Quitting Your Job To Travel Isn’t Brave. It’s Lucky.

Posted on
May 12, 2016
63

Bravery has nothing to do with it.

There is this idea that keeps coming up in the travel writing community, that quitting your job to travel the world is a profoundly brave thing. You aren’t settling for life in a soulless cubicle. You are grabbing life by the pubic hairs and screaming the guttural war cry that Neanderthals uttered before they went on the hunt for – I don’t know – dinosaurs? (I suck at history.) You are the human embodiment of a 90s-era Mountain Dew commercial that involves lots of neon and extreme sports and six-packs of both varieties. You are actually living life (because worrying about paychecks and mortgages are for the weak).

(Insert some quote from J.R.R. Tolkien here.)

I have problems with this mentality. A lot of them.

It’s not that I don’t think travel is a brave act. I do. I’ve met travelers with extreme mobility issues, who use wheelchairs or can’t stand for extended periods of time, or have chronic medical conditions that require them to stay close to home. I’ve met women, and people in the LGBTQ community, and people of color (and people who fall into all of those categories) who travel in parts of the world that are historically hostile to them (and yes, this includes parts of America and the Western world. Let’s not kid ourselves). I’ve met people who are agoraphobic and claustrophobic and who suffer from anxiety so severe that leaving their circle of comfort is incredibly difficult, but they do it anyway.

I find all of that pretty damn brave.

The problem I have is with the recurring narrative that quitting your job to travel the world is inherently a noble act, when sometimes it just means that you are very, very fortunate. Fortunate to have a strong support system of people who will let you crash with them. Fortunate enough to have a substantial amount of savings to draw from, or parents who will let you use their home as your forwarding address, or fortunate enough to be able to leave for months at a time without worrying about treating chronic illness or paying down your debt.

Fortunate enough to be able to drop everything and live your dreams. To look at your life – at the tender age of 20-something! – and be unhappy with the trajectory you’re on and actually have the means to change it. Too often, that gets confused with bravery.

I actually read an interview with a travel writer whose first piece of advice to those aspiring to do the same thing was, I shit you not, “Pay off your debts.”

REALLY? THANK YOU. I HONESTLY WAS JUST GOING TO LET THAT SUFFOCATING DEBT CONTINUE TO ASPHYXIATE ME (and maybe develop a drug habit, just to add to it), BUT YOUR WISE REVELATION HAS CAUSED ME TO SWITCH GEARS.

What if you can’t pay off your debt? What if you can’t find a job? What if your debts are so extreme because of school or illness or god-knows-what that you can’t just pay it off by skipping a couple Coke Zeros and using your older iPhone for a few years? WHAT THEN?

We don’t ask those questions. We start talking to these people as though their lives and their success is entirely a result of their own adversity and steeliness in the face of fear and the unknown. I know, because I get a lot of these questions. I’ve actually been told I was brave because I decided to quit the rat race to travel the world and live my dream.

 

LOOK HOW I BRAVELY STUFF MY FACE WITH BEIGNETS. I am basically Joan of Arc.

 

And after I’ve recovered from my hysterical laughter, I let them know that every single one of their assumptions about me is incorrect.

  1. I am not brave. I am scared of pigeons.
  2. Travel is so not my dream. I barf on swing sets. Can you imagine what plane turbulence does to me?
  3. I quit nothing. I was laid-off.
  4. This blog does not pay the bills. Rand does. Guess how? With a 9-to-definitely-later-than-5 job.
  5. It ignores the profound contributions to my life made by class, race, ethnicity, circumstance, my family, and my incredibly doting and patient husband.

Me, and the wonderful fool who makes all these adventures possible.

 

When we start equating privilege with bravery, something even worse occurs: we suddenly view the opposite of those acts as complacent, and even cowardly. That staying at a job you hate is somehow ignoble (spoiler: it’s not. If someone works tirelessly at a job they hate in order to support themselves and/or their family, that is pretty damn admirable). Or that not hating your job means that you’ve just bought into some great American lie. That settling down is somehow settling for less.

Years ago, when I actually had a 9-to-5 job, I loved it. When I told people this, I was usually met with incredulity, and occasionally laughed at.

“Bullshit,” someone told me. “You’d quit tomorrow if you could.”

I wouldn’t have, of course. But sometimes it’s hard to convince people that their experiences are not yours.

People often ask me if they should quit their jobs to travel the world. I’m usually dumbfounded, as it’s such an incredibly personal query. I have no idea. I can only cull from my own experiences, at which point the answer is a resounding no. No. Not unless you are in perfect health and have zero debt and extensive savings from which you can support yourself.

