Is Full-Time Travel an Act of Withdrawal?

by Nora on September 21, 2009

In a philosophical conversation with an acquaintance the other day, I was informed that he doesn’t like the way I IMGP0292_1travel. Not only does he not like it for himself, but he doesn’t like it for me; he feels that full-time travel is an act of withdrawal from the world.

For him, ducking out of society (at least the society we grew up in) means shirking responsibilities, and ultimately depriving society of the many talents we have to contribute.

Not that he’s driven by society and society’s expectations – at least not any more so than anybody else – but my flitting off to “fight forest fires” so far away as he dubbed it (while suggesting that there are others who can fight fires in my stead) and other such gallivanting appears to him as an act of escapism rather than engagement.

The timing of this conversation fell brilliantly at a time when I was also catching up with old friends who were curious about my continued desire to travel. I was in a perfect position to take on his point of view and further explore my own motivation for long-term traveling.

IMGP1317_1Despite my best efforts, I was unable to embrace the concept that I might be escaping or withdrawing from my world by traveling. In fact, the harder I tried to acknowledge that it could be even a distant truth, the louder my inner voice screamed that I’m doing just the opposite – I’m engaging the world!

I recently recalled a life-defining moment from when I was eight years old, which is the main reason why I write this article today from a land far away from where I hatched the idea so many years ago. I was in grade three, and the lights dimmed in the classroom as we prepared to watch a documentary. This documentary in particular was about Europe. I was fascinated with the images I saw….cobblestone streets, old magnificent buildings, and large canals with elaborate bridges.

I looked at the people in the video; they were normal people, going about their lives. But something was different. They were dressed differently. They spoke a different language, and were eating different foods. And they were living in this strange land with such different looking features and architecture.

I became obsessed with getting to know these people. I wanted to understand their words, and taste their foods. I IMGP1626_1wanted to see what the insides of their homes looked like, and where they slept. I wanted to learn what life is like for them.

After that day, I vowed that I would backpack across Europe after high school. I even started saving money for my pack – a sadly inappropriate backpack that I enthusiastically bought when I was in grade 9. But as tends to happen, Life got in the way while I was busy making plans, and the end of high school saw me involved in a host of activities that were rewarding as well as demanding of my time.

“Europe will happen later,” I thought.

The years passed by as I bounced from career to career in search of something to satisfy that inexplicable void inside of me. I eventually made it to Europe (and other desired destinations), but only to be seen from the side of a cruise ship or the window of a bus. My vacations were informative and fun, but I never left with an inner understanding of the place or the people – at least not one that left me truly satisfied with the experience.

Part of the reason I decided to sell the lot and travel full-time almost three years ago now, is because I could not envision myself doing the travel-related activities I dreamed of doing in retirement – 30+ years away – at the age of 65 and beyond.

IMGP1347_1I am an enthusiastic mountaineer, hiker, rock climber, and spelunker. At 65 however, I doubt my desire and ability to climb mountains will be as strong.

I am a giving humanitarian and adventurous traveler. At 65 however, my energy to build wells or work with school-children (or raise money for cyclone victims, or volunteer in the wake of a forest fire, as we did) would be compromised.

I am a public speaker and writer, and I love to motivate and inspire through action. But when my audience is a huge contingent of young people who are looking for something more meaningful in life, how can I look them squarely in the eyes if I’m not living out my own dreams – now, and not in a faraway retirement?

And I am an adventurer. I don’t care how old or young you are; making enough of a living to travel full-time (and very frugally at that) is a challenge in balance, business acumen, and lifestyle compromise. And although in a conventional retirement I shouldn’t have to work while traveling, I would imagine that scaling back life to the basics after decades of keeping up with the Joneses would be a real challenge. Heck – it was hard enough to scale down my swag to hit the road to begin with…how would I fare after so many years of living that lifestyle has been imprinted on me?

So while it is argued by my acquaintance that I am withdrawing from the world and denying it the talents I possess, I rebut with the idea that in fact my talents are being put through their paces – and will continue to be – as long as I continue to follow my dreams; wherever they may take me (geographically or otherwise).

