Living the life of a world traveler seems glamorous, never-ending and one that is envied by many. Often do we always try to label ourselves with titles such as “Traveler”, “Backpacker”, “Glampacker”, or “Lost in Translation.” Travelers can hold a multitude of titles, but we forget we all started off as human individuals. Whatever path it took us to find this travel lifestyle became one that we chose to follow and enjoy along the way. Yet, it is often misunderstood or regarded as a “phase” that should come to an end. Whether you call it envy or an unaccepted theory, travelers often find themselves explaining why they do what they do.
My Personal Story
Personally, I shared bits and pieces of my story at my presentation in Amsterdam last month about Discovering Myself, The Netherlands and Other Places. More recently, I’ve returned to the place I was born and raised and have now grown up from. There is something heartbreaking about touching down at Newark Airport and not feeling a single thing, other than feeling you left your “new home” for this place. Nor could I not feel any worse about the guilt of mixed emotions; being happy to see my family again, but feeling utterly miserable that my travels would be on hold and my new life abroad would be 6 hours and over 3,000km away.
In my heart, the decision to live and study abroad has probably been in my mind since that awkward 16-year old shrieked upon arrival at Madrid Barajas Airport and told her then best friend she had to find a way to do this for the rest of her life. Now, I find myself enamored with another country, another lifestyle and a person that is located in that place.
Let the hate game begin. I’ve encountered lots of negativity against my life travels. Upon the resonance of the following statements:
- How do you afford to travel so much? What exactly are you doing to make money?
- Are you ever going to finish school? You’re wasting time.
- You’re only moving there for your boyfriend; you have no interest in that place.
- Are you thinking about getting a real job and actually starting your life?
A Puerto Rican girl with a quick temper could easily punch someone in the face with those sorts of questions being asked.
I’ll say it here and say it now: Yes, I have made a decision that I will move to The Netherlands and make an oranje life of stroopwafels, a Master’s program in Dutch Studies, the NS high rail speed trains and many gezellig people.
Luckily, with my European spirit and my buddy Ganesha, I’m able to deal with the constant negativity and focus on the long term picture. By doing and understanding these following things, I feel balanced.
Traveling is not meant for everyone
Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could feel as ecstatic as travelers do about travel? To understand how life enriching, therapeutic and overall fun it can be. I consider myself lucky to have traveled and to involved my work and leisurely activities around gallivanting around the world. But, not everyone enjoys travels. There are always downsides to backpacking and other forms of travels. Not everyone has the soul of a vagabonder to live out of a backpack; even I myself was an awkward traveler who felt misunderstood. For Americans especially, it isn’t really in our culture to take gap years or to be surrounded by world travelers. Luckily, people like ourselves are trying to change that image!
If traveling is not meant for everyone, you’d expect people to respect your life choices, right? It’s easy for others to feel envious of your life path. Your best friend might be the hardworking 9-5 girl by choice; struggling to earn vacation days while you’re refreshed from a sun kissed trip to the Caribbean for work. Just because they are upset about your scenario doesn’t give them the (human) right for them to be mean towards you. How many times have you had people question your travels on your latest Facebook status? Ever have someone think you’re out of this world for wanting to live abroad?
Try to compromise an understanding; let them know their criticism hurts you and doesn’t feel very supportive. Your life choices are your own regardless of your personal relationships and those choices should be at least respected by those you love.
Indulge in interests beyond travel
It’s easy to find yourself becoming that friend that always talks about travel. Whether you end up boasting about how awesome it was to teach in Costa Rica or how Thai food in Thailand is just so much better than New York Thai, it happens to travelers without even noticing. Try to remember the elements of why you like travel to begin with. Perhaps you’re the historically cultural tourist who is fascinated by old buildings and informative museums. Or, you’re a glampacker impressed by international fashion and must have one clothing item from every trip you’ve made.
Apply those interests in other forms when you’re not traveling or discussing non-travel related topics. Challenge yourself even more and try going an entire day without mentioning travel. (This could be difficult, even for myself!)
Build a network of travel friends
Often, I’ve found myself joking around that I have more friends across the globe than in my own hometown. (Which is New York City; with 8 million inhabitants, how is that possible.) Simple: Our connection of sharing travel experiences, rants about packing and unpacking or sharing stories about long distance love are topics not everyone can easily relate to. My network of travel buddies is one I am not only fortunate to have, but is crucial to my inner being. Simple conversations about these topics make me feel like I’m not so crazy after all. They are a vital source for travel insight or personal balance when you need someone to relate to.
Be a well rounded traveler and human being
Travelers can easily be called the most well rounded human beings on the planet. Backpackers especially are looking for the unbeaten path; wild adventures and unique experiences worth sharing with others. With all the above mentioned, it’s important to stay balanced in all aspects of life; whether you are traveling or not. Be considerate of others not traveling; support their upcoming #RTWsoon‘s or those like myself ranting on twitter about wishing they were back in a place. Remember to be graceful and loving to those who have supported you, like your family who may/may not understand why you travel, but are still a part of you no matter where you go. Life is about balance, or simply:
“Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices.”-Betsy Jacobson