If all of those are in place, then maybe, maybe, you should do it. But make no mistake: that act alone doesn’t make you brave. It just makes you very, very lucky.

Leave a Comment

  • I totally agree with you on this, but “pay of your debts” is actually pretty decent advice. I get tons of emails from people who want to drop out of college to travel, people who want to travel despite staggering student loans, people who want to put their travels on a credit card. I always feel like such an old lady telling them “No. Get your life in order first.”
    It’s not easy, and for some people it’s not possible at all, but if you’re going to go gallivant around the world for a year (which I totally recommend if you can swing it), some common sense advice doesn’t hurt.

    • woollythinker

      Agreed. It’s SERIOUSLY not that simple for most people, but yeah, if someone is already thinking about doing it? First step, reality check. Get the money sorted. I think that was excellent advice. (But everything else in this post I co-sign 100%.)

    • Matt Decuir

      I don’t think Geraldine is saying that paying off debt isn’t decent advice.

      I think she’s saying that it isn’t as easy as putting a lump sum on our credit card and moving on. And they make it sound like all you need to do is skip a meal a week, and it’ll get paid off next year.

      It’s like this image:

  • Yarr.

    Another thing that grinds my gonads about the “live the dream” yarn: it’s currently dependent on millions of people not doing it. Without all those “drones” shuffling through their service jobs, basic Living The Dream services don’t run (WiFi, all sorts of customer support, Apple stores, smoothie shops etc.). So by condescending to “the Walking Dead” (actual phrase used by someone I lost my temper with) we deny the gratitude we should be showing to everyone who, by way of negotiating the same challenging world in a different way, helps us do something as socially weird as not work in a cubicle. Anyone doing anything even vaguely fun and rewarding as a job should have more gratitude than pride – loud gratitude, enthusiastic, generous gratitude, using their actual brain instead of someone else’s shitty, condescending story about how Other People are too lazy to be awesome.

    Anyway, this topic is guaranteed to turn me stabby, so I’m off for a cup of tea. TWO sugars. That’s how stabby.

    • Also, I was listening to an episode of “Startup” (ep 11, season 1) where the host had to break it to his partner that he wanted to rely on her regular wage a bit longer to keep himself going (I make him sound like a dick there, but it was graceful). She eventually said that she felt…proud. She was proud to be able to support him like that, when he had been there for her when she was doing something riddled with uncertainty in their past. She now had a job she liked, and it allowed her to fund something she also liked – her husband and his creative work. That’s a good definition of awesome, right there.

      I don’t know how that fits in with all of this, but I really feel it does, somewhere.

      • Totally agree Mike. It makes me really proud that, after years of Geraldine supporting us while I was trying to make something out of Moz, I’ve had the chance to reciprocate and give her the freedom to make this blog (and her upcoming book) a reality. There’s an amazing sense of pride that comes when you can repay a debt and kindness like that 🙂

        • Theresa

          I so appreciate this sentiment. My husband and I were high school sweethearts and got hitched less than a month after graduating high school and didn’t wait to start a family. The deal was that he would go to college first. It took 7 years, but he is now a very successful software developer. I just started school to become a civil engineer and people always ask me how I juggle it with three kids and my answer is quite simple: My husband is my biggest asset, he is hugely supportive as he has been there and knows how tough it can be. He advocates for my studies by alleviating the stress of a 9-5 and stepping in as both mom-and-dad when I need him to. It’s such a humbling thing…

        • Michael

          That’s the trick to relationships I think, I keep hearing similar concepts but no one has fleshed it out. Most recently, reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, she mentions the same type of “long term” reciprocal relationship with her (now late) husband.

          That would be a good topic for Geraldine’s NEXT book 🙂

  • Josephine Robertson

    Thank you. Yes. All of this.

  • John Doherty

    Amen G, amen. We are lucky to be in a place where we can do this, with passports that let us into almost any country in the world, with airports nearby (and the funds to gain access to them via a boarding pass).

    We are not brave. You and I have both been laid off. I was terrified. But we’ve both taken the bull by the horns and are making the best of it (and dare I say, looking damn good doing it). We both have doting and amazing partners who work very hard and help support us.

    I feel very lucky right now. Thank you for reminding me.

    Hugs.

  • Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes. And one more – yes – because I can. I’m bored and tired of seeing the ‘live the travel dream’ posts. They’re totally unrealistic for so many, give a scewed version of what ‘living’ is meant to be and make those of us who can’t travel right now (because we’re looking after terminally ill relatives) feel shitty that we’re missing out. I think you should run for president.

  • Patti Dalessio

    RIGHT!!

    And can we add the entrepreneurs “freedom lifestyle” of working from your laptop on exotic beaches all over the world — bravery, don’t box me into a cubical, but first buy my online course for $5k and I’ll show you how you can too…..