{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ben September 22, 2009 at 1:14 am

I’ll be traveling full time for the next 8 months. Perhaps unlike many travelers I will have a steady course and goal. I’m riding my motorcycle from the USA to the bottom of South America and I need to get there before the snow comes in! I feel that I need a sense of gratification out of my life, and I received that while working for a while, but now I’m on to a whole new level of gratification and accomplishment. If not now, then when?

Thanks for the great site and inspiring words. Keep up the good work.

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2 Kim P September 22, 2009 at 2:33 am

How dare he! I propose the quote: “Perhaps I am not escaping from something, but escaping to something” One of the best quotes I’ve ever heard on this topic of people proclaiming long-time travelers to be escapist; the author I forget. If anything, you are engaging the world and changing the world, bit by bit at a time.

How will people in far away lands know that all Americans aren’t the selfish people they see on television wasting their lives away doing and acquiring things they do not need, but only dane to have to keep up with the Joneses as you said. How will they know? Unless people like you and countless other travelers get out there and show them. How will we know our way is not the only way unless we get out their and immerse ourselves in other cultures. I find that comment offensive and I dare to say this guy is just jealous and secretly admires you. 🙂 Keep doing what you are doing, you have inspired Me and that’s just one bit of the many bits you’ll continue to change the world along your journey.

P.s. My love for long-term travel was born out of a documentary too, at the tender age of six. I call it my first life altering epiphany.

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3 Vinny September 22, 2009 at 3:10 am

Another great Article Nora!

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4 Amanda September 22, 2009 at 4:20 am

Go om Girl, you took me to church! I love your site. It is bookmarked on my work computer so I have a lil-slice of you everyday. You’ve made even more curious of the world than I already was and I was verrrry curious. Thanx so much for sharing your Blessings.

Amanda

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5 Rachel Cotterill September 22, 2009 at 6:48 am

Seems to me you’re just sharing your talents with a wider portion of the world – I can only guess that your acquaintance believes you should dedicate all your ‘talent’ time to the country where you happened to be born. Still, if he doesn’t want to be persuaded, I doubt you’ll persuade him 🙁

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6 Hilary September 22, 2009 at 8:11 am

I’d like to add an observation: most people live their life for retirement and then when they get there they not only did not save enough to retire and live the life they dreamed but they are no longer healthy because the life they lived was not balanced. They sit all day and then they end up retiring and sitting some more.

I think retirement is an absurd idea … the idea that you would someday simply stop working. Work less yes, but stop working no. I just can’t see it. Words that come to mind – stagnant, unbalanced. If we’re not stagnant then maybe we would be healthier and be able to enjoy being 80 and 90 and maybe even 100 or more (my great aunt was fairly healthy until her mid-90’s.)

And all of this doesn’t mean you have to travel, some people simply don’t enjoy the unfamiliar. I love traveling but I can understand wanting a place to come home to.

I just don’t think the majority of people in this country have balanced lives. I keep thinking back to my trip to Hawaii… I worked for about an hour a day to just keep up with projects and move them forward and realized just how unfocused I am when I’m at home. I tinker with this, waste time with that, why not work 2-3 hours a day and really get out and enjoy where I’m at? Even if I’m in my home town.

I haven’t fully accomplished that yet … somehow being home there’s more stuff to do (laundry, dishwasher isn’t cleaning well so there are handwash dishes to be done, I’m not eating out as much…) BUT I’m working towards more life balance and more travel (what do you do when you have an aging cat and want to travel? that part I haven’t fully figured that out without an expensive pet sitter.)

Anyway, I’ve been a bit sick so I’m a little more ramble-y than usual so forgive me if I strayed too far from the subject. I DO completely get the idea of engaging with the world now instead of waiting for retirement.

