Traveling With A Purpose

Traveling With A Purpose

By |2016-07-21T23:57:14-04:00March 4th, 2011|Perspectives, Travel Tips & Advice|87 Comments

Surfing in MexicoThe other day I was asked if one of my goals was to visit every country in the world. And after a lengthy pause, I replied by saying that while I certainly do intend to visit all 193+ countries at some point during the span of my life, I’m obviously not too dedicated to this goal.

Clearly, if visiting every country in the world was a top priority of mine, I would be traveling around to places such as Namibia or Latvia right now, places I’ve yet to visit, instead of finding myself back in Thailand for the ninth time since I began traveling in 1999.

So while, yes, I do want to visit every country in the world, I want to do so at my own pace and while being able to interact with each country as much as possible, as opposed to flying in, spending a night and then flying out simply to check a country off of ‘the list’.

However, if checking every country off of a list as soon as possible is a goal that one is fully dedicated to, I certainly think that is much better than simply wandering aimlessly around the world without any specific purpose.

I recall my first few years of wandering, a period of time that saw me in constant vacation mode as I hopped between countries, only skimming the surface of what travel had to offer. At that time, I was perfectly content checking places off my list even if all I did was stay in the guesthouse for a few days. And I thought I had the most wonderful life imaginable.


Then one day, just over three years into my adventure and while biking around the ruins of Bagan in the north of Burma, I realized that all of my traveling was really leading me nowhere. Apart from having quite a few ‘cool’ experiences under my belt, I was barely learning and barely improving myself. My financial situation hadn’t improved either as, for those first few years, I had to constantly check my bank account in order to make sure I still had some money left for a few more weeks of travel.

And so, while sitting inside of Bagan’s Ananda temple during a much-needed break from the Burmese heat, I decided to change the way I traveled. From that point onward, I made certain that I didn’t cross the border into any country without having a well-defined goal.

For example, I would travel to India in order to do some volunteer work, to South America to practice my Spanish, Eastern Europe to improve my historical knowledge of the region and Australia to create my first source of online income while living in a city I love (Melbourne). More recently, I lived in Sayulita, Mexico in order to learn how to surf, I traveled to Kurdistan to learn about the situation in that part of the world first-hand and right now, I’m in Thailand in order to spend some time in a comfortable environment, interact with other travels and catch up on my work.

Everything has a purpose. No more aimlessness for me.

I really do believe that for anyone interested in extended travel, having such goals is vital. You don’t need to start making a list of goals for every town you visit or even for every country, but traveling with an increased sense of purpose can only help maximize the personal growth you experience while on the road. At the very least it ensures that you gain some extra knowledge that might prove useful at some point in life.

And having such a focus also creates a stronger connection between you and whatever place you’re visiting and as a result, this can naturally lead to new ideas and opportunities that you might have missed otherwise. It’s no coincidence that most of the life-changing opportunities that travel has sent my way all ‘appeared’ during times when I was trying to achieve a specific goal.

I sometimes think of it this way. Nobody attends university without a focus, or major, that they’re interested in studying. So shouldn’t we therefore approach travel, one of the greatest forms of education available to us, in the same manner?

Do you set goals when traveling? What are some of the goals you set for yourself?
(And there are no wrong answers at all. Goals do not have to be serious and deep. Relaxation and clearing your mind are perfectly legitimate travel goals to me!)

The Travel Email - SIGN UP!

New blog posts, updates from around the world and endless inspiration to help you achieve your own travel goals. Sent once per week.


  1. […] bungee jumping over the Himalayas before I die.” However, I do see the importance of setting specific goals for myself while traveling. I like to plan ahead for trips a whole lot less than I did when I was in college and in my 20s. […]

  2. […] resource for any homebody looking for that extra push to go abroad. Some of his best posts include Traveling With A Purpose, Why You Should Travel Despite Your Fear of Failure, and 42 Ways You Can Make Money and Travel the […]

  3. Andy August 24, 2012 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    It’s what I want to do… travel to different countries and in my free time do something specific that is both related to that country and at the same time teaches me new skills. For example, in Thailand I’d be training Muay Thai, learning a bit of the language and maybe take some cooking classes to learn how to prepare their delicious national dishes. In Latin America it’d be dancing classes. In India, yoga and meditation. The beauty of this is that those countries are often very affordable for high-quality one-on-one instruction for these things. There’s no better way to learn a language than doing it in the target country. And there’s no better way to get to know a culture than to immerse yourself and live with the locals and do as they do. On top of that you also get a massive bonus in low prices and free warm weather! 🙂

  4. Roy Marvelous April 25, 2012 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    Damnit Earl, every time I visit your blog I lose hours reading up on random posts 🙂

    This is very interesting food for thought though. I visited Thailand recently for the sole purpose of learning Muay Thai and in retrospect, I feel like I got so much more from the experience, then to visit just for the sake of visiting.