    • Ha… buy one of those online course for $5k, and then what you’ll learn is the way to life from your backpack in exotic locations is to also sell your own $5k courses. The cycle goes on. That whole business model rubs me the wrong way.

      • Totally agree. Has a ponzi scheme feel to it.

      • greeniegeenie

        Me too!!! Geraldine, please please please do one on those endless online courses. Also, the trend of “self care” w/very expensive “life coach” and the shaming involved if you are not taking time away from your children and life to go to the spa or meditate in front of your home altar. Drives me nuts.

  • Jenna Francisco

    Honestly, I dream about quitting my job to travel full time for a few reasons, but I agree with your rant because I’m tired of hearing people imply that having a “day job” means working in a cubicle a.k.a. doing boring, tedious work just for a paycheck. I have a rewarding job that allows me to make a difference in my community. Not only do I think that’s damn important, I also realize that our world would be a pretty awful place if no one wanted to use their knowledge and skills to make a difference in their community.
    The real problem is that too many young people don’t think carefully enough about the type of work they should do and the working environment that entails. If people chose their careers more carefully, they’d be less likely to feel trapped by it.

    • Matt Decuir

      I agree here, but at the same time, it’s not as easy as “being more careful about choosing your career”.
      Colleges make people declare a major – basically study what they want to be for the rest of their life – during the second semester of freshman year or first semester of sophomore year.

      Think about that. Colleges push you to know what you want to do for the rest of your life at 18/19. And many (like Texas public colleges) reward you via scholarship for not going more than 3 hours over your allotted coursework hours. Not to mention MANY students aren’t in college because THEY want to, but because they’ve been compelled to “as its the next step in your career and you won’t be able to get a job without a degree”.

      There’s literally no time to be careful choosing a career when colleges don’t let you and you have bills to pay.

      • Jenna Francisco

        All good points, and it’s sad what’s happened in education over these years. I’m a college professor but had no idea that colleges rewarded students in the way that you mentioned. Maybe part of the solution would involve higher education giving better career guidance. Honestly, I was too young to make such a decision at 19, 20 or 21. I needed to finish my B.A., do a boring internship, work for a couple of years, and then go back to school to figure out how to choose a job that I would love. My original point was that every young person shouldn’t feel that they’re destined to sit in a cubicle for years on end. There are many other types of work out there, but obviously we need to do a better job of getting that information to young people if they’re pressured to choose a career and finish school quickly.

  • Brigid Anderson

    This is stupid piece. Do what you want to do if you can Don’t judge people who make decisions that you can’t make at this particular point in time.

  • Adina Marguerite

    Yes to all of this! That pay off your debt thing by skipping your morning latte or eating out just kills me. I’m sure it works wonders for some people but it’s just not that simple for all of us. (Especially for those of us who are still paying off the education which got us our jobs because we weren’t 4.0 scholar-athletes with all the scholarships or lucky enough to be born into a family with that much extra cash on hand…/rant)

    What I loved about this piece is it totally made me reflect on just how lucky I am, even if I’m not quite where I want to be in life. Regardless of how I feel about my day job, I know I’m incredibly lucky for being able to travel as much as I do while at the same time chipping away at debt, having great healthcare to prevent more debt (thank goodness), and having enough free time to take one step at a time towards building a future where I’m fortunate enough to be able to even consider the possibility of quiting my job to travel.

    Thanks for this Geraldine!

  • Oui In France

    Really well written, Geraldine, yet again. So glad you addressed this in the way that you did. Bravo. I always enjoy your posts!

  • Great post.

    One more thing that needs to be added as that all these travel bloggers are essentially either a walking banner ad and have to work a full time job social mediaing/blogging OR basically do meagre low paid freelancer jobs which give them tiny pay that goes a long way in countries with a weaker exchange rate.

    Whatever the case maybe, they are NOT contributing anything positive to society.

    • lovela

      How is sharing beautiful experiences in cultures all over the world and taking people on “virtual trips” via photos, videos, and writing not a positive contribution to society? Travel bloggers have become their own bosses and it requires great skill to brand yourself well enough to actually get sponsored by companies. But the best part is they are living our their own personal dream and who are you to criticize that? They definitely aren’t harming anyone, so I don’t understand why you seem to be so bitter toward the path they’ve chosen.

  • I agree completely with your post and nicely written! Ok, maybe it might be little brave to take a different path than others, but you are so on point that we are lucky to even have that choice. It’s even a bit selfish to want to ONLY travel for the rest of your life (kinda like what Jenna says in her comment about using knowledge and skills to help your community).

