Traveling the World

You Can’t Fail At Traveling The World

Derek Perspectives 105 Comments

Traveling the World

In the past two weeks, I’ve received two separate emails from readers who had planned to be traveling the world for at least one year but ended up returning home after just a few months. What happened is that they realized that travel wasn’t for them. They didn’t enjoy it as much as they had anticipated, at least not the style of travel they had decided to pursue, and despite staying on the road for a few extra weeks in order to hopefully find their ‘groove’, they eventually felt they were left with no choice but to fly back home.

Both of these readers told me that they felt like absolute failures for not having achieved their original goal of long-term travel and they were each clearly upset about it.

In one of those emails, the word ‘failure’ was used six times.

And I’m not a huge fan of that word.

I’ve met plenty of people who spent years of their lives believing that the only thing that would make them truly happy would be traveling around the world. Eventually, they sell every possession they own, they quit their jobs, they research every single destination and they figure out exactly where they want to go and exactly what they want to do. They look at bus and train schedules, they read reviews about accommodation options and they work out detailed travel budgets, planning right up until the very last minute.

Then, shortly after their travels begin, they discover that traveling doesn’t actually make them very happy at all.

Until we are out there in the world, it’s difficult for us to know exactly what experiences we will have or how we will react to travel in general. We may very well love it just as we had hoped or we may very well be faced with opposite feelings.

And if we decide that traveling isn’t what we thought, and if we really don’t enjoy the experience, there’s no reason to continue pushing ourselves to travel more and more simply to avoid feeling like a failure. If the path you’re on doesn’t feel right, stop and change paths. Return home and re-evaluate your life. It’s really no big deal. It’s certainly not failure at all.

Besides, we always learn something valuable from every experience we have, yes, even when that experience involves having our greatest dream in life turn into something that suddenly doesn’t interest or excite us at all. And I believe in the school of thought that says it’s not possible to fail if you have grown as a person in the process.

Luckily, with travel, no matter how your adventure turns out, you always grow.

Did you ever discover that traveling wasn’t what you had hoped it would be? Did you ever feel like a failure for not achieving a major goal in life?

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Comments 105

  1. Pingback: Is it Really Possible to 'Live Life to the Fullest'? - Wandering Earl

  2. Emy

    Thanks for the great post! I’ve been traveling for about 7 or 8 months now. I left my job, bought a one-way ticket, blah blah blah. I had no idea what I was in for and about half-way through I got shingles on my face from the stress of travel! I was so worried all the time about checking places, things, restaurants, whatever off my “list” and although I was enjoying it and having great experiences I wasn’t taking the appropriate time to recover and rest from the stress and exhaustion of travel. Well shingles on your face is a good wake-up call! I took a much needed short break back home, reevaluated my traveling and now I’m back at it for now but I’ve learned I prefer shorter periods of travel in fewer places and for that learning experience I don’t regret any of it!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Emy – That makes sense to me. I think many travelers make the same realization because the constant moving around can indeed be stressful. Glad you had a successful break at home and that you’ve now found your own travel groove 🙂

  3. Jonas Gade

    Yes definitely a great post. I left Thailand for home after what should have been a non ending journey with the USA or and Austrailia as an end goal to live and “never come back”. I left Thailand after a month of traveling around the Islands and main city due to a situation which lead to me having my first Panic Attack. So now I am back home and working it out with a psychologist. But still… I WILL JUMP ON THAT PLANE AS FAST AS MY PANIC IS GONE AND MY WALLET ALLOWS IT ;)!!!!!!!

  4. James

    Hi Nicola,
    I found it interesting how you said we should develop ourselves in our own community first. Perhaps suggesting we are not cultured?
    I can assure you i have travelled extensively from childhood to now and have loved every short trip.
    My Partner is a community nurse and i am in a job where i meet at least 7-10 new people a day so i think your point about ‘developing a better relashionship with there community’ is unvalid as if that were true, we would be ‘the perfect candidates’.
    We have simply realised we are from a place that is far better than we thought, and this trip has made us realise that. Plus we both like luxery hotels, nice dinners, and private transfers!
    We will continue to travel in years to come, but not in Asia. We have loved some aspects but there’s been more things we dislike than like.
    Nothing to do with our culture, just a preference on what we like to spend our money on.