    • Earl April 27, 2012 at 4:45 am - Reply

      Hey Roy – That’s exactly what I’m talking about…that purpose, any purpose at all, gives a lot more meaning to our trip and it ensures that every day has a specific focus. Glad you survived the Muay Thai experience!

  5. Aliza aseltine March 18, 2012 at 1:31 am - Reply


    I’ve never commented on anyones blog (and have been reading quite a few good ones!) but felt the need to n yours. Your blog s incredible! I connect wit almost every point your making! It’s wonderful! Thanks so much! You really av a str g writing once and love that its focusing on nternal emotions and the traveler MINDSET outside of daily stories (always loved) and hostel enthusiasm (always good to!) thanks so much,

    Peaceful thoughts (:

    • Earl March 19, 2012 at 9:06 am - Reply

      Hey Aliza – Thanks so much for the comment and I’m glad to hear you’ve connected with what I’ve written. I definitely try to focus on the smaller aspects of travel, on the simple interactions, moments, thoughts and challenges, that are part of this lifestyle. I believe that those are the important experiences in life, the experiences that change us and force us to see the world differently 🙂

  6. megan March 20, 2011 at 4:51 am - Reply

    Being typically such an obsessively goal-oriented person, I can’t believe that I’ve never really considered the purpose of my travels, given how much of it I’ve done over the last five or six years.

    Just back from ten months around the world, at the end of my trip I started to feel really aimless and to be honest, a bit bored by visiting new places every few days. I wonder if things would have been different if I’d actually considered the reasons I was visiting the places I was. Great post, and something to think about!

    • Earl March 20, 2011 at 4:25 pm - Reply

      Hey Megan – I started off the same way. And when I realized the need for me to have more focus, it was exactly at a time when I began feeling a little bored while traveling as well. The good thing is that even a small focus – for example, ‘trying to eat a new dish every day’ – does make a difference as it removes excess aimlessness and allows you to sleep at night feeling that you accomplished something beyond wandering the streets all day. At least it’s something to think about for your next set of travels!

      Thank you for commenting 🙂

  7. Lorie March 16, 2011 at 5:19 am - Reply

    Travel with purpose really broadens your worldview. It helps you connect with the pains and successes of people around the world in a different way than those who’ve remained local. I’ve visited over 20 countries, lived extended time in Haiti, Liberia, and Pakistan and worked disaster response in Albania, Kurdistan, and Sri Lanka. I am thankful for the lives that have intersected with mine. I hope you experience the same.

    • Earl March 16, 2011 at 4:15 pm - Reply

      Hey Lorie – Thanks so much for the comment! I’ve already experienced the same during my travels, especially once I began traveling with a specific focus. And it would be interesting to read your stories on places like Pakistan and Kurdistan, two of the most memorable destinations from my decade on the road!

  8. Rebecca March 14, 2011 at 9:05 am - Reply

    Totally agree – even if your sole purpose is to eat the food or learn more about the culture of the country, or even to totally relax and unwind on a beach, there’s always a goal to be achieved. For me, anyway.

  9. Federico March 11, 2011 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    You lived in Sayulita?? I thought you had lived in Playa del Carmen. I currently live in Nuevo Vallarta, 20 minutes from Sayulta- in fact I was there yesterday! FYI, the professional world longboarding tour will be stopping here this weekend. I don’t suppose you’ll be heading back any time soon right?

    • Earl March 12, 2011 at 12:32 pm - Reply

      Hey Federico – The first place I lived in when I arrived in Mexico was Sayulita. I was there for about 2.5 months and I must say that it was one of the most enjoyable 2.5 months of my life! I love that little town. At the moment, I don’t have plans to head back there but you never know as Sayulita is always an option for me.

      It would be great to see the longboarding tour as well. Do you surf at all? I learned while in Sayulita and I still think it is one of the best places on the planet for beginners. Ok, I need to stop writing about it or else I’ll start missing it too much 🙂

      • Federico March 12, 2011 at 7:09 pm - Reply

        I certainly surf! It is one of the reasons I’m currently in this area 🙂 Gotta say that the waves haven’t been to good lately, but we had a fun session yesterday although the ocean was behaving weird, certainly because of the tsunami. How long ago were you in Sayulita First time I came here was 6 years ago…and it hs changed so much! For example, they a month ago they opened a “Bodegita del Medio”, the world famous cafe/restaurant made so by Hemingway. In any case, if you do come back and I’m still here, surf’s up!

