7 months ago I quit my job. I wanted to escape. To get the hell away from all the stress, the day to day routines, away from my problems. My anxiety was through the roof, I was stressed, depressed, and tired of this lifestyle. I dreamed of this grand escape. The chance to escape all my problems, live this carefree lifestyle of roaming the world, meeting new people, new experiences, adventures, and opportunities.
And so I set out to travel. To escape.
It wasn’t until months after it was over that I realized, although traveling was an incredible experience, it wasn’t the answer.
Most likely you’ve fantasized about doing something similar. To ditch your problems, the 9-5 job, ditch all your worries, responsibilities, and bullshit and just jump on a plane to live the fantasy of seeing the world. Since the day I decided to set out and see the world, I have had literally hundreds of people tell me how badly they would love to do the same thing. People praising me, applauding me, and telling me how courageous I was for having the balls to do this. But in reality, it wasn’t courageous, in fact, it was a cowardly and selfish move.
Why do you want to travel?
I wanted to travel because I wanted to see the world, to experience a new lifestyle, meet new people, gain new perspectives, get out of my comfort zone, go on new adventures. But when I dug deeper (and only very recently realized this) I came to find that was all bullshit.
The real reason I was traveling was not any of the reasons I listed above. In fact it was much simpler. I was traveling to flee myself, run away from this lifestyle I created, to distract myself from issues, and thought that this was the answer to my problems and a more fulfilling happy life.
I was terrified and unhappy with the lifestyle I created, so instead of facing it and trying to fix it, I ran like hell, I ran as far away as possible. The real motivation was driven by fear and self-indulgence. It was fight or flight and I jumped on that plane quickly.
But I know I’m not alone in this thought of traveling to escape because, like I mentioned, hundreds of you have told me you have this dream of doing the same. And unfortunately, I’m going to be the one to shatter that dream and tell you that you’re wrong.
Why traveling to escape is a terrible idea
Almost everyone has this liberating concept of ditching the rat race to travel and often admire it as this solution and escape from our boring, mundane, stressful lives. But why is traveling viewed as the answer to a better life?
If you’re like me. You have this concept that travel is a chance to escape. To find yourself, to be free, to get out of your comfort zone, meet new people, gain new perspectives. That you can finally be happy and live this carefree, worry-free, sunshine and double rainbows lifestyle where everything is just fucking awesome. Right? And you know what, a lot of it is fucking awesome.
But there are many problems with this idea. First, if you are viewing travel as an escape from your current lifestyle that is a MAJOR red flag. Think about it. If you’ve created a lifestyle for yourself where the majority of the time you sit there thinking about how to escape it, you’ve literally built yourself a prison. It’s complete insanity.
“Get me the fuck out of here”
Second, there is no such thing as escape. As I will get into more detail later in this article, the idea of escaping is unrealistic and temporary at best. The lifestyle you’ve created, along with all your problems will be there when you get back. And even if you decide not to come back, move somewhere permanently, then your problems will track you down, find you, and you’ll be right back where you were, planning out your next escape.
A Temporary Fix
Almost everyone does this. Everyone uses travel as this escape plan, even if just for a short while.
We act like problems in our life are these physical, tangible things and think, “okay all my problems are located here, so the further I go away, the further ill be from my problems.”
We count down days until a vacation to the Caribbean or that week long trip to Europe. The chance to finally escape all the bullshit for a bit. You get out there and all your problems seem to wash away. No worries. Pina coladas, sunshine, and warm beaches. Then we return, bitch and moan about how we want to go back, hate our job, and post instagram photos #takemeback and create this illusion that if we could stay longer or ideally forever, we can continue that great lifestyle.
But here’s what you don’t realize because you didn’t travel long enough to see it happen, all the problems, worries, anxieties, bullshit that you left behind, will come back. Your problems always have a way of finding you and coming back. Travel is not a permanent escape, just temporary. Think of your problems like a psycho stalker-ex. You can run as far as you can, fly half way around the world, change your number, e-mail, and even name, but eventually that bitch will come knocking on your door again.
There are 2 thought processes and outcomes that occur when you use the idea of travel as a means to escape. Both negative in the long run.
You run off and travel for a period of time in the hopes of escaping for a while. But then return and you are right back where you were with whatever lifestyle, problems, and bullshit you left behind. This is what I did.
