The chance of a lifetime. It’s finally here. It’s one of those things people dream about, obsess over, and plan for years. Yet so few ever make it a reality. But you, you’re different. You’ve made up your mind to let go of the fear. Let go of the expectations that family, friends, and society have used to box you in with since childhood. You’re ready to break free. The thought of it consumes every waking moment. The places you’ll go, the things you’ll see. The customs, the fabrics, the faces. This is it…

You’re gonna travel the world.

beautiful Santorini with purple sky
Santorini will do just fine

Leave Fear Behind: The Art of Walking Away

It’s a strange thing to leave behind everything you’ve ever loved. Traveling deep into the unknown seems crazy to many people. And in some ways it is, but not in ways that most people assume. There’s nothing crazy about the desire to see beautiful and exotic places. Envision the Burj Kalifa dominating the skyline of Dubai as it towers overhead and vanishes into the clouds. Close your eyes and imagine the ancient Banaue Rice Terraces of the Philippines, or the colossal stone statues of Easter Island. These are masterpieces of civilization. It’s only natural to dream of such wonders.

amazing UNESCO Heritage rice terraces of Batad, Philippines
There’s nothing crazy about visiting the rice terraces of Batad

So what is it about traveling the world that seems so scary to most people? Here’s the short answer:

Letting go of control.

Or rather, letting go of the perceived control that most people think they have over their lives. It’s funny, really. We assume that familiarity equals safety. Surely it must be safer where we now stand, secure within our comfort zone. Because it’s dangerous out there. Right?

Not quite.

The Myth of “Out There”

The thing is, there is no “out there.” This idea of separateness is an artificial construction planted in our minds at a young age. As we mature that seed evolves and eventually develops to a point where it begins to skew our perceptions as adults. It’s not dangerous outside of our comfort zone. We just fear that it is dangerous.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

– Franklin D. Roosevelt

So who’s to blame? An obvious scapegoat would be the media. They fill us up with images of famine, corruption, and violence overseas. But it’s much more complicated than that. And honestly it doesn’t matter who’s to blame. The important thing is that we recognize that what we believe isn’t necessarily the only “truth” in the world.

child in Shan State, Myanmar sitting on the traintracks
Are we really so different from one another?

Is it Dangerous to Travel Alone?

I recently traveled solo for a month in Myanmar, one of the most economically disadvantaged countries in the world. That may seem daring to those who haven’t been to this amazing place. After all, Myanmar is infamous for its oppressive government, ethnic clashes, and human rights violations. And yes, bad things can happen there. But bad things can happen anywhere.

In the first 6 months of 2014 there were 18 reported robberies in Yangon, Myanmar’s former capital and largest city with a population of 5 million. Yes, 18 in a 6-month period. Meanwhile the US capital of Washington DC (population 650,000) averages about 10 robberies… per day!

Now granted, people aren’t dying of dengue fever in Washington DC as some do in Yangon. But therein lies the lesson. It’s all about perspective. Two people can look at the same situation and see something completely different. Open yourself to the world and the world will open itself to you.

cliff house near Banaue on the road to Batad, Philippines
Stand on the edge and open your mind

Putting ‘Travel’ Into Perspective

So are we crazy for wanting to explore the world?

Yes.

You have to be to walk this road. Friends back home see the selfies in front of famous landmarks. But what about the death-defying roads, broken down buses, and head-on collisions along the way? They see the $5 buffet dinners by the beach. But did they see the kids sleeping naked on the sidewalk just a few blocks away? Did they see how they beg for your half-empty bottle of water? How about the nights you spent sleeping on dirty floors at the airport? Sure, they heard about the terrorist attack on TV. They know it happened “somewhere in that part of the world.” But they didn’t hear about the locals who invited you into their home. The ones who had nothing to spare but insisted that you eat the best of the food they had prepared.

Friends see this on your Instagram…

Petra tourist attraction in Jordan
Stunning view of Petra in Jordan

…but they never see the roads you traveled to get there…

death-defying Stelvio Pass in Italy
Stelvio Pass in Italy, a risky proposition

…or the eyes you looked into…

African children in black and white
A beach-side buffet doesn’t seem so glamorous anymore

…or the places you called home along the way.

provincial neighborhood in Visayas, Philippines
Provincial life in the Philippines

How many people would sleep side by side with strangers…

sleeping on the floor of Topi Inn - Padang Bai, Bali, Indonesia
A fine arrangement if you ask me

…or use this bathroom…

old dirty bathroom
Welcome home 🙂

…or embrace this view?

view of Malate in Metro Manila
Not the ocean-view they expected

Not many.

Because it takes a certain type of courage to travel the world. A crazy courage. But it has nothing to do with facing danger. It has everything to do with facing yourself. What do you see when you look in the mirror from the other side of the world? Are you the same person you were before?

Or is everything now upside down?

Travel is an extreme sport. It showcases the best and worst of humanity. There is no in-between. It breaks you. And then rebuilds you. Humbles you. Then fills you with pride. In ways that you couldn’t have imagined before the journey. And for many people that’s just too much to go through.

But you’re different. You wouldn’t have it any other way. You’re gonna travel the world.

hiking the Kalalau Trail of the Na Pali coast on Kauai, Hawaii

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2 thoughts on “Truth About Travel: What Friends & Family Can’t Understand”

  1. Great read! I am so beyond tired of explaining my travel schedule and my love of traveling alone (or with someone who will give me LOTS of space). I love seeing new things and taking LOTS of pictures which most people don’t have the patience for. I recently watched a movie called “The Salt of the Earth”. It was very timely for me to see it as I’ve only wanted to visit safe, pretty, pleasant places for the last year. The movie inspired me to make a difference somewhere one day. Happy travels!

    1. Haha YES I totally understand! I’m a solo traveler at heart. Sometimes I’ll join up with one or two people for a few days, but after that it’s nice to go our separate ways. Ya know, I’ve heard numerous people talking about that movie recently. Hmm… I’ll have to check it out 😀 Well I’m curious to see where your travels will lead! I love following your Instagram 🙂 Safe travels to you as well! Maybe we’ll cross paths one of these days somewhere in the world.

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