How Travel Ruined My Chances Of A Normal Life

Travelling is one of the most important things in my life. I don’t want to say it’s the most important thing, because over the years I have realised that no amount of sea and sand will make up for having a loving family and loyal friends. Travel is important to me for many reasons, the main one being that it has had a profoundly positive effect on my life, pushing me to leave my comfort zone and discover places I previously could only have dreamt about. Travel has changed my outlook on life, has steered the direction of my career and has made me a happier and more rounded person. The people I have met on the road have made me realise that anything is possible in life, and there are so many ways to live the limited years we have been given.

I used to get agitated as to why people didn’t understand my obsession with travel, why they too didn’t want to drop everything and travel the world. However, after 10 years of nomadic life, jumping from country to country and job to job, backpacking through more than 50 countries around the world, I now realise why they did not see through the same eyes as I did.

While long-term travelling has many merits, and anyone who does it will certainly have no regrets, there are also many downsides to living a nomadic life. Downsides that make trying to settle down in your home country one of the most difficult things you will ever do. And for many, something we may well put off until it’s too late to ever return.

There is a famous travel quote that everyone knows and loves to share. It says, “Life is a book and those that don’t travel read only one page”. While I always loved this quote, I actually don’t think there’s a whole lot of truth to it. There is far more to living a happy and fulfilling life than dropping everything to travel the world. People value different things and people should do what makes them happy. Be it job satisfaction, excelling at a certain sport, finding love, having kids, building an empire or living a frugal life on the road, everyone has their own own story to tell. Maybe life is a book, but it is your own personal adventures and not travel that will fill the pages and make for an interesting read.

Like I said, I have no regrets about living the type of lifestyle I do, I just want to highlight some negative aspects and assure people there is no such thing as ‘living the dream’, there is only ‘living your dream’. I am eternally inspired by all my friends and family and can only hope that they are as proud of me and the life I am living as I am of them.

We have all read the endless articles on the merits of travel, on how it will change your life for the better, but let us now take a few minutes to look at how travel ruined my chances of living a normal life.

Relationships

I can count the number of serious relationships I have had on one hand. I have fallen in and out of love far less than I have flown in and out of countries, and yet leaving loved one’s behind because I had the urge to keep moving remains one of the most heart wrenching feelings I have will ever experienced.

Sometimes it wasn’t meant to be, but other times you have to question if things might have worked out if you hadn’t had the need to keep travelling, if you could have just kept still for longer than a few months. When you live a nomadic lifestyle, packing up and leaving your life behind many times a year, maintaining serious relationships is nigh on impossible.  I still crave companionship the way I did when I was younger, when I was on the road less, but these days it seems it’s just one or the other. Does long-term solo travel mean you must sacrifice the chance for long-term love? I hope not.

Friendships

There are some friends, the special ones, who you know will always be in your life. The one’s that you can stay up all night chatting with after being away for 2 years, and yet it feels like you never left. The one’s you don’t need to Skype with all the time, but you know you can meet up and pick up right where you left off. If you have friends like this, as I do, consider yourself a very lucky person. However, even the longest friendships can slowly start to dissolve if you are away long enough. When you start missing engagements and weddings, when you have to turn down an offer to become a godparent or you don’t get to see your best friend’s baby until they are no longer an infant, the friendship you once had will no longer be the same. 

Employment

“Travelling builds character and shows you are a team player, yet can also helps you become fiercely independent and self motivated. Your experiences abroad help you deal with the most stressful circumstances and lead to a better understanding of how business is conducted abroad”.

I know, I’ve heard it all before. In fact I’ve said it all before, every time I try to settle down and seek full-time employment. That’s all well in good when you return from one year overseas or after a few months backpacking around Europe, but when an employer see’s a CV of a long-term traveller, who has had 11 jobs in 10 years on 5 different continents, all of them in different fields and with little to no consistency, the tough questions start to be asked.

Believe me, trying to persuade a new employer that you are not a flight risk is like trying to persuade a parrot not to talk. It might work in the short-term but in the end, the truth will come out. Especially when you are already wondering how many weeks vacation you get and how soon can it be used! Employers want loyalty and commitment to a company, not someone who will have most likely flee the country in less than 12 months.

Independence

This is a crazy one but sometimes I believe I am too independent. Most of the time, I don’t rely on anyone else for help, for advice, for companionship. Like a lone wolf, I am happy to do everything by myself despite the fact that I am a total extrovert and love making new friends and being around people. Renting a motorbike by myself to travel around an island for a few days, or jumping on a plane by myself to a country I can barely pronounce, does not faze me. Every time I have tried to live a settled and normal life back home, my extreme independence has worked against me. I forget to call my friends to go for lunch or to go see a movie with me, as I am so used to doing it alone. I become a total mess when forced to do things with groups (be it for work or leisure) as I have become so accustomed to leaving when I am ready, not having to wait around for others and making my own decisions. Where as my friends would happily wait until everyone has a free week off during the summer and all go on holidays together, I would prefer to hop on Skyscanner, find the cheapest flight possible regardless of destination, and head off at whatever date suits me.