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7 Corbett Barr September 22, 2009 at 8:59 am

Hey Nora, great discussion. I can see how your friend might feel as he does. When I was living abroad earlier this year, I felt myself like I had withdrawn from “society” a little. I realize now that it was just feelings of guilt because I wasn’t as involved in the society I grew up in and lived for 30 years. There’s an unfortunate fact that you can’t be in two places at once. At least technology is making it easier to stay in touch when you want or need to.

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8 theprofessionalhobo September 22, 2009 at 9:06 am

@Corbett – Great perspective! I have my moments on the road….especially when my nose is buried in my laptop….but for the most part I try to engage wherever I am. This is a task that is sometimes easier said than done!

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9 theprofessionalhobo September 22, 2009 at 9:05 am

@Ben – Your upcoming trip sounds fantastic! Hope it goes well.

@KimP – Great minds think alike! What is it about life-defining moments coming to us when we’re like…6 years old?!?! 🙂

@Vinny – Thanks!

@Amanda – Church?! Whoo-ah! I’m liking the gospel angle….but I promise I won’t preach!

@Rachel – Our philosophical friend incidentally has lived abroad himself. But he does indeed seem to have an allegiance – of sorts – to “home”.

@Hilary – You nailed it. When you work so very hard just to be able to “stop” in retirement, it is a brew for disaster. You can’t just “stop”….and sometimes the things you want to do are prohibitive by that age. And if you do just “stop”, then quite often so too does your body.

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10 Dave Adair September 22, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Great article, and a worthy conversation for long-term travelers. Paradoxically, I think questioning is the key, and holding open the inquiry is more important than landing on a fixed answer. It’s the questions we ask that make the difference. Socrates (or Plato?) said “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

At the end of my two-year trip around the world, I started feeling like I was in a zoo, sometimes outside the cage looking in, and other times inside the cage. I started feeling like walking around looking at interesting “stuff” wasn’t enough. But that was more a reflection of how I was spending my time, not the fact that I wasn’t living at home or going to work. Since that time I’ve traveled for years, all totaled, and I’ve just quit my job again for new overseas adventures.

Part of what motivates me now is the feeling that I’m not just traveling for myself, but for the benefit of all those who don’t have the luxury or interest. I try to show them a mind-bending developing world through photography and newsletters, and I hope that we’re all better off as a result.

Cheers mate! Keep up the good work.

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11 Elizabeth September 22, 2009 at 1:00 pm

I’ve had the same comment from people frequently; it took years before others were able to see that I’d incorporated my travels into my art career. I haven’t heard anything like that since illustrating my first book last year; it’s a tangible milestone. You’re also boosting your career along with your travels.

But one meets fellow long-term travellers who are out of touch with the society they came from for different reasons, particularly in backpacker havens in Asia & Latin America. Some try to integrate with local cultures, with varying levels of success. Others segregate themselves from fellow foreigners, or live in an expat bubble.

Sounds like you’re doing just what’s right for you, and what many others wish they could.

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12 theprofessionalhobo September 22, 2009 at 1:15 pm

@Dave – Thank you; and I think you’re bang on with your observations about questioning and feeling “zoo-syndrome”. As for your current and future travels: as the Aussies would say – goodonya!

@Elizabeth – Although I’ve traveled through Asia and will soon be in Latin America, I haven’t tried to live in either of those places for any substantial length of time…I wonder how I would fare myself…I guess it all depends on the circumstance. Thanks for your comment, and good luck with future illustrations!

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13 Nomadic Matt September 22, 2009 at 5:56 pm

I think the opposite. I think full time trying is about seeing and experiencing as much of the world as possible whereas sitting in an office keeps you from seeing the world!

good to rebute that idea!

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14 Becky September 22, 2009 at 8:15 pm

You know, at first I would agree with the person that says maybe your friend is a little jealous, but upon further reflection, I think not. My dad is not a traveler. The first time I bought a round-the-world ticket and disappeared for 9 months he didn’t understand.
He kept asking me “what was I going to do.”
“Umm…travel, meet new people, see new cultures, try the food, see the sites, engage the world,” was my answer.
“yeah, but what are you going to DO?” he replied.
When he goes on vacation he goes skiing, or visits a friend, or does, in his mind, “something.”

