Travelling isn’t the Answer (Maybe)

I hated my first university. I couldn’t pick a major, my all-consuming passion for tennis had waned, and my friends spread out across the state while I chose to commute from home. I spent my free time wishing I was elsewhere — the military, a different school, the middle of an apocalypse, etc. Between bouts of zombie-killing in Call of Duty, I scoured the Internet, Googling everything from minimalism to language learning.

This was how I caught the travelling bug. Blog after blog encouraged readers to leave their dull lives (and possessions) behind: experience a new language abroad; hitchhike across your home country; meet new people; learn more about yourself by leaving your comfort zone. My interest in WWII and the ex-Soviet Union zeroed me in on Russia. For the first time since I’d applied to colleges the previous year, I glimpsed hope: a stint abroad would give me new life experiences. I had an escape plan, a way to avoid my miserable school life.

My family, however, disagreed. They insisted I was too inexperienced to travel anywhere. I explained that I needed to broaden my worldview. How else would I solve my problems? How could my family not approve of this choice? I ignored them and continued my studies. When I found a local university offering Russian language courses, I transferred.

Something else happened when I changed schools, though. A couple somethings. I reconnected with high school buddies at my second university; I met new people and started seeing someone. I networked with and befriended my professors and chose a major. And as I did that, leaving lost its importance.

I no longer wanted to escape.

Our culture glorifies travel. Universities tout study abroad programs, travelers overload social media with photos, and TV commercials advertise cruises. But while vacations are relaxing, they don’t offer absolution — if I wasn’t happy in the U.S., what did I expect to find in a hotel room halfway across the world? My issues came from within. I needed to let go of my childish tennis aspirations. I needed to sort through feelings of inadequacy and my debilitating shyness. I needed to foster personal independence. Those problems wouldn’t disappear in Russia or anywhere else; they would follow me wherever I went. I couldn’t escape them.

Travelling wasn’t my answer.

Instead of waiting for things to get better, or waiting for permission from my family, friends, or anyone else, I took action: at my second university, I didn’t ignore my classmates; I connected with them. I made things better. I stopped victimizing myself and became proactive.

Instead of planning my escape, I cultivated an environment I wanted to be in.

Of course, travel may be the answer for some folks. Minimalism still speaks to me, even if going abroad doesn’t. The key to being happier is figuring out what works for you — sit down, shut up, and ask yourself how you need to deal with things. You might learn a thing or two.

“But at times I wondered if I had not come a long way only to find that what I really sought was something I had left behind.” -Thomas F. Hornbein


30 thoughts on “Travelling isn’t the Answer (Maybe)

  1. Pingback: Need More Free Time? Quit TV. | But Why?

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  3. Good thought provoking stuff Natalie. My Granny used to say “bloom where you are planted”. I’m not saying I live by this motto but it is important to appreciate what’s on your doorstep. I have lived in different countries and enjoyed it but it’s always the little things that make life interesting and good. They can be found all around with just a little effort.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with travelling itself — as long as you do it for the right reasons. Problems, it seem, run just as fast as we do 😉

      Thanks for commenting!


  4. There is a Portuguese song writer that says something along the lines of: “Go outside it and you’ll value your place more”.
    While this sounds like a traveler’s apologia, it really resonates with me because i believe that looking from the outside in, gives a whole new perspective. It needn’t be Russia, but it can be a different town, state, country or even a meaningful conversation with an outsider.
    i have been living outside the country I always called home for almost 10 years now. Every time I visit I get to learn something new (and amazingly obvious) that i had never seen before.
    Kind of: I had been looking at the tree but missing the forest.
    Keep on writing and exploring!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re very right – now that I’m a little older, I do hope to do some travelling. Now, I’ll be able to enjoy a new city/state/country/person instead of expecting an escape from my problems. In essence, I’ll appreciate the new thing for what it is.

      Thanks for commenting! 🙂


  5. It’s definitely interesting reading a different perspective; So much of the internet is touting the joys of traveling around the world and the romanticism of wanderlust. I think that you’re right; traveling isn’t the answer-happiness cannot be found outside yourself in the end though sometimes a shift in location can trigger the perception shift to help you find that yourself.

    Your writing style is easy to follow! Keep up the good work!


    • Aww, thanks!

      And you’re right – a change in location can definitely help. When I moved out of my house for college, I moved 25 minutes away, and it made the biggest difference 🙂

      Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You’re right! Escaping is not a solution. If that was the case, we would all be nomads! no one would have any problem! sadly that’s not true. we have to find “our” solutions and compromises! Traveling is great…it teaches you so much. It can be escape but it can’t be permanent.. great post!


  7. This post resonates with me even though I’ve just started a travel blog!
    A few years ago I’d just graduated and fallen into an office job, but I felt like I was just going through the motions. I thought about moving to Japan, I even applied for some jobs. But my job started to take off as I worked harder, and I bought a flat in London. Then completely unexpectedly I met my husband through the job that I wanted to leave.
    Now I love to travel for new experiences but not to escape my current situation. Although I understand why others do.


  8. I love this! I’ve always enjoyed the idea of traveling, and definitely do want to see as much of the world as I can, but this is spot on. I left high school wanting to go far away because I wasn’t super satisfied with my life, but like you I met new people and found new interests. I’d still like to travel, but now I’m definitely okay with settling closer to home. Good read!


  9. So true. I love traveling, and feature many travel tales on my blog, but I agree that the purpose of travel is not to escape from reality. If you are a tourist, perhaps all you want is to lie on the beach with a pina colada and forget your life for a week. But if you are a traveler, you seek to gain a deeper understanding of your life and yourself, not escape from it.


  10. This is great! You made things better for yourself. I’m sure that’s way more satisfying.
    Imagine if you went travelling and came back feeling the same. That would have probably made things worse.


  11. Hey Natalie, I used to adopt exactly the same view… That travelling doesn’t solve anything and that only people who were wholly dissatisfied with their own lives would contemplate travelling as an escape route. Until I caught the travelling bug myself! True, you can’t run from your troubles, but I’ve learnt to gain brand new perspectives whilst travelling such that I can better deal with my troubles back home. As I like to say each time after travelling, the landscape hasn’t changed but my perspective has… Anyway, glad that everything worked out for you in the end!


  12. After growing up in the army during childhood, I never wanted to travel anywhere. I am still living in the house my ex husband and I bought in 1973. My life took a turn in 1989 however when I met Amma, a humanitarian and spiritual leader from south India. Since then I have traveled to India nearly every year… I think I’m about to take my 27th trip. It is a second home to me. But when I am there, I am there. I don’t travel, I choose to live fully where I am. I may catch the travel bug some day, but I doubt it!


    • Wow, 27 trips to India! That’s amazing. I’ve never been to the same place more than once or twice; I can’t imagine going somewhere that many times. It really must feel like home!

      It’s great that you’re able to live in the present like that. It’s so tough to do sometimes, but so rewarding!

      Liked by 1 person

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