I expected to come back happy, refreshed, a better person with a bright new vision of my ideal future and lifestyle. What really happened? I came back shattered and depressed. I didn’t know what the fuck to do with myself. I didn’t feel any better, in fact I felt worse. Why? Because I set out with the delusional idea that just by traveling I’d somehow come back with a whole new exciting lifestyle, free from my old problems. But not only was it not true, my problems I left seemed to be more obvious and apparent then ever. I only got better when I realized I need to work on things here and now, and re-create a lifestyle I enjoy.
The second idea when you use travel as a means to escape, is traveling or moving somewhere new permanently. You think “okay well I live in New York now, and I’m stressed, anxious, tired, depressed, and the solution is a permanent location change.”
So you move away with the idea of leaving behind your problems and starting a new life. But unfortunately, we are creatures of habit, so unless you do something drastically different when you move, you are likely to fall back into the same day to day that made you miserable, and like that pyscho ex we discussed, your problems will find you once again.
The solution is not to escape. Because like I mentioned, you actually can’t escape, you can only escape temporarily, only to come back to the same lifestyle you once created. But to solve a problem, you need to look at the root of the problem, it’s core. Which is that you are unhappy with your lifestyle.
So aim to change it, not escape it. Here and now. Not over there and eventually.
You don’t need to travel to get out of your comfort zone, meet new people, gain new perspectives, create a new lifestyle. All of that can be done here. All of the tools you need to change your life aren’t lying in another country, they’re right in front of you.
If the majority of the time you hate your job, then the answer isn’t to travel. The answer is quit that job. Simple as that. Don’t know what you want to do next though or how you’ll make money? Well what do you enjoy, what are your interests? “Yeah, but Chris I have student loans and my interests are in sports, I can’t make money or a lifestyle around that.” Fuck you, have you even tried?
I can’t tell you exact solution for creating your better lifestyle because everyone is different and has their own values, dreams, and ideas.
But what I can tell you is creating a better lifestyle starts from facing and accepting whatever you have created openly and honestly, working on and changing the things you don’t like about it, continually learning and improving, and not running away.
So stop this idea of escape through travel. Stop this idea that travel is the key to finding yourself, to finding a better lifestyle, to becoming a better person. Stop this idea that ditching a lifestyle you don’t enjoy to travel is courageous.
Ditching a lifestyle you don’t like through travel isn’t courageous. What’s courageous is ditching a comfortable lifestyle you don’t like, in an attempt to create a new one that you do like, despite fear and uncertainty.
You want to get to a point where you look at your life, your situation, the person you are and be content with it. To not feel like you are imprisoned and need to jump on the next plane out of here. Only then should you go travel. When you don’t feel like you need to travel, but rather you want to travel. When you can honestly say “I’m happy and content with this life and who I am, and I’d love to take all this with me and go travel some.”
In Defense of Traveling:
One clear distinction I want to make is that I am not bashing travel. At all. In fact, I still think it’s an incredible thing that everyone needs to experience.
Spent 3 days here in Halong Bay, Vietnam, jaw dropped
I don’t regret my decision to go travel, even for a second.
I still had an amazing time, met great people, saw incredible things and places, and had experiences I’ll talk about for the rest of my life. I still even view it as one of the greatest things I’ve ever done.
BUT, my point is it didn’t solve anything. And that I think is the biggest misconception when it comes to travel. If you want to ditch it all and travel, that’s fine. But understand, in the long run you are not escaping anything or anyone no matter what you tell yourself. That’s important to realize and I didn’t until very recently.
Now when I travel it will not be this idea to escape my lifestyle, but travel will be apart of my lifestyle. I truly do love to travel, so now I will incorporate it into this lifestyle I am re-creating.
Also, temporary escape can still be a great thing. I think that it is healthy to travel, go on vacation, go somewhere new to change up your physical surroundings for a bit, mentally escape for a little, and “re-charge the batteries.” But always realize it’s just that, temporary, a short term fix.
So before you go travel, ask yourself, and be honest with yourself. Why are you going to travel? What’s the real reason you feel compelled to get on that plane? When you dig deep, the answer will usually reveal how badly you really need to stay because you’ve got a lot of work to do.