Some people just don’t get it. It’s not their fault, they are just wired differently then those of us with the travel bug. We have to respect that, and they have to respect us (and not insult us by saying we are running away from something…after all, most travelers know you can’t run away from yourself!)

But it is always a good idea to look at yourself, and your motives honestly, and it seems like that conversation sparked that in you!

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15 Anil September 23, 2009 at 2:20 am

I’ve heard the question ‘what are you running away from’ many times. I don’t see it as that – more of just creating a new routine for myself than most are accustomed to.

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16 JoAnna September 23, 2009 at 3:58 am

This is a great piece Nora. I wonder if your friend might harbor just a tad of jealously since you are living out your dreams and doing so in a way that has opened your mind, allowed others to share your experiences and been beneficial to those that you’ve helped along the way. Not many people can say they’ve changed the world, but when people travel and influence and inspire others, I think they do have that power … one person, one moment at a time. I don’t think full-time travel is an act of withdrawal. In fact, I think it’s an act of bravery, and I commend you on doing it so well.

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17 A Wannabe Travelwriter September 23, 2009 at 7:09 am

Your acquaintance must live a very sheltered and narrow life.

Your post title addresses “full-time” travel which, by definition, eliminates the possibility that you are on a permanent vacation: far from it.

We all see people living so-called “normal” lives that are no more involved with life than the chair their fat ass is planted on. They are the ones suffering from withdrawal as they spend much of their time either sitting in an office cubicle or in their homes as they hunker down under the glow from their TV’s and computer screens. The only thing they are contributing to is my increasing healthcare insurance premium due to their lack of any sense of physical or mental wellness.

Avoiding the cliché that life is short, the fact is, life is what it is.

Many people get bound up by responsibilities, realities, and fears that control their destiny. You have taken control of yours. Good on you.

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18 theprofessionalhobo September 23, 2009 at 9:34 am

@Nomadic Matt – Thanks for your support!

@Becky – I agree with you: I don’t think my acquaintance is jealous….in fact he strikes me as an extremely well-balanced person, and he even has experience living and studying abroad, so it’s not exactly like he has been sheltered. But as you say, maybe my style and idea of travel is not structured or applied enough for his tastes. Way to tackle the viewpoint from the other side! Thanks!

@Anil – The two underlying themes of travel that I hear over and over again are the concept that we are either: A) Running away from something, or B) Searching for something. I believe that there are indeed some travelers who are running away, but I would suggest that many of us are searching. As much as I don’t feel like I’m searching for anything, there are times that I wonder if there’s something deep that I’m missing and looking for across this bold beautiful world.

@JoAnna – I agree that a good dose of bravery is ingrained in many travelers; it’s a big scary world out there! And I appreciate your ideology about how travel can inspire and slowly change the world. Thanks!

@A Wannabe Travelwriter – Heh Heh. I’m not sure my acquaintance in particular is filling up too much chair space (he’s a pretty active fellow), but there is a lot of validity to what you say, and he may even be more like this than I observed.
And I have trouble avoiding the cliche that life is short, but I love your alternative: Life is what it is. I think the lion on Wizard of Oz penned that quote! (smiles)

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19 Richard Arghiris September 23, 2009 at 10:32 am

Good for you. Travelling is the best possible way to exercise one’s imagination. It opens our heads and exposes us to all kinds of challenges and unexpected ideas. It also changes our perception of time, thereby extending our life spans considerably. We’re the smart ones.

In any case, there’s no shame in dropping out of society. Society is monstrous and no one should be forced to serve it. Trust me, I’ve had all my illusions removed and I’m 100% clear about it 🙂

So I now take the attitude that I’m not running away, but walking away. And giving society the middle finger while I’m at it. What can I say? There’s no love anymore, it’s all about money, more money and nothing else. How tedious. Much better to get away and do what interests you. Much better to do something real, when everyone else wants illusions.

