonnie – Sometimes you just need to go out and follow your path and perhaps, once they see you out in the world achieving your goals and happy as a result, they will make the realization on their own at that point. Not everyone will understand what it feels like to want to travel and create your own path in life.

  12. Sarah|pickledcapers

    I am really fortunate to have stumbled across this post today. I have not made the decision to travel the world (yet, anyway). However – the blank stares, the uncomfortable silences, the looks that intimate you are headed for surefire failure – those I became acquainted with all too well when I quit my job to make a go at my dream of writing. Thanks for sharing your journeys and trials from those of us on much more metaphorical odysseys.

  13. Katie

    World travel has been in my life plans since I was itty-bitty. “I’ll see things most of humanity never will never get to!” The older I became, more responsibility hampered this fantasy. I could never figure out how to make it happen. Instead, I made all kinds of wise decisions. Buying a home, selecting a sensible career. Wearing sunscreen. You understand. Several years ago while finishing my bachelors, my brilliant, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants boyfriend simply HAD to skate off to a new life in South America. I was invited- but his half-cocked plan had both poor-timing, and little security. I’m envious of his adventure. I don’t regret staying and finishing my degree, but I PAINFULLY regret my deskncubicle 9-5’er that is slowly nibbling my soul. 6 weeks ago, I realized I didn’t have to this. I am now making arrangements to rent out my home, enrolling in TEFL classes, putting my ducks in a row, and in the fall of 2014, will be landing in Bangkok for who knows how long. Recently, I rummaged through my old Reddit commentary to find a few words I posted many moons ago to the AskReddit question; ‘what do you often daydream about?’

    My reply- ‘sell my possessions and fly somewhere exotic.’

    I expected my family to quietly think I was ruining all my hard work on a whim, but no. Not only have they been supportive, but the repeating sentiment is, “that is EXACTLY what you need to do. That is so YOU.”

    I’m lucky.

    I started a blog to record the preparation, and later- my journey (If you’re interested: http://katieofthevalley.blogspot.com/2013/10/let-chips-fall.html I don’t make money off this thing. Just practicing the writin’.).

    This site of yours feels somehow… affirming. I’ll be shooting you a small thank you donation that you can- I dunno, buy a few coffees with. But for print- Thank you. Maybe I can bump into you somewhere foreign and buy you a cocktail I’ve never heard of.

  14. Pingback: 3 (BLEEP!!!) REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD GIVE IN TO WANDERLUST | Trekeffect BlogTrekeffect Blog

  15. ART

    Hey Earl,

    Awesome, inspirational article, and I also love your replies to many of the posts. I am 26 years old, graduated from University, and currently have a fairly stable, decent job. I want to do all the “normal things”-marriage, family etc. Except there is one passion I have in life- I want to travel and see the world. I to get a fair deal of negative feedback from certain family and friends. It seems as though in life other people sometimes try to tell you what your priorities should be. Life is to short to not follow your dreams and live the life you want. Reading your article just gave me a new boost of courage and emboldens me to get out in the world and just do it! Thank you.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Art – That’s all very true and I think it’s important to realize that people want to tell you what your priorities should be because that’s the priorities that they know best and so they don’t understand how someone could choose otherwise. What we don’t know is often quite scary and for someone to say they want to just ‘travel’ instead of following a more traditional path is just not conceivable to many. But hey, at the end of the day, the decision is all yours!

  16. manz

    Thank you so much for this! Yes I encountered the exact reaction you mentioned. I feel so much better after reading this and that a life of travel is possible.

  17. Cynthia

    you are right.. thank you so much! i will read your post 🙂
    This website is of GREAT help by the way. May God keep blessing you as you go around the world.. and visit Marshall Islands! They are amazing!

  18. Cynthia

    I have been reading several of your articles, and I gotta say, it is everything I was looking for, except I still have a few more questions. I am 19 years old, and I started college Fall 2011. I took a break a year as a missionary teacher in the Marshall Islands, Majuro. It is SUCH a beautiful country, beautiful islands, beaches, etc. I was getting paid like 200 bucks a month which was enough for food and some island exploring. I am back to the states since June 2013, but I came across major culture shock and realized I don’t want to live in the states!