  10. Alexandra March 11, 2011 at 6:03 pm - Reply

    Love this post! I think there also comes a point where the goal itself goes from being selfish to being selfless, and that’s a change we need.
    For me, backpacking has really shattered the myth of the “cool traveller”, because very quickly you realize how mindless some experiences are, and how people exotifiy or take advantage of a culture instead of attempting to understand it in any way. Kudos to you and hope you can change some people’s approaches to what they’re doing 🙂

    • Earl March 12, 2011 at 12:29 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much for the comment Alexandra! I do agree that a lot of travelers begin with selfish intentions, thinking only about how they can benefit and how they can have the most fun everywhere they go. But I think that at some point, long-term travelers tend to break off into two groups…those that choose to end their travels because the ‘always having fun’ phase starts to get old and they don’t want to travel any other way and those who realize the need to change the way in which they travel. Truly understanding a culture can be hard work and it often requires having a purpose so that we can dig deeper into our surroundings and not everyone is willing to take that route (which is perfectly fine of course).

      Seems like you’ve taken the latter path though, which is always good to hear 🙂

  11. joshywashington March 10, 2011 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    YES! Having great experiences, taking cool pictures and piling up tales of travel is all well and good but the conscious person reaches the impasse of MEANING sooner or later.

    This is something that I have been thinking about a lot for the last year or so, what is the purpose, the meaning of any travel and travel media I will engage in? Self glorifying, look-at-me travel becomes paltry and depressing.

    you have to find the meaning, you have to make room for it, look for it and decide for yourself.

    Way to bring this discussion to the fray my friend!

    • Earl March 11, 2011 at 3:55 am - Reply

      @joshywashington: It does seem that travel often turns into a ”where have you been” type of competition and once that gets started, it’s easy to lose one’s way and start traveling only to tick off countries. Spending time trying to determine what we want to achieve with our travel helps eliminate that and bring us closer to the core of why we became addicted to travel in the first place. Only then do the life-changing benefits and opportunities suddenly appear with more regularity and intensity!

  12. flip March 10, 2011 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    i started to travel to unwind… then to escape… then now im thinking of travelling to learn something new… that would hopefully help me escape the cube permanently…

    • Earl March 11, 2011 at 3:56 am - Reply

      Hey Flip – Those goals are as good as any! And I think that once you focus on learning something new on your next adventure, you’ll find that goal of escaping permanently will be much easier to achieve. The more we learn, the more opportunities come our way!

  13. Dina March 10, 2011 at 2:36 am - Reply

    Our country counts are messed up because of many semi-countries that I don’t know I should count or not. Gibraltar for example, and Saint-Martin in Caribbean (French side, north of Sint Maarten) I want to count them as country, but their status are overseas territories. How to count that?
    Also what about big countries like USA and Australia? I think for them, the count should go for every states, because they are humongous.

    • Earl March 10, 2011 at 7:01 pm - Reply

      Hey Dina – I’ve just been sticking with the official United Nations country count for now. Overseas territories get a bit tricky, although they should count for something!

  14. elizabeth March 8, 2011 at 9:02 pm - Reply

    Hey Earl! I been lurking around here for a while. Keeping quiet. Love the site and I LOVE the FROOOOO.

    • Earl March 9, 2011 at 2:11 am - Reply

      Hey Elizabeth – Thanks for commenting! I love that fro too but still find it difficult to bring it back 🙂

  15. Iran Travel Guide March 8, 2011 at 3:20 pm - Reply

    Hey Earl, it’s so inspiring to read this post and learn that at some point everyone gets to a decision making stage about the “Quality of Life”. Life equals travel here.

    I know Iran is at your list and hope to see you here some day. I assure you there will be a lot to learn in here.

    See you soon,

    Rahman Mehraby
    Destination Iran

    • Earl March 9, 2011 at 2:09 am - Reply

      Hey Rahman – It’s interesting because many people believe that long-term travelers never think about their quality of life too often. But in reality, we are faced with struggles and obstacles just like everyone else and so we do need to spend time thinking about ways to gain the most quality from our lifestyles.

      And I have no doubt that there is a great deal to learn in Iran! Hopefully it won’t be too long before I get there 🙂

  16. Ozzy March 8, 2011 at 6:22 am - Reply

    My main goal for most things I do, especially when it comes to traveling is very simple. I travel and do what I do to see new things and experience all that life has to offer. I came up with a quote when I was in this old abandoned building on it’s roof top staring at the night sky – I go to see what there is to see in ways that than else see. I don’t make many if any plans when I go places, I just show up and see where the wind blows me. It’s amazing the places you end up and the people you meet when you have no real set plans and you are willing to change what plans you do have at the drop of a hat.

