Why Travel Is NOT The Answer

why-traveling-is-not-the-answer

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.

Work get out

“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.”

Packed Suitcase

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:

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.

Halong Bay

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.

Write Things Down

writing

One night, sometime around June of 2015 I was up late, sitting in my room, my mind racing. I took out my laptop and free wrote as I often do. For me, it was a usual entry. Writing about what was on my mind, my goals, dreams, wants, desires, what I was doing, my current situation, and some usual bitching about something that sucked at the time. After finishing, I looked in my writing folder, where I keep all of my free writing, and saw entires dated back from 2013.

I opened it and started reading through them. Something struck me almost immediately upon reading a few. Almost nothing had changed.

I was no where closer to being where I wanted to be then I was 2 years ago. I still bitched about the similar things, had the same anxieties, bitched about my job, wrote about my dream to travel, to experience more, grow myself more, start a blog and a lot else. And yet here I was, 2 years later, in almost the same place, same person.

It was the biggest smack in the face I’ve ever had, and it changed my life.

Batman slap

Something like that…

Now it didn’t change my life in the sense of me wanting to be a writer as a profession, or even making this site. No it changed my life because it me realize a ton about myself. I never realized how little I had been working towards becoming the person I wanted or doing the things I dreamed of until I looked back on it. I also realized a ton about myself, what was really important to me, what I really wanted, what I once thought was important, but later found out wasn’t. It allowed me to review, reflect, and open up.

When people often ask me about the decision I made to suddenly drop it all, travel, and start this site, my personal writings were my biggest motivator and reminder.

I would lose myself in the constant day to day, so much so, that I had no idea if what I was doing is what I even wanted. (You can probably relate). I had no idea what I was working towards or if I was even getting anywhere. I had no idea what the hell I was doing. Until years of free writing helped open up what really mattered to me. I’m not saying it gave me all the answers and I suddenly have the perfect vision I’m working towards, but I can say with certainty that I’m significantly better off because of it.

Let’s look more into why the simple act of writing helps you so much.

***Note, in case it’s not clear, when I say writing, I don’t mean writing articles or a history paper for school. I mean just free writing anything on your mind

1. You learn more about yourself

“I don’t know what I think until I write it down” – Flannery O’Connor

Free writing completely opens up your mind. Often times it feels like your writing is just pointless rambling, but that pointless rambling is what is going on in your day to day, in your head, it’s who you are. So pay attention and dive into it.

The nice thing about it too, is no one is going to read this. This is where you can and need to be brutally honest with yourself. Leave it all on the page. Be like Alice jumping down the rabbit hole. Get in your head and really dig around. Yes, there might be some scary shit going on or even some caterpillars smoking opium, but really explore.

You’ll probably be surprised with some of the things you write. That’s because you are constantly filtering yourself, even in your own thoughts. You’re constantly filtering how you act, what you say, what you do, and even how you think. Writing brings out the unfiltered side of yourself that may have been long suppressed. From there it tends to snowball, leading to realize more and more, one thing then another, then another until it seems like you’re getting to know yourself for the first time.

2. Realize what you want and track it.

Most people, including myself at times, live in this wishy washy world where you don’t really know what you want. You probably have a general sense of what makes you happy, what you want, who you want to become but you aren’t really sure. You’ve never really spent time alone, time by yourself, with your thoughts, and just wrote them down.

Write down that person you want to be in as much detail as possible. Write down what you want your career to look like, what you want your life to look like, what things you want to try or accomplish, what you want your significant other to be like etc. Personally, I have several pages on each one of the above mentioned and I look back on them often to remind myself what I want, what I need to do and see what I am currently doing to get there.

Visualize it, see it, write it down with as much detail as possible. Now write down what you need to start doing to get there. What steps it will take, timeframe it might take, actions necessary. Now you have a vision, now you have a blueprint and steps, now look back on it each day and see if you are doing it. Some of it might takes day, some months, and others years.

daydreaming_visualization

No buddy, write it down, cloud visions won’t last

Now your vision might change, and that’s fine. Mine probably has at least 20 times. Like I said what you thought was important one day, might not so much the next. Pay attention and write that shit down.

3. It’s therapeutic. 

Maybe you’re angry, depressed, anxious, sad, whatever. Write it down. Go nuts. Whatever is on your mind just rant. I’m talking raw, off the wall, “I’d be terrified for anyone else to read this,” batshit crazy rants. The kind that you might read the next day and go “Jesus, was that me writing that?” Remember, no judgements, no one is going to read this except you, so let it out. It feels good.

Also no one gets hurt by it. You know that regretful, shameful feeling of sending a wildly outrageous, mean text or saying something horrible to someone, only the next to be like “heyyyyy sorry, had a really bad day yesterday, I didn’t mean it *smile emoji*.” Yeah, none of that shit. Don’t take it out on others, take it out in the dark hole that is your writing. Then laugh the next day when you realize how ridiculous it was. Or if you really don’t want to ever read it again, use John Oliver’s “Scream Into The Void.

And again you may realize something new about yourself in these raw emotional writings. You may realize you often write about the same issue a lot and maybe it’s a bigger issue then you think and something needs to be done.

I never realized how stressed and how much I truly wanted to quit my job, until I flipped back and realized I wrote and ranted about it in probably 80% of my writings. I didn’t realize how bad my anxiety had really gotten until I read back on shit loads of very anxious writings, which made me realize it was a bigger issue that needed to be addressed. I didn’t realize my true passion for travel until it was in almost every single writing I ever did.

Adopting writing into your life:

So now that I’ve shown you how ground breaking, mind exploding, and life shattering writing can be, let’s talk about how to adopt into your life.

First have a laptop or notebook. Personally I do everything on my laptop and have a folder for all my entries because my hand writing is at a first grade level and I type much much faster.

Now I don’t have a specific rule of thumb for when and how often to write. Obviously the more the better. Usually I write when I just have a lot on my mind. But try to do it at different times of the day and different days because what you write Sunday night or Monday morning will likely be very different then Thursday Night or Friday.

Free writings on Sunday night’s are my favorite because you usually have a lot of thoughts and anxiety going into the work week and thoughts about your job and life choices. It’s also great for nights where you can’t sleep. Have your laptop or notebook under your bed, turn the light on and write all the things going on in your head. Not only is this usually some great stuff, but it’ll help you go to sleep when you’ve gotten it off your mind. But mess around with different times and days and try to start writing at least once a week.

While writing, don’t try so much. Don’t try to write some profound novel or wait for some life shattering revelation before writing. Don’t worry about grammar or even proper english. This is your voice here. Just go. Anything. Even if it’s “this is fucking boring, I don’t know what to say.”  Good write that, keep going.

Some days you will have tons to say and will write for an hour, other days your mind will be blank and you’ll write two sentences. Some days you’ll find out something interesting or have a good rant, other days it will be mindless crap. I’d say 80% of my free writings are just semi non-sensical rambling. But looking back, a lot of that non-sensical rambling still revealed a lot. As you write more and more, it will become easier. Your brain will become used to opening up and you’ll slowly find it easier to write and ramble.

Realize this takes time. (I know, I know, you want to have your life all figured out now!) It took me years of doing this to create half an idea of what I want and who I want to be. But all great things take time or something like that right?

Want it now

Overtime, look back on your writings. Re-read your old entries, see what you notice. What do you usually think and write about? What seems to keep making you mad, sad, angry, depressed, happy, excited, motivated?

I guarantee if you do this, if you create that vision and write down what you want and years later look back on it and haven’t take the steps to achieve it, like I did. It will light a fire under your ass like you’ve never felt.