    I have decided to go back to school now, But i honestly have NO idea what to study. Half of me wants to just.. I don’t know, get a random major and graduate.. find a husband, start.. you know the “regular” life.
    But i have always had the amazing dream of.. traveling! I don’t want to settle down, I want to see every corner of this world! It would be nice if I could find someone either boy or girl to share this with, but it is rather difficult for people to give up their dreams and go.

    I actually wanted to start NOW, and i was going to go round 2 of the islands, except i found out that if i left again i would have to start paying my student loans.. etc.
    So i suppose I will have to wait until I graduate in 3 years. Though I REALLY don’t want to.

    So, my question is, how did you go after college? What did you do with your loans, etc??
    2.Do you know or recommend any career that would include traveling?

    See I am scared (even though I just read this article) that my family WILL see me as a crazy, childish, no-career bum, which is why i think I should go after a career or something…but what?? I just want to photograph and see the world!! I also like to help people. so… with that, any advice, suggestions?? wait until college? go for it now? what do you think?

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Cynthia – It’s a very persona decision but maybe this post will help you out (and be sure to read the comments too):

      As for my situation, I did have loans but I deferred them at first until I figured things out. And then I started paying them back when I started working on board cruise ships and managed to pay them all off through that employment. As for certain careers that involve traveling, I would look at it different. What interests you? What do you want to learn and study? If you choose something just because it might help you travel, you’ll be in the same situation as those who choose a career at home that they don’t fully enjoy. Instead, choose something that you are passionate about, study that, and these days, it’s possible to turn almost any knowledge/skills/education into a job opportunity overseas.

  19. Shelley

    I struggled so much with societal pressures of living a life of “normalcy: (job, marriage, kids). When I finally got the courage, I sold my house and moved to Korea for a year to teach English. During my time there, I decided, I wasn’t going to go back to my boring, meaningless federal gov’t job and I was going to take the money I had saved teaching English and travel through Australasia and south east Asia for 6 months ( I had already been to, China, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore while living in Korea), then figure it out. I bought the travel books, informed my family and then I changed my mind. I don’t want to say it was the biggest mistake I have made, or the one regret, because where I am now in my life, is good. But it was a turning point. I went back to the federal government job, back to my mundane life and almost instantly started itching to travel again. I went on a few small vacations to Italy and Costa Rica, and then decided to go to India. I knew my measly 3 weeks vacation a year wasn’t enough for what I wanted to do in India, so I eventually quit that boring federal job, for good- and embarked on a 2 month journey through the South of India that drastically changed my life. After I did my 2 month backpacking stint I decided I wanted to stay in India, and I found a job at an American company where I eventually met my husband. We had a big fat Indian wedding, and 2 kids and 5 years later we are are back in Canada (awaiting my husband’s immigration to come through (damn you foreign service strike).
    Needless to say, life is good now and I wouldn’t have gotten here without making that decision not to travel. Do I regret my decision? Yes and no. I still think I would have gotten to India and met my husband, but I think i took the path than everyone thought I should take to get there, rather than the path I think that was set forth for me.
    I still hope to finish off south east Asia some day and make my way to New Zealand and Fiji, but this time I can bring my kids, and introduce them to the fabulous world of travel.
    The travel I did on my own and with friends in about 20 countries has shaped and defined me and taught me more than any University ever did. I can’t wait to see more of the world!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Shelley – Thank you for sharing your story and seems like you still have plenty of traveling left to do!

  20. Bella

    Sure could use a leg up on a contact in playa del Carem. Looking for long term rental at a good price. One bed room nothing to fancy, furnished. O’ and one small italian greyhound. Will arrive July 21 and return July 28. Would like to secure apt. For my return in aug. thank you for any names are references. Bella

  21. Jim

    Thanks for this post (and a lot of your other posts and books too haha) I’m a recent college graduate with a major in Communication and Culture studies. I have a BA and I still don’t know what I want to do! I have friends left and right getting “real” jobs already and I’m working in a small restaurant in my town and all I can think about is how absolutely don’t want to be doing the 9 to 5 thing. I want to be travelling. It is refreshing to know that other people are in the same shoes as me. I’m not really sure what I want to do or where I’m going to be, but your posts are encouraging to me that I definitely know that wherever I’am I want to be immersed in other cultures and not in the “normal” day to day work routine not enjoying all there is out there to see.