    • Earl March 9, 2011 at 2:06 am - Reply

      Hey Ozzy – I agree with you completely which is why I don’t think that goals are the same as plans. I now prefer to travel to a country with a general idea of what I’d like to get out of that trip, but I still show up without any plan whatsoever and see where the journey leads. Flexibility is vital for long-term travel, but I still find that having a purpose in my mind for each journey has led me to more opportunities than during the times I simply traveled just to travel. Hope you’re well!

  17. Holidays in India March 7, 2011 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    I think everyone that travels has a reason for doing so whether they realise it or not.

  18. Ed March 7, 2011 at 4:21 am - Reply

    We all have different reasons why we travel from one place to another. We may want to take vacation or just travel because of the urge to get away from our current state. We’ll all evolve and find our purpose in due time. Made me think of why I travel in the first place. Whatever reason it is, it would be hard to label a person ‘shallow’ just because he just wants to go without a plan as that is what he probably wants to do in the first place.

    Nice post. Got to your site thru Flipnomad!

    • Earl March 7, 2011 at 6:21 am - Reply

      Thanks for visiting and commenting Ed!

      I think that taking a relaxing vacation or just getting away are perfectly legitimate purposes for travel. And often times, in those cases, once we arrive, our purpose may change and we end up benefiting in ways that we previously hadn’t imagined. And I hope I didn’t imply that people who travel without a plan are ‘shallow’! I am simply speaking from my 11 years of travel experience where I have discovered that traveling with a purpose has almost always proven more rewarding to me than the times I traveled without any goal at all.

      And I also think the word ‘plan’ and ‘goal’ are quite different. While I do try to have a goal when visiting a particular country, I almost never have much of a plan beyond arriving at the airport. I love to figure things out as I go along, but just having a bit of focus to act as my guide has proven valuable to me.

      • Ed March 8, 2011 at 12:04 pm - Reply

        Ey Earl, I would have to agree our reasons for traveling will change in due time and having goals for going to a particular place is definitely more worth it because you get to hit more birds with one stone. It makes the experience more memorable.

        and sorry for the confusion. NO, I wasn’t referring to you about people traveling without a purpose as ‘shallow’. It’s for those who think that going to a destination in random would be ‘pointless’. peace out! 😀

  19. Yakezie March 6, 2011 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    Makes a lot of sense to me! I’ve traveled to 33 countries so far, and want to see about 25-30 more of the ones I want to really see before I die.

    I’m on a 1 new country a year mission, and perhaps 2 during retirement. We shall see!


    • Earl March 7, 2011 at 6:23 am - Reply

      Hey Sam – A 1 new country per year mission seems reasonable to me. I’d be curious as to how you choose that country each year! Must be a tough decision 🙂

  20. Theodora March 6, 2011 at 2:40 pm - Reply

    I think sometimes the reason why we go somewhere only becomes clear once we’re there. But I applaud your choices and motivations here.

    • Earl March 7, 2011 at 6:15 am - Reply

      Hey Theodora – That is very true as well 🙂 And even though I try to have a focus for each trip, I am always open to having that focus change after arriving. There are plenty of examples of traveling somewhere for one reason and then gaining something entirely different from that trip in the end!

  21. Amy March 6, 2011 at 11:29 am - Reply

    I totally agree! The beginning of my first big trip, I went through my guidebook with the goal of seeing everything (well, almost everything) in the guidebook. If I didn’t see one thing, I felt that people would be disappointed in me for not being a good enough tourists. After I realized that this trip was for ME not for THEM, I started traveling differently. I really enjoy getting to know people and trying new foods and drinks. My travels are a lot more purposeful now and much more satisfying.

    • Earl March 7, 2011 at 6:09 am - Reply

      Hey Amy – I think we all go through that at some point! And I will say that as soon as we do make that realization that our trips are for ourselves and do not have to meet anyone else’s expectations, everything changes for the better, which clearly you seem to have experienced as well. I’m happy to hear that you’re now traveling the way you want to and enjoying the benefits as a result!

  22. Erica March 6, 2011 at 8:49 am - Reply

    I think because we are so new to the long term travel thing I feel as though I need to have a “reason” to be somewhere. Thus Latin America – I’m brushing up on my Spanish and Shaun is learning it for the first time.

    Funny thing – our first destination is Puerto Vallarta with the intention of spending some surfing time in Sayulita. Do you have any suggestions for us?

    • Earl March 7, 2011 at 6:02 am - Reply

      Hey Erica – Trust me, even for those of us who have been on the road for a long time, we still need to have a ‘reason’ to be somewhere or else we risk having our travels lose their excitement and appeal!

      And I’m thrilled you’re going to Sayulita!! Here’s a couple of suggestions…for surfing, visit Ramon at Blue Lagoon surf shop on the beach and tell him Derek (my middle name is Earl) and Ben say hello and recommended his shop to you. He offers the best deals on surf boards that we could find in town and he’s super-friendly. As for a place to stay, it depends on how long you plan to be there, but if you are looking for long-term (1 month or more) apartment rentals, send me an email and I can give you a list of contacts to get you started.

