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.
    James

  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).

    James

  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

  18. Anon

    Earl!
    I’ve been reading your blog for several months now, but this is my first comment. I’m probably one of your younger readers, and I really hope you’ll be doing Wandering Earl tours for years to come, because I genuinely can’t wait to take one! You’re an interesting person with interesting stories, and I have a lot of respect for you. 🙂

  19. Josh(DaysofWandermust)

    Sure, I love traveling. I miss it in fact. Only issue for me now is I’m almost out with no safety net. Trying to figure out do I stay in this country (Istanbul) and wait it out looking for work, go back to the US and see if I can find a job, or head to Thailand where I can most likely find a teaching job…or perhaps somewhere else?

    It’s been such a crazy year!

    One thing is for sure, I can’t wait to get back on the road as well as find a new way to earn some income.

  20. Bama

    Well said, Earl. I guess the reason why some people call it failure is because that’s how they feel upon not achieving their intended goal. However, as you mentioned, traveling makes us grow. In this case, it helps some people understand themselves better which result in embracing the fact that traveling might not be one thing they’re most passionate about. And that is certainly not a failure.

  21. Traveling Ted

    Interesting read. I agree you cannot fail or on the other hand succeed in Traveling. How can one measure such a thing? Every time you have a positive experience with a local you get 5 points. You need to get 1,000 points every week or you fail. You cannot quantify travel success or failure. You either enjoy it or you don’t. If you are not enjoying it then you should stop. Nothing wrong with stopping at something you do not enjoy. If you did stop instead of self flagellating you should think about why you were traveling in the first place and analyze the experience: learn and grow.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Ted – That’s right, there is no way to measure it at all. And in my opinion, all it takes is one positive experience (which is bound to happen with any travels) to make it all worthwhile, regardless of the final outcome.

  22. Rashad Pharaon

    This is SUCH a great post because it’s something no one ever talks about. I’ve had similar experiences with particular countries. While I’ve been abroad for years now and have finally settled into a groove, I went to spend a year in Taiwan and ended up spending only SIX WEEKS. I definitely felt like failure, especially because I made such a big deal about leaving “for so long” and had several going away parties! There was definitely some shame involved but you’re so right – it’s just about getting out there and TRYING. There’s something to be said for taking the risk to travel, and traveling for a short period of time is just as legitimate as traveling long term.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Rashad – It certainly is as legitimate and I’m glad you realized that with your own experience in Taiwan. Such things happen and if we think about it, there’s no way we can possibly connect with every destination we visit and there’s no way all of our travel plans will work out exactly as we imagined. That’s just life!

  23. penguinpete

    I travel for my job about six times a year and there are people I work with that think all travel is fun and exotic. The truth is it is far from that. Travel can be exasperating when your flight is canceled. Tiring when you have to get up at 2:30 am to catch your 5:30 am flight or when you are vacationing in a time zone that is six hours from your normal time. When you feel like an idiot because you don’t know the language or local customs. Boring when you are traveling for your job and you eat in your room every night because you are stuck in the middle of nowhere.

    But it is usually worth it because of the great experiences and people you meet. I totally understand if someone decides that travel isn’t for them. However I would tell them not to give up and after they regroup to try again.

    I have had vacations that started out bad but then something happens, usually changing hotels, meeting new people etc… and all is well in the world again.

  24. Bumblebee

    I am coming up to my one year anniversary of being away from home. On reviewing my expectations versus the reality – I thought I would have travelled to a lot more countries than I actually have – I’ve visited 8 countries (well, I spent 2 days in Cologne, Germany and it was not enjoyable so I don’t count it – but I do know I have to go back to Germany) in the 12 months. I’ve learnt to travel slowly to get a feel for a country and that I prefer travelling to the smaller cities and towns. I pictured myself before I left home travelling around Europe on trains, savouring the landscape as it passed me by – but in reality I hate travelling by trains here (I arrived in Cologne by train, completely stressed. It was the self propagating reason as to why I didn’t enjoy Cologne and need to go back to Germany). I freak out on train platforms where there might be two trains departing from the same platform, or if my train splits into two midway thru the journey. I’ve learnt that slow travelling is for me, and that its okay that I haven’t done a whistlestop tour of Europe where I am spending two days to one week in a country to “tick it off the list”.