Saving

My love of travel, or obsession if we’re going to be honest here, has turned me into the worst saver in the world. I am 30 years old and don’t own a house, a car or any possession of any worth. If anything were to happen to me, all that would be left for my dear parents would be a small overdraft! When I was younger 30 seemed so old, it seemed like the age where I should have accomplished everything in life and the age at which I should be rolling around in cash. Where as normal people save for the future and think about mortgages and babies and new cars, I literally can only think about what country I am going to next, a decision which is made depending on how big or small my bank balance is! While I don’t regret spending all my money on flights and hostels and adventures of the unknown, it is most definitely a factor that will make living a settled life extremely difficult.

Beliefs

Travel has made me question everything I used to believe in. When you explore new countries and new cultures, you meet people that open your eyes wider than you ever thought possible. People who teach you that there are many ways to live your life, from jobs you never knew existed to living without money and finding spirituality in the strangest of places. You end up having deep discussions about politics, money, religion, cultural practices, love, sex and everything in between and suddenly all of your original thoughts and beliefs are smashed. Then you return home, and surround yourself with people who all think differently to you again, people who challenge your new beliefs while you can’t help but question theirs.

I realise there are many, many more things that will make it difficult for me to settle down some day, these are just some of the main ones that popped into my head. Travel may have ruined me for a normal life, but I guess it has prepared me for an extraordinary one.

If there are any other long-term travellers reading this, I would LOVE to hear your thoughts! x

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How Travel Ruined My Chances Of A Normal Life

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30 Comments

  1. Katie Daly
    March 27, 2016 / 1:42 pm

    Really enjoyed the read…live the life you want…and you are doing it…stay safe and happy

    • Nahid
      March 27, 2016 / 3:06 pm

      so deep and touchy. I like it

  2. Basheer.A
    March 27, 2016 / 2:12 pm

    I can’t visit another country so far,but U are lucky to visit all over the world and observe all beauty of nature.This is abig achivements rather than normal life.
    best regards
    basheer

  3. March 27, 2016 / 2:22 pm

    Happy to read that I don’t feel like this on my own. Especially the point of being too independent. Which according to some goes hand in hand with not having a relationship ;) Oh well, I just can’t and won’t trade it though.

  4. March 27, 2016 / 3:30 pm

    Yes having long term relationships is a challenge. I sometimes admire couples who travel together and have shared experiences.

  5. iamsallyrose
    March 27, 2016 / 4:42 pm

    Love this post and I think it’s right on. I’m a Boomer, but most of your points apply to me, too. Happy trails!

  6. March 27, 2016 / 5:39 pm

    Love this, it’s so true! I think the idea that you’re not really living unless you’re hopping from country to country is popular at the moment. It just doesn’t suit everyone and it’s good to look the downsides.

  7. March 27, 2016 / 7:54 pm

    This speaks so much truth and as someone who is currently struggling to decide whether I want a nomadic life or a “normal” life this has certainly put things into perspective for me. I agree with everything you say and also believe that the most important thing is finding what makes you happy. I love following your adventures by the way and can definitely sense travel is in your soul and it is what makes you truly happy! Keep up to good work!

  8. yashajoy
    March 28, 2016 / 12:43 am

    I don’t think there is any such thing as a generic ‘normal life’. Normal is what is normal for you. If you are following your path and being true to yourself your life will be the way it is meant to be. If you are not happy with it change it. I’ve lived a nomadic life, more or less, since I first got on a plane at 24 – in 1978. I was lucky enough to meet my life partner at 38 and we are happy being nomads together. Follow your dreams and follow your heart.

  9. March 28, 2016 / 1:35 am

    Good on you!! Travel is so addictive I am a perpetual mover and shaker too. I find long term routines tedious and love to explore new places. Don’t feel bad about your choices, most people envy your ability to be free and un-encumbered by all the possessions and responsibilities that weigh us down. Keep living the life you want. You certainly are making the most of it. I write a blog too, come and check me out http://www.anitaozo.com :)

  10. March 28, 2016 / 5:21 am

    Gosh, that really hit home! All of the above apply to me and while I do obsess over thoughts like that sometimes, I think if you ever feel the need to settle down you will, but who said you have to? I don’t value having a house or a car at the moment. I don’t feel like it’s just a stage, it’s a lifestyle choice. If I change my mind one day, I will find a way to have those things, but if I don’t, well then what’s wrong with being on the move for the rest of your life?