      For shorter term rentals, there are a couple of hostels close to the beach and even a bunch of bungalows just behind the beach as well that were relatively inexpensive when I was there. And you must try the local fish taco restaurants around the central square in town as well, along with the small bakery right behind the beach on the main street (I ate breakfast here almost every morning!). Apart from that, the town is tiny and about as laid-back as you’ll find anywhere. It still remains one of my absolute favorite places on the planet 🙂

      If you do have more questions or need any more advice, send me an email and I’d be more than happy to offer what I can!

  23. Fresh From Twitter March 6, 2011 at 12:00 am - Reply

    […] travel site! RT @WanderingEarl How do you #travel? Aimless wandering or with a specific purpose? RT @royce_ontheBEAT: #IfIDidntHaveToWork I wuld travel the world How I found myself up the creek […]

  24. Kim March 5, 2011 at 11:42 pm - Reply

    Great post. It’s a great remind to travel consciously. I’m planning an upcoming time of indefinate travel and I want it to have reason and purpose. I like setting a goal for each place/country you visit.

    • Earl March 7, 2011 at 5:50 am - Reply

      Hey Kim – It really is a good idea to have goals and I also think it’s equally important to realize that these goals can change. Perhaps you visit a country for one particular reason but soon become interested in pursuing an entirely new goal that has presented itself. Nothing wrong with that! Just being conscious about the importance of goals is enough to enhance one’s travel experiences…

  25. Jason March 5, 2011 at 8:13 am - Reply

    Earl, If your truly love the notion of travel and experiencing new places (of which I am 100% sure you are) then your goal will be reached at some point in the future. It will come naturally, and if it doesn’t then who really cares, as in the end travel is all about the experience and not checking of lists.

    I myself love to travel and also travel with the purpose of one day visiting every country on earth. I believe I am roughly about half way into this quest. Roughly 20 years into a 40 year plan.

    I can understand why people wish to achieve this, and for most this notion doesn’t come about until many years of travel has brought the quest into reality and not just a dream.

    As I travel with this purpose year in and year out, I do always try and visit somewhere new each time, but in the end it’s not important If I get there or not.

    As they say in the classic’s mate ‘It’s about the Journey and not the Destination’. Keep wandering my friend….

    • Earl March 7, 2011 at 5:43 am - Reply

      Hey Jason – Wise words from a wise traveler! And the words that struck me most were “if it doesn’t then who really cares”. That’s exactly how I feel which is why I often choose to return to India over visiting somewhere new. At this point, it is just the thought of being able to interact with every country in the world that appeals to me, definitely not checking countries off the list. Although, I have recently thought about structuring my travels a little more so that I am not simply choosing destinations last minute all the time and will be in a better position to achieve the goals that I do have for myself.

      Thank you for your comment as always and I hope the marathon training is going well!

  26. rose March 5, 2011 at 4:22 am - Reply

    I remember that hair!!!! I could send you another good shot of it 😉

    I think anybody travelling for a certain amount of time would have to agree with this post – there comes a time where discovering a new country, or discovering yourself through travel, needs a slightly more focused approach. Whether it is something that is particular to the country you’re travelling to (like a language) or a new skill or project you want to develop (writing for some, usually creative projects for me) you definitely need some kind of goal to keep you from floating adrift when your life is filled with new faces & places all the time. Sometimes I have more serious goals, like learning to use a more complicated computer program or making new designs for my business as I travel, and sometimes I have very silly ones, like learning to hula hoop or cook a certain country’s most famous dish, but either way they keep me feeling like I am leaving with a bit more knowledge or experience than when I came. The encounters I have when I’m involved in something always seem to be a lot more meaningful, too!

    • Earl March 7, 2011 at 5:35 am - Reply

      Hey Rose – Hmmm…please do send me that other photo! I unfortunately don’t have too many afro photos from that period of time 🙂

      And what you said about having serious goals and silly goals seems like the perfect approach. The word ‘goal’ is often associated with the idea that they must always be serious, but I see nothing wrong with fun or silly goals as well. After all, we need to be doing things we enjoy in order to make the most out of our travels!

  27. Caz Makepeace March 4, 2011 at 11:48 pm - Reply

    I couldn’t agree more Earl. I have to have a purpose for everything I do. We are trying to come up with the right place for us to go at the moment to suit our goals and purposes while trying to ensure it suits some of our life’s conditions at the moment!!

    I’ve never been a check the country off the list, just to check it off person. There is no point me going somewhere if I don’t have a purpose for it.