  25. Sam

    Great stuff, as usual Earl! I’ve had this feeling several times on my current trip with my partner in South America – that I just wanted to ‘give up’ and go home. But no, I wouldn’t have seen that as a failure. As it happens, we are returning to Europe (but with no real home to go to) earlier than expected, but by having to process and talk about why we’ve felt we wanted to give up, it has actually made us look more closely at what we want from our future travels and has changed our perspective on them.

  26. Linda

    Dreams of travel, even if not brought to reality, is still a dream, and certainly not a failure. I thought I would travel endlessly after the kids were grown. Not the case, as now I am living through the eyes of little grand children. So, instead of long travels, we will take blocks of time away so the little people we leave behind don’t grow too much. If we try, it’s NEVER a FAILURE, NEVER!

  27. Linda

    Ryan, just want to drop you a line to say “thank you”. Thank you for serving our country and allowing us to live freely. I so appreciate your services and know I, and my family are in a better place because of the sacrifices you and your family have made. Thank you Sir.
    Linda

  28. Rafa

    Great article Earl!

    Lately I have been scared of this issue. I finally seem to have a “plan”(to give it a name) for starting my long term traveling. And…I can´t help to be a little nervous. What if I do miss my old life too much? What if all the speaking in the end comes down to coming back home after some months?

    I don´t think it´ll be so…but I can´t help to give it a thought once in a while. Spanish family is very VERY close and don´t want anyone to leave after all 😛

    Can I please share this article in my blog? I think it´s very well written and a great idea to send out there!

    Thanks!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Rafa – The answer to your questions is easy – “No big deal”. If you miss your old life too much, then you just go home. That’s okay. You’ll still have some wonderful travel experiences until then I’m sure. You just need to see how you connect with traveling and then make the decision that is best for you…but at the same time, most people do love it!

  29. Carmen

    I absolutely adore travelling but used to feel so frustrated at my friends for not having the same passion to travel as I do. They are more content buying a house and staying in my home state. It took me a long time to realise that just because they didn’t want to travel didn’t mean they didn’t have a fulfilling life – they just wanted different things to me. And that was completely ok.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Carmen – Exactly. Everyone gets to choose their own path and in the end, no path is better than any other. Everyone makes their own decisions.

  30. Josh(DaysofWandermust)

    I left home Jan 08′ with my study abroad trip and I became addicted to travel.
    There have been many times when I’ve found myself at a point where I feel like I’m failing at what I wanted to do (travel travel travel) because I keep finding myself staying in one country for more than a year and struggling to make ends meet, which was not what I had viewed traveling to be.

    I’ve never thought of returning home because there really isn’t much back there for me but have been looking for opportunities everywhere. I live overseas as a teaching professional and have recently added photography into the mix.

    The most exhilarating travel time was while I WAS traveling and not chained down to a contractual agreement, such as my 6 month trip around the black sea or when I just went to live in Davao, Philippines for 2 months.

    I do feel a nagging emotion of failure for not having found a good way to fund non-stop travels, although slowly I’m picking up ideas and hopefully soon will relaunch my travel blog ‘Days of Wandermust’ that I had started with the 6mnth trip but ended up having it fall to the wayside.

    Currently I’m at a crossroads, 2 years in Istanbul and coming down to my last $1000. Trying to figure out what to do or where to go next. So many things pull in different directions!

  31. Peggy

    Travel, like all things in life, may not be for everyone… I’m more of a hub and spoke kind of traveller, but can survive on the road for 3-6 months. More than that, I don’t know… until I try! Failure is simply finding out another way that things don’t work, to narrow down the options of what DOES. Nice post, Earl!

