Everyone Says I’m Running Away

By Nomadic Matt | Published October 19th, 2009

Running Away? I think not!My dad always asks what I’m running away from with my travels. A few weeks ago, a commenter told me to stop running away and live life. And I once came across a blog called “Mom says I’m running away.”

I’m not sure why, but there is this perception out there that anyone who travels long term and isn’t interested in settling down or getting a conventional job must be running away from something.

They are just trying to “escape life.”

The general opinion is that traveling is something everyone should do?—?that gap years after college and short vacations are acceptable. But for those of us who lead nomadic lifestyles, or who linger just a bit too long somewhere before reaching that final homestretch, we are accused of running away.

Yes, travel?—?but just not for too long.

We nomads must have awful, miserable lives, or are weird, or have had something traumatic happen to us that we are trying to escape. People assume that we are simply running away from our problems, running away from “the real world.”

And to all those people who say that, I say to you?—?you’re right.

Completely right.

I am running away.

I’m running away from your idea of the “real” world.

I’m avoiding your life.

And, instead, I’m running towards everything – towards the world, exotic places, new people, different cultures, and my own idea of freedom.

While there may be exceptions (as there are with everything), most people who become vagabonds, nomads, and wanderers do so because they want to experience the world, not escape problems. We are running away from office life, commuting, and weekend errands, and running toward everything the world has to offer. We (I) want to experience every culture, see every mountain, eat weird food, attend crazy festivals, meet new people, and enjoy different holidays around the world.

Life is short, and we only get to live it once. I want to look back and say I did crazy things, not say I spent my life reading blogs like this while wishing I was doing the same thing.

As an American, my perspective might be different from the rest of yours. In my country, you go to school, you get a job, you get married, you buy a house, and have your 2.5 children. Society boxes you in and restricts your movements to their expectations. It’s like the matrix. And any deviation is considered abnormal and weird. People may want to travel, tell you they envy what you do, say they wish they could do the same thing. But really, they don’t. They are simply fascinated by a lifestyle so outside the norm. There’s nothing wrong with having a family or owning a house — most of my friends lead happy lives doing so. However, the general attitude in the States is “do it this way if you want to be normal.” And, well, I don’t want to be normal.

I feel like the reason why people tell us we are running away is because they can’t fathom the fact that we broke the mold and are living outside the norm. To want to break all of society’s conventions, there simply must be something wrong with us.

Years ago, at the height of the economic boom, a book called “The Secret” came out. According to “The Secret,” if you just wish for and want something badly enough, you’ll get it. But the real secret to life is that you get what you want when you do what you want.

Life is what you make it out to be. Life is yours to create. We are all chained down by the burdens we place upon ourselves, whether they are bills, errands, or, like me, self-imposed blogging deadlines. If you really want something, you have to go after it.

People who travel the world aren’t running away from life. Just the opposite. Those that break the mold, explore the world, and live on their own terms are running toward true living, in my opinion. We have a degree of freedom a lot of people will never experience. We get to be the captains of our ships. But it is a freedom we chose to have. We looked around and said, “I want something different.” It was that freedom and attitude I saw in travelers years ago that inspired me to do what I am doing now. I saw them break the mold and I thought to myself, “Why not me too?”

I’m not running away.

I am running towards the world and my idea of life.

And I never plan to look back.

comments 251 Comments

Perfectly said. If you really, truly face up to the fact that your life is finite, and that you will not be here forever – and you accept that. Spending it doing anything else except living as much as possible seems folly.

Also, a typo :) “…we are doing what we went”

NomadicMatt

fixed! thanks!

If I had a dollar for everytime I’ve heard that “I’m running away” I could buy myself a round-the-world ticket. Usually it was when my friends thought I was just travelling and running away from work. In actual fact I have a few businesses on the go and I work more now than I ever did in my previous cubicle farm job. My friends have changed their tune somewhat now that they know that I work remotely and am making a decent living out of it.

NomadicMatt

I think I could buy myself two tickets!

With my websites, I am always working. But, I love this- it’s not work and this “work” let’s me do it from cities around the world. I can work a few hrs in the morning, explore new countries, check email at night, and go out. It’s wonderful!

Puinoon

I loved what you were trying to say. My family used to tell everyone I was the black sheep, then they told them I was a rebel, and now they tell everyone I am an unfit mother since, as a SINGLE MOM, I am now “dragging my son to god awful places out of my selfishness.”