  5. Ford

    It’s tough balancing the inate desire for a place to call home with wanderlust. I feel it strongly now but then I have attachments to Guangzhou, Jacksonville, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Savannah, Panglao Island, Suzhou, Tampa, Miami Beach, Chengdu and the small places in the U.S. state of Georgia where I grew up. The question is, where to call home? The place where you grew up and naturally have a sentimental yearning for? Or the places where you feel most at home? Or any of the number of places where you might feel best, most alive, most comfortable, most relaxed or intrigued?

    Here’s a question for an out of work philosopher jaja

    That being said, perhaps some people give up too easily. Anything worthwhile usually takes some time. If you want traveling to be a fulfilling enterprise, seek hard and explore widely.

  6. Nicola

    When you travel the world you have to take yourself along as a companion and so your experiences will be coloured by your own culture, education, upbringing and yes – political views. Some people probably need to develop by following a career or profession which establishes a better relationship with their own society first. Then they will be more likely to get the full value out of experiencing other people’s. There are, of course, difficulties attached to waiting and I miss my grandchildren terribly every time I set off. I no longer believe that my health will last forever but my objectivity is a huge compensation and grey hair ensures I am treated with respect in most parts of the world.

  7. James

    Hi All,
    This is my first post on this website but saw this thread as i was scrolling through and thought i’d add my thoughts!
    My partner and I (25 & 27) are currently travelling the world. Were 3 months in to what we planned would be a 12 month trip and unfortunately were not enjoying it anywhere near as much as we’d envisaged.
    As this was our first traveling expierience we looked forward to it more than i can put into words. We saved for 18 months, lived a quiet life and eventually quit our jobs and moved out of our flat.
    The first month was fantastic, a real eye opening expierience and was incredibly exciting. After 2 months we settled in to the routine and began to get a bit (a hate to use this word) bored.
    I think the problem is we have already travelled thru Thailand, Lao, Vietnam and Cambodia and we’ve done it this fast because we haven’t found anywhere we love.
    Between each destination you have a day or more of organising, then you have to endur what can be terrible Transport networks with massive delays and staff that are incredibly rude.
    What has also shocked me is the rasism towards us. My girlfriend has had men spitting at her in Penang and she had her shoulders, legs and chest covered. Its incredibly demorilizing.
    Although admittidly it has built our characters we have ultimately decided this is not enough to justify the money we worked so hard for.
    We will though, return with our tail between our legs, but we are now aware of what we enjoy and what we like to spend money on.
    When you bulid something up as much as you do with travelling it can so easily be a disappointment.
    I wouldn’t say we feel like we ‘failed’ but yes, we did question ourselves as to why its not for us.
    Its a completely personal journey but of coarse there’s no guarantees in life so we feel happy to of tried it, completed all the targets we set out to complete (accept the timeframe).


  8. Ross

    Good article. I never thought anybody wouldnt like travelling! Or at least have a huge plan to do it and then stop. I know several people who had one plan but after a while didnt like how they were doing it (or who they were with) and changed mid-stream but despite this continued to travel

  9. Victoria

    Hi Earl!

    Thank you so much for your blog. You have been inspiring and I can see why people write to you.

    I’m a teacher and I know how frustrating the thought of being a failure might bring. I say that the travellers who wrote to you should consider themselves as “top of the class” and more courageous then most, as they went out there, tried things out and were able to be truthful to themselves.

    How many people can honestly say that they are truthful? Travelling is not a competition or about “winning” but a means to widen our horizons, connect and communicate with others around us, and most importantly, learn about ourselves.

    To be honest, you don’t have to go thousands of miles to do this, but you can achieve this quite proudly in your own backgarden!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Victoria – You are right and just putting in that effort to break away and chase after a goal in life is something that is commendable for sure. The outcome is much less important than the fact they took a chance because no matter how it turns out, the journey provides some valuable answers and experiences that can greatly affect their lives for a long time.