    I think it’s an easy sell because people want to buy into the idea that they can just quit and go on a fantastic perpetual holiday. These are the escapists, who don’t necessarily want to live real life, in my opinion.

  • Cristie Zyla

    Yes!!! Love this! I think that for most people, finding a balance between a stable work life and travel is the best way go. For me, I have a tonne of student debt still, which makes quitting my job entirely absolutely impossible, yet I still have a yearning desire to be where I’m not and travel the world constantly. I certainly do envy those people who don’t have certain limitations, but I know I to will get there some day. I also admire those who work endlessly to support themselves and their families, because I know how hard it is. The thing that really grinds my gears is when people make excuses for why they can’t leave their day job and travel the world, when you know fully that they have the opportunities and resources to do so, and in that case I think it’s a case of fear.

    Thanks for daring to see the ‘other side’ of things. It’s refreshing to know that even someone who has the ability to travel as you do realizes that not everyone’s circumstances allow them to do the same.

  • KatieN

    Yes to everything you said. When I solo backpacked through Europe during college, nearly every peer I spoke to said, “you are so brave. I could never do that.” And I was thinking- I’m not especially brave or smart or even spontaneous. I knew the real differences- I could afford to travel during college because my parents paid my tuition, I traveled a lot growing up so I knew the mechanics of how to do it, and my family never once questioned my decision to travel alone. Their response was, “That sounds so fun. I’m jealous!” My best friend from college has rarely left the midwestern United States but she’s scrimped and saved up some money to travel. But she has no support system and doesn’t want to go alone because she’s never really traveled before (and neither has anyone in her family or from her tiny hometown of Nowhere, Ohio). None of her college friends are at a point in their lives to go with her (broke, under-employed recent-grads). She’ll make it happen eventually. As soon as I can, I would love to go on a trip with her! But international travel- long or short term- isn’t always as easy as “just do it!”

  • Stacy Egan

    Amen. Thank you for this!

  • anglotopia

    Completely agree with all of this. I’m usually very suspicious of the ‘travel and live your dreams’ crowd who are usually dependent on duping other people into buying their product that tells you how to do it (“it worked for me – so it has to work for you!”). I sort of run a ‘travel blog’ – and you know what? We’re lucky if we get to go on one trip a year. And that’s working my butt off every week. Travel is expensive. Travel is sometimes miserable. I have a chronic illness that doesn’t prevent travel but can make it a lot less fun (IBS ftw!), medication helps but there are people out there a lot worse off than me. We get their comments all the time on our Facebook page. Sometimes I feel bad about posting about our trips because of all the people who just can’t go. But they love to read our adventures and live vicariously through them. That takes more strength than buying a plane ticket and flying somewhere with nothing to hold you back.

  • jonathanwthomas

    Completely agree with all of this. I’m usually very suspicious of the ‘travel and live your dreams’ crowd who are usually dependent on duping other people into buying their product that tells you how to do it (“it worked for me – so it has to work for you!”). I sort of run a ‘travel blog’ – and you know what? We’re lucky if we get to go on one trip a year. And that’s working my butt off every week. Travel is expensive. Travel is sometimes miserable. I have a chronic illness that doesn’t prevent travel but can make it a lot less fun (IBS ftw!), medication helps but there are people out there a lot worse off than me. We get their comments all the time on our Facebook page. Sometimes I feel bad about posting about our trips because of all the people who just can’t go. But they love to read our adventures and live vicariously through them. That takes more strength than buying a plane ticket and flying somewhere with nothing to hold you back.

  • Yaasssssss.

    For a long time (like.. my entire 20s) I didn’t have a particular career goal or career path in mind. The entire purpose of my job and paycheck was to fund my travel adventures. Which I did frequently, on shoestring budgets (and still with a ton of debt… but that was why I also kept the day job) and often solo because most other 20-somethings did not have the same priorities as I did, which is super OK because yada yada choice etc.

    But even with THAT model – still paying off school; still working boring 9-5 jobs; not exactly “living the dream” but still managing to travel – I was STILL only able to do it because of all the same privilege you describe: I have a support system. I have friends in other countries. I did a year abroad in college so I am comfortable / know how to travel. I happen to be an extrovert so don’t mind traveling solo. I had 9-5 jobs that provided vacation time, and I was privileged enough to only need ONE job at a time to get by. I am lucky as crap to have been able to travel as much as I have. I’m not brave to travel solo; I’m stubborn because insist on going even if I don’t have a travel buddy and lucky because I *can.*

  • Shanna S

    Another great, great post.

  • I love those posts. The part many of them fail to mention is that they live with their parents in their late twenties when they are not traveling. Hey, if that’s what they want to do with their life, go for it. Just don’t pretend you are supporting yourself because many people don’t have the luxury of crashing with their parents whenever they run out of money or need a break from travel.