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20 Scott September 23, 2009 at 10:41 am

To play devil’s advocate for a moment: the argument your friend is making is that most people travel for 2 weeks vacation a year to “get away from things” – job, friends, family, whatever problems are weighing them down. A vacation is an escape. Yes, you can say some people vacation to “do something” – dig a well in Africa, golf, tan, see a part of the world they have never seen, or experience history. But ultimately it’s a temporary escape from their day-to-day life.

You’ve made your temporary escape semi-permanent. Yes, I get that you get to meet people you would have never have met, see, do and experience things you would never have seen, done and experienced. You are definitely engaged in the wider world. But travelling for a few years with no “roots” has elements of running away from home in it.

I’m not saying I buy the argument. Just that the argument is not that you are living a loner life.

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21 Andy E. Williams September 23, 2009 at 11:33 am

Thanks for the candid discussion. Seems like a recurring theme among long-term travelers. Travelling no doubt provides exposure to new people that and experiences that continue to be breathtaking memories that we will be thankful of for the rest of our lives. But then so does home. Your post highlights the wonderful opportunity for someone to show us how to do something new in travel get the best of both worlds. That is to be a wanderer with deep roots … someone who works in and is part of the social community in which they live … and at the same time can incorporate travel into their work and life at any moment.

Andy
http://www.wanderings.andyewilliams.com

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22 theprofessionalhobo September 23, 2009 at 11:42 am

@Richard – Society certainly does have a way of maintaining narrow margins of “acceptability”. Cheers for going “off track”!

@Scott – Thank you for playing devil’s advocate! I don’t deny that there’s an escapist element to full-time/long-term travel – whether escaping from or escaping to something. I guess for most travelers, motivations are personal and deep (and varied)…often in a way that people for whom travel is not a part of their vocabulary don’t quite understand.

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23 @GotPassport September 23, 2009 at 12:35 pm

What a great article. Full-time travelers are taking a road not so well traveled which makes them courageous, in my book. Not traveling full-time right now, but I can relate to your story of not waiting until 65. Travel on!

Love your website and your commitment to your dreams.

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24 theprofessionalhobo September 23, 2009 at 1:15 pm

@Andy – Thank you very much for the thoughtful observation of breaking new ground by being a traveler with deep roots; what an interesting concept!

@GotPassport – Thank you. I am overwhelmed with the support the online traveling community has provided in general since I learned to tap into it. It’s great to know we’re not alone!

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25 Nouman Zeb September 24, 2009 at 1:49 am

A marvalous article indeed. District Swabi

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26 John Bardos - JetSetCitizen September 24, 2009 at 4:37 am

Hi Nora,

“Acquaintance” is an interesting word choice. What should we read from that? 🙂

I think there is an element of escape in long term travel. It certainly was for me. However, at the same time it also opened my mind that a whole world really exists outside of my prior myopic existence. Permanently leaving my home country has made be a better person in so many ways.

The best part is that is has given me a greater appreciation of my origins. I love my home country of Canada more than ever. When I return I see more of the country than most of my friends and family living there. Being away has also strengthened my ties to family. We take for granted what is close and and convenient.

I also have a much greater love for my father’s home country of Hungary. Having traveled there many times, I have built close relations with family that I never could have remaining in Canada. I have a much better understanding of my roots.

Not only that, I am far more connected to the world. It is one thing to see a picture of the Sistine Chapel but an entirely different experience to be in the same room as millions of others, as Michelangelo himself.

I think it is time for a new acquaintance. 🙂

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27 theprofessionalhobo September 24, 2009 at 10:22 am

@Nouman – Thanks!

@John – Great observations. And how can one not suggest that an element of escapism exists in travel; we are after all actually leaving somewhere to go somewhere else. Whether it is escaping or exploring depends on which side of the fence you happen to be standing.
I too, have a fierce love of Canada. I couldn’t believe how safe I felt walking the streets of Toronto after braving some of the less familiar places I’ve traveled to and through (whether the safety is a matter of perception or reality is another matter)!