    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Jim – Thanks for the comment and I can certainly understand your current feelings. All I can say is that if you really want travel to be a part of your life, just stay focused on your goals, think creatively and try to network with as many people as you can, especially with those who travel often. Before you know it, an opportunity to travel will arise and then it’s up to you to make the decision to pursue it!

  22. bubblesculptor

    People may say you are wasting your life.

    But upon their deathbed will they actually believe that their life would have improved by more days stuck in the ‘normal’ work routine? Or will they die knowing there was so much more the world had to offer them which they ignored?

    Reality is that they are probably jealous of your fearless ambition. People are taught to cling to the ‘security’ of a stable location following the the standard career path, just going down the checklist of life. It takes courage to look past the sheep and forge your own path. They discourage you because they secretly wish they could make it out on their own.

    You have your whole life ahead of you to ‘settle down’ if you choose. There is nothing wrong with being settled down, just as there is nothing wrong with being a wandering explorer. If/when you do choose to settle down, you will have a vast collection of experiences that most people could never comprehend. People around you will learn from your knowledge of the world.

    The world is being changed in a positive direction by your influence. I have only read a few of your posts so far but from what I have read it seems you broaden the minds of yourself and others everywhere you go. The seeds of enlightenment you have planted around the world changes the lives of other people. There is no way to measure the total effect on the lives of the people you have met, but chances are you have inspired more people around the world than most people ever will.

    That being said, who is it that is really wasting their life? The people stuck in a closed-loop routine? Or the person who took full advantage of seeing what the people of the world have to offer?

    I think more people should travel freely. I could promise you that there would be less hate, violence, prejudice, racism, fear and mistrust in the world if everybody took the opportunity to see the world for what it really is.

    You are not wasting your life, you are taking full advantage of the one life you have been given.

    Follow your heart! It is the only way.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Matthew – I really appreciate that comment and I agree 100% that if more people traveled openly, things such as hate and war and fear would be reduced to a minimum. Travel almost always surprises us and quickly teaches us that nothing in this world is as it seems and the only way to find out some hint of truth is to see the world with our own eyes.

  23. Belinda Hoge

    My husband and I are 51 yrs old and finally free to become travelling bums, as you put it. We have done the working thing, the being a decent parent thing, the become a millionaire thing, the work your ass to the bone and save for your retirement home thing… Now we are ready to be free of what society demands and expects so you can pass the test of being socially acceptable. YIPPEEEE is all I can say, we are planning this as we have a few loopholes to tie up first and would love to know if ou have been to South America and what your experiences were there. We are thinking of starting in Ecuador as you can live for as little as $850 a month there and then onto Panama, Belize and Costa Rica! Thanks for your blog! Belinda

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Belinda – Great to hear your plans and it’s definitely doable! I’ve been to South America (Chile, Argentina and Uruguay) and all through Central America as well. Some countries in South America (Peru) are getting quite expensive but for the rest, as long as you keep your expenses in check, you can travel/live for $850/month per person. Mexico is another excellent option!

  24. SHERM


    I enjoy your straight-forward blogging style – you don’t glamourize everything and you keep it real. You bring up a very interesting topic with this post – I must admit I have been on both sides of the debate.

    I have only traveled for work, but am planning something more ambitious. My uncle has probably traveled more than anyone I know; he is a geologist. From him, I see a marriage between work and travel. His experiences are unique – everywhere from Colombia to Mongolia. If I told him I was just traveling for the fun of it, he would be disappointed.

    Doctor’s, nurses, engineers, teachers, etc… all provide a service. I fear when I travel, I am not helping anyone but myself. I also feel a bit guilty that my upbringing in a weathly country is the only reason I have the luxury to travel. From seeing the poverty in the world, I feel odd just traveling and enjoying other’s labors. These are issues I am going to have to come to terms with if I decide to just travel.

    I had a gf who just wanted to travel and it bugged me. But, after seeing her happiness, I decided to support her ambitions, even if it meant the end of our relationship. This was a big revelation to me, it also opened up the possibility of my travels. My mind has been opened somewhat ,and I desire to see the world.