  • Mandy Seriously

    I love your perspective here. I’d like to add the nuance: you were lucky, and you were smart. You did something right to not amass crazy debt, for example. There is a lot of fun I DIDN’T have in my 20s, which has led to a highly privileged life in my 40s. I know I’m lucky–race, class, nationality, spouse, etc. I also know, some people had exactly what I did and chose more expensive education, late night marijuana, study abroad, flashy cars, mortgages, etc. I may not have what they have when I’m retired. I may not have a boat and a second home. But damned if I wanna hear them complain about how they “can’t” travel, or “can’t” anything. I choose experiences over possessions. It’s a trade-off. Said the lucky girl.

  • Johanna

    +1

  • I think it’s mainly lucky but also being a bit brave. I was super lucky when I got to quit my job in my late twenties, and go travel Europe for a couple of months. I only had my student loan debt and I had a bit of an inheritance that I could dip into. My godparents were willing to let me stay with them for as long as I needed when I got back. I only lived in a studio so I didn’t have a ton of stuff or a mortgage. So I definitely had more than most going for me in my twenties. But it was also scary. I didn’t know if I’d find a job again in such an absolutely bad job market when I got back. I’d never traveled internationally by myself before. I had never stayed in a hostel before. I’m a big introvert so meeting a non-stop stream of strangers was definitely out of my comfort zone. Have I ever referred to my trip as me being brave? No. But if I reflect upon it, I think there is bravery in forcing yourself out of your comfort zone. There are different shades of being brave. It’s not hero status, but it’s still putting yourself in really uncomfortable situations.

  • Matt Colville

    We recently moved from NZ to Germany with our two year old, on one income. People told me we were brave. Some also said it was risky, but we pooh-poohed them behind their backs. Fast forward nine months and we are still paying off the relocation costs due to complete lack of sound financial planning on our part, numerous stress related arguments (some in front of our poor son) and difficulty integrating with the locals in our village. It has cleared up one thing for me, very painfully: that I don’t get to do things just because I stamp my foot and say “I wanna!”. That while I always said I didn’t care about money, I just never really had to worry much before and I was crap with it. And that while this experience is great, I also look forward to going home, getting a job, having a few friends and family round me and making a good life for my kid/s. Our trip will probably end up worthwhile, but I would say we were more foolish than brave, but that all in all we have been lucky. So yeah, great article!

  • Miu

    Omg, thank you so much for this post! I hope many, many people read it and think about it for a very long time.

  • Ewen at Large

    Gratitude is such an under rated emotion. It takes the considered process of writing to really drop down into that feeling and experience it fully. Few of us realise just how much luck plays a part in gifting us the life we lead. Every success is part of something bigger.

    I honestly wish everyone on earth could experience the joys and beauty I have seen in the world. Not everyone wants to see the world of course, but so many simply never have the chance. Travel changes your life, if you let it.

  • Yes, not brave. Lucky.

    I wish more people would realize the reality of the world we live in. There is a very real life lottery that exists…and it’s as simple as where you’re born. The life we live in the developed world is a fairy tale to the majority of the world. The ability to travel is an extreme privilege. Think of what it would take for someone who was born into the slums of Sudan to actually be able to travel for 6-12 months. Yes, we are lucky indeed.

  • Hi, Geraldine! First of all, thank you so much for an honest, great post in this travel blogging world we’re in. This was a rarity and I loved it. I whole-heartedly agree with you: being able to “quit it all ad travel the world” means that you indeed are very, very lucky. The rest of us, who doesn’t have rich parents, huge savings, etc. to help us do this, we just need to work to maybe make it happen one day. And work hard. Most of the times in jobs we don’t like, but it’ll pay the bills and pays for our travels meanwhile we’re trying to save towards to perhaps travel more. But then again, I’m a believer in the fact, that if you work really hard to achieve something, you’ll appreciate it more, than if it’d just been “handed out to you.” Way too often the bloggers make the “quit your job and travel the world” -phrase sound like a thing that anyone could do at any time. Which makes me mad from time to time, to tell you the truth. Because that’s not true, not in reality. In reality, most of the people will never be able to do it, maybe only for financial and/or health reasons. Yes, you can inspire people to try to do it, if it’s really the dream they are wanting to make true, by only telling them your own story. But I too, would never encourage anyone to just “jump on it” without very careful planning and saving to back you up. Like you said, it’s not brave. It’s just that weather you are very lucky or you have carefully saved and planned your move, or you have someone/something else that will support you on daily basis. But thanks again for your honest post; about the basic life facts that apply to this issue, no matter what. I would like to see more posts like this, though I think that won’t be happening..

