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

  1. Hernan

    After read your blog I decided to travel with my cousin and go to Brazil. I had a brain surgery in april, the doctor said I had 50/50, 50 percent of probability to get well and 50 percent of probability of going down and die. All I hear from my family is “you can´t go, you´ll better wait, get a job, work hard and in a few years you maybe can go”. I think I can´t wait anymore. Maybe in a few years I´ll be gone and not precisely to Brazil. Its my responsibility to do what I think is the best for me. I know I have to take care but this is what I want to do. If I don´t do it, if I don´t go, I´ll be regret all my life and maybe live with a ” what If” for the rest of my life. Thank you Earl, you inspired me to go ahead.

    1. Earl

      Hey Hernan – Thank you for the comment and I agree, you certainly don’t want to have a long list of regrets in life, especially when you are able to achieve your goals. I look forward to hearing about your trip to Brazil!

  2. Sunni

    This is exactly what i needed to read today. After a few years of always putting travelling off i decided that next year I am going to South Africa to do something that i love and is close to my heart and work with orphaned Wildlife on a game reserve. I also naively expected my family and friends to be happy for me but everyone I’ve told have been disaproving which has made me question my decision. I agree that the timing isn’t necessarly right as i’ve just landed a good job but i think getting this job has really made me think. I don’t want to wake up in 10 years time with regrets. I feel like everyone is just focused on having a job and earning money, but what is the point of this when you can’t do something you love, take a risk and a leap of faith and make some amazing memories that you can cherish forever. Its one of those situations where my head tells me not to go and to stop living in a dream where my heart tells me to go and not look back. Question is do i follow my head or my heart.

    1. Earl

      Hey Sunni – That is the question but I’m sure you know what my answer would be 🙂 In the end, I also use the regret test with everything. If I determine that I will regret not having done something that I really want to do, then I make sure that I accomplish that goal. Heart wins out every time!

  3. kathy

    I struggled with myself for years. Growing up in South Africa and moving to the US with my family at 18, I found I was never truly settled and when I started traveling for the first time after Uni, I realized how much there was to see. At first I traveled by doing things like going to teach ESL in Korea. Then I would go on a trip for a couple of months that involved work… Always trying to find a reason for others why I was doing it then. Last year I spent 1yr traveling and made it to 9 countries (www.trailingtrekker.wordpress.com) . Being 34 at the time many people thought it was time I grew up, including my dad. But then he was the first one to bug me for photos and blog entries. Now my family is supportive, especially my mom who has MS (a reason that makes me struggle everyday with my travel decision as I feel guilty for not being there – but she knows I am happy on the road).
    I had planned to marry and settle but when things fell through in a rather dramatic fashion, I said screw it and am now in Korea and then off to Thailand and possibly a cruise ship gig after that. But I still find myself needing to find an excuse for people, “no I am not going on vacation I had my heart ripped out and need some time to rethink things, I will also being doing my divemaster and volunteering and I may have writing gig”. Things like that, always trying to justify why. It gets exhausting!

    1. Earl

      Hey Kathy – It does get exhausting, I know how that goes. But hopefully at some point, those around you won’t need to hear such justifications and will begin to realize that this is your life and your living it exactly how you want to be living it right now. I’m sure it will happen but some people take longer than others to come around. In the meantime, enjoy Korea and Thailand, which I’m sure you are doing!

  4. Sam

    I’m very lucky in that I’ve not had anyone I care about (friends, family) tell me things like this when I talk about my life choices regarding work and travel, but for those who have, I’m so glad there’s someone like you out here, blogging about it and providing support. Thanks, as always, Earl, for the great work you do here!

    1. Earl

      Hey Sam – That’s great to hear that your decisions were met with such positive reactions. Hopefully, as more and more people begin to travel, this will become more common!

  5. Max

    Hello Earl and good on you to pursue what you like to do but…just a question:

    How can you support yourself?

    Thanks and good luck!

      1. Max

        Amazing Earl!

        I still need to read all that with more attention and will do tonight, but since I also am trying to do as you did and I also started with affiliate marketing stuff…can you share with me (either here or via email) the titles, prices and subjects of your eBooks?

        Cheers and good luck again man!

  6. travelFREAK

    My mother was incredibly supportive when I told her my plans to go traveling. She was so happy for me undertake this journey because it was my grandmother’s desire for her grandchildren to become citizens of the world.

  7. Addison S. @ Visa Hunter

    Great post Earl, I feel your sentiments exactly. Being a so called ‘bum’ myself, I have regularly answered questions, such as: where will you stay?, how will you afford to live?, and, can you speak the language? My advice for those thinking of traveling is to get out and explore. Although challenges do exist, it is not as difficult as you first think.

    1. Earl

      Hey Addison – There are definitely challenges, but when compared to the challenge of going through life unhappy while letting our goals slip away, getting out there into the world is much easier in my opinion!