    I am an engineer and sit in a box all day. I don’t recommend it to anyone – I wish there was a better balance. I really have no choice but to make a big decision – get out and see the world.

    I think if you have a fire to do something – you got to do it. I plan on traveling and validating or destructing my personal anxieties about “just traveling” vs. working.

    Keep up the great posts,


    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Sherm – Thanks for the comment and I think the problem lies in the fact that when people think of ‘travel’, they assume it simply means bouncing around the world nonstop. But that’s only one of a million ways to travel. There’s no reason why you can’t set a specific goal for yourself or try to incorporate something that you feel is important and meaningful to you into your travels. You can easily provide a service by volunteering overseas for small organizations that don’t have the money to advertise for help, you can use your knowledge/skills to help people/companies in other countries grow, you can learn something that you’ve always wanted to learn…the possibilities are endless.

      And I can tell you that if you don’t have any goal while traveling, it can become quite old quite quickly. There needs to be a purpose, a reason why you want to visit a particular place, any reason at all. So it’s not that you are ‘not helping anyone but yourself’ if you travel, it’s that you haven’t figured out a way to use your travels to help others yet.

  25. Allie

    At last!
    I’m so glad I stumbled across this post. I am sixteen (going on seventeen) and I’ve decided after never living outside the state I was born in, I’m going to travel. Most among me consider me a genius of sorts, and are completely taken off guard by the fact that I don’t want to be a CEO or a doctor. When I tell people my general plan they usually have varying degrees of the reactions you listed above. I find it strange that I have been told my entire life to think outside the box, when in reality people want to keep everyone in it. Well…I don’t think I’ve ever even found the box. If anyone else finds it let me know.

    I’m planning on going to college first. Paying with a mixture of working and scholarships, I hope to get a degree debt free. During college I will do a few study abroad programs, and after I will really determine where I will be going and what my income will be. Some of my goals include teaching English as a foreign language for a while, and dropping myself in a country where I don’t know a word of the language and see how much i can learn in a year.

    I think life is about learning, experiencing, and comprehending, not about the paychecks and the big house in the suburbs and the husband and the kids. Maybe someday I’ll want some of that sort of life, but until then I want to search for every possible nesting location. And hey, I know some people who didn’t go get their MD until they were fifty. When I’m in a hurry to grow up, people always tell me I’ve got plenty of time. Now I can make that comment backfire.

  26. Kammie

    Wow! I needed to hear that. I participated in a study abroad program in 2009 and I haven’t stopped traveling since. I had a really good job in South America last year and left it to return the U.S. and get a “real job”. I really regret it. I’ve been home for about 5 months and I’m making plans to go back to South America. My mom puts so much pressure on me to stay here, get a “good job”, and get married, but I notice that I am happier and at my greatest potential when I’m abroad. It’s a tough situation. I love my family, I do want my own family one day also, but I can’t deny that I am at my best when I’m abroad. I love it.

  27. Zara @ Backpack ME

    It’s funny how people will see you differently depending on the time you keep on travelling. I’ve been traveling full-time for almost 2 years now. It was supposed to be a 1 year thing (at least to begin with) so everyone thought: “OK, she’ll travel and stuff and then go back to normal life”. Then I started working online… and people would think “OK, that’s just to help out on the go, but then she’ll go back to a regular job”. But now that things have been going for a while, I think those that first saw me as crazy are actually rethinking that and understanding that, sometimes, you have a figure-things-out period and things can become sustainable after a while and, of course, tons of work. Just because you don’t have a regular 9-5 or work in different parts of the world or don’t have to wear a suit and go to an office, that does not make you a bum! And even if you’re actually not working on the go and just enjoying the fruits of your work, using the savings you worked for, that’s very legit too.

    For anyone feeling like others think they’re crazy or plain bums for wanting to travel, I’d say: if you are doing it with your own money, you are free to do whatever you feel like with your like and there’s nothing to feel bad about. Most comments come out of pure jealousy because people are frustrated with their lives and might have not had the balls to make a move or change.. so deep down they actually admire (and envy) those that have the guts to try new things out and go after what they want!