As for my acquaintance, I can’t call him a friend because I don’t believe we’ve had enough repartee to solidify ours as a friendship that will stand the test of time (when you’re a traveler, long-standing friends are hard to come by while you’re in transit), but is somebody with whom I have truly enjoyed some stimulating – and sometimes challenging – conversations. Heck – if even for inspiring the fodder for this article, I am grateful to him!

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28 Joe Todd September 24, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Thank goodness we are all individuals and what may be right for one person may not be right for another. I wish you well and you are correct it is a little more difficult to travel when you are in your 60’s

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29 theprofessionalhobo September 24, 2009 at 1:26 pm

@Joe – Amen to that! Travel for me is a way to celebrating the unique differences we all have….whether they are immediately apparent or not. Cheers!

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30 Dan September 24, 2009 at 4:22 pm

I recently wrote something very much the same. What more can I say, I’m glad I don’t feel like I am answerable to people who hold those opinions. I agree, we are engaging in the world, if we travel to get to know the world how can we be escaping it? Yeah I also travel to avoid those things he thinks we are shirking but its not against the law or anything it’s just an outdated expectation of society that some people can’t let go of.

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31 Janice September 26, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Hi Nora,

Great article. It’s timing is interesting.

Last week at the Toronto Film Fest I saw ‘Up in the Air”, the latest Jason Reitman film. Clooney’s character was definitely withdrawing from the world through travel. In his case, business travel.

While there may be some who travel to withdraw, I know you are not one of them. You are engaged. You’re an inspiration.

Cheer!
Janice

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32 theprofessionalhobo September 27, 2009 at 10:58 am

@Janice – Thanks! I enjoyed the initial conversation about travel that I had with this fellow, but I’ve enjoyed the comments and viewpoints even more! (I must make a note to see “Up in the Air” now too)!

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33 Frank - Our Hiking Blog September 28, 2009 at 8:42 am

Whoo, Hoo! What a great post and interesting HUGE amount of comments. keep it up Nora, life is too short to be “planning a trip” or “change in lifestyle” – you are living it AND giving back to the communities where you live!

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34 theprofessionalhobo September 29, 2009 at 7:30 am

@Frank – Thanks so much. I agree….live intensely in the present moment….that’s what I aim to do as much as possible. Cheers!

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35 Gary Arndt October 2, 2009 at 2:36 am

Traveling to escape the world is like jumping out of a frying pan and going into the fire to escape the heat.

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36 theprofessionalhobo October 2, 2009 at 6:58 am

@Gary – Ha Ha! I knew you’d have something great to say on the topic! Cheers….I hope your own fire is still burning strong!

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37 altamaiz October 2, 2009 at 7:27 am

Your friend has an interesting point.

Think about why we like to travel- see and meet people from different cultures, who speak different languages, who build different cities. All of these things require people who stay put for a longer period of time and build communities. Communities are not formed with continual transience, they’re formed by people who wake up in the same place every day and sweep the pavement, and maintain their buildings, etc. They stay involved in the same community and reinforce it, hence it persists.

Therefore one of the main motivations for travel, to experience other cultures, is itself an act of temporarily removing oneself from participating in ones own culture. And full time travel then would mean not participating full time, and hence withdrawing.

I don’t agree that it means shirking responsibilities or misapplying ones talents at all. And I’m not sure I would characterize it as escapism. It is ironic, but not in a negative way.

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38 theprofessionalhobo October 3, 2009 at 8:15 am

@altamaiz – Thank you so much for contributing a very valid viewpoint about communities! You are absolutely right – even “intentional communities” (which tend to have many transient people moving through) are based on a core group of people who make everything flow. So yes – withdrawing: maybe. But as you say, it’s not necessarily what it seems….

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39 Angela October 12, 2009 at 3:12 am

Great post, very evocative writing. I’m a footloose and I can’t see myself living in one place, so I end up changing country every two years, sometimes I find this destabilising, but for the moment I can’t stop. This entails some delays and time-consuming, but I can’t go against nature, right?