    Great post

    • Earl March 5, 2011 at 3:06 am - Reply

      Hey Caz – That’s exactly how I feel these days. I’d rather not pack up and travel somewhere if I don’t have a reason for going there. In the early days I would go anywhere just to go, but times have definitely changed. And while, sometimes, trying to match our goals to the right travel destination can be a challenge, it is all worth it in the end with the enhanced experience that results!

  28. Simon March 4, 2011 at 10:58 pm - Reply

    I think having a good “why” can also lead to the right mindset and actions needed for extended travel. When I travel to different locations I usually have a few set goals in mind. I think this really adds to the excitement and a reason to explore more. A solid purpose is a must.

    • Earl March 5, 2011 at 3:00 am - Reply

      Hey Simon – As you know, I definitely agree with you! Asking yourself ‘why’ is a great way to start thinking about your travels. And it does add to the excitement as we embark on a mission to accomplish whatever goal we set for ourselves, even if it is to try and find the best food in a particular city. To me, even this goal is much better than no goal at all!an

  29. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures March 4, 2011 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    The more involved I get with the travel community I realize that each person has a different relationship with travel and no one’s way is right or more authentic. I resonate with your way though!

    PS Loving the hair in that pic!!!

    • Earl March 5, 2011 at 2:56 am - Reply

      Hey Andi – That used to be my normal hair for quite a few years and every now and then I think about bringing it back!

  30. Anthony March 4, 2011 at 7:29 pm - Reply

    Interesting. Initially I was all for South America for my 1st trip this year for the purpose solely on learning Spanish and I’m quite interested in the history of Latin America too.

    I’m considering SE Asia too but to be honest there isn’t a particular purpose! Except from the thought of Thai food every day ha!

    • Earl March 5, 2011 at 2:49 am - Reply

      Hey Anthony – Well, you wouldn’t be the first person to travel to Southeast Asia just for the food 🙂 And that seems like a good enough reason to me! I do see the dilemma though, and I’m sure that after giving it some more thought, you’ll suddenly realize which of the two destinations you really want to go to for your first adventure. You’ll wake up one day and you’ll just know!

  31. Natalie March 4, 2011 at 7:25 pm - Reply

    Totally agree but I think everyone that travels has a reason for doing so whether they realise it or not. It might just be their way of de-stressing for two weeks or they are traveling to run away from something. They might not know where they are going but they know the reason why they are traveling.

    • Earl March 5, 2011 at 2:46 am - Reply

      Hey Natalie – That’s a good way to look at it as the reasons you mentioned, which don’t have any specific connection to the actual destination, are still quite valid. And even with de-stressing or running away from something, if a traveler is aware that these are the reasons behind their trip, I would imagine this would lead to a much more rewarding journey as well. Thank you as always for your thoughts!

  32. Christy @ Ordinary Traveler March 4, 2011 at 7:24 pm - Reply

    I completely agree. I could see how traveling around for long periods of time without a purpose can get very boring and uninspiring. I like to have some sort of purpose also each time I visit a place, even if that purpose is to force myself to relax for a week! 🙂

    • Earl March 5, 2011 at 2:41 am - Reply

      Hey Christy – I honestly feel that relaxation is as good a purpose as any! Sometimes we just need time to wind down and re-energize ourselves and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Relaxing for a year might be a different story but for a couple of weeks, it’s more than important!

  33. Liv March 4, 2011 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    Ticking countries off the list is a pointless exercise that brings little, if any, value to such travel experience. I only recently sat down and counted how many countries I have been to, because it had never crossed my mind to do so before. Travelling and exploring is great, but I think it’s important to be in the right frame of mind, in order to get the most out of it. Your goals are a good idea.

    • Earl March 5, 2011 at 2:39 am - Reply

      Hey Liv – Thank you for sharing your thoughts! And glad to know that you put some thought into the reasons why you travel and are not content to just float around without a purpose 🙂

    • Andrew Hallam March 5, 2011 at 10:55 am - Reply

      I’m with you on this one Liv,

      I travel a lot, but I don’t think of ticking countries off a list either. That’s for people with very little time, who work too hard, and perhaps want an impressive resume to bring back to gatherings. Ahhh, maybe I’m being a bit tough on them. Either way, I have to admit that I do travel aimlessly, looking for interesting things, without much purpose. Sometimes I have a plan. But for the most part….nope.

      Earl, I can’t fault you for visiting Thailand about nine times. I haven’t counted, but I’m sure that my wife and I have done the same, in the past five years. Gotta love Thailand.

      Andrew (From Singapore)

      • Earl March 7, 2011 at 5:47 am - Reply

        Hey Andrew – Sorry for the delay in responding as I just found your comment in the spam folder! I think everyone obviously has a different motivation for travel and there are definitely some people who are simply interested in beefing up their travel resume. And that’s fine with me, although it’s not at all how I personally want to approach my travels.