    • March 29, 2016 / 12:38 pm

      I think you’re so right. If the time comes that I really, really want to move home and live a normal, settled life, I think I will find a way to make it work. For now though, i’m happy with this life and my freedom!

  11. March 28, 2016 / 6:56 am

    So well written… I too am 30 years old and have spent more than a decade now (that sounds scary long!) moving from country to country, constantly switching jobs and building a new temporary life. I can relate to pretty much everything you are saying. I have no regrets either and feel traveling has given me so much and we truly are fortunate to be able to live this life. But every time I go home I feel like a bit of an outsider and I do wonder as well how I’m ever gonna settle down and build a more “normal” life…

    • March 29, 2016 / 12:36 pm

      I often feel like an outsider too. The more often I make trips home, the easier it is to reconnect but I still feel I drifted away from most friends as my life is so different from theirs.

  12. March 28, 2016 / 9:35 am

    Interesting perspective. There are always ups and downs to all of our decisions in life. As long as you are happy… take care!

    • March 29, 2016 / 12:34 pm

      So true! I am most definitely happy, but we can’t be happy all the time and I guess I wrote this article in one of those down movements where the truth shines through the palm trees! ;-)

  13. March 28, 2016 / 1:06 pm

    I can relate to a lot of this; good for you and great to read your story.

    I find that i have been travelling alone for so long that I need to challenge myself not to become too insensitized when it comes to meeting new people. The fact that they come and go so often sucks, it just seems easier not to bother sometimes :0

    Very well written and I especially loved the line about flying in and out of more countries than you have ….

    • March 29, 2016 / 12:33 pm

      Hi Derek, thanks for your comment and taking the time to read my post! Yes, I totally know what you mean about meeting new friends on the road – sometimes I do feel bad when I am just not bothered. Especially if I am in a place longterm and they are just passing through for 2 days. :-)

  14. March 28, 2016 / 6:02 pm

    I love your honesty, Janet. I don’t travel a lot but your words have still made a big impression on me.

    • March 29, 2016 / 12:30 pm

      Hey Susan, thanks for dropping by! Love to see people I know actually reading my blog haha. Glad you enjoyed it. :-)

  15. March 28, 2016 / 6:29 pm

    I do travel long term but I come home every year and meet all my friends and I keep in touch with them all the time. I travel with my boyfriend and after 9 years we decided to come home to Czech to have wedding and we after that we’re gonna continue travelling.. So I think it is not true what you said. You can travel even without all theese troubles but you have to consider all of this you said which is good so that all other backpackers can think about it. It is very important. The only think I agree with you is a job. But on the other hand, we are digital nomads and we do online business so as long as we are succesful in a business, we don’t have to worry about a job.

  16. March 29, 2016 / 3:34 am

    Those are some flip sides of being a nomads but the other part of it is also amazing. The experiences and journeys that you have managed must have really gotten you wiser :D

    • March 29, 2016 / 12:27 pm

      For sure. There are SO many positives that us that travel know too well. I just wanted to show the other side for once. :-)

  17. March 29, 2016 / 10:55 am

    Loved your post it is like I had written it myself! ;-) Thanks for sharing

    • March 29, 2016 / 12:26 pm

      Thank you Elisa, I am glad you enjoyed it and that I am not alone in these feelings!

  18. Rick Carassai
    March 30, 2016 / 11:06 am

    I feel you mate, I have been on the road for the11 years, recently last year I have decided to “settle down” with my new family (I have a baby now), and although I am super happy with my choice I have to deal with many of the problems you encountered in “having a normal life”. It’s hard, I feel like a part of me is getting lost and it doesn’t feel great. Socially I have the same issues, even with my wife, I am too used to do things on my own and on my time. From living with only the company of a backpack to having a car and renting a house and all that bureaucracy that involves, makes me just want to go back to my way of living. Simple, light, worry free. Life is tough and we need to learn to make the most from all situation, that we learned while travelling, but still.. harsh.

  19. April 2, 2016 / 5:49 pm

    What a great article. Just found your blog yesterday, as I was trying to plan a trip to Ireland, and I have to say I really enjoy the perspective you give to travelling. Thanks for daring to write on what others don’t, like the 9 reasons not to travel solo and this present article. Being 32, I also have a very strong urge to travel and I’ve been trying to deal with my need for security on one side and my need for nomadic adventures on the other since I was a teenager. I do have an apartment in my home country, but like you I owe nothing important. I just spent a year in Mexico, and even though I’m happy to be back home, close from the people who share my culture, the urgency to travel comes back fairly quickly. As for my job, the solution I found is to work as a self-employed worker. I don’t live a rich life, but I also don’t owe anything to any employer. Anyway, thanks a lot for writing on real life. It’s really inspiring.

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