Updated: 3/3/2021 | Original Post: 10/19/2009
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 to start living life. “Grow up,” they said.
And, years ago, I once came across a blog called “Mom says I’m running away.”
I’m not sure why, but there is this perception out there 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 just trying to “escape life.”
They are running away from responsibility, being a grown up, heartache, their problems, etc, etc.
We’re all just Peter Pans refusing to be “adults.”
While society thinks traveling is something everyone should do at one point — it is only gap years after college or short vacations that are acceptable. Get it out of your system and come back into the Matrix.
Those of us who lead nomadic lifestyles, or who linger just a bit too long somewhere before reaching that final homestretch, are all too often accused of running away.
Yes, go travel — but just not for too long the world says.
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.
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, long-term travelers, and wanderers do so because they want to experience the world, not escape problems. We are running away from office life, commutes, and weekend errands, and the corporate 9 to 5. We’re running away from the strict path society has laid out as normal. The one that makes as mindless little ants marching to and fro.
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 exciting things and lived life on my own terms, not say I spent my life reading blogs like this during my lunch break while wishing I was doing the same thing.
No one dies going “If only I had spent more time in the office!”
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 they never do. 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.
While social media and the rise of digital nomading and websites like this has made quitting your job to travel the world or teach English in Thailand a little more normal, the general attitude in the States is “do it this way if you want to be normal.”
Well, I don’t want to be normal.
I feel like the reason why people tell us we are running away is that 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.
Years ago, at the height of the economic boom, a book called “The Secret” came out. According to “The Secret,” if you just wish for and want something badly enough, you’ll get it. But the real secret to life is that you get what you want when you do what you want.
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 in Thailand that inspired me to do lead the life I am 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.
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