Keep traveling, now it’s the time 🙂

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40 theprofessionalhobo October 12, 2009 at 7:27 am

@Angela – Even when I lived in one place, I led a “transient” life in that I tended to change careers every two years or so! Careers…countries….maybe it’s something in the water….(smiles)

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41 Carlo November 13, 2009 at 2:21 pm

To be honest, even if you (or I or anyone) were actually using travel to escape from society, I would find absolutely nothing wrong with that. I think most travelers find something inherently wrong with society, and which is why travel is so “counter-culture”…because most of us don’t want to belong to that.

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42 theprofessionalhobo November 13, 2009 at 3:13 pm

@Carlo – Great perspective!

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43 soultravelers3 November 19, 2009 at 5:42 am

You are absolutely right of course! 😉 Slow travel in particular is about engagement and deep immersion into other cultures.

The world has changed a lot since we both started our world travels and I think the voices out there that are “living the dream” are doing an important service to let others know that it is easier, cheaper & more enriching than most realize…..even for families! 😉

Thanks for being you and giving your gift of “experiencing the world your way” with all of us! Everyone might not “get” it (like your friend) but plenty of us do!

As Shakespeare so wisely said, “To thine own self be true”!

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44 Sharon Hurley Hall November 20, 2009 at 12:03 am

I think it’s important to follow your dreams, and to do it now. Why wait, when you don’t know what might happen? That’s one of the reasons we moved to the Caribbean now, rather than waiting for retirement. Way to go!

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45 theprofessionalhobo November 21, 2009 at 9:17 am

@soultravelers3 – Thanks for the awesome comment and perspective! Indeed….I think by simply living the lives of our dreams, we can inspire others to do so. Not everybody will understand our motives, but it’s not necessary for absolutely everybody to “get it”. Cheers!

@Sharon – You go girl! I believe life has way more options than we realize. Seeing those options – and deciding which ones are for you – now that is the fun!

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46 NYC August 31, 2010 at 4:08 am

Great way to proceed, if you manage to do so! I am spending more time then usual on a vacation, part of it on a sailing boat. Now I am still sailing in the Mediterranean and I don’t know where or when the trip will end, the only thing I am sure about I like to continue. I know I will have to find another job soon and all this will have an end but I will repeat this experience again as soon as I can and it will possibly be complete different places and ways of traveling. Traveling for a long time, say 2 moths or more, puts everything in a different perspective and allows things that would be impossible if you are on a tight time schedule. I relocated for work in Europe and central Asia in the past and I can compare this with long term vacation traveling whereby there is a possibility to establish a strong contact with the places and the people as you are not rushing from a place to another.

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47 theprofessionalhobo August 31, 2010 at 4:34 am

@NYC – Good stuff! You must be having some amazing adventures on the high seas! Please send me an email (through the “contact me” page) if you’d like to participate in my week-in-the-life series: I’m sure lots of people would like to know what a week-in-the-life of sailing is like!

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48 NYC August 31, 2010 at 4:48 am
49 Richard DuLac December 4, 2010 at 11:51 am

Great post!, You do have a knack with the audience!..:) I think I mentioned on another post, that I retired 5 years ago January after 24years in the US Army. I was an Infantryman so I traveled alot!. I have been on every continent of the world, and the last 5 years of working the “Corporate” Life also left me unfulfilled.

I resigned my position with the Company I was working with last month, started packing out the house, and bought a 13ft fiberglass trailer to haul behind my Jeep and am going to travel thruout North America from Canada to South America and the entire U.S.

Everyone in there worlds here think Im crazy, but if you are a natural outdoorsman and traveling as you say, living in the world of the locals is really exploring! that is adventure! engagement! you are dead on! .
I cant wait to hit the road at the end of December! and get back to what makes a real engaged world traveler happy! and that is…… Traveling! experiencing the world around us!

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50 theprofessionalhobo December 4, 2010 at 5:41 pm

@Richard – What a great trip you have planned! Bravo! Are you exhausted from the process of selling everything, or energized by what’s to come?
What an adventure. Drop me a line if you want to submit a week-in-the-life entry to this site once you’re on the road!