  8. judd

    hey earl !!

    well mate i went to southeast asia in 2011 for a year and i had the best time ever, im planning on changing my life for good and looking to save 5-6k to start again, but this time my family and friends are saying well judd you have done it and you might end up alone and lonely! they think its time i settle for 9 to 5. all i do is dream of living in southeast asia haha. when i travelled i relised when i got back to london that i changed, every1 wanted more money and every1 was so rude and selfish to other! I want to teach english around thailand boreo ect but i have no pappers????? what u think bro

    1. Earl

      Hey Judd – What kind of papers are you talking about? Once you get hired to teach English somewhere, the school/organization will organize the working visa for you, so you just need to concentrate on applying and getting that job! Check out eslcafe.com and you’ll find plenty of opportunities.

      1. judd

        haha sorry bro i ment i have no papers to teach. I have been looking at the TEFL/TESOL courses and they cost! are they needed?

        1. Earl

          Hey Judd – No, such papers are not necessary. I bet if you went to EslCafe.com right now an started applying for English teaching jobs in Southeast Asia, you’d have a position lined up by the end of the week.

          1. Earl

            Hey Max – For native English speakers, you just need a degree, any degree whatsoever, and you can get a teaching job in Asia.

  9. Daniel McBane - Funny Travel Stories

    I’ve found that if I just stop communicating with people who criticize me or the way I live my life one of two things happens. Either they eventually come around or at east stop pointing out what I’m doing wrong, even if they still don’t agree with me; or I never hear from them again. Both are good outcomes.

  10. Christy

    Oh I just adored this article. Well done! I’m leaving in the spring to travel indefinitely, and there have been a couple of interesting instances of negativity, but for the most part everyone is really positive. Probably because everyone who has been in my life for a long time knows I’m a traveler. After working Cruise ships for five years (11 contracts, 10 ships – HAL & Princess) I’ve spent the past five years working a corporate job and I bet that has surprised everyone more than my wandering. Still, it’s always a gut-check when we do encounter the negative feedback, despite everything we know and value. I think it’s a good thing. It reminds us to re-prioritize and analyze why we do what we do, and question if it’s time to do something else… A very artistic process, don’t you think?

    1. Earl

      Hey Christy – I agree as I always think it’s important to re-prioritize often, to constantly evaluate where we’re heading in life and whether or not it is where we really want to be. And the negative feedback certainly does force us to think through our decisions quite thoroughly and to make sure that we are heading in the right direction!

  11. Someday I'll Be There - Mina

    I love it when I get posts that I need to read at the exact timings! I am currently shaping that decision in my head and it is so true, I am not getting any support from family or friends, except for the one or two who occasionally say it’s cool, but wouldn’t do it themselves and give me a 100 reasons not to do it 😀

    Thanks Earl!

    1. Earl

      Hey Mina – Well, I’m quite confident that eventually, those same friends will start talking about the 100 reasons why they wished they had followed in your footsteps!

  12. Liz

    I haven’t checked your blog in awhile, and today and I do and this is your most recent post. Like others, this post could not have come at a more fitting time in my life. Earlier this year (and also about 6 years ago) I had plans to move abroad and become certified to teach English as a way of income and to let it take me wherever it may! For “logical” reasons, I changed my plans again (like I did 6 years ago) and this time, I somehow went in the complete opposite direction in a matter of months….meaning, I bought a house!!! Ugh. How this happened, I almost don’t even know. I never aspired to own a house, at least not as a single person. I did feel some pressure to “move forward” in life, as the American culture puts it out there. I was never really excited about it, not like I was about my abroad plans. So here I am, a few months later and still quite miserable. I have asked myself several times, “What is wrong with you?! You have a job, you own a house, a car!” This is the “American Dream”, no? I’ve wondered many times, am I just that ungrateful?? How come I can’t be happy with what I have? For the most part, my family has been quite supportive, actually, so I really don’t get negative comments from them. I’ve gone my way before, several times, and they just say, “There goes Liz again!”, for which I am very grateful. It’s my closest friends, though, that make me feel like I’m running away from something or not being realistic. That, to me, is especially said. My closest friends, the ones who are supposed to “get me” just don’t get it. Their lives, like all my family’s lives, have gone so completely different than mine. They are all on their 9 and 10 year anniversaries of marriage with kid number 2 or 3 on the way. Not so, here. And so, I’ve realized that it’s OK that my life doesn’t fit the “mold” or the standard of what others think it should be. It’s OK that I want to explore and try new things and pursue dreams I’ve had for years but have yet to follow through with. And so, I’m back to studying for my English teaching certification and am looking into selling or renting my house. I hope to be on my way as soon as possible. It’s nice to know that I am not alone.

    1. Earl

      Hey Liz – You’re definitely not alone! And I’d imagine that this time around, you’ll go for it and start traveling/living overseas now that you’ve realized that it is perfectly okay for you to live your own unique life!