When am I going to give my son a decent life, they all ask. Ohhh let me see, is that the one where he grows up learning to be selfish, self-centered, greedy, aggressive, gratitutous, and disillusioned, etc.? Is that the world that hides behind 9-5, sleep with your neighbor’s wife world? Perhaps it is the world where he lives in a daily grind that safely keeps him ignorant of the suffering, life and death that goes on in the world. The world that keeps him from truly living life.

At least now my son knows how precious life is, and knows what it means to help others, and knows how quickly life can be snuffed away from you, and knows what it truly means to be faithful, love, honest, dependable, responsible, accountable, and knows what it is like to strive for something, set goals and feel the gratification of accomplishing them. At least he now knows what the truly important things are in life and have nothing to do with money or materialistic things. At least he knows what compassion is and how to be sympathetic and how to fight for injustice and how to stay the course when all seems lost. At least my son now knows how to be loyal and what it means to truly be a man of substance, and to be a man I AM PROUD to say is MY SON!

Leavingliza

I love what your saying keep living life that way that’s how I would raisey son if I had one I always say I’m going to be a single mom adopt kids and show them the world so they can experience raw humanity and live to discover the soul of the world ! Don’t ever back down I wish more mothers were like you were all have you taken yor son? I’m leaving to India in ten days I can’t wait anyways cheers;)!

jewel lentz

indeed, indeed, indeed bravo to you and your son.

Something that should also be mentioned is that once you start traveling long term, you get hooked on the thrill and adventure of it. There’s a momentum, which is easy to maintain… it really becomes the norm and the sedentary life just feels weird and foreign.

Laura

Yes,
I’ve been traveling off and on for 10 years and there’s no way I’ll go cold turkey. It’s too great. It does have a downside for me-difficulty with longterm relationships. Plus, there is always a bit of escapism in it for me, but why not escape and discover something great.

Great post Matt. I bet 99.99% of the people who say “you are running away” have never really traveled, much less long-term backpacking. Keep it up!

Andrew

Bravo! Great piece. Except that today’s American are mostly out of work and can not afford that home for their 2.5 children. =)

But I applaud you for doing what you feel is the right thing to do in your life. I once traveled around for long periods of time and felt that I would never stop. Eventually I did and while I still have the travel bug, I do not take trips longer than 2 weeks at the most since I am married and have a lil’ nomad on the way.

But I dig what you are doing…and I hope you continue to do it until you are old and gray. Because you only live once…you might as well try and live it the best way possible.

NomadicMatt

I may not always be nomadic matt, but at worst, I’ll be semi nomadic matt!

Love this article, I do agree that you are not really running away, I wish I could do this but am unable to hold a job etc due to adhd and autism, so I decided to move to hawaii, and if that doesnt work i can move back to california. Massachusetts is so cold, but its nice in june july and august and small parts of sept and october =) Please check out my site/pics too and hit me up if you wanna chat =D

Robby

Best place in world to travel thro and where to end up

Krystal

Thank you :) I needed that

Jenny Luna

I really enjoyed reading this piece. I am an avid traveler as well and I can’t help but think: how lucky to be given the opportunities, or perhaps born into them, to be allowed the choice to conduct such adventures, to have the education to freely think outside the norm, to speak English, to have families that support us, to know ourselves enough to know we’d be lying to ourselves if we didn’t run towards life.

Boy, you sound mad and defiant! Haha! Good for you. Great piece Matt. I think one thing this economic crisis is teaching us is that there is no one set way to do things or live your life. The moulds society creates for us are not necessarily the moulds we want to abide by. My wish is that more people find the courage to break from these moulds (their current comfort zones) and explore and create a life that suits them; one that makes them happy and brings contentment. Many will probably say that this is easier to do if you’re in your 20′s or 30′s with no family (i.e. children) to look after. My take on that is that it’s precisely the ‘thinking inside the mould’ mentality that restricts us. Be creative. You said it right: life is short and we only get to live it once. So,… live it! :-)

NomadicMatt

Like they say Keith, you need to think outside the box….or in this case, live outside the box!

Amen, brother. The draw of something outside of the norm that you described is what keeps me going, too, and it does seem that most people are more fascinated by something so outside of the mainstream than REALLY jealous of someone who lives a life without a well-tread, well-defined path for them to follow.