  • Lindsay Gasik

    Hi Geraldine,
    You’re right, you’re not brave.

    I’m glad you pointed out that you didn’t quit your job or take any risks. Traveling is not a risk for you. Traveling isn’t a lifestyle for you. I read every single one of your blog posts because I adore your stuff (and I will buy your book). Your blog is about pleasant little trips, and then you go home to your house and your security.

    For many of us, quitting our jobs, selling everything and hitting the road is a commitment to a new life. Nothing will ever be the same when, or if, we ever return. There may be nowhere to comfortably return to. It’s a commitment to long term travel, which is a totally different beast than taking little trips and going home.

    Few of us long term travelers really have our finances worked out, and we usually don’t have hubbies who can keep us comfy with nice hotels and a surplus of cupcakes. We have to trust that we’re going to make it work in a big scary unknown. It’s terrifying.

    There are still many days, today for example, that I wake up and wonder how stupid I am. I’ve been on the road for five years now, and while most of the time I totally love my life, sometimes I fantasize about my friends who kept their 9-5’s and who now have nice houses and nice cars and padded IRA’s and the knowledge that if they get in a car wreck the doctor isn’t going to kill them with ineptitude and contaminated needles.

    Yes, I am blessed. I was born in a country that gave me a passport with instant access to most countries in the world. I don’t have to queue for elaborate visas. My home currency is strong. I made it out of the country with no debt and no kids and no real responsibilities. Traveling is my choice — I could go home and work at Starbucks whenever, and that would be a whole lot easier than my life right now.

    So yes, I acknowledge that quitting your job to travel is a privilege, but I defend all of the travelers over thousands of years who have been brave and stupid enough to leave everything behind to see the world.

  • VeteranMom

    Some of us traveled while doing our jobs. I was able to see a lot of the world while serving in the military overseas.

  • Herbert Stelzer

    It doesn’t only make you lucky but also you are usually contributing to the tourism industry which is the reason, why many many people do NOT have that much free time – since they work for you in the countries that you visit!
    Thank you for that post, I clearly support you!

  • Christine Foltzer

    As someone who literally just cancelled/indefinitely postponed her year long travel trip I really needed to hear this. Thank you.

    • Everywhereist

      I am so glad you liked the post, Christine. You are not alone!

  • Michelle

    As someone who is just putting toes into the waters of travel writing and plotting my exit from a life that doesn’t suit me for one on the road, this was very good timing and gave me some wise context. I will say that of all the travel writing blogs I’ve visited in the last few months (a lot) you do come from the most privileged circumstances (a hubby footing the bill with added benefit of travel being a tax write-off). But not every white American is as priveleged.

    As someone who doesn’t want to end up selling a “how-to escape the 9-5 and work at a remote beach 4 hours a day” course (just, ugh), I’m spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to finance the life as a 50+ recent empty-nester (single mom, underemployed for 10 years since divorce), almost empty nest-egger and bankruptcy survivor — so, yeah, no large line of credit credit cards to play the frequent flier scheme. When people say that my plan to travel the world is brave, I usually take it to mean more about them than me. I’ve never been motivated by money and have no desperate attachment to security. My family will certainly think I’m crazy, but they’re all Cancers and I’m a Leo. 🙂 We have a fundamentally different view on what is a meaningful way to live. I like living on the edge, but only when it’s an edge I’ve chosen for myself. I’ve had to hustle for work just to get by here in the states. I’d rather hustle a life for myself out in the wide wide world.

    • Everywhereist

      “But not every white American is as privileged.”

      I appreciate your comment and all you’ve added to the discussion, but this line is where we disagree. While not the focus of my post, I’m happy to discuss white privilege for a moment, and how we all do experience it (that is, if we are white Americans). A point of clarity – experiencing WP doesn’t mean people haven’t experienced hardship or worked hard. It doesn’t mean that they haven’t faced bullshit and struggled against injustice. But it does equate to a thousand invisible advantages that we don’t always see. I’ve never driven a nice car, but I’ve never been pulled over by a cop just because of my race. I’ve experienced sexism at work, but I’ve never had to deal with an additional layer of racism on top of that.

      There is an excellent article about this topic: http://thefeministbreeder.com/explaining-white-privilege-broke-white-person/ (she says it far better than I ever could!)

      • I tried pulling up the article at the feminist breeder but it shows me a period.

        Thank you for being one of the very few who understands that is it either a privilege/plain luck!

