It’s become a cliché. Every long-term traveler should have heard at least once in their travel period the phrase “what are you running away from?” There are several variations of this same question. “What is it that you don’t like in (put your country/city of origin)?” “You watch too much cinema! You really think you will enjoy it there? Some will be more caring. “Oh, it’s so nice that you want to travel. But, you should also think of your future and get a job, have a family.” Some others will be more empathic, but they will still be a bit covertly directive, “it’s definitely great to follow your passion. When do you think it will be time for you to settle down?” And of course, there will be the occasional mother who will take it very personally “what did we do wrong? Why don’t you want to stay with us?” The problem with this question is not that people judge you. The problem is that they don’t understand that when you want to travel, you want to experience more, rather than stop experiencing a certain situation.
The automatic question here is what should I answer to these people? I present five steps to help you find your own and appropriate answer.
1. Don’t bother with everyone around you. First of all, think of who is important enough to know about your life. If the second cousin of your father’s step-sister happens to meet you at a family wedding and he decides to advise you, because you are young and naïve about life demands, let them do it. Just politely nod and say “thank you, I appreciate your concern. I will think about it.” You don’t have to ever think about it. At the same time, you will not get angry of why a stranger would have a saying for how you live your life. However, if it is your father, or your sister who ask you to settle down, they might actually be concerned about you and they don’t know how to express it otherwise. You might also be concerned about them and want them to understand the reason why you choose this certain lifestyle. If you do, move with the next step.
2. Work with your feelings. What is it that clicks with you when someone asks you “what are you running away from?” Do you believe that people reach to arbitrary conclusions and this annoys you? Do you feel that people judge you and you get angry? Is it that you are unsure about whether you should keep travelling or you should stay in one place, and, therefore, when someone mentions it, they press a sensitive button? Maybe it’s none of this, maybe it’sall of these, maybe it’s something else. The point is, before trying to explain to others why you like to travel, explain to yourself why you might be bothered with this question.
3. Find the answer. After you calm down and you can better handle the emotions that you feel when people talk about your travelling lifestyle, logically think, analyze the situation and find an answer. Do you travel, because that was your dream since childhood? Do you travel, because you want to live the adventure and the excitement? Do you travel because staying in the same place every day is not enough? Do you travel because your chosen job requires you to do so? Do you travel because you actually want to escape something? Think of it without judging yourself and without taking into account others people’s interpretations about the matter. You might want to read this article to get some understanding of personality characteristics and traveling (put the link).
4. Talk honestly with your loved ones. This sentence sounds very simple, but it is propably the most difficult step of all. Very few of us are raised to openly express our thoughts and emotions. Most of us, grew up censored to what we say, so we don’t harm others and directed to hide our extreme emotions, so people will not think badly of us. This is a pattern that once broken liberates us and those around us from a lot of anxiety and guilt. Therefore, once you come in terms with your internal state, sit down with the people you care about and say, “you asked me so and so and I want to answer.” Sit down, don’t just spit it out in rush. Calmly, give your answer. During this process, show understanding to their concern and appreciate that they are concerned because they love you. Ask them to give you the same understanding and appreciation in return.
5. Some will just never get it. The process will not end here. The final step is to accept that not everyone will understand you and accept your lifestyle. If your grandmother is 73 years old and she grew up to raise kids and play with her grandkids, she will never understand why you go from China to Madagascar, to Canada, and back. Just accept this. You have done what you could to include your loved ones. If they don’t approve of your decision, you need to learn to live with this. It is okay to still love and care about people who think and behave differently and the same is the case for your loved ones as well.
If this is a question that causes you ongoing discomfort, feel free to contact me for a 20 minute consultation.