  32. mspinrad

    Earl,
    Thank you for saying this and for reminding us to be gentle on ourselves. I think everyone one of us who is trying to make “nontraditional” choices with our lives (travel or otherwise) is/will be forced to navigate the tension of our decisions at some point (Personally, I would argue this is a good thing.). Travel, in particular, can be very confronting.
    Terrific stuff, man. And very timely.

  33. Pamela

    I’d say their travel was a success…now they know it isn’t for them, so they can focus their energy on their next goal in life…had they not gone they would have continued spending valuable time thinking/dreaming about it. Now they know.

  34. Clare

    It’s rare to read about the downside of travel or travel not being right for some people, but I totally agree with you — just because it’s not for some people doesn’t make you a failure. I’ve done quite a bit of travel bu most of it has involved some sort of work, project or purpose. A few months ago I did a 6 month trip around outh east Asia and India and had an amazing time, but it was exausting not spending longer than a few days in any one place. In some respects I felt like I was skimming the surface of many places rather than really getting to the heart of a place. Travel has always given me perspective on life though and helped me to realise what I want to do next.

  35. Pamela | Pam Goes Travelling

    Failure is a very negative word, from every failure comes the experience. It is not easy to leave everything at home and go travelling for a long time. Not everyone can lead the the same of lifestyle. What matter most is that, at least you tried and experience it!.

    I am still longing for a RTW someday!

  36. Osvaldo

    After reading your post, I don’t see myself existing in a world with no travel and my worst nightmare will be staying at home for more than a year.

    Powerful post Earl!!!

  37. eemusings

    We are into our last month of a RTW trip, and honestly, I am loving travelling through to US, but I am looking forward to getting home. As much as I love exploring new places, I have always known I am a homebody, and returning to NZ will have its challenges, but they are challenges I’m ready for. I’m getting weary, and I’m looking forward to seeing friends and family in the flesh again.

    1. Wandering Earl

      @eemusings – Seems like you’re ready to head back home for sure and that’s great. Sometimes we just feel ready and when that happens, the excitement just continues to grow, just as it once did before we set out on our trip in the first place.

  38. karen

    Long term travel is definitely not for everyone… I have many friends that prefer short trips. Everyone is different. Lots of people say ‘Oh you’re so lucky to be able to travel long term’ and I reply ‘You could too, there are lots of online jobs you could do etc’. Then they rarely say anything else. For many the idea is appealing but the reality is they don’t really enjoy being away from home and friends for so long. And that’s ok. Though I would stress sometimes you have to give a destination a bit of time to grow on you and not bail too quickly. I’ve found India very difficult to travel alone at times and many people said ‘why don’t you go home?’ Maybe I’m stubborn but I’ve stuck it out and now am really enjoying it 🙂

  39. the Miss

    Hi Earl,

    I read this post with great interest as my husband / my captain and I have been planning our adventure to sail the seas from our first date nearly 26 years ago! I have few fears about the journey but view has crossed my mind a few times. We have now past the point of no return as the new catana 42 is currently being built and we will pick up in Europe as far as way from Tasmania as you can get.

    I can only hope that the journey home over 4-5 years remains positive and fruitful and if homesickness is an issue I will have to make occasional trips home. Saying goodbye to our young adult children will be hard and find myself on my own blog writing all manner of advice to leave “bread crumbs on the path” in case they get lost while I am away.

    Earl Love the site!!

    the Miss

  40. Noor - Desert to Jungle

    For some of us travel is all we have ever wanted to do. As a child I loved atlases and maps and wanted to see all those far off places. But it’s not for everyone. And it’s OK that it’s not for everyone. If somebody sets off on a long trip and finds they don’t like it then it’s not failure to go back home, it’s just common sense, and they should give themselves credit for trying in the first place.

  41. Wheres Sharon? (Sharon)

    The first time I went overseas, I returned homesick after three days :-/

    I have since redeemed myself and had several one year trips as well as many others, so attitudes can definitely change!! Long trips are quite daunting though, even when it’s not your first one. I just try to not think past the next couple of months and that helps. I also make sure that I have a budget that allows me to live the way I need to to enjoy myself – and this changes as I get older. Long term travel is definitely a different lifestyle though, and not one that is for everyone

  42. KZY1

    Travelling around India ealier this year, OK it was only for a few weeks, but I missed a soft bed the most. I would have to travel for a long, long time in order to harden up to some Indian hotel beds.