        And as for Thailand, I’ve even made pacts with myself in the past where I promise myself I won’t visit Thailand for a few years, but the appeal of a few weeks or months there is just to difficult to ignore sometimes. Glad to know you feel the same!

  34. Brian March 4, 2011 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    Great post!

    We totally agree with your new method of travel. We now do the same although we’ve been on the opposite extreme as well where we planned too much into a destination! It’s a careful balance I suppose. 2 of our recent adventures in Europe revolved around a U2 concert.

    • Earl March 5, 2011 at 2:35 am - Reply

      Hey Brian – Traveling in order to attend a concert definitely has a specific purpose! And I don’t think that traveling with goals means that you have to also have detailed plans. I’ve been traveling with goals for quite a few years now but I almost never plan much beyond my flight to any country. I just use the goals as a general outline that guides me when it comes time for me to make decisions. So far that has worked out quite well 🙂

  35. Barbara Weibel March 4, 2011 at 1:07 pm - Reply

    So good to meet up with you in Chiang Mai! And this post couldn’t be more appropriate, in view of our discussion last night. Like anything else, travel without a purpose can quickly lose its luster. I have made much the same decision as you. Enjoy your “recuperation” in Chaing Mai.

    • Earl March 5, 2011 at 2:32 am - Reply

      Hey Barbara – Very nice to have met you as well and to have spent at least a few minutes chatting! And our conversation the other night is exactly what made me finally finish this post and get it out there 🙂

      Enjoy your time in Laos and I certainly hope to meet up with you again at some point along the way!

  36. Jeremy B March 4, 2011 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    For me, I am drawn to places based on my interests and passions. When I travel, I love to plan. However, I think every place you go needs to be open to having time to wander. Sometimes I can get upset if my plans are messed up but I think it is good to let experience teach you. We don’t always set the goals or make all the plans – sometimes they are made for us. So I say a balance of goals and spontaneity. Both will have lessons to teach us and great experiences to remember.

    • Earl March 5, 2011 at 2:30 am - Reply

      Hey Jeremy – I agree that a balance is needed for sure. When I was talking about purpose/goals, I wasn’t necessarily equating that to having a plan. I rarely have a defined plan when I travel, but having an idea of what I want to achieve or learn while in a particular country, acts as a guide when it does come time to make decisions along the way. Plans and goals are definitely two different things I’d say. And like you said, plans can (or will) get messed up, but that doesn’t have to affect our goals…

  37. Dyanne @TravelnLass March 4, 2011 at 10:29 am - Reply

    Likewise for me, I feel I get more out of my travels if I have at least some sort of defined purpose in the locales that I visit. That’s why – though I’m eagerly looking forward to be moving to Southeast Asia come October, I’m especially excited about taking a CELTA course in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and teaching EFL in Vietnam.

    • Earl March 5, 2011 at 2:26 am - Reply

      Hey Dyanne – Sounds like you have a solid plan in place for your upcoming trip! Having that focus on teaching English will definitely add some extra meaning to your experience in Asia and I’m glad to hear you’re headed to Chiang Mai. That’s where I am right now and it has always been one of my favorite places to spend some time every now and then!

  38. Turkey's For Life March 4, 2011 at 8:55 am - Reply

    Completely agree! Many people are interested in ‘ticking off the list’ and that’s fine if they’re happy with it. There are a lot of places in the world we are going to miss out on because we like to hang around in one place for a while and revisit places. We travel to experience the different feelings of a place and you can only get that by sticking around. Granted, 7 years in Turkey is quite a while to be ‘sticking around!’ 🙂

    • Earl March 5, 2011 at 2:23 am - Reply

      Hey Julia – Haha…7 years is an impressive amount of time! Of course, what you gain from such a long-term stay is beyond anything that any traveler passing through Turkey could ever receive, so I can imagine that your time there has been more than worth it. I’d love to gain as much knowledge about a country as you must now have about Turkey! Maybe one day I’ll stick around somewhere for more than a few months 🙂

  39. Angie Orth March 4, 2011 at 5:57 am - Reply

    Good point! I’m just getting started on my big adventure, and though volunteering is a priority, I still haven’t gotten around to it! Purposeful planning needs to become part of my vocabulary =)

    • Earl March 5, 2011 at 2:14 am - Reply

      Hey Angie – The good news is that once you start planning with a purpose, it becomes quite natural quite quickly. I’m sure it will all come together for you and before you know it, it will be a part of your vocabulary! I appreciate the comment!

  40. Dalene March 4, 2011 at 5:41 am - Reply

    Earl – this is really, really great. I easily admit that the question of ‘purpose’ has come to mind lately, and I’m not quite are how hubby and I will answer it. We have been on the road far less than you (only 19 months) and while we have been volunteering along the way, I still wonder where this is all ultimately going to take us.