  13. Xavier

    It’s funny, because when I decided to tell my friend and family about my plan to sell everything and start travelling for some year, I was expecting some to react on the negative side.
    I had read so many blogs where people were saying that their relatives were taking them for fools that it had to happened to me as well.
    But it was quite the opposite.
    After the initial shock of deciding to leave a 33 years old, everybody was supportive, even envious of what I was doing to do.
    Or maybe it was because I was older when I decided that or maybe it is because I’m from Europe.
    Where were the last people writing you about their problems?

    1. Earl

      Hey Xavier – Some people do have a more supportive, open-minded group of friends and family, so not everyone faces the same negativity (luckily!). The people who have commented about negative reactions are from all over – the US, Canada, Europe, Australia. With that said, I’m sure that some regions are more accepting of long-term travel than others!

  14. I'm Also Earl

    I never went to college, and never could find a good job. In that I followed the footsteps of most of my paternal family and friends who were all poor hillbillies from Appalachia. Once the mines and factories closed, so did our hopes for any kind of stable life. So I had no “prestige” to loose. Fine by me! And in actuality, whenever I do (rarely) find my way back “home” I have more “prestige” than ever because I’ve been to places and experienced things that others my area couldn’t even dream of.

    Obviously this life ain’t for everyone, and it couldn’t be. After all, someone has to grow the food we eat, make the clothes we wear, and fly the planes! Nomads are no good for that.

    Earl, I’ve noticed a conspicuous absence of Central Asia and East Asia from your travels. Any particular reason for that? For me, these are by far the best places in the world, though their relative physical isolation (S. Korea and Japan only by plane, Central Asia landlocked on the other side of Russia and China) makes getting there a bit more work. I’m also surprised you haven’t tried travel to N. Korea, which is available through a lot of agencies (like Koryo) and actually quite an adventure!

    Also, what do you recommend for people who have the travel bug and want to become global nomads but are tied down by spouses, children, etc.?

    Great blog brother!

    1. Earl

      @I’m Also Earl: Well, North Korea doesn’t interest me that much as I don’t really want to take a bus tour that gives me only a very restricted view of the country. I would love to visit Central Asia and do plan to get there within the next year. China doesn’t really interest me much, but Japan and South Korea are also countries I want to visit relatively soon…no real reason why I haven’t been to them yet!

      As for being tied down with family, it all depends on whether or not the rest of the family shares that same travel bug. If not, then you simply need to work out a plan that allows you to fulfill your family responsibilities while having some time to travel each year as well. But if everyone is interested in travel, there are certainly plenty of examples of whole families who are out there in the world, traveling together!

      1. I'm Also Earl

        Hey Earl, Thanks for the reply. Really great that you reply to all the comments! There are various tours and set ups available in N. Korea now. You’ll find it’s pretty open. There’s even an option to go in for cycling now! You visited Myanmar right? I mean back when it was closed? It’s not much different IMHO.

        You’ve got to check out Korea and Japan though. And if and when you do, two places that aren’t on the radar but are some of the best those countries have to offer are Jinju (go to the HUGE open university and you’ll meet lots of people who want to practice English and take you around) and Koji Island in Korea and Fukuoka and surrounding areas in Japan.

  15. Ava Apollo

    Wow, I was really lucky. Everyone supported me. But then again, the people close to me know that I make decisions and there’s nothing they can say or do to change my mind. I would say anyone who is getting negative feedback is probably getting it from people who are too scared or narrow-minded to take a leap of faith. It’s my third day of my nomadic journey and I hope more than anything that this will be the rest of my life.

  16. Greg

    Having recently booked my flight for my first overseas journey, I’ve been told by many friends and relatives that “you’re wasting your time and money” or to “buy a car, give up this fantasy that you seem to live in.” Though, I finally realized that my lifestyle and theirs are not the same. I’ve always lived in a modern nomadic sense. I don’t stay places too long. I look forward to the terrifying and amazing adventure of seeing new things.

    The idea of staying in one place for my life is as foreign to me as my desire to move around continuously is foreign to someone that doesn’t like to travel.

    1. Dyanne@TravelnLass

      Good grief – can’t resist, Greg:

      “buy a car…” Yeah, now THAT’s a great “investment”. Depreciates by 50% the moment you drive it off the lot – compared to… incredible memories from your travels that: Neither rust nor depreciate, and can never be taken from thee.

      Oh and yeah, and I mean who’d want to live a “fantasy”, anyway? Surely only crazy people. 😉

  17. Kelsey

    Thank you for writing this!

    I am constantly under fire from those back at home about my decisions to study abroad again and what I will do after I graduate this December and it’s really quite taxing.
    Back home, a girl my age is supposed to be meeting the “man of her dreams” and finishing college soon with interviews lined up and ready to move into a house. That just isn’t me right now, and it literally quite frightens me.
    The only future I can picture myself in is traveling to my hearts content and maybe settling down in a foreign country, but as soon as I tell others (friends and family) this wish of mine I am greeted with judging looks and the constant “Man, you must really hate your home!” which is extremely frustrating.