        I got a lot of flak for a similar article written with a sarcastic tone:
        http://www.acapriciouscompass.com/can-afford-travel-world/

        I was told It was petty and I was to concentrate on how inspiring and courageous people are who quit their jobs. That I should look at inspiration rather than be whiny!
        It seems the ones who read the article didn’t go beyond a couple of points to pay attention to some others like getting my hands on a first-world passport or asking my parents to earn in their old age!

        Visa applications that cost a minimum of £80 per visit come with a third-world passport and taking care of your elders is imperative in my culture. Both require money and people who come from a different culture or are born in a first-world country can hardly empathize!

        Maybe I should have tried a different writing style, but I’m sure my point would still be lost on many!

  • I definitely agree – to an extent. I think the point about debt is a bit of a hit and miss – YES, many people have crippling debt caused by things out of their control. I agree with you there. Privilege, nationality, race, and support systems also play a massive role. I also agree that there’s too much dream-like emphasis on travel when travel itself doesn’t necessarily equate to greatness.

    However, many… MANY people have consumer debt that is caused by nothing other than living above their means. Why buy a $40,000 car when you can only afford a $5,000 one? Why is going into massive debt for a brand new car normal?! Why cycle wardrobes? Why obsess over name brands? I often have people drop the “lucky” card on me when they themselves are lucky enough to have a decent salary, low responsibilities, good health, and yet choose to live in a materialistic cycle. We don’t need iPhone 6..7…8… the iPhone 4s are still working. Unfortunately, I think this is a norm that’s just as toxic as claiming that *quitting your job to travel is so brave*.

    We need to stop patting ourselves on the back for being so brave for traveling, but at the same time take a hard look at where we really stand in terms of lifestyle inflation.

  • Oneika the Traveller

    Great post! I wrote something very similar a few months back called “Stop Pretending Everyone Can Travel” and it sparked quite the debate– I also credited luck and fortune as being a few of the crucial underlying factors that permit or disallow people to see the world. People always get their backs up at the mention of privilege (be it rooted in race, mobility, socio-economic status) so it was very controversial. Good to see that you are also on the same wavelength and recognize the diverse factors that contribute to people being able to do something as “brave” as quitting their job to globetrot! Here’s my post if you’re interested!! http://www.oneikathetraveller.com/stop-pretending-everyone-can-travel.html

    • Everywhereist

      That post is fantastic. Tweeted it. Thank you for sharing.

  • Veena

    Yes.

    I follow a lot of travel bloggers, because I think they are a great resource when planning a trip, but there is always a point where they get a little holier-than-thou, and I always cringe when I read a post about how I, too, can quit my job to travel the world. I love travelling, I love meeting new people, I love seeing new places, but I also love having a base and a steady income and a community. Thank you for your continued honesty and insight — this is why you are still one of my favourites.

  • Anton Shulke

    Brave or Lucky? If you have enough money than it is not very brave, is it? If you don’t have money, no remote job… It is stupid
    Pay your debt, yeap great advise…, well, what did you expect: free one
    I have another great one: sell your house for double you paid when you bought it, better triple. And then pay your debt, am I genius?

  • Theresa

    I just want to say: You are the top of your game here. You always manage to convey things with such humor and intellect and I so appreciate that I can read your musings.

    Secondly, the sentiments you shared here aren’t lost on me. There was a time I aspired to be a vagabond of sorts. Now I’m a wife, mother of three and an engineering student. Sometimes I feel a pang of self doubt about the vagabond bit not coming to fruition and wonder if my life is too vanilla. But then I realize what a first world problem that is and to get over myself and realize how exceptionally lucky I am. It’s just a different kind of luck than the kind you speak of. And I’m okay with that. Maybe one day I’ll have my cake and eat it too, but until then, I will revel in your blog, live vicariously and enjoy my three very adorable little cakes.

  • Tony Albrecht

    solid stuff :-).

    as one of the ridiculous privileged, lucky people who stepped away from a conventional career 3 years ago to try something different (a journey that’s involved a lot of travel AND a lot of checking in at my parents’ house, which remains my mailing address), i emphasize the luck aspect as much as i can.

    i do wonder what qualifies as courageous though. in my mind courage involves 1) being afraid and 2) taking action anyway. you may define it differently. according to my definition, it’s possible to be both lucky and courageous. so maybe all those people hustling at jobs they don’t like to make ends is an act of courage AND somebody taking the risks inherent in stepping away from a societally approved trajectory to try something much less stable can be an act of courage.

    walking away from my legal career as it was has allowed me to volunteer more than a thousand hours as a lawyer for the homeless in my hometown, get my travel fix, AND give up a job that i didn’t particularly want to another person who very well might be really fulfilled in the position that wasn’t a great fit for me (another great point you’re making–there’s nothing inherently ‘wrong’ or dissatisfying with the status quo!).

    i feel you on laughing when people suggest that this decision is heroic in some way. i agree that it’s not. to me it was simply an act of self-preservation. i wasn’t going in a healthy direction. and the support system and education and white-male-Americanness gave me advantages that made the jump much more accessible.

    none of this stuff is simple, is it? 🙂

    happy to have found your blog. thanks.

