My dad always asks what I’m running away from with my travels. A few weeks ago, a commenter told me to stop running away and live life. And I once came across a travel blog called “Mom says I’m running away.”
I’m not sure why, but there exists this perception that anyone who travels long term and isn’t interested in settling down or getting a conventional job must be running away from something.They are, in other words, just trying to “escape life.”
The general opinion is that traveling is something everyone should do—that gap years after college and short vacations are acceptable. But for those of us who lead nomadic lifestyles, or who linger just a bit too long somewhere before reaching that final homestretch, we are accused of running away.
Yes, travel—but just not for too long.
We nomads must have awful, miserable lives, or are weird, or have had something traumatic happen to us that we are trying to escape. People assume that we are simply running away from our problems, running away from “the real world.”
And to all those people who say that, I say to you: you’re right. Completely right. I am running away. I’m running away from your idea of the “real” world. I’m avoiding your life. And, instead, I’m running towards everything – towards the world, exotic places, new people, different cultures, and my own idea of freedom.
While there may be exceptions (as there are with everything), most people who become vagabonds, nomads, and wanderers do so because they want to experience the world, not escape problems. We are running away from office life, commuting, and weekend errands, and running toward everything the world has to offer. We (I) want to experience every culture, see every mountain, eat weird food, attend crazy festivals, meet new people, and enjoy different holidays around the world.
Life is short, and we only get to live it once. I want to look back and say I did crazy things, not say I spent my life reading blogs like this while wishing I was doing the same thing.
As an American, my perspective might be different from the rest of yours. In my country, you go to school, you get a job, you get married, you buy a house, and have your 2.5 children. Society boxes you in and restricts your movements to their expectations. It’s like the matrix. And any deviation is considered abnormal and weird. People may want to travel, tell you they envy what you do, say they wish they could do the same thing. But really, they don’t. They are simply fascinated by a lifestyle so outside the norm. There’s nothing wrong with having a family or owning a house — most of my friends lead happy lives doing so. However, the general attitude in the States is “do it this way if you want to be normal.” And, well, I don’t want to be normal.
I feel like the reason people tell us we are running away is because they can’t fathom the fact that we broke the mold and are living outside the norm. To want to break all of society’s conventions, there simply must be something wrong with us.
Life is what you make it out to be. Life is yours to create. We are all chained down by the burdens we place upon ourselves, whether they are bills, errands, or, like me, self-imposed blogging deadlines. If you really want something, you have to go after it.
People who travel the world aren’t running away from life. Just the opposite. Those that break the mold, explore the world, and live on their own terms are running toward true living, in my opinion. We have a degree of freedom a lot of people will never experience. We get to be the captains of our ships. But it is a freedom we chose to have. We looked around and said, “I want something different.” It was that freedom and attitude I saw in travelers years ago that inspired me to do what I am doing now. I saw them break the mold and I thought to myself, “Why not me too?”
I’m not running away. I am running towards the world and my idea of life. And I never plan to look back.
Matt Kepnes is budget travel expert, author of “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day” and writes at NomadicMatt.com.