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51 Richard DuLac January 14, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Hi!, – it has been exciting more than exhausting!. I am still in the paperwork/legal shuffle of getting rid of my “stick house” which I probably will never buy another home again.
It taught me that I am not a stick home, white picket fence guy!. I love traveling and now that Im 46 years old and have done the married and divorce thing, miltary career, Chicago/NY/NJ corporate life I learned a important lesson.
Do what makes you happy! you contribute more to the world that way!.
I have had to postpone my trip for the month due to the weather and sellling off of all my stick house stuff.. but I am making progress and cant wait to hit the road. comment ya soon!..
Rick

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52 Geoff July 17, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Nora,
Saw an article about you in Raleigh News & Observer today. I am a frequent global business and vacation traveler, for the last 30 years. Just to add, i have learned, we are all a recipe of human, cultural and cognitive insights and capabilities. How can one improve their cultural and cognitive understanding without travel? It would not be easy! Remember Marcel Proust’s quote: “wisdom is gained on a journey no one can take for us or spare us” Happy Trails!

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53 theprofessionalhobo July 18, 2011 at 2:31 pm

@Geoff – Thanks for stopping by! I think travel can take on my different forms (as is evidenced by the oh-so-varied daily grinds described by writers of my week-in-the-life series), and what we choose to experience and learn from out travels also varies. But in just about all cases – as with most life experience – wisdom comes.

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54 steven May 14, 2012 at 6:29 pm

I really enjoy reading your writing. I’m not going to dispute why you travel, only comment on your “65” position. I’m 56, just retired and have a one way ticket to Spain. I don’t know why you think that your desire to travel will wane. It won’t. I travelled for three months a year about 20 years. The babies are 20 and 22 now and I’m ready to roll. Yes, my body moves slower, is slower to heal, but my desire burns brightly. I have what no age will ever curb, curiosity. Maybe I’ll see you on the road.
Take care and keep writing the interesting pieces. You sound…young! (that’s a compliment!)

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55 theprofessionalhobo May 15, 2012 at 10:35 am

@Steven – Thanks for the comment, and the sage advice.
My father spent his whole working life dreaming of seeing Europe. When he turned 65 he finally started taking a few trips – his first overseas trips ever – and although his mind and character would still love to keep on exploring Europe, his back won’t let him any more. He didn’t get nearly as much travel in as he would have liked before he had to stop.

I was much less worried about losing the DESIRE to travel, and more worried about the ABILITY to do the things I want to do on the road – which aren’t always even easy for my 35 year old body! Ha ha.

So….where to first for you?

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56 Fab August 24, 2012 at 2:44 am

Hi Nora,

you have taken me aback for the second time!!

Unbelievable!!

This is another “Lectio Magistralis”!!

The part of this article which I’ve particularly appreciated is:

“And although in a conventional retirement I shouldn’t have to work while traveling, I would imagine that scaling back life to the basics after decades of keeping up with the Joneses would be a real challenge.”

You were a CFP and you coud have a pretty comfortable life with a good match ( that was easily within your reach!! ) but you preferred the road less traveled and you guessed it!!

Bravo!!

Ciao! Fab

PS “The Road less Traveled”:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

~Robert Frost

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57 Fab August 24, 2012 at 2:57 am

The last consideration:

Maybe that now you are fed up with this kind of life and you’d like something more stable!!

That would be ok in any case because you have won a meaningful challenge and you’ll have all the time to make up another challenge or simply living happily without any particular challenge!!

All the best!

Fab

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58 Andrea September 21, 2014 at 10:20 am

I just wanted to say thanks for this post! I’m thinking of embarking on my own long-term travel trip (have not yet), but have been wrestling with this question (whether traveling is a means of escape or greater engagement) and really loved your perspective on this one.

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59 Nora Dunn September 21, 2014 at 6:34 pm

Thank you, Andrea!
Years on from writing this post, I still think travel (at least for me) is an act of engagement rather than withdrawal, but everybody has their own reasons…and none are right or wrong.

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