    But then I sort of feel bad for those who say those comments or who are not understanding because I can guarantee you 99% of the time, the person who is saying that to you is someone who hasn’t done a lot of traveling and who’s eyes haven’t been opened by other cultures in an enlightening way. When I think of it that way, I love to sit and talk with that person about what great experiences I’ve had and really try and show them that traveling for many of us isn’t just a hobby, it’s a way of life and a rewarding one at that!

    Next time someone gives you a disappointing look or judgemental comment, show them that picture of you skydiving or on top of a mountain and ask if they want to join next time! 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Kelsey – That’s a very smart way to deal with the negative reactions. If your friends/family can even understand a small fraction of what makes you so passionate about travel, then surely they will begin to understand your decision to explore more of this world. That certainly is excellent advice you shared!

  18. Amber

    I’ve been kinda bummed and feeling sorry for myself because someone who is close to me told me my constant desire to travel is “silly” and “impractical” earlier this week. Thanks for writing this and helping me snap out of it 🙂

  19. Andy

    “Hey you! Yes, you! Citizen #3457666! Shut up and don’t you dare step out of line! Our Dear Leader does not approve of free-thinking individuals! Now drop that backpack and off to your cubicle! GET IN LINE!!! Work hard and pay your taxes! Consume! Consume some more!! Praise our Dear Leader!!! Travel is poison invented by the decadent imperialists who want to undermine the foundation of our Great Society!”

    People who want to squash your dreams are usually envious small-thinkers. Don’t let them hold you back.

    All I can say is: it’s YOUR life and in the end it’s about what YOU want to do with it.

    At least most of you reading this have the opportunity of travel. Many people on this planet do not, be it for economic, social or political reasons.

  20. Expat

    Ok, I had to react when I saw the posts of this kind “What do they know, fuck all, I’m fine with my nomad blogging oyster picker career”.

    Has none of you considered a regular expat job ? Or traveling job ? For instance, Earl worked on a cruise ship, this is nothing out of ordinary, that is stable and doesn’t scare off the family.

    I work in the shipping industry that makes me live abroad most of my time. Are people supportive with me ? Hell yeah they are, I have great opportunities of career. Money isn’t a problem either. It doesn’t look like a dead end.
    And do I happen to travel for pleasure ? All the friggin time, of course ! I live in places where people spend their holidays or go for their “one-in-a-lifetime” trip.

    Don’t try too hard, to have a living of travel is not necessarily something incredibly bold and out of ordinary. You don’t have to be super edgy to work while traveling nor doing some insecure job that frightens – generally genuinely and for very relevant reasons – most of your relatives.
    Not that it’s a bad thing to do so, but please don’t brag about it like it’s the only way to travel for a living.

    Get some humility, for god’s sake !

    Very inspiring post, though, Earl ! Nobody shall shoot down your dreams because they just don’t know how to achieve it.

    1. Earl

      @Expat – Good points about the opportunities to get a regular expat job. And I think that many people do end up doing just that, but usually after a period of traveling around on their own trying to figure out how to proceed. After this initial period, for those who decide that living overseas is what they truly want, they will often start exploring the options they have to earn good money without having to go home, which of course includes more stable jobs.

      But this is also why I always recommend working on a cruise ship as a way to start one’s ‘nomadic’ lifestyle. It is indeed stable, earns you good money and few of our family/friends will having anything negative to say.

  21. Dyanne@TravelnLass

    “They’ll tell you to stop being selfish…”

    For the life of me, will somebody please kindly tell me what is so “selfish” about following your own dreams? Seriously. What’s with that???

    After all, this surely ain’t no dress rehearsal folks, and life’s waaay too short to live even a single day of yours, according to somebody ELSE’s prescription.

    Now blank stares? Yep, I get it. Indeed, I get a LOT of them. g-knows most every one of my friends and loved ones – though all very supportive, some even a tad jealous – no doubt secretly think I’m just a smidge bonkers. Surely at least one screw loose, to sell every blessed thing and buy a one way ticket to Vietnam. I understand. Shoot, at first even *I* feared I might be headed for the looney bin.

    Ah but nearly a year later? Uh, only THE.VERY.BEST.THING.I.EVER.DID.

    1. Earl

      Hey Dyanne – And that conclusion is the one that almost everyone reaches once they do take that step towards the life they really want to live!

  22. jake

    great post earl! u are so correct. it never surprises me how negative people can be. i agree with some of these other posts. some of these negative opinions come about because friends or family may not understand your decision. either that or could be jealousy. these people are jealous because we make a decision and stand by that decision and have the confidence to leave our comfort zone.
    fortunately i was never met with any criticism. i guess my family is surprisingly open-minded. and it works out well. i get to see the world.. and certianly make better salary than i would back in north america.

