Going on a long term trip can always, like most things in life, come with some downsides. Even though the main feeling you will have is a sense of excitement, this feeling will sometimes have two sides to it. With a long term journey you have to take a lot of major changes to your life into account. For example, giving up your job, saying goodbye to your old social life (mainly including your friends and your family). Getting out of that structured day-by-day routine that everyone is so used to having.
Together with these sacrifices comes a feeling known as ‘travel guilt’. We want to explore this concept in this post and how one can deal with such a thing.
Let us start with society and how this can induce travel guilt into our lives. In the earlier days perhaps taking our parents as a reference, travelling was not at all so approachable as it is now. I suppose that not many of our parents actually got the chance to even think about going on a long term voyage. For them it might not have been a financial or even professional viable option. After the second world war there was the so called ‘baby boom’ period. In this era most of our elderly grandparents all bred more than three children (much more than previous eras). Economically though, wealth had not been increased and because these children had mouths to be fed, their parents had to work extremely hard. Most of the time even the children had to work from a very young age just to sustain the size of such a family. So from very early on, people had this way of life drummed into them. The only way that they could have a good and wealthy life was by working day-in, day out to accumulate that hard-earned lifestyle leading up to their blissful retirement period.
We still can see this mentality is very present in society today. To have a good future, society makes you think that you have to follow this route to obtain such a life. You go to school then to university then get a job then find a partner then get married buy a house and get kids and all the while working really hard to save up for when you get to retirement because apparently then your life can start and you can relax.
When you have made the decision to go travelling, you will most definitely experience a good deal of travel guilt induced by these ideas and “rules of society”. Luckily, perceptions are changing. Yes, our parents did a very good job by working hard for us and we should be very thankful for that but should we do the same? We obviously think that you should work and pay for our own goals, that should goes without saying. But because most of us have had a stable home situation, we are now, more than ever, able to take the chance to step away from this trail society has lay ahead of us and follow our dreams regardless of what others think.
So what if you don’t get a house straight after your first pay check or get married after your first year of dating. Surely it’s important to enjoy and live life to it’s fullest while in the prime of your youth and not at the end of it. Maybe you won’t even reach your pension or by this later time you might not have the stamina and energy to travel the world. Yes, some people won’t get you and the majority may think you are not doing the right thing by giving up all these checklist items. The thing is is that most western people like their comfort zones and will never set foot outside of them due to untested fears and worries. We’re not essentially saying this is bad as it’s another way of thinking and living life but if that urge of traveling and exploring is in your body then it’s imperative to do it and not let societies judgments make your own decisions for you.
As previously said, when going on a long term trip you will have to say goodbye to friends and family for a very long time. This is not easy for them and also not for you. Dealing with your parents and friends can be especially harrowing. It can be that before you make your decision, you will have slight fear of telling them that this something you want to do. You might make presumptions of what they might say or how they might react. The thing about presumptions is that most of the time they are wrong and based on wild theories. So just sit down with your parents and/or friends and tell them about your dreams and how you are planning to finance it all and what you intend to do when you get back. Ease them into the idea so that they know you are are not just thinking of bailing out on everything to become a tree hugging hippy that only lives on flowers found in the forest (although if that’s your dream then there’s nothing wrong with that). However most of the time, when given enough information and assurances, people will just want the best for you and just want you to be happy and fulfilled with your life.
This is where your guilty feeling might start to germinate from and become more intense the closer you get to leaving. You will start to think about the time you won’t see your close friend and the times your parents won’t see you in person and will get to see the more emotional downside of pursuing your dream of travel. Your parents, or at least most of them, will try to be really happy for you but in their own mind they will miss you and are scared of what could happen to you. This will give you a guilty feeling even though that’s the last thing your parents would want you to have. Deal with this feeling by always talking to your parents, comforting them and yourself, minimizing the distance (it’s a small world now thanks to WhatsApp, Skype, etc…) or the time (one year is gone before you know it).
Sometimes you might have to think about yourself and make decisions for yourself to get other people supporting and respecting your own decisions. Society, parents nor your friends can decide what you should feel like doing in your life. Although its very difficult to resist the urge to succumb to these guilty feelings, you must not because when you get back from such a great trip full with lessons and experiences, you will be a more rounded, confident and perhaps even a little wiser person.