Now that I’m back in the “real world” and no longer traveling full time, I’m getting the opportunity to speak at length with people about the last four years of my life on the road. Everyone thinks my years of travel were so cool (it really was, wasn’t it) and wished they could do something like that, but I’ve been shocked by some of the misperceptions that people had about me and long term travel in general.
Some notions were a bit outrageous. Others were rather annoying, not because it bothers me so much what other people think if me, but because I just hate hearing perfectly smart, capable people make excuses for not leading the life they want to be leading.
Here are the top 5 common misperceptions about long term travelers and me in particular, as well as the brutal truth behind them.
We’re filthy rich. To this, I just have to laugh and say, “I wish!” This is pretty far from the truth for myself definitely, and for a majority of the other long-term travelers I have met abroad. To be honest, we’re more poor (financially) than we are rich. The only difference between us (the long term travelers) and them (people who aren’t) is what we value and what we decide to spend our money on. I can’t speak for every long term traveler, but I value travel as an integral part of my life and I choose to spend my money on my travels instead of designer handbags, frilly cocktails in posh bars, and thousand-inch, stereo surround flatscreen TVs. Every time I see a Louis Vuitton purse, I see a round trip ticket that could take me anywhere in the world. Out of the two, I prefer the flight.
We’re lazy and don’t like to work. Again, completely wrong, especially in my case. In fact, I think I work too much! I have worked in some capacity or another throughout my four years of travel. Whether it was teaching English as a volunteer or teaching English as a paid teacher, working as a freelance writer and digital marketing consultant (not including the writing I do for Connvoyage), acting as a public relations and promoter for various companies, and also speaking on panels about my nomadic lifestyle, I have been working my butt off these last four years. I was just fortunate enough to have had some amazing office space to do my work.
The life of travel is easy. Yeah, easy if you consider trying to communicate with an entire country of strangers in terrible pantomime and broken bits and pieces of language is easy. Easy if you think trying to makes sense of mysterious and confusing road signs is easy. Easy if you believe 36 hour train rides in crowded carriages with hot, equatorial climate is easy. Easy if you find being in new, challenging situations every minute of every day is easy. In short, no, the life of travel is NOT easy and at times it can be very stressful, but it is demanding and one hell of a challenge, making it all the more rewarding.
We’re lucky. I’m not going to deny that I have led a very fortunate life and the opportunities that have presented themselves to me were some of the most amazing circumstances anyone could ever hope for. I recognize this every day and I appreciate it with every new experience that I encounter. Sure, there might be a little bit of luck involved in the way that my life has played out, but mostly I made this life. I made a very conscious decision to live my life the way I wanted to live it and this was the payoff. For others to boil the fulfilling lives of travelers down to just plain luck doesn’t give me, or the other travelers who choose to follow their dreams the credit we deserve.
- We’re hippies. While it’s true that we may be slightly more free-spirited and a little more easy-going and carefree than the average Joe, it doesn’t mean we’re sporting dreadlocks and rubbing patchouli all over ourselves (actually, I don’t even know if that’s what real hippies do because that’s how UN-hippie-like I am). Travelers may embody and exude a more loving, compassionate, and forgiving nature towards others because our daily travels forces us to. Everyday we’re are putting ourselves in the position in which we hope that others would treat us more lovingly, compassionately, and forgivingly so why wouldn’t we act that way to others as well? But we’re not hippies or anything about it.
One last misconception that I keep hearing, but I’ll acquiese to is that travelers are too awesome for our own good. This one’s true.
What other misperception did you have of me and other long term travelers? Comment below and I’ll answer truthfully and candidly. Promise!