But that’s okay. If everyone ‘got it,’ and everyone started to live a mobile lifestyle, then there wouldn’t be much point to traveling in the first place (what would there be to visit? Everyone would be milling around instead of building interesting things worth traveling to!).

I think SOME people do run away, but most travelers I’ve meet are simply exploring and searching. And that’s great.

While most people travel to explore and search, unfortunately, it seems like many people ignore this explanation in favor of assuming people are running away from something.

NomadicMatt

I think some people do try to run away. Look at the girl from “Eat. Pray. Love.” It happens but everyone I know too just wants to see the world!

I’ve heard this countless times before too – it seems the people parting with this kind of ‘insight’ aim it at those of us who are doing things which are out of the ordinary. I guess it is to somehow make themselves feel better about the choices they did or I believe, didn’t make…

“Normal” is a choice and so is every other way of life, unfortunately most people don’t realise this.

NomadicMatt

Nobody likes it when you get to do the things they want..

Well said. I agree, traveling is living, not running away.
Oh, how many times we have been judged for what we have chosen to do and how quickly people voice their opinion.
People don’t realize how rude they sound when they put us down for traveling.
Imagine the tables turning. If I said to someone “Oh God, why would you want to buy a house and have kids?” They would just be shocked and angry. It sounds very rude and I wouldn’t dream of saying it.
But when they say to us “Oh God, why do you waste your time and money traveling?” it is just as rude. Yet they feel that there is nothing wrong with saying it.
It is exactly what you said, society has certain ways of living that are acceptable and not acceptable and people really do love to voice their opinion when someone thinks outside of the box.
But I love living outside of the box, so I let is slide of my back and smile while I am living the best life i can live.
Cheers.

Loved this post…and I can so relate to it..my family says Im always an escapist and thats why i travel …to run away…am sharing this on my twitter and FB…

Matt, you’ve put into words and explained nicely what many of us are accused of. Atleast the situation is different from what it was say 50 years back. I wonder though, if this trend catches on, will the world be chaotic? We do need a good balance of loyalists and rebels at a societal level; but personally, I respect more those who take control of their life and do what they want to do. :)

Loved the post.. you hit the nail on the head while talking about how we need to make our life happen, do things we want and not wait for something to fall onto our laps…

I couldn’t have possibly said it better Matt. When I look at the lives of most of the people I know, I feel real fear. And I don’t mean that in a condescending way, I just know that 9-5 cubicle/house and kids/ 2 weeks vacay a year is not what I want for myself. So maybe I am running away from that, but in no way is travel a retreat from life, if anything it’s facing life head on at 90 mph.

NomadicMatt

Me too! I see it in a lot of my friends. Sometimes they actually talk about it too…which means it’s that bad. The rat race creates artificial burdens none of us get to worry about. Actually, any one who lives outside that doesn’t worry about that. It’s all in people’s heads!

Awesome. You’re definitely an inspiration to a bill-burdened soul like me.

NomadicMatt

that’s the nicest thing anyone has said in awhile! thanks!

Well said Matt, everyone seems quick to judge because we choose to live outside of the “American dream” – I’m lucky that my closest friends understand my need to travel and explore…but even on the road some backpackers have been hyper critical of long-term travel.

Since I’m telling them they need to live my life, what gives them the permission to assume that I should want the house and job?

Thanks for voicing something I think all long-term travelers can echo.

NomadicMatt

Exactly! we are seeking adventure! nothing wrong with that!

Too many people equate travelling with escape from reality instead of actually seeing it as the choice to build a different reality for themselves. I’m glad you feel otherwise. The truth is, you can add the elements that you want for the life you create – and travelling on a more permenant basis does not preclude a relationship or a family. Far too many people see long-term travel as irresponsible instead of viewing it as a different, more visceral education.

You said it my friend! Even little steps outside the pre-defined norm really freak people out, but there’s nothing wrong with believing in yourself and living the one life you are given. My favorite lines from your piece: “But the real secret is that you get what you want when you do what you want. Life is what you make it out to be. Life is yours to create.” Words to live by.

When we first sold all our stuff in San Francisco and moved to Prague in 2001, there was a Credit Suisse commercial on TV that showed a timeline of “successful” people’s lives: birth, school, college, 1st job, marriage, 1st house, kid, 2nd house, 2nd kid, saving for college, retirement…and that’s when life really began with traveling and golf trips. It gave us the hives every time the commercial came on, but I think for most people it’s comforting and they can’t fathom doing anything else but.