  28. Searra

    Hi Earl,
    I stumbled upon your site while researching ‘how to make my money last while traveling,’ something it seems you are quite used to doing, and have been inspired by several of your posts and comments. I have not yet been outside North America, but have always harbored the nomadic desires that seem to be a-typical in the grand scheme. Moves I have made in the past were motivated by a desire to travel but have always been dependent upon jobs I was able to secure with my education and experience. I am originally from Ohio, accepted an AmeriCorps position in Alaska to see the Northern Lights (check!), a grizzly up close and in the wild (a surprise, but check!), and the commercial fishing scene that is so very famous (deckhand on a boat without experience, check!), amongst many other unforgettable experiences and relationships. I used my fishing money to hike several weeks on the PCT, then after a while settled in Seattle to satisfy (in the end, deny) feelings of separation from a career path. I worked jobs I didn’t care about while looking for better and realized, yes I do enjoy work at work if it is meaningful, what I cannot enjoy however is hunkering down into settlement–especially working entry level jobs for years on end to possibly move up when red tape loosens its grip on us all in a society that has its priorities amiss and breeds a culture of ignorance and avoidance of the past (rambles).
    The work holiday visa opportunities in Australia and New Zealand are in my five year plan. But before reading this article and above comment regarding loans (I thought, too, if I could only just pay these off first..), I could not visualize that my first big step should be in my two year plan!!!!!! Reassurance that my WILL can get me there, and that the power my determination holds is far greater than the negative pressures and fears I hear almost daily… I want to say thank you for that!
    I am back on the horse!! I just moved to Utah this week for a wilderness therapy program for adolescents because I needed the sun again!!!, and although I am beyond ecstatic for this opportunity, the push I can now visualize for myself in getting off the rock sooner rather than later will get me through anything I face until that savings account reaches BUST!

  29. Searra

    Hi Earl,
    I stumbled upon your site while researching ‘how to make my money last while traveling,’ something it seems you are quite used to doing, and have been inspired by several of your posts and comments. I have not yet been outside North America, but have always harbored the nomadic desires that seem to be a-typical in the grand scheme. Moves I have made in the past were motivated by a desire to travel but have always been dependent upon jobs I was able to secure with my education and experience. I am originally from Ohio, accepted an AmeriCorps position in Alaska to see the Northern Lights (check!), a grizzly up close and in the wild (a surprise, but check!), and the commercial fishing scene that is so very famous (deckhand on a boat without experience, check!), amongst many other unforgettable experiences and relationships. I used my fishing money to hike several weeks on the PCT, then after a while settled in Seattle to satisfy (in the end, deny) feelings of separation from a career path. I worked jobs I didn’t care about while looking for better and realized, yes I do enjoy work at work if it is meaningful, what I cannot enjoy however is hunkering down into settlement–especially working entry level jobs for years on end to possibly move up when red tape loosens its grip on us all in a society that has its priorities amiss and breeds a culture of ignorance and avoidance of the past (rambles).
    The work holiday visa opportunities in Australia and New Zealand are in my five year plan. But before reading this article and above comment regarding loans (I thought, too, if I could only just pay these off first..), I could not visualize that my first big step should be in my two year plan!!!!!! Reassurance that my WILL can get me there, and that the power my determination holds is far greater than the negative pressures and fears I hear almost daily… I want to say thank you for that!
    I am back on the horse!! I just moved to Utah this week for a wilderness therapy program for adolescents because I needed the sun again!!!, and although I am beyond ecstatic for this opportunity, the push I can now visualize for myself in getting off the rock sooner rather than later will get me through anything I face until that savings account reaches BUST!

  30. Pingback: 21 Insights from Online Authorities on Designing the Lifestyle YOU Desire - BeWicked

  31. Jacqueline

    I’ve read a million blogs but your blog is one of my favorites. I’ve traveled solo for awhile but I’ve never given serious consideration to long-term travel until lately. I’m almost 23. It’s funny that it turned out that way. I had my life mapped but things happened and the world has changed dramatically within the past 8-10 years. I wish that I can get up and go but there’s that school debt that’s chaining me down.

    But I’m happier and I just realize that when I read this post. I do care about finding work and a bunch of million things but I don’t care about having a traditional life with the grad school, mortgage, spouse and kids. Not that they’re bad things but I don’t want to have them just for the sake of completing such metaphorical check list. I want to see the world and experience it rather than just day-dream about it. It might take 5-6 years but I hope that I will be able to take a journey of my own one day.