  43. George

    After 1 1/2 years in Japan I am going home to Europe. I thought I’d be travelling Asia for years to come, but I realised that Europe is where I am most at home and Asia cannot replace that. Not saying I won’t return for shorter trips but in the long run it’s all about Europe. I don’t feel I failed. Just that I discovered more about myself.

  44. Steve C

    Ryan, When I got out of the Army, I called it “The first day of the rest of my life”! Sign up for unemployment insurance immediately. Then make sure you take advantage of all the veterans benefits offered. The government has benefited from your service, now it’s your turn. I hope you can shut out all the negatives that you may have experienced and move on to enjoy life. There’s a big world out there. Keep “serendipity” as your motto. Thanks for that chunk of time, out of your life, that you donated for the rest of us.

  45. Deia @ Nomad Wallet

    I completely agree with this. I blogged before about how some travelers are really gung-ho about pushing other people to live their dreams and travel the world. But really, we’re all individuals with different wants and needs. While you, Earl, have traveled full-time for more than a decade, that might not be “the dream” for someone else.

    And just because someone misjudged what traveling would be like doesn’t make the whole experience a failure. I feel that it’s a great lesson to learn about yourself. Look at the big picture. Now that you know that full-time travel is not for you, you’re closer to figuring out what it is that will bring you more happiness in life.

  46. Emanuel

    Following one’s dreams can never be seen as a failure. You felt the urge to travel then it turned out it wasn’t for you, so what? At least you had the guts to do something about your dreams. That says a lot about your character. Failure is wondering “what if?”. That’s my take on it.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Emanuel – And your take is quite reasonable…just making that bold move to chase your dreams at least gives you the confidence to chase another dream at some other point in life. If you do it once, no matter how it turns out, you gain some valuable confidence.

  47. Dan (The Stupid Foreigner)

    I couldn’t agree more! For me travelling is all about discovering yourself and learning how you can fit with the other cultures around the world. Even if the only thing you discover is that travelling the world is not for you, it is still better to know what it is like than spend your life wondering about it.

    You might even learn what it is you love about your own country. Every experience is still an experience. Some of my worst experiences turned out to be my most valuable.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Dan – That’s the thing, just going out there and giving it a try, even if you discover that traveling is not what you truly want, is much, much better than spending an entire lifetime without ever giving it a shot.

  48. Ryan

    I have been “planning” my trip for roughly all 3 years I have been in the Army. I am back from Afghanistan in a week and out of the army in a few months. I plan on starting next May and just relaxing at first, enjoying the season and taking in everything. I don’t have much of a plan for that period. Trying to stretch it out to at least 6 months. My course of action is to just wake up and decide to go somewhere else, bounce around carelessly. My last 3 years have been planned to a tee and restricted. I just want freedom to do what I want, whenever I please! I can’t wait! You’re blog has helped me out alot to, Earl. I appreciate it, keep it up!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Ryan – You’re not far away from the start of your adventure at all and there’s nothing wrong from enjoying that kind of freedom for a while. And who knows where it will lead…I have no doubt you’ll end up with some very interesting tales to tell and that you’ll end up visiting some pretty amazing places. Just wake up and see where you want to go…not a bad way to start off!

  49. Jeff @ planetbell

    Traveling for a year can be an incredibly daunting task. My first trip was for 2 months and when I returned home I was desperate for more travel. I wanted to get back on the road as soon as possible.

    I’ve met many people who’ve sold everything and taken off for a year or more around the world. My own personal style is to travel for 2-3 months per year and explore one region. I’m not saying that is better or worse, just that travel can be exhausting and maybe the two readers just needed a break more than anything else.

  50. Becky

    Great post. It’s so easy to overlook the reason for trying travel in the first place — an effort to improve your life — so if travel isn’t working, there’s no shame in re-evaluating and trying something new.