So, I definitely relate to what you write here, especially as we’re in our mid-30s and all of our friends have the 2.5 kids and are on their 2nd or 3rd house. I like to look at it more as running to a different way of living my life and priorities than running from.

Franny

Heheh. So interesting. I know for *me* personally, traveling often IS about running away. I need to learn to 1) be happy and then 2) travel. It’s not so much about where or what I’m doing, but that I’m learning to be happy anywhere. People who travel to run away often find they are just as unhappy on the road as they were in their cubicle.. because happiness is a state of mind created by doing and living what you love, NOT something that happens to you because of outside circumstances (which actually is part of the point of the Secret- to follow your inspiration and take action). I find when I’m happier at home, I want to travel less. Funny, eh? :-)

TL

EXACTLY!!! I cannot agree with you more!!! Many run away just try to find happiness and a peace of mind but then fail for the fact that deeply inside, they have tons of those unhappiness obsessing their mind…

Great piece. My “running away” was in an RV traveling where ever there is a road.

I’ve been asked when I will quit traveling. Curiosity will keep me on my nomadic exploring as long as I am physically able to do it. After that I will continue traveling vicariously (and satisfy curiosity) through the travels of others like NomadicMatt.

This is such a good read Matt. I also liked your readers’ comments. I’m from the Philippines, and I share the same sentiment. Especially living in a country where gap-packing is unheard of (well, except for backpackers) and traveling alone or even with just one companion is weird. For my family, this concept of ‘exploring things on my own’ sorta means ‘back off I’m a freak’… and my mom would ask always every time I travel, ‘did I not give you a good life?’.

But see, that ‘good boxed life’ is not for me. And though I cannot be as nomadic as I wish to be (since Asians always have responsibilities to their families), I am pretty content with what I’ve explored so far… for now.

Your posts are therapeautic. I thrive on travel blogs when I’m stuck at home for a looong time.

I’m going through a lot of this right now. I wish I could say that other people’s opinions aren’t impacting me, but.. they are. And it’s pretty damn frustrating.

Matt,
You articulated what many nomads / travelers have tried to say for a long time. And even though I belong to the “other side” (still hoping to break that mold one day), I certainly can’t accuse you or anyone else for that matter as running away from life. You are the one living and breathing, and not caught up in bills, debts, and other burdens that chain one down to one spot. On the contrary, you are certainly more alive than most of us caught in this rat race / so-called life…Kudos to you!
Jen Laceda

Well Matt, you hit the nail on the head for how most if not all of us feel. At 35 years old my decision freaked out my parents. I quit a well paying stable job for a late gap year as they called it. Who knows how long things will last for Aracely and I, but either way, we agree… we are running to experience life. I appreciate the viewpoint and the response we now share with everyone else. Nice job Matt… keep running!

Hannah Tangi

I’m 21 and about to graduate school and I am doing everything in my power to not fall into the sterotypical American family mold. I see too many people living that way who aren’t happy with life but feel they have a “responsibility” -a responsibility to be average and ordinary.
I’m running right along with you-towards life.

this is one of you better pieces Matt…great stuff!

The bit about the societal expectations of school/work/marriage & kids really struck a chord with me. I have a long term goal of exploring the forces in society that tell us this is what we’re supposed to do.

Thanks for this post Matt, I’m really in need of some boosting right now as I am T-7 days away from moving my life to the road. The timing couldn’t have been better! I really liked the reference to the book the Secret especially. I read that book when I was backpacking western Europe in 2008 and your insight on why it works for some people is spot on. Life is best lived actively.

Beth

It’s so funny that you wrote about this topic…I just had this conversation with some friends today. I got the “I can’t believe you are going to travel the Caribbean and you’re leaving everything behind. Don’t you want to start making money to get a house and all that?” Ummmmm….no. To be quite frank. No I don’t. I’d much rather spend my money buying plane tickets or spend my time hitching rides to places not yet been.

I found a definition of the word “life” that I think is very appropriate for this discussion: Life – the sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual.
Its not just a molded existence…its a sequence. Multiple experiences. How can you have multiple experiences if you’re stuck in one place? And sure, getting married, buying a house, having kids…all fantastic experiences, but they’re ones that the majority of our society participates in…why not go with something different? Especially if you’re still “young”. That’s how I look at it.

Like you said Matt…you only get one shot…I’d much rather experience the world how I want to, seeing what I can see, doing what I can do in the short time that I have than to have someone tell me how I SHOULD be doing it.