    I don’t see myself ever becoming a permanent nomad but kudos to you!! You truly know what you want in life and you have the guts to make it work.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Jacqueline – That’s so nice of you to say and I really appreciate that kind of feedback 🙂 And do know that even with debt, there are opportunities to travel and pay it off at the same time. Just take the working holiday visas for Australia or New Zealand, each of which allows you to live there for 1 year and legally work in any job you want. I have friends who did this in Australia, got a good job and managed to pay off debt while experience that country at the same time. There are always options!

  32. Passport Dave

    Hey Earl,
    I find myself reading this post like once a month lately. This post reminds us that it is our life and we should not be living it for anyone else. It can be hard when most people don’t agree with you. The only real positive reaction I have had is an old friend interested in joining up with me for a few months after he gets out of the military himself. However, it has definitely not been the normal response, not by a long shot. I have yet to jump on a plane across the globe but I continue to think about it every day. Currently I have made my travel plans dependent on a single future event(a guaranteed income event). With every passing day though, I am tempted to jump a plane with no money (and rid myself of a near future permanent income) just because it would almost be worth it. Then I remember, if I can wait it out, travel income will never be a problem for me. It is articles like this that keep me focused and I am grateful for that. Great writing Earl!

  33. Andy Krainak

    At an interesting point in my life right now, in a month from now my contract teaching basketball in Beijing will be up. Friends and family are telling me to come home. I want to pack up my bag and for the first time in my life really hit the road, starting with China and then this infamous India I keep hearing about. We’ll see what happens, cheers.

  34. Serge

    Hi, Earl. Amazing post and comments I’ve read just now! Thank you.
    Livetime travel is just what I’m dreaming about, but first should start with longest trip in my life. What a crazy thing you’ve done with me!!! Now I want to be selfish and going to go deep into your blog to discover all travel secrets !:)

    Anyway, wish you the best time on earth.

  35. Niels Bogeskov-Jensen

    Dear Earl
    Naturally the people around you a disappointed when you decide to travel permanently.
    I sit “at the other end”. I’m definitely a permanent resident as is. I live in a town next to a city. I have relatives, friends and workmates around me and stay continually connected. We have birthday parties, long evening gatherings, brunches and lunches together. We go for walks, we take little trips to see new places. All the family things you know from your past life and childhood.
    I think of your relatives and relations in my place. Having you travel permanently is in a way loosing you. Seeing you and interacting with you will be more scares. This is a loss. One has a child, one gets a friend not to lose them, but to have them and cherish them. So when you leave, I lose something in my life that I wish to have.
    The perspective is also that of control. If one becomes too attached one is tempted to exercise control. You leaving makes me totally lose control of you. Since I obviously know what is better for you, I’m annoyed by your own control. You are becoming independent of me, and I’m seemingly not necessary to you. I think these are some of the issues of those “left behind”.
    The problem for those left behind is that we tend to forget, that we don’t own each other. Even though you may be my child, my brother, my lover og my friend, I do only have you in my life for as long as you are there. No longer. I can not extend that period of time, and though I would like to, I’m not in control of that. When we live in permanent places it is easy to mistake physical presence with emotional possession.
    I think some people travel to avoid impossible emotional bindings from those around. Good and healthy emotional bindings are easily stretched over distance and time. Unhealthy ones are strained even over shorter time and distances.
    But I still would like my loved ones to be close to me to touch and to look in the eye.
    Have a great trip!

  36. Flo

    Hi Earl,

    just discovered your blog by chance. And I´m really happy I did.

    I´m 24 and from Germany. I came home 4 month ago after a 32 month trip. I spent almost 2 years in Australia living in a van and after that 9 month in Asia.
    And I never, never ever felt any better in my life. Actually I was a really depressed person before I left (for a couple of years actually) and this stopped the very day I left Germany. Now I´m back again and it´s all creeping up on me again. I knew that would happen. I really have the feeling that I´m not the same person I used to be while travelling…my soul is still sitting at Kathmandu Airport…

    I guess I´m not really made for this kind of society here and the weather sucks big time 🙁

    I´m thinking about that life-long travel thing constantly and I even think I could do it (have to find ways to fund it, though). I´m really impressed by the thing you´re doing and I wished so much that I could do that, too. But I´m too confused I guess. I think I already started seeing myself as a kind of bum (my mother is really supportive, though). I´m constantly thinking about “starting a carreer” and going to uni, ect. but I don´t know if I have the strenght, because all I really, really want (deep inside my heart) is to explore this (still) beautiful planet and make the most out of the time that has been given me.