  23. Will Jackson - The Bearded Wanderer

    I had the opposite experience. My family, friends, work colleagues… everyone was totally supportive of me going travelling. It made me worry they just wanted to get rid of me. Jokes.

    But seriously, the only person who has questioned whether it has been a good idea for me to take all of my savings and go travel for an indefinite amount of time with no particular plan or even itinerary has been me.

    I guess I’m just lucky in that sense.

    1. Earl

      Hey Will – That’s great to hear that you had all that support from the start! It certainly makes a huge difference, apart from wondering whether or not your family, friends and colleagues threw a massive party the day after you left 🙂

  24. Claire | Traveling Light

    I feel you, Earl. And congratulations for still going ahead and living a life on your own terms!

    I’ve had a similar experience but I realized later on that the people close to me with strong objections are 1) just concerned of me 2) believe the old formula of success based on a job and just don’t see any other possibility. But once you show them that indeed, another kind of life is possible, then that’s when the support (albeit sometimes grudgingly) comes.

    Of course, there really are people who do not wish you well and are only thrilled to see you fail. These are the people I would steer clear from.

    1. Earl

      Hey Claire – Exactly! As a couple of others have commented, once they actually proved that they could turn their dreams into an actual lifestyle and that they were not in fact wasting their lives, the people close to them began to offer their support.

  25. Scott

    So why do your friends and family do it?

    One person commented that envy may be involved but I think that this is only a small part of the reason why you get so much push-back.
    Experiencing something so completely different to what you know and understand is a very difficult thing for people. The psychologists call it “cognitive dissonance”. Most people only see life through standard experiences. They see the typical Monday to Friday working day, with kids and a house in the suburbs as just the way it is. If you start to change one of these parameters, even something as simple as working on weekends or living in the city and people will start to find it difficult to comprehend.
    This difficulty to comprehend is frustrating and people often respond negatively in the form of envy, anger, stubbornness or some other reaction. Most people just cant comprehend a life outside of the one they imagine for themselves. Don’t be too concerned, its just how we are programmed (you and I have just figured out how to rewrite the program).
    I would imagine that your friends and family do have general concern for your well being and don’t think they are doing anything bad to you. This is because picturing you outside their own comfort zone is stressful. So they will give you advice that they think will bring you back to their area of comfort. But you know this isn’t where you want or should be.
    They are doing this because you are awesome and they care enough about you to want to help. The problem is that their help is not really well founded. Ask all the successful entrepreneurs or travelers who was intrinsic in giving them advice about doing what they wanted to do and they will tell you it wasn’t their friends or family it was the people doing it – people like Earl.
    Your friends and family are also going to miss you when you go because…that’s right… you’re awesome. They will naturally try and persuade you to spend more time with them too.
    Just remember, the push-back from you loved ones is probably because they love you. Show them a bit of compassion. This doesn’t mean you should listen to them. Listen to your mentors and the people who are already successfully doing what you want to do.

    1. Earl

      Hey Scott – I agree fully that there is usually no bad intentions from those who try to persuade us to ‘snap out of it’ and return to reality. These people do love us and want what’s best, but of course, their idea of what’s best is based on their own experiences. It all makes sense and I think you’re right in saying that we should understand their reasons for having such negative reactions. We don’t have to listen at all but they shouldn’t be treated as evil people trying to ruin our lives.

  26. M

    I love that you wrote about this, Earl. It doesn’t just apply to travel. If you try to do anything different these days, especially with the way the economy is going, people react with such disappointing negativity. I think the root is often jealousy, because they have forgotten that we are here very briefly on this earth and life is meant to be fun. The definition of fun is different for each person. If your version of fun falls outside the status quo way of doing things, then people get out the wet blankets. I wish everyone would just stop judging and let each other LIVE LIVES OF ADVENTURE! Or as Frida Kahlo said: “Viva la vida!”

  27. Ro

    Hahaha i was sat down by my family. They said, its time to stop traveling so i can live their hideous, sad, boring, pathetic life. This is me, my norm, im happy and i dont ask for any money. They always ask, where o you get your money? i joke around ro piss them off.. I say I am an international escort , assassin, or i have money tree in my backyard lololol! We travellers are living our life, not our dreams. We want to live while others just dream it…. Cheers all!

  28. Neelima V

    Great post Earl! Definitely will be helpful to all those struggling with decisions of long term travel. Once I just posted something on Facebook suggesting travel is all I want to do, and one comment from an angry old man just cracked me up. He went on and on about how I am selfish, self centered, where is the time for god and society and all that stuff. It is beyond me how having a boring life will be a sustainable source of happiness. I often wonder how people come to the conclusion that their way of life is the only way of life. Or may be one has to travel to know there are many ways of life! 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Neelima – That’s the thing, for most people who don’t leave their town/city/region, all they know is one general way of life. And when that’s the case, it is very difficult for them to understand or accept other lifestyles that they are not familiar with. But like you said, if they were to suddenly travel, chances are their minds would open up as well and they would want more out of their own life!