  • Loved this post, found it humorous somewhat..would love to read your book when you’re done.
    I’m traveling though my finances are not sorted out..for me, travel relaxes me, it is highly therapeutic. I travel part-time but I’m hoping to break into full-time travel for a year at least, to see how it goes, to rack up the country count and cover the world..piece by piece.. I don’t think I’m the kind of person that can be a full-time-5-years-on the road kinda person…sometimes I crave stability and familiarity. Plus, I’m a single mum of a little child.
    I think personality matters when it comes to travel. Some folks just don’t crave traveling to foreign places or even going out of their small town, and that’s still cool. It means that there’ll always be a set of folks holding the fortress down and running the town.
    As well whether the society is western and thus more individualistic, as opposed to many developing countries that are more community-based, and where society plays a big role in what an individual can or can’t do lest they lose face in the sight of that community.
    For first world people, traveling around the world is no longer a novelty, people wanderlust sometimes just because they can. For most people out of Africa, travel is very specific and for a reason; are you visiting, moving, is it a conference you’re attending, are you going abroad to study? So people who globe-trot are esteemed highly; they are considered moneyed or highly adventurous..but suffice to say, more Africans (living in Africa, holding an African passport) are traveling for recreation, and yes, they are privileged to do that, because they have to jump hoops at embassies; provide proof of residence, if income, of friendship, of finance and of so many other things just to get a visa.
    There shouldn’t be such a big deal about travel; it is an industry on it’s own, providing incomes for millions.. so you can live the dream and make money out of it..if you’d love to see the world..get up and go, even if it means the next town or country…if not…stay back and run the town.

  • Susan Decoteau-Ferrier

    Thank you for having the courage to write all of this. I often think when I am reading posts in online travel groups that many lack gratitude and humility.
    I am 50 years old and a travel blogger.Like you I have a great and successful husband. And yet we went away together for 3 weeks this year for the first time. I will travel a bit on my own through the year. I don’t have the luxury of traveling 300 out of 365 days of the year with or without him. I am grateful for the travel I get to do as it is more than many people.
    Finally, there was nothing brave about how I got here. I stopped working because of a chronic illness. My mother passed away almost 7 years ago and that has helped finance some travel (she was a traveler so I think she would approve.) I don’t think these thing required bravery either. It comes down to the will to do more than simply survive.So as for lucky some would say I haven’t had that either. But everyday whether I am home or exploring some far off place on this big blue marble, I recognize how fortunate I am.

  • HamletDweller

    “When we start equating privilege with bravery, something even worse
    occurs: we suddenly view the opposite of those acts as complacent, and
    even cowardly.” This is great. And true.

  • Michael C.

    Yes! I’ve made a version of this argument to a number of friends recently: there is no shame in working a job that isn’t fun or flashy just to feed your family and pay the bills. I’ve seen friends with legit jobs get depressed because they’ve been sold a false image of what a successful/normal life looks like.

    I wonder if some travel writers adopt a holier-than-thou tone about people who work conventional jobs as a way of compensating for misgivings about their own future. Will they have money to retire, a place to live, children who know their grandparents? I could probably take a few years off of working to travel and do okay, but I can’t see anyway that I could travel for a prolonged time and still be able to plan for the future (kids college, retirement, etc.).

  • I so admire your honesty about the unnecessary divinity and halo people create around quitting the job and traveling as if they are going out to clean landmines from conflict zones or help teach kids in some remote village in a country hard to find on map . We all have our reasons to travel and not to travel the way we want to travel ( solo, family, adventure, etc.) saving the world is sure not one of them. Yes travel is good, brave etc. but it is also very personal and the world does not owe anything to anybody just because they travel.

  • I agree with the sentiment that traveling is a privilege that is 99% inherited and 1% earned. A read of Guns, Germs and Steel actually brought me to that conclusion about pretty much every privilege I enjoy in my life. And I think the courage part is overhyped as well and get uncomfortable with that because it often goes hand in hand with ill-qualified advice for others to do the same.

    I think you’ve set it up as a false dichotomy however. The decision to travel (at least for me) was a process of letting go and I think that every act of letting go is always also an act of courage. My working definition for courage is acting in spite of fear and for many (me included), travel forces them to do that.

  • Ash Stevens

    “Look at how I bravely stuff my face with beignets.”

    Hahahaaaaaaaa! You’re far too fantastic! 😀

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