Well done Matt…keep running!

Sarah

I agree, Matt.

What part of the world that we choose to live in isn’t the “real” world? No matter what you’re doing… whether it’s traveling to explore, running away from something, running towards something, working a 9-5 in a cube farm… all of this is the real world. There’s no practice, nothing to wait for –this is it! Do with your life what you please. If that means 9-5ing for security & stability, then I’m all for it. If you can be satisfied with working all day for somebody else, seeking to finding your happiness at home instead, then consider yourself lucky.

As for me, that’s just not enough. I suspect that’s not enough for most of us… Hence the bad vibes.

Great post, Matt. I love that technology is helping long-term travelers create communities where we can share these sentiments.

Thank you for this blog post. I am planning to pass the post around to my friends and family that think I am running away on my frequent travels. THANK YOU!

I hear the “when are you going to put down roots?” question a lot – especially from family but this captures the “why I don’t” very nicely!

Brilliant Post. I will be quoting your critique of “The Secret” for years to come.

JP

Wow, what a great post. I’ve been thinking about taking some time off to live abroad, and everyone (family, friends, shrink) keep telling me that I can’t run away from me. But I’m not looking to run away from me! I just don’t want to work 60+ hour weeks in some job that isn’t secure or interesting, eat food in front of my computer, and numb myself with reality tv. I admire your courage for taking off & seeing the world.

Hey Matt

First off – Love the new layout to NomadicMatt – fantastic! Dig the header, dig the home page, I wanna get freaky with your layout. Nuff said. Second, completely agree that breaking the mold is the key to living the live you set out to. I get that for some people, sucking the 9-5 pickle is all they want to do, earn some money, gain credit, become a hard working member of society, and look really good to all the other 9 to 5 pickle suckers. Whenever I meet people brave enough to break the mold, I immediately feel a stronger connection for them. I find I have a tough time relating with people who have nothing on their mind but doing what’s expected of them. Run for runnings sake, art for arts sake, and travel for travels sake. Thanks for the post matt! preciater

I have felt this way for a long time as well. Just because I don’t do the norm doesn’t mean I am doing something wrong. I am actually doing what I think is right and think the norm is wrong. Tough to get it in the heads of those who hate uncertainty though.

David Damron
LifeExcursion

Dude! I am so with you!

I often say ‘i’m running away from home’ but the truth is I am always running TO LIFE .. away from boredom, sameness and the general dullness of some lives I watch …. I am never bored because I am constantly being challenged to look at new things, new cultuires new ways aof seeing the world , challenging my old views and showing me ways of being. I am not ‘lucky’ to be able to do it either .. it’s taken hard work, saving, and frugal travel .. now i am one of the richest people i know my life is so full and rich .. google the kiwitravelwriter and see what a great time i have

Nice post, Matt. My take is: It’s always good to be different, as long as you yourself feel comfortable with the difference. Keep running towards the world.

Thank you for summarizing what I’m doing for the next 6 months. When my left brain starts to give me anxiety about whether this was the correct decision, my right brain looks for encouragement in the form of words like yours.

I haven’t had anyone tell me I’m running away yet, but then, I’m a bit distanced from the people in my life at the moment. Will see what happens when I get back home and start planning my next long adventure. I expect I’ll be away more than home in the years to come. Home will be where I am. I am my home, and my home is where I am.

You are awesome in how you have created your life as a true nomad. Maybe those who tell you that you are running away are hiding from themselves…. Continue to seek out people who support your vision for yourself ;-)

Dan

I LOVE IT. “I am running away from YOUR life.” I’ve had that thought so many times and had to hold my tongue.

I heard the running away a lot years back but now people who know me never say it anymore. They have seen me always face what I “should” and walk away when I “should”….I always make time for my close family and I always have supported myself. So really what could they say that I could not let go of. ha! ha!

I have been nomadic, semi-nomadic and working 24×7 staying in one place…. each experience has taught me to lighten up, live my life, love a lot, give alot and let go.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

Cheers,
Charlane

PS I recently had a conversation with an old friend from high school and I must have stated something about how everyone always thought I was running away. She quickly said with a lovely southern accent “oh no honey, I always knew you were running to your life.” I paused for a second and thought, yeah, I did not know it but I was running to my life.