  10. Pingback: You Can’t Fail At Traveling The World | Model, Travel, Events

  11. Celeste

    I think you got it right Earl.

    I’ll be leaving for a year long trip (my first!) in a few months, I’m equal parts terrified and exhilarated. I’ve been having a few “what if’s” scenarios jogging through my mind, one of which is “what if it turns out I don’t like long-term travel at all, what then?”. And I’ve come to the same conclusion.

    It’s ok. I’m allowed to not like it.

    It will not make me less of a person, will not make me less interesting or less knowledgeable, less kind or less qualified. It’ll just be another nugget of myself that I will have discovered. So I don’t like long term travel. I don’t like hot peppers either. Check and check. You can’t fail at travelling the world, that’s bang on Earl, just as you can’t fail at being yourself.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Celeste – To me, that’s the healthiest mindset you can have before embarking on your adventure. Now you can just let it all unfold and you’ll be able to happily accept wherever the path takes you!

  12. Josh

    I think this is an important lesson. Finding out what you like, or don’t like is never a failure. They tried something they wanted to try and in the end found out through experience that they didn’t actually want to do it!

  13. Alex | Partial Parallax

    It’s like everything travel is not for everyone and that is perfectly fine. What is the most important aspect is that people should actually try it regardless and if you love or hate it at that point it’s not failure or success but more about self growth and travel can help you re-evaluate what is important to you which is equally important.

  14. Kirsten W

    It seems that, when leaving the country for the first few time, you either get bit by the travel bug and it holds on forever, or not. I didn’t leave the country (or fly on a plane!) until I was 21. I went to study abroad and I thought “okay this is it, this is when I do my traveling” but no. That wasn’t how it worked for me. I couldn’t stop! Six years later I’ve traveled twenty different countries. I don’t understand how you can start and not find it addicting. But my father, who has been to other countries and done a bit of traveling, doesn’t understand it at all. He doesn’t see how its worth it to me, and the sacrifices I’m willing to make for it.You love or hate it I guess.

  15. Chris Cavallari - Part Time Vagabond

    Only when I was a little younger did I have the desire to travel full time. But as I got older and discovered who I am as a person, I realized that I’d rather have a home base from which I could launch on shorter adventures. For me, home is a recharging station. In that sense, I’m like a mobile phone: I can go around the world and see what there is to see, but at some point, I have to go back home to recharge my battery.

    Full time travel just isn’t for everyone. I think the danger (I use the term lightly) with all these “leave your job, sell your stuff, see the world” blogs is that people whose personalities don’t necessarily fit that profile feel like failures when they just want to go home, and then it sours them on traveling for life.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Chris – I agree with you on that, which is why I always try to portray the challenges and difficulties of travel as well, so that everyone doesn’t think that you just pack your bags and immediate start enjoying an endless vacation. It definitely is not for everyone at all and what I think is happening is that a lot of that ‘quit your job, travel now’ stuff is convincing a lot of people who don’t really want to travel, to travel. It seems like a good escape when you read about travel but again, unless you truly have a desire to get out there and do it, traveling can also be quite disappointing to some.

  16. J

    I think the bigger problem with people who believe travel is the only thing that will make them happy is that they think travel is the only thing that will make them happy. Once they realise that it is not as fun as the envisioned, they freak out. They no longer have any prospect of happiness, and that is always a scary feeling.

  17. Jane St Catherine

    Hi Earl,
    Thanks for that thought-provoking post. I’ve never imagined not enjoying travel and the rewards it has brought me over the years. There’s so much personal growth to be gained from setting out and tackling all the challenges, especially alone. I always dreamed of cycling around the world and after being very sick for 12 months, I eventually left my husband and set off to ride around the world on an old kick-start 250 CC trail bike. I didn’t get far due to the bike continually breaking down and I ran out of money, but I’ve never for a minute thought of it as a failure. I consider that the adventure is still continuing, albeit without the bike. Life just takes those twists and turns, ups and downs and dumps us exactly where we’re meant to be. Thanks for your inspirational blog. Jane

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