    Question for you – does the country you go to dictate the goal or does the goal dictate the country?

    • Earl March 5, 2011 at 2:12 am - Reply

      Hey Dalene – That’s an excellent question and for me, usually it is the goal that dictates the country. I always say that where I go isn’t all that important to me and I’d be willing to go to any country that my goals lead me to. A good example is right now. I needed to catch up on work and wanted to be in a place where I knew people and could live comfortably and since Chiang Mai, Thailand could provide that, I came straight here!

      • Rebecca March 5, 2011 at 2:52 am - Reply

        You know, I can see how that makes perfect sense for that particular goal. And I imagine long term travelers have that situation on a regular basis. But I would say that, for a vast majority of people, *where* they go is the most important factor when traveling. And, historically, I think that is what travel has been about.

        People tend to go to places they have dreamed of seeing. Maybe after you’ve been traveling for a long time, and you’ve seen most of the places you have always wanted to experience in person, your goals become about other factors. But there’s a whole wide world of places I’ve heard about all of my life, and I want to go to those specific places – all of them – and check them out for myself. It’s going to take a while, so I think destinations will be my purpose for sometime to come.

        Even when people just want a beach vacation, they usually have several beaches to choose from. Price probably plays a big part, but I’m sure they usually research various countries and choose whichever one they find most interesting.

        I believe that most people, when they think of travel, they care very much where they go. And, really, whenever you go someplace different – whether it is completely unfamiliar or just someplace not at all like where you live – it’s a learning experience. It’s almost impossible to travel someplace very different and not be affected by it in some way.

  41. Kenan Lucas March 4, 2011 at 5:36 am - Reply

    Interesting assessment. Although some might argue that travelling without a purpose can be a purpose in itself!

    For instance I am on the island of Langkawi at present and I have no purpose whatsoever. It is incredibly liberating.

    • Earl March 5, 2011 at 2:08 am - Reply

      Hey Kenan – I can definitely accept the idea that having no purpose can sometimes be your purpose. Although, I would be willing to bet that if you continued to travel without a purpose for a longer period of time, at some point, it wouldn’t be as liberating anymore.

      But forget about that for now, just keep on enjoying your time in Langkawi!

  42. Christy @ Technosyncratic March 4, 2011 at 5:28 am - Reply

    This is a beautiful way to look at travel. We currently do this to a certain extent, but I really want to be more mindful as we continue to travel and discover new places to explore and learn from. Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

    • Earl March 5, 2011 at 2:03 am - Reply

      Hey Christy – Mindful is a great word to use. And of course, the goal/purpose can always change but having even a general idea of what you want to get out of your visit to a particular country makes such a difference 🙂

  43. Rebecca March 4, 2011 at 4:50 am - Reply

    I’m not sure. I go to places I’ve always heard about to see what they are like up close and personal. Sometimes I see something completely different than I expected but, either way, I feel like I still learn something even when I zip through. Probably because I’m a history buff, and the things I most want to see are of historical significance. If I like a place enough, I’ll stay awhile, then go back and linger. And usually keep going back.

    Or, maybe you could call that having goals. I want to see the Wonders of the World. I want to see ruins and well preserved ancient structures. I want to learn more about the history and culture of places I visit.

    And yet…some places just call to you and others don’t. I’m not gonna be spending much time in the places that don’t. Because there are so many freaking places that do. But sometimes there’s just one or two things I want to check out in areas that, otherwise, don’t interest me.

    Plus, you know, I’m always up for a nice beach. One with warm water and good weather, that won’t break the bank. And I approach those with no other goal than major relaxation. 🙂

    • Earl March 5, 2011 at 3:09 am - Reply

      Hey Rebecca – Well, I’d say that being a history buff adds a purpose to all of your travels. Imagine traveling without trying to seek out and learn about the history of everywhere you go. Your travels would probably look much different! And I’m all up for a beach break every now and then as well. Nothing wrong with relaxation at all!

  44. Henway March 4, 2011 at 4:36 am - Reply

    I’m definitely with you. I know people who just picked any random vacation spot when they go on vacation. That’s so pointless. I rather choose a place carefully where I want to immerse myself with the culture, learn something about it, and grow in the process. I guess that’s why I usually stay away from the usual vacation spots like Florida.

    • Earl March 5, 2011 at 1:58 am - Reply

      Hey Henway – I can understand that to some people, the destination isn’t as important as being able to relax and get away from the normal routine for a while. In these cases, any place will often do as a destination! But for those wanting to get more out of their travels, putting additional thought into the decision is of course the way to go in order to make the most out of the experience. Thanks so much for the comment!

Leave A Comment