Confessions of an Expat: Is Traveling Selfish?
It’s funny to see how those around you act when you say that you are heading out to see the world, once you’ve finished school. Studying abroad for a semester, visiting friends or family in other countries, or saving up for and taking an exotic holiday once every year or two seems perfectly acceptable, but the idea of living a life of wanderlust much after the age of 25 just doesn’t sit right with some people. This fact provides an interesting commentary on changing cultural norms if one considers the traditional time-honored image of the young man leaving home “to seek his fortune…….”. While we write many personal accounts of our travels on this blog, usually keep much of our private lives to ourselves. However some of our most authentic posts do stem from something we have experienced ourselves, and this topic is no exception.
We knew that moving abroad together wouldn’t please every member of our families, but we decided that making the choice to see the world was one we were comfortable standing by, no matter the reaction from others.
Marina and I only had a few days together in Los Angeles after returning from nine months in Thailand before I headed to Washington, DC for the holidays to spend time with my family. During that short period of time, we wanted to make sure to see all of the friends and family we could together, as we do not know the next time we will be in Los Angeles again.
It was wonderful to see everyone, including old roommates, and even a few new friends, most of whom were extremely excited about our adventures, supportive and thrilled for everything we are doing and working on as we head into the new year. However, a visit to one of our close family members started right out with this question: “So, after you’ve seen the world, when are you two planning to settle down?“
The suggestion was even made that our decision to travel had disappointed certain members of our families who felt that it was time for us to “grow up” and settle down like responsible adults. Both of us were surprised by such a perspective, since we felt that we had made a responsible adult decision which could lead to life changing experiences, and which would harm no one. We actually think that our decision should be celebrated or at least encouraged in a world where it sometimes seems that an extended exploration of the world is less acceptable for young adults. The fact that we have made a decision to no longer follow traditional career paths and for a time to live instead where the wind takes us has been a most conscious choice. It is a decision, while partially brought on by economic struggles in the US, is also born out of the love for adventure, the mysterious, and the unknown.
“..We were all put on this Earth for one reason, and one reason only, to reproduce. And so each day you are not working towards that you are simply being selfish, she said.”
It is of worth to note than Marina and I are completely self sufficient and make our income through this blog as well as other freelance ventures. We work a lot, we work hard and have just created a lifestyle which allows for that work to be done on a computer wherever we can get power and a little wifi. No, we did not win the lottery or have rich parents who give us credit cards, and when all is said and done, our cost of living is less on the road than it was back in Los Angeles.
A final piece of unsolicited advice from this family member implied that we should really think about getting real jobs so that we could get married, start a family, and settle down, and that as long as we are not working towards that goal, we are simply being selfish.”
The world have given me so much over the years. I didn’t truly know myself until I jumped out into the world and met life head on. The best education I have received has been through learning to interact with strangers, volunteering my time to help others in need, being placed outside of my comfort zone and outside my element. It is an education I am proud of and I do not regret a second of it.
I wanted to relate this experience because both Marina and I feel comfortable speaking about our travel-related experiences with you, our readers and fellow travelers, even when they are challenging. We also want to hear about your experiences as we attempt to better understand how, not only as travelers but as human beings, we deal with the reactions from others to our travel-related decisions. Maybe you have experienced a similar reaction from family members due to your wanderlust, maybe you’ve felt a kickback from friends who simply do not understand, and maybe you, too, have felt hurt or offended by others simply because you chose to devote some time to seeing the world.
I’ll be the first one to admit that I travel not only to see the world but to feed my soul. The road, the unknown, the excitement of arriving in a new place, the smell of a new country, the smile from a complete stranger in a foreign land – THAT is why I travel. I strongly believe that we all have a duty of sorts to see the world around us, to explore that which is unknown to us and learn from others in an attempt, no matter how minuscule in the grand scale of things, to fully experience the world in which we have found ourselves. Am I saying that you cannot lead a fulfilled or complete life without world travel? Absolutely not, but it sure never hurt anyone, and I promise you that no one ever has returned from traveling and ended up on their death bed with the lament, “Oh Man, I sure wish I hadn’t traveled the world.”
So, what do you think? Is our experience due to the fact we are Americans and the traditional American dream is pretty provincial? Is it because of the generation in which we were brought up? Maybe people think it is unfair that we fled a bad economy and that we should have tried harder to enter the workforce here anyway?
Whatever the reason for any objection, my response is that life is not a dress rehearsal. This is not a test. This is the real deal. We only get one life, one world, and one chance to see it all, and no one will ever be able to convince me that there is a better use of my time right now than trying my hardest to see every corner of it, taste every new food I find, swim in every ocean I come to, and do it all with my best friend by my side.
So no, I do not think I am being selfish. I’m lucky to have been able to break the mold, and even luckier to find a traveling companion that I happen to be in love with as well. I hope that you’ll consider breaking the mold with us, and head out into your own unknown, whatever that may be, regardless of what others around you might think or say.
So take a chance, be safe, stay happy and smile. You never know who might smile back.
.H . Jeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at email@example.com and they’ll respond super fast!