Jen

I admire that you are able to do what you do, travel and explore new cultures and experiences. I’m jealous to an extent. I imagine there is some sacrifice to that as well, leaving the comforts of home and friends and family. Not many people are willing to give that up for such long periods of time including myself, but that’s just my personality. Honestly, I don’t think it’s fair to say that 9-5 job is terrible the way you put it. Some people do get satisfaction from their jobs, I think the ones that aren’t should consider a career change. I think people confuse travel with vacation and look at you as someone who’s avoiding responsibility and work. But in your case, I guess, your mission is helping other travelers along the way. I think traveling does help to look outside yourself, but it’s not the solution towards fulfillment.

And then, there’s people who meant to return, but can’t afford it!
Who would have thought that I’d have to leave the land of opportunity to find any opportunity!

The funny thing is, most of the people who said this when I was on my three trips around the world were in worse shape financially than I was upon my return. I had taught English twice along the way and was debt-free. None of them could say the same (as I can’t say now that I’m in the “real world” again.) Besides, you can travel far more cheaply in than you can live in any U.S. city, no matter how frugal you are.

Very true. We’re heading home to Australia for Christmas this year. Being in Australia will be far more expensive than wandering around south east Asia which is what we’ve been doing. People at home always wonder how we can afford to keep travelling. The reality is that its hard for us to afford to go home.

Great entry! So many of my family members cannot understand what we are doing. “When are you going to settle down?” they ask. Or, “You can’t do this forever!” they say. I’m really tired of these questions and statements. I’m the happiest I have ever been so how could what I am doing be so wrong? We enjoy our new sense of freedom. I should not have to try to justify what I’m doing. So, again…great entry!

Matt,
I’m Rachel, from Italy.
I just wanted to thank you for this post. Most of the time I feel like a weirdo.
I talk to my friends and family about my desire to travel again and without a return ticket, and they don’t understand me. Reading your words made me feel normal, in my own way. It’s good to know there’s somebody else who travels not to escape, but to feel alive.
So thanks, from the bottom of my (wandering) heart.

AJ

I think we are running away from the mundane, boredom of being regular, some time from the unfair life and a hipocratic society, some time in search of some thing which we don’t know. And in our maverick attempt, at times we have found a moment of Life, a moment of sheer joy, and that’s enough, for us to keep walking…
‘Ach

Matt-

What you say here really rings true to all of us who’ve set out for extended travels at the behest of our innermost desires only to get a not-so-positive reaction from “friends” and family. I’ve questioned the legitimacy of friends that would not accept this as who I was; by the same token, I realized that I had set out on several trips with emotional (and other) encumbrances that proved be some ‘extra baggage’ I didn’t need.

In any case, I’m with 100% percent….but I feel it’d be a disservice to other future travelers not to address some important issues within their own lives before setting out.

Thanks, Matt! Nice work. Safe travels!

Regards,

TristanTravels

I’ve not actually come across this issue yet. Matt – at what time did you? Straight away? After 1 year? Will be interesting to see if there is a trend among people here.

NomadicMatt

That was just a huge typo I didn’t see!

tristan travels

I pictured it being said by a Jamaican with a penchant for rhyme-scheme in their vernacular

Nice one, Matt. I’m going to check out the BNT follow up to this piece:

http://www.bravenewtraveler.com/2009/10/20/are-long-term-travelers-avoiding-real-life/

You might enjoy this as well, on the “immaturity” of the long-term traveler:
http://www.vagabondish.com/growing-up-immature-traveler/

Nomadic matt

Wow. I can’t believe the reception this post got! I tried to keep up with all the comments but 72 is too much! I do want to say that I sat and read all of these and loved reading your own stories dealing with this question. Just keep telling the disbelievers that they are the ones running! Enjoy life everyone….maybe we will run into each other :)

Matt, That’s such an insightful post. I’m always amazed by people who ask that question of travelers. Instead, they could ask you: “What have you learned?”, “How have you evolved?”, “What travel advice can you offer?”etc….Of course, that would lead to a very different (and more enjoyable) conversation.

Most people do not understand your lifestyle, they need the house, the kids to feel successful. Living life on your own terms is successful.

A few years ago when my children were in preschool I suggested to my wife that we put our noses to the grindstone a year or two so we could travel and home school our children. The thought terrified her so much she wouldn’t even discuss it, actually started a major fight for a few days.

Live life on your own terms and you will be a success.