    But I´m always worried about what will happen if I can´t travel anymore one day for any reason! No safety net then? Will I be a “real bum” , then?

    All these things are floating around in my head constantly and have been for so long. I think I´m just not brave enough to just pull it off…

    What about relationships? Is it possible to keep up friendships and actually get to see the friends and family? And what about a girlfriend?

    I love mine and I wouldn´t want to leave her…but still…the longing for this freedom I find in travelling is kind of pulling me away again…

    Wanted to start Uni know…doesn´t work out…
    But I guess that´s fortunate. I will book my flight to India next week, which will give me 4 month of freedom again.

    Thank you so much for this entry in your blog!
    Have a good trip 🙂

    Quite a personal thing I´ve written up there…but it had to be said…

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Flo – I appreciate the comment and you sharing your current situation. And after reading it, all I can say is that the questions you asked, are definitely not questions that should stop you from achieving your goals. No safety net? Who says you can’t earn/save money while traveling? No relationships? I’ve been on the road for 13 years and I have maintained almost all of my close friendships and I have remained very close with all of my family. As for a girlfriend? You just have to decide what is more important to you…your relationship or your other plans in life. I don’t know what the answer is of course for you, but you do have options and it doesn’t have to be as frightening as it may appear!

      Enjoy India for now!

  37. Raz

    Maaan… right on!

    Let me tell you that the “social pressure” created against my lifestyle is the hardest thing to overcome, by myself at least. Making a living on the road is nothing compared to this.
    Not once, but allmost everytime I am in the position of explaining my life and my goals, and more over when I get into some meaningfull relationships along the road I get tons of it

    It is negative, it is tough, it is argumented, it is in my face, it is logical and it is coming from tenths of mouths … but it’s not stronger than my will to travel.

    As you say, when I find myself completely confused, actually attacked by tons of arguments and “normalities”, becominf smaller amd smaller I still have in my heart somewhere deep hidden that memory, that feeling of what traveling brings that doesn’t let me give up and… each time I push my guts one more time and get back on the road aaah… I get my confidence back in one second! Nothing compares to it, nothing!

    Last time I got tied up in Middle East 4 month and really though I am losing my mind completely, I managed to leave with un-imaginable effort but the moment I was on the bus from the airport terminal to the airplane… it all dosappeared in an instant, a warmth came all over my body and honestly allmost tears in my eyes… I had done it again, I’m back home, I’m on the road!

    Thanks for the clarity and the inspiration!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Raz – That’s about as perfect a description as I’ve ever read about the internal battle that is constantly taking place as a result of outside influences. We are our own worst critic and with this lifestyle, it is natural that we are constantly questioning every move we make and every decision that we face. But I’m the same as you…despite those difficult challenging moments when I’m really feeling the pressure, all it takes is one minute at the airport, or crossing the border to a new country or meeting a new person and suddenly, I remember how much I love this lifestyle and how much I’m willing to do in order to maintain it.

  38. kle

    Hi Earl! i am unforgivable! i’ve been planning my rtw trip since august, read a million blogs and DIDN’T FIND U BEFORE?? what a shame!
    Well, i still have 2 weeks before i go!
    You just became my personal hero really. Not joking. My entire life has been about travelling, and wanting to see the world. Everyone thinks im nuts or irresponsible and that, at 35, i should be thinking about marrying and having babies, not quit my well paid job to spend all my savings on “holiday”.
    I just know that i get the “famous” smile as soon as i think about taking a train, a bus or even a horse to get somewhere new! And on the back of my mind, my dream has always been what you actually do…travelling indefinately. I know, not everybody can do that, ad for the moment i’m settling for around 1 year in South East Asia…:)