  51. Dani

    I spent a couple of years living in Taiwan and traveling in Asia. I stuck it out for 2 years, even though I kind of felt like I failed at teaching English in Taiwan. I just wasn’t happy, didn’t make many real friends, some of my jobs kind of sucked. At the time, I didn’t have much to return home for, so I stuck it out, and tried to make the best of it. Also, I just didn’t want to admit failure. But there were some amazing experiences and I’m not left wondering “what if”. I’m also a confident treveller now, having done it by myself for 2 years, as well as a confident teacher – which is my retirement plan – travelling and teaching English. Glad I know I can do it! So, no, not a failure, but some days it sure felt like it.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Dani – Definitely understandable and sometimes it takes a while for us to realize that our ‘failure’ was actually not so bad at all and that those experiences prepared us for something important later on down the road.

  52. Emily McIntyre

    Have I felt like a failure for not making a huge life goal–yes! I was about to reach my life goal of a degree with a prestigious private university when I found out I was pregnant. Life took a totally different turn. But a good one, and now I’m so glad things happened as they did.

    EWM

  53. Marie-France (a.k.a. BigTravelNut)

    I had a similar experience in 1997 when I set off on a 6+ months round-the-world trip that I ended up leaving after 4.5 months mostly due to fatigue and travelling too fast. At first I wondered if this meant I had “failed” my trip, but quickly realized that it wasn’t the case as I had seen and learned so much, especially with regards to planning long-term travel! 🙂

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Marie-France – Glad you made that realization because like I said, the word ‘failure’ should never be associated with travel!

  54. Steve C

    Earl, agreed, traveling is not for everyone and it should not be considered a failure if it doesn’t work out. There are uncountable variables as to why these travelers gave up seeking their dream. You didn’t mention if these were solo travelers or couples or what. One commenter used the term “escape”. Now, there’s an angle to ponder. Is long term travel an escape “to” something or “from” something. I think that if “escape” is any part of your reasoning to pursue a life on the road, you’re starting out asking for trouble.

    My guess is that there are far fewer that find travel is not their cup of tea, compared to the ones that claim it to be the life changer and something they wouldn’t trade for anything. Life is dynamic and so is traveling. There will be the occasional return, and that’s normal.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Steve – It is normal and there are just too many factors to take into consideration, too many variables as you say. One negative incident in the first country visited could change a person’s entire outlook, for example, making it difficult to get back to enjoying their travels. I do agree about the idea of ‘escape’ as I feel that long-term travel should be undertaken if that is truly a person’s goal or dream in life. To do so simply to avoid another path isn’t the wisest of decisions.

  55. mzuri

    I concur with your post completely. In fact, I admire greatly folks who have the flexibility and maturity to accept that what they thought was their dream isn’t, and they adjust their course and move on to what is a better fit.

    There are so many paths to a rich, fulfilling life. Travel is only one of them.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Mzuri – And it’s just as difficult to change paths as it is to chase after one of your dreams in the first place. Both definitely deserve respect.

  56. Sarah Somewhere

    I couldn’t agree more, though I have still to meet someone who has regretted traveling (but plenty who have regretted not!). So whether it’s for a month or ten years, it’s worth taking the plunge to see what the world has to offer us, even if it’s going back to our ‘regular life’ with a renewed perspective!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Sarah – Absolutely. And it’s hard to regret any experience that changes us and with travel, it is also hard to to not have at least a handful of life-changing, positive experiences, which is why, no matter what happens, few people do regret such a decision in the end.

  57. kle

    I couldn’t agree more with this. I write a weekly column for an Italian magazine about my travels and lifestyle and many readers envy me or are inspired to try and do the same.

    Since i know (now better than ever) that our “expectations” in terms of long term travel sometimes don’t match the reality, i also felt the urge to write about that.

    I almost felt “responsible” to fuel these people’s dreams with inspiring and nice tales, and i had to balance it out by specifying that there is not such thing as a perfect happy journey. We have to face life, and problems and fears wherever we are and many people may think that a long term journey is an escape to all that. Or simply have too high expectations about the experience.