Freedom is not an end in itself.It is what you do with that freedom that is important.if you stayed on that mythical desert island and said “Hey I’m free” after a while you would become bored.The thought would come into your head ” well what’s next?”
At least when you go somewhere do something beyond looking at stuff.Follow the Tom Ferriss model,learn the language and do one kinesthetic thing like learning a local dance ( salsa if you are in Cuba).

Just keepin’ on moving will fill your passport for sure,but what are you really looking for? Actually,the truth is inside you.

Someone once went to India to meet a famous yogi.The yogi asked him “why have you come here”
“to find the truth”replied the man.
“what,don’t they have the truth where you come from?” said the yogi.

A need to be forever moving on points to a deeper discontent.

Don’t get me wrong.I love to travel but would not do it all the time.

Peace

Andrew

Hayley

Andrew, I don’t think you got the point of the article…

dave alexander

no Hayley, you didn’t understand the point that Andrew was making. He was giving a different viewpoint thats all. That ‘freedom’ is not found in constant travelling. I agree. I think the rishest lives are seen in those people who build a life in one place, with family friends, loved ones and yes a steady job. People are the same the world over, you dont ‘learn’ as much as you think by travelling!

FelixCatus

Congrats! Loved it so much!

I feel just the same, and even decided not to get married because of it. None of my boyfriends accepted.

I’m a 27 – year old lawyer who travels a lot and doesn’t get enough of it. I take all my 30 days of vacation and make them effective travelling days. I go to the airport in the first day and, in the last day of vacation, I’m landing. Travelling is what I love most, from planning it to coming home.

I’m saving money so as to travel for many months if I get fired. I think about it every day. If I have a hard time at work, I think this way: if I ever get sacked, the only thing that’s gonna happen is that I’ll travel for longer than that miserable 30 days.

I still hav plans to get on this wonderful nomad life and, yes, run away from the silly life.

To build upon the idea that you get what you want when you do what you want:
I believe that you get what you need, when you need it. It may not quite be what you ask for, but it ultimately gets you to where you want (or rather, NEED) to go. And the more you open your mind to all the options available, the more places (geographically and metaphysically!) you can go.

Hey Matt.

I’m another nomad, but a lucky one: my supportive friends and family don’t question me – ant interrogation is self-generated. But as I get older I’m feeling the need to query it less and less.

For example, I’ve been travelling in Eastern Europe and it’s been an education. How many MA lectures would I need to go to, in order to get the feel for the country that two weeks talking to locals gave me?

Sure, using travel as a method of escape is a centuries-old phenomenon: just like using sex, drugs or working too hard is. And some of us are maybe filling a ‘hole’. But isn’t it better to fill that hole with enriching learning experiences than by buying trinkets or getting a coke habit?

I have tried the 9-5, and it felt like a cage. If I am running away from mental stagnation, office politics and suffering five soulless days for two good ones that fly by in the blink of an eye – so be it.

But on a roof in Marrakesh, overlooking the Djemaa El-Fna, a psychologist suggested a biological imperative for people like us. Imagine if – in villages a thousand years ago – there had been nobody in the those communities who had wanted to see what was over the next hill?

We need methodical routine-lovers to inspect the aircraft that facilitate our travels, keeping us safe; but we also need creative/ideas people to dream up the cabin colour schemes and the advertising that will pull in the customers. One is no good without the other; Burning Man is a wonderful example of the geek/tech-artist interface and their inter-dependence.

Similarly, we need people to stay at home and keep places and communities together; but we also need a few volunteers to go out there and climb that hill. Bring the news back Matt, tell the folks back home what’s on the other side.

And if there comes a day when it doesn’t feel right anymore, you can always hang up those boots, safe in the knowledge that you lived a bit, and you understood a complex world just that tiny bit more.

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate…” (Bladerunner)

Angie

Thanks for your article. I just got the e-mail from my mom today telling me to “stop the running around and plant yourself somewhere” and “I think it is time to settle down now.” I copied her on your article. I wish she would understand me!

Kine

Why is it that everyone seems to believe that you’re running away from something when you’re out in the world long enough? Cus everyone I’ve talked to envies the travelling, they want to do it themselves, and talk about doing it. What separates us, though, is that they’re all talk, while we’re all do. And it’s like you say.. We’re not running away from anything, I’m quite happy with my life at home. And that’s it. I want to experience more of what life has to offer, cus it truly is too short!
Just wanted to let you know that you’re an inspiration for us with a travelbug inside of us, and that you’re blog has become one