    My friends were all happy, some of them think i’m crazy but they already thought it even without the trip…
    My family is not happy at all, now they are trying to accept it, hoping that after the trip i will be satyisfied enough to stay still for at least a couple of years.
    We will see!
    I have a huge respect for what you did. Because i think i know bit the sacrifices it took to be faithful to your choices.
    I have just one question for you….My parents and relative tell me all sort of things, but i don’t care much about their criticism, the only thing that bothers me a bit is te age thing. Sometimes i ask myself if at 35, almost 36 i am really too old to fool myself ad start over again?
    Thanks for reading my “poem” and thanks in advance for your time!
    Cheers from Italy

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey kle – You have been forgiven and I welcome you to the site 🙂 And you’re definitely not nuts and I think everyone will realize that once you’re out there achieving your goals in life and they are still back at home!

      As for your question, you are not too old at all and you will find people of all ages out there traveling, whether they are on the road for a few months, a few years or even longer. And you don’t know where this traveling will lead you…opportunities will open up and you’ll meet new people and chances are your path is going to end up taking you places that you could never imagine right now. And as long as you stay determined, those places are going to be wonderful!

  39. Andre

    Hello Earl, I just found your blog and let me tell you, you have inspired me even more to go on a trip around the world. I’ve been planning upwards for a half a year now, gathering supplies and stuff. I’m currently in my mid 20’s and my family seems to always pull me back to “reality”, as they call it. They keep telling me pretty much the same things you just pointed out!There always seems to another question that I don’t have the answer to. What insurance so you use, most of them are quite high. And how do you stay afloat in your travels?

  40. Patrick

    Hey Earl! Just discovering your blog. Am in my mid-20’s, live in NYC and have a “good” job, but not feeling very… Fulfilled. Your blog is giving me the encouragement I need to go after what I want, and this post really hit home. Thanks and keep up the great work!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Thanks for that Patrick and welcome to the site! I’ll be curious to see what lies in store for you in the near future….and if you have any questions about anything you read, just let me know! Good luck in NYC for the time being…

  41. Chad

    Hey Earl, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed all your posts I have read thus far. I just graduated college in May ’12 and am bartending for now to fund my south East Asian tour in July before I settle down in that “real job” environment which truthfully I don’t care to do but those college loans are constantly digging at me as well as my family trying to discourage my trip plan which I am currently paying no mind to. I Previously visited Buenos Aries in ’12 for one month and did not want to leave and I have a feeling that is going the case with Asia. Your posts are very informative and interesting and hopefully I would be able to somehow extend that two way ticket haha
    Keep doing what you are doing!!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Chad – I have no doubt, just from reading your comment, that your upcoming Asia trip might not be enough traveling for you! But that’s perfectly okay of course…there is no shortage of ways to create a lifestyle out of travel. If you ever have any questions before your trip, please don’t hesitate to let me know and I’ll help out as best I can!

  42. Paul

    I am 58, my wife is 60 and since I was 17 I have been a “bum”. always callled it and I didn’t even go to university! Still travelling after all these years…no plan to stop either

  43. Alex

    This post is definitely what I needed right now. It’s so nice to know I’m not alone!

    Travel has been something I’ve always wanted, and always managed to incorporate into my life somehow by scrimping and saving. On my first “big” trip (a month to Thailand two years ago), everyone seemed really supportive and excited. Then I got my TEFL certificate early last year, and I’ve spent the past year abroad. I went home for a month to less-than-enthused faces, none of whom wanted to really hear about my year. I am now back in Europe, scared witless, about to teach again.

    I love my life, and I’ve never been scared before. It’s strange, like you I thought the people around me would be happy that this is how I spend my life (just as I am supportive of how they’re happy with theirs) and that I have a job to boot, but everyone has been so negative. “You’re leaving AGAIN?” and “what are you actually going to do/when are you going to get a life/boyfriend/house” and so forth. Part of me was starting to agree with them.

    Reading this has re-inspired me to make the most of my new travel time, and to throw myself into my new job/country this week. So thank you.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Alex – It’s easy to start believing the negative reactions but if you stay true to the lifestyle that you really desire, things will unfold in their own way and you’ll enjoy an adventure that is bound to fill you with happiness and rewards. My theory is that marriage/house and things such as that might happen at some point but there’s no reason for me to rearrange my life. Keep doing what you love and you never know who you’ll meet or where you’ll end up in the end!

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