  29. Nadine

    It’s within the 5 top regrets of dying people… “I wish I had done what I wanted instead of what was expected of me”. I keep that thought in my heart all the time.

  30. MaryAnne

    I… I had no such problem with my decision to travel. When I first went away back in 1994 and 1995, I was a 19/20 year old university student on an island off the west coast of Canada which had been going through a recession for as long as I could remember. My whole family was there and had been there for generations. The jobs available to me at that time were minimum wage, seasonal, poorly paid. Not much point in staying. When I started working in the UK and South Africa for 3 years starting in 1997, my family applauded, as those opportunities didn’t exist back home. When I moved to Turkey to teach EFL in 2002, everyone was happy for me as well because, again, decent jobs back home= nope.

    Now, a decade later (and a decade’s worth of teaching in Turkey and China under my belt), I’ve travelled for about 30-40% of every year, am saving far more than I could even if I was a proper teacher back home, and although my family misses me (and I miss them), they know that the opportunities and adventures I have here (here being wherever I want to be, as I am geographically flexible) are far greater than any where I come from.

    Home is wonderful but it isn’t the be all and end all. The world is a big place.

    1. Earl

      Hey MaryAnne – Glad to hear you have the full support of everyone at home and I can see that in some cases, people would be happy and proud to see someone ‘get out’ of their town/city and find bigger opportunities elsewhere. Seemed to have worked quite well for you!

  31. Wends of Journeys and Travels

    i am confronted with this too and the last one was when I went on my holiday vacation and upon coming back, people were telling me I should forget travelling and this however, re-enforces the idea that travelling is life and no matter what other people call us or label us, we have fairly anchored ourselves on the inspirations we get on the road and the generosity we share through the stories we earned, bum or whatever label they have.

  32. Wade | VagabondJourney.com

    For sure, man. My parents had no clue what I was doing the for the first years I was traveling. “So, are you done with your vacation yet?” or “So, Wade, are yo ready to start your life?” they would say. Then I realized that they really just didn’t know what I was doing, they thought I was just sitting around on beaches checking out women and drinking beer or something. Well, I have to admit that there was plenty of that, but a lot more went into it. Oddly, it wasn’t until I started blogging full time that they started to realize and respect what I was doing. It’s an odd time we live in when a guy’s parents can be proud of him for being a blogger 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Wade – Ha, very true! And as I was reading your comment, I was nodding my head the whole time as that is the exact same thing that happened to me with my parents!

  33. RunAwayHippie

    Awesome post Earl! I plan to hit the road as soon as I finish high school (this June!). But its hard to stay focused on these dreams, when almost everyone I talk to says its a bad idea. Everyone at school is going off to college or university, and definitely voice their opinion that that is what I should be doing too. My parents think it is a terrible decision as well. I always show them your blog whenever they think i’m a crazy person! That being said, this post definitely helped me. Thanks a lot for writing about this. To know that you, and probably many other full time travelers, have had to deal with this, makes it a lot easier for me to deal with it!! 🙂

    1. Amanda

      It’s good to know someone my own age is contemplating this lifestyle too (I’m a freshman in college). I went on a month long backpacking journey around Europe by myself my summer after high school. Everyone said I was crazy, but now it’s all I think about. Even now, at college, I find myself thinking “Is this where I want to be right now?”
      Everyone tells me I’m too young to go and travel the world, that I should wait till I’m “older” and out of college. They tell me to slow down, cause I have plenty of time. But I say, if I keep waiting, and living this lifestyle, there’ll always be other roadblocks: grad school, debt, career, kids, etc.
      If we don’t make an effort to chase after our dreams, then they’ll disappear. You should just go for it, and do what makes you happy:)

    2. Earl

      @RunAwayHippie – Believe me, I’d say that most long-term travelers have had to face at least some negativity when they discussed their plans with their family and friends before finally taking the leap!

  34. Priyank

    Hi Earl,

    Very nicely articulated! Every now and then I get comments about getting my priorities wrong, wasting money on travel, studying art, choosing a wrong “lifestyle” and other nonsense just because it doesn’t fit some conventional template that the speaker is used to. Your long term travel is one of many non-typical ways of living that people pursue and I have tremendous respect for such social rebels.

    cheers, Priyank

  35. Gigi

    Hear, hear!

    I got pushback when I decided to be a writing major (what? You’ll never make money!), again when I started my business (what if you go under? Will you get enough clients?), again when I decided to travel full-time (crazy dreamer! How will your clients feel?), and again when I announced that I’d be traveling full-time with my dog (impossible!).

    Like you, I decided to ignore the nay-sayers (or take their push-back as a challenge, perhaps) and I’m decidedly happier for it.

    I hope your readers take encouragement from your journey (and maybe even this comment). Follow your dreams – be they travel, business, or something else altogether.

