The Downside Of Travel: Family And Friends Who Don’t “Get It”

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image via VonSchnauzer

While I could go on forever about the benefits of travel and how it is a life-enriching experience, I’ve found one major downside to immersing yourself in this world: Dealing with friends and family who don’t understand.

Personally, this is something I deal with on a regular basis. It’s not that these people aren’t happy for me that I’m getting to see the world. It’s more that it bothers them that I’m not fitting a certain mold.

While my family often wonders when I’m going to “grow up” and get a “real job,” my friends worry that I’ll never get married, have children or own a house. In reality, I make an income writing that I can live on and believe traveling has made me wise beyond my years. Moreover, travel with children is possible, buying a house isn’t something I even necessarily want and I’m dating a great guy who is also a passionate traveler. In fact, our first month of dating we got to know each other very well, living together 24/7 during a month-long road trip through Colorado and a long weekend in Mexico.

They also worry for my safety – understandably – but often voice a negative view of the world to me.

“You can’t go to Bolivia by yourself, it’s not safe.”

“I heard they kill tourists in Rio de Janeiro.”

“Girls shouldn’t go hiking in South America because they’ll get captured and sold in the sex trade.”

“You’re going to sleep in a dorm? But, haven’t you ever seen the movie “Hostel?”

These are just some of the reactions I received before embarking on my solo three-month backpacking trip through South America. I used to spend hours trying to convince people – whom had never really been outside the United States – that I really was being careful and that not everything they thought they knew was true. However, it’s often no use. You can only really know and believe what a place is actually like by traveling first hand.

A big part of why I started this travel site was to discourage the negative stereotypes of worthwhile, culturally rich destinations that are perfectly safe to travel to as long as you use your brain. Moreover, I wanted to showcase lesser-known destinations that many people have never heard of, meaning they usually wouldn’t travel there.

So, how do I deal with these people in my life who just don’t get it? For one, I continue to write about topics like solo female backpacking, hiking in South America, adventurous options in Bolivia and free things to do in Rio de Janeiro to show people that they too can experience these “dangerous” destinations. Moreover, I make sure to keep focused on my personal goals. I think about my travel philosophy, and remember how travel has made me a smarter, more open-minded, happier, healthier and more mature person. The truth is, if people don’t want to understand, you shouldn’t need to change what you’re doing to please them. If not buying a house and cooing over wedding dresses makes you weird in their eyes, then embrace your weirdness. If traveling is your passion in life, pursue it.

18 Comments

  1. I face the same negativity all the time. Sometimes I think it may even be worse because I’m young – “You went on trips in high school, you don’t need to travel now”, “When I was your age, I’d never left the country…you don’t need to either”, “YOU NEED TO SAVE YOUR MONEY FOR COLLEGE STOP TRAVELING!”, “You’re in the real world now, people don’t travel!”…the list of things people keep telling me could go on for pages. Plus, as you said, there’s also a certain false negativity about places based on some ridiculous movie or one story on TV five years ago.

    I, like you, try to ignore them and realize that what makes them happy is obviously not what makes me happy. There’s no rulebook that says I need to live my life just like them.

    1. I hear ya! For me it’s definitely the most difficult part of traveling. Instead of “save for college,” however, I get the “when are you going to get a real job?” As long as you remember what makes you truly happy and pursue it, that’s what matters! πŸ™‚

  2. The simple fact that you enjoy what you do and are able to make a living out of it should be enough. You’re a real inspiration πŸ™‚ Families (and friends) seem to expect everyone to live out the same life and some find it really hard when you take a different route.

  3. OMG I love you so much for writing this. It’s amazingly true – I also don’t fit into whatever preconceived “mold” people feel they need to shape themselves into. And yes, traveling with a family IS possible, it takes a little work but it can be so rewarding!

    1. So true! It gets frustrating when people don’t understand, but travel really is the most rewarding thing you can do in life πŸ™‚

  4. I agree with you Jess. The sad thing is though that most people will never leave or care to understand more. This isn’t for one set of confined reasons, but for many. People have different reasons for not being curious about what is out there, but it is difficult to convince people of how your trips are whenever they haven’t done it.

  5. It doesn’t change, even when you get a job, and family and kids. πŸ™‚
    Those people will always be like that and I have plenty in my life, that I just ignore now!

  6. Every time I hear people blather on and on about the movie Hostel I just die a little inside with painful tears of agony. I mean, can you think of a worse scenario in which to murder someone than a room full of physically fit backpackers with numbed senses due to heavily intoxicated bloodstreams who will no doubt do their best to protect and therefore impress all the girls around them? Wouldn’t it be better in, say, a private room with no one else around with thick walls for added privacy?

    They should have called that movie Hotel.

  7. It’s the maturity thing that really gets to me. They have no experience, no knowledge, yet it’s me that needs to mature and see the light, new that needs to realise that their way of life is the true beacon to follow, despite having seen so many alternative, successful ways of life being acted out by others worldwide. Frustrating!

  8. So true! And agreed. One of my biggest frustrations is people judging things they know nothing about. But I guess what’s important is to continue to live your life the way you want to! πŸ™‚

  9. You go girl! Others have thought some of the places we’ve traveled to are unsafe (like Mexico). But that simply isn’t true. A little research and an open mind can reveal quickly if there’s really any greater risk in a foreign destination than back home. We also have to recognize that there will always be some risk when traveling to less-developed places (like no seatbelt laws, and no anti-drinking/driving laws). But we could stay home and get hit by a drunk driver here too.

    1. @Sand In My Suitcase: It’s so true. Funny enough I was just giving a tour in NYC (I’m also a guide) and one of my guests was telling me how he would never go to Mexico as it’s so unsafe. I asked him which part he wouldn’t go to, and he said “the whole country! it’s just chaos and completely unsafe there.” I wanted to ask him if he, himself, has literally traveled to every city in Mexico recently to make a statement like that (of course he did not),but had to keep my mouth shut. It was tough! lol.

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