Traveling the World Can Also Be Bullshit
Yes, I get it and agree:
- Of course, traveling the world can be some of the richest and most vibrant experiences one can have.
- Of course, expanding your mind to understand different cultures and taking these lessons with you the rest of your life is a positive thing.
- Of course, the world is filled with beautiful places that are breathtaking when you experience first-hand.
- Of course, putting yourself in constant situations outside of your comfort zone can help you grow and help you learn things about yourself that you didn't know before.
Let me offer a little counter perspective to what we are constantly fed from the world of marketing and social media; the side of travel many don't talk about.
This post is intended to share another perspective that I've come to discover over the past several months based on conversations and observations. It is my attempt to discern what it is that leaves some unsatisfied with their experiences while others have the time of their life. I hate to think about how much time and money was spent to have a realization that the trip wasn't worth it, and I hope I can help others think about if traveling is really the best way want to find what they are looking for. I believe these characteristics also apply to life as a whole, so I hope this post will help spark a thought in your mind as you continue to plan your next adventure, whether a trip or your next life step.
I have met many others who have gone forth into the world expecting to drastically be changed by traveling to another country, and others who have a limited amount of time to experience a new part of the world and are left disappointed when it didn't turn out the way they hoped. There are certain things that set them apart from the other travelers who you can see and feel how happy and content they are with their trip. In my opinion, this comes down to setting expectations and being intentional, as is similar to anything else we do in life.
Prior to leaving for this new chapter of life, I used to suit up for work each day wondering how much longer I would be able to last doing what I was doing. It was less about the actual job itself, and more about me realizing I had lost the intention on why I was doing it. Going into the new career, I was excited and filled with energy. As time passed, I started to lose the energy, if not completely lost somewhere along the way. I realized that I was living an escapist lifestyle of short-term travel without having any intention about how I will live as a whole. I just chased experiences on the weekends but realized if I let it (as I did for a while) this would just be a way to keep busy rather than address the problem. When people asked me what I hope to find on my trip, I just stated: "I know doing what I am doing today is not what I am to be doing any longer, that's why I am leaving." It was another required step towards living intentionally.
My intention for this long-term trip itself was to go south and explore another continent, learn a new language, and unwind a bit as I've never taken an extended break. I originally wanted to capture the stories of others who think differently and while I've done this in a very small way, I recognize I'll extend this timeline as the language fluency is taking longer and more energy than originally expected.
Some enter their journeys to discover themselves as they have felt lost, discover new experiences, or expect themselves to have a new point of view upon returning. Some are doing just that and finding ways to make this happen and going out of their way to ensure it does. Other are sadly disappointed, but at the same time their actions do not line up with their intentions. They say they want the above but then continue to talk to fellow like-minded people, they don’t take time to be introspective about what it is they are looking for, but feel it should happen since they have paid the money and spent the time. They are looking for it to just happen by being there, which rarely happens. You won't see this posted on Instagram or shared with others elsewhere, as we only want to show how good of a time we had whether or not it was real. So it comes back to being intentional about what you're looking to get out of the trip, and ensuring your actions align with this intention.
If you go into the world with expectations that the world will change you without looking inward to change yourself, you may be vastly disappointed. This has been the theme of writing and songs over the past several hundred years from Henry David Thoreau to Michael Jackson but still continues to be present in the world today. It's hard to be introspective, as being self-critical is never fun. It is much easier to place expectations on others. Over the past two years I have had to be real with myself, and at times it felt almost overwhelming to realize if there are things that needed to change, they needed to start with me. This was one of the most difficult chapters in self-development I have faced, at times it was dark and lonely, but coming out on the other side I've enjoyed the areas of growth I've been able to achieve. This a continual process of self-improvement through life, and I am excited to see how much more growth is ahead. I am also content with the fact that much of the growth comes from the hard times ahead, whatever they may be, and it might be a real struggle at times.
Other unmatched expectations have come to fruition often with other travelers who are somewhere to check their items off the list and move on. It is understandable that many times they only have a short amount of time to get away from their daily lives or have other trips planned and now have a list of what to see. Upon arriving, it works out for some and others come to find out the weather was bad that day, the roads were closed, the workers were on strike or whatever reason it didn't work out. With the expectations that everything was going to be perfect, and they were going to get the perfect photo and move on, the trip instantly turns south when it doesn't work out. Sometimes they even were able to get the perfect photo and still didn't think it was all that great. It might have over-inflated in their minds on what it could be, or they didn't take the time to do anything beyond taking the photo and moving on thereby missing the experience in totality. Often times it is projected on us if we have more stamps in our passport, we have more worldly experiences. What I'm here to say is that this isn't necessarily a one-to-one correlation.
I have heard others who have walked away more happy in the face of adversity sing a different tune. I have heard, "Well, I didn't get to see XYZ but I'm still here, or I've been able to enjoy the break from work, I've been able to see the country, eat the food, etc.". Their expectation is that they are going to try their hardest to make the trip happen, but also recognize the risk that it may not work out with the time they only have allotted. I think it's important to either have expectations that everything might not work out, or reduce the number of items to check off the list and double down on a few to make sure there is time to enable it to work out. If there is extra time at the end, then you can add what else might have been on the list. This is hard to have to pick, but it might save some heartache in the end.
I believe this translates to other parts of our lives. What is it that we are expecting to get out of certain experiences, trips, relationships, or careers? Do we have unrealistic expectations for each of these? Are these expectations set solely at the surface-level or are they more experiential? I think about some past relationships (personal and professional) I've had, and some of the unrealistic expectations I was expecting someone else to carry because there were things I didn't want to address with or work on with myself.
I'll be the first to admit I have high expectations for myself, and continue to fall short on some of these and have to pick myself back up when I do, maybe even reset the expectation as I have learned new information about myself or the situation. I also have high expectations for certain others in my life but have worked to separate the expectations I actually care about versus a laundry list of everything. By no means am I the best at this, but when expectations are unmet in life as a whole I want to continue to challenge myself to look inward first.
I hope you see how traveling the world can be just the same as anything else. As the saying goes, "you get out what you put into it." If you're looking to find yourself, you don't necessarily have to travel the world to do it. If traveling is your thing or something you want to (or continue to) experience, then I hope you are able to follow your passion and grow from the experiences. If the intention you set for your life looks different, I am excited for you to pursue it fully. The best part about life is we get to pick the kind of life we want to lead.
Here is to another step towards a life filled with intention.