    1. Earl

      Hey Gigi – Your example provides plenty of inspiration in itself as it just shows what can happen when we don’t let anything stop us from going after our dreams. Everything is possible as they say but only if we ignore the negative influences around us!

  36. Katherine

    I think when people voice their negative opinions about your plans it’s because they’re secretly envious that you are taking such a “risk” and they are too scared to “go for it”. Life’s too precious to live in fear. Let your heart be your guide.

    1. Earl

      Hey Katherine – That very well could be as I’d imagine most people would go after their true goals in life if they were told that there would be no risk involved at all.

  37. Elvira

    Yesterday I booked a ticket to a month long backpacking adventure in India November-December (I’ll be in Kerala when your group is in the north!) and almost nobody has encouraged my. When they meet the naive and excited eyes of a twenty-one year old girl who never backpacked before, and now she is going to INDIA (!), they just wrinkle their foreheads and start mumbling not so encouraging words. First, they know how dangerous the country can be, because they are all smart and grown up. Secondly, the know me and my tendency to taste a piece of the cake and then wanting it all. I was living abroad for a year and it made me not homesick but hungry for MORE but growing up in a academic culture I tried to plan this trip as smart as I could next to the studies. I want to live like you but still be young when I go to the uni. I know now that I am going to use my savings for adventures but India…scares me so much. And makes me smile when I close my eyes.
    We are visiting a friend in the south and travelling up to the north to join a tour. (We wanted yours but it is too early) How can three young Scandinavian walking wallets travel with the Indian railway the safest way possible? Because when I ask people they just say “go to the south east of Asia instead”…

    1. Earl

      Hej Elvira! All I can say is, take it slow while in India. If you are flexible and don’t try to rush around the country, then you’ll have a much more enjoyable and easier experience. With the trains, it’s actually quite easy. When you’re in the major cities, just go to the train station and ask an official train employee where the “Foreigner booking office” is located as that is a great place for foreigners to book tickets. If you are in smaller places, since you are a female, just look for the “Females only” line for booking tickets. And even if there is no employee working at that window, walk up to the window anyway and someone will come to help you. You can skip the huge crazy lines that all the men are waiting in to buy train tickets! The one thing you shouldn’t do is buy your tickets from any agency…only buy your tickets from the train station!

  38. Rachel

    Although I have yet to start travelling long term, recently when ever I tell my family of something I want to do that involves traveling. They have been nothing but discouraging, even my little sister (she almost always is on my side). Their reason has always been money, so I decided that I wanted to spend new years visiting a friend in Chile but since my credit card is under my parents name I had to get their approval. Their answer was no even though I said I would pay for it myself. Their reasoning is is I don’t speak Spanish and I won’t have enough money to stay in a hostel in case something happens and I am unable to stay with the friend that I was planning on staying with. So I have had to put it off for a year but at least in a year if my parents still say I can’t go because I don’t speak Spanish, my older sister (she is near fluent in Spanish) will be able to come with. Along with that I was/am (can’t decide if I given or follow through) planning on going to Africa this summer and even though the program is at most $300 (I have to raise money to go but after I’ve done that then all I have to do is pay for a flight to the meeting point somewhere in the US). They still say that I should stay in the US and make money. So right now I am still deciding if I stay or go either way I am not at home for the summer, it’s just a question between getting a paid internship or doing something worthwhile in Africa. Although when I mention my plans to travel after college it is only my older sister that constantly voices her opinion that I would be throwing away $80,000 even with me explaining to her that there are ways that my degrees won’t go to waste while I travel. She never lets up. She is also the main reason why I am considering staying in the US and doing a paid internship instead of doing volunteer work in Africa. However, I have gotten used to this and have accepted she will never approve with the way of life I want to live. After all she has been saying the same thing for the past three years but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still hurt to hear her say it all the time.

  39. Hannah

    I’ve gone through this with my family and friends for the last few months when I informed them I’m leaving to travel & don’t know when or if I’m going back. Even my dad thinks I’m “wasting” my money when I should be pursuing a “real” career.

    It’s hard to believe in yourself and be confident in the face of so much uncertainty and resistance. I’ve definitely had those days when I feel awful & feel like I might be doing the wrong thing. But I always snap out of it and realize that this is the life I was made to live.

    1. Earl

      Hey Hannah – And the good news is that once you get started and everyone back homes sees that it’s not such a waste after all, they will often come around and start to support you. It just takes some time since you have chosen to do something that they don’t quite understand!

  40. Christi

    This is just what I needed today! I have been feeling negativity about my “bum” lifestyle, but I am so thankful for the few friends I have that encourage me to “live by the seat of my pants because life is short”. I have yet to commit to being a world traveler but I love knowing in my heart and envisioning in my mind the moments I will have meeting people and experiencing cultures away from the US. I admire those that have committed to their travel goals! I love your blogs, Earl!