    I like your Philosophy of “there is no such thing as failure”, for me, failure is when you have a dream, a project and for the fear of failure you don’t even try.

    We are not all the same, and travel long term is not for everyone. Nothing bad with that! As you said, is a baggage of great experience anyway.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey kle – That sums it all up perfectly and I like the fact that you also write about the part of travel that isn’t all ‘happy tales and positive experiences’. The challenges are a part of it too and any potential traveler should know the full story of what they might expect while on the road living this lifestyle.

  58. Cheryl Cholley

    Travel can be easy or difficult, depending on how you look at it. Tom and I spent four months traveling around the world, and visited seventeen countries. I had planned each stop in each country and had tickets to our next destination already prepared. I thought a week in each country or destination would be sufficient, but we found that to be untrue.

    We were exhausted by the time we returned home, and I for one was totally burned out on travel. For a few years I thought I’d never want to leave home again.

    Then it began again. That desire to see what’s around the bend. I told my husband that because what I do is write, I could do that anywhere in the world. That was the cue he needed. Within days we had planned the next journey.

    This trip will be “slow travel” where we go to a destination with no plans for when we’ll move on. We will relax and get to know the place, explore the countryside and the people, and move on only when it feels right for us.

    I can be sure this is the correct way, but it feels right to us. We’ll find out when we begin our journey in December, and I’ll be writing about it on my blog. What I know for certain is that those that are staying behind here in the states seem envious of us and our decision. I wonder why more people don’t decide to travel?

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Cheryl – I think it’s great that you reviewed your first travels and are now making adjustments for your second adventure. And slow travel offers such a long list of benefits that simply can’t be enjoyed by moving around quickly. I shall look forward to seeing how it all goes!

  59. grahame

    You either love it or you loath it but you simply cannot forget all the memories no matter how good or bad they may be. It’s a life changing experience and something you should at least (once in your life) give it your best shot. We all experience failure at some stage of our lives but you should never give up on your dreams. It’s not always easy the first time round but if you can see beyond the horizon, the next time will be a lot easier. I for one, love to travel and be on the road looking for new adventures in distant places. So much so, I loath to have to go home. If at first you don’t succeed, there just may be something good around the very next corner. All the best to all of you seeking new opportunities on this marvelous planet of ours. And don’t forget to keep your head up high. Travel is not only good for you but it helps you grow in ways you can only imagine.

    1. kle

      Well said! Totally true, i’ve just come back home temporarily after 8 months of travels and, like you said, i’ve changed in ways i’ve never had imagined.

    2. Wandering Earl

      Hey Grahame – Thank you for sharing that wonderful comment and I can only hope that you don’t have to go home too often!

  60. Grace Q

    ” Life is a journey, not a destination.” (I don’t know the quote’s author). I have always learned something about myself in all my travels even those that didn’t quite turned out the way I expected.

  61. cindy singer

    I’m just about at the six month point of my 14 month rtw journey and it’s not quite what I imagined. We chose not to buy rtw tickets and instead plan our trip as we go along. That means almost every night we are on our iPads planning for the next few days. It’s hard to be in the moment when you have to think about where you’re going next. Being with my spouse 24/7 (even after 30 years of marriage) has its own issues. Sometimes we’re just not in sync about how to spend our time. I might want to stay an extra few days in a place just to chill out and he wants to move on. He might want to see more cultural or historical sites while I would be happy just talking to the local people. It’s difficult living out of a backpack and moving around every few days. I don’t think I’d return home early,though, because I don’t know when I’ll have this opportunity again. I wouldn’t consider it a failure if I did return early. Travelling for an extended period of time has always been a dream of mine and whether it turns out good or not so good, I’m glad I fulfilled a dream! I would spend the rest of my life wondering what it would have been like had I not travelled.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Cindy – Have you considered slowing down your travels? Maybe you could stay in one place for a few weeks or even a month? This would allow each of you to explore the destination based on your own interests without having to worry about constantly planning your next move. I know how it feels to always have to find transportation and accommodation every few days which is why I typically travel much more slowly myself these days.

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