    1. Earl

      Thanks so much Christi and that’s great that you have those core group of friends who encourage you to live your own life! As a result, I’m sure that you will end up making the most out of your time on this planet!

  41. Lauren

    I definitely know tons people who say it’s a waste of time. People my age who say they’re getting their degrees now and maybe they’ll travel afterwards. But I’ve also encountered a lot of older people who say that they wish they had lived more while they were young, when they had the chance. So that’s what I’m trying to do.

    1. Earl

      Hey Lauren – Those older people who wish they had lived more are often those who once said they would travel once they had their degree and saved up money for a few years. It’s hard to break out of that pattern and most who want to travel, never end up doing so.

  42. Júlíana Björnsdóttir

    I just love to read your blog; your words are at times like my very own.

    As a woman who tries to keep a balance between my passion for academics, the work I do and my husband, our puppy Emma, and my family, I am often met with the “don’t be silly” response when I clearly state I will not have children until I am ready to do so myself and have completed the travels I have set out to do prior to taking on such a huge commitment.

    The usual response is that “I will regret not having had them earlier” or “to travel is a hobby, not a way of life. Children are however.” Well, I like you and most of your readers, disagree. I close my eyes and picture myself back on the road, this time with my husband and sometimes with friends or by myself. I see myself using my language skills and learning more about the culture through the people I meet along the way.

    I sacrificed a few years to pursue my passion for writing and literature in the world of academics, but in my professional life I chose to work independently so I can travel at will and still work. It’s the only way I can imagine combining all my passions.

    I admire what you do and I know if my 11-year old niece came to me for an advise, I’d encourage her to follow her heart and travel to the end of the world and back as many times as she wants. I am proud to say, she has expressed a strong desire to travel “like her aunt”. It makes me proud.

    I for one have not given it up even though a part of my life is “settled”. When and if I have children, they will learn the value of the traveling lifestyle from a young age. Traveling may not be an acknowledged way of life, but it will be one day 🙂

    1. Katherine

      I can totally relate. I feel like more often than not with women it always comes back to children; when are you gonna have them and settle down, there’s no way to lead a life of travel with children, etc…You should follow your heart and let go of everyone else’s expectations of what you should be doing with your life.

      1. Earl

        Hey Katherine – I can imagine the children topic comes up often when women express their desire to travel long term. But like you said, as long as you follow your heart, then you will have them if and when you want to have them. Nothing wrong with that at all.

    2. Maga

      Couldn’t agree more! My thoughts relate to every single word you wrote. Feels good to know there are more women out there who think and feel the same way…

    3. Earl

      Hey Juliana – Thank you for sharing your thoughts and as long as you are doing what feels right, then it really doesn’t matter what others think at all. And that’s very cool that your niece is already talking about travel…clearly you’re a good role model!

  43. Lisa - iLiveWhereIam.com

    I’ve definitely been through this a lot and I didn’t get down to what I really believed in for a long time. I think the best advice is to stay away from negative sources – or at least don’t take them to heart. Maybe tell them that you respect their opinion, but you have your own opinion and path in life.

    hold onto what you truly believe in your heart. follow your own path. I’ve found that anything else really doesn’t work.

    1. Earl

      Hey Lisa – I think that it’s okay for others to not agree with our decisions of course, but if they can’t respect our ideas and goals, then sometimes it is best to stay away from such people. We certainly don’t want to give up our dreams simply because others don’t agree.

  44. Mari

    Brilliant post Earl!! Every word you write is so true, most people do not encourage you to go travelling, they`d rather see you stay in the boring routine at home.

    So…I resigned from my job this week and will get on the road in a few months time!
    Hooray 🙂
    Honestly won`t even bother to tell everyone as I know many will not understand my choice at all…

    1. Chelli

      Good for you Mari!! I admire your courage. I too loved Earl’s post. Its speaks to me in so many ways and I don’t want to travel (not yet that is), I just want to feel free to pursue my dreams and not feel fear. Enjoy your endeavor and be safe. Peace out.

  45. thetravelfool

    Long live the bums of this world. Life is too short. Travel as much as you can or whatever makes you happy. If you can travel full time go for it. If you can’t right now but want to work towards that end. Cheers Earl.

  46. Nan

    When I was younger, such a life was beyond reach. If I moved even two hours away, tears followed and friends called it the end. Everyone that ever said it was impossible are long gone now. For a long time I wondered why I was so terrible at keeping friends. Then one by one I met people that did not doubt me or discourage me from any of my dreams. Instead I was cheered on for each new unknown step and told that I could count on my friends. Today I am cat sitting for a couple that are traveling in Hawaii. I am reading “the last American male” and life is getting better by the minute. My advice… find friends that do not attempt to hold you back.

    1. Earl

      Hey Nan – Sometimes we do have to separate ourselves from those who simply refuse to offer any support or only offer negativity as we try to live our own life. It’s not easy to do but that’s just how life works and in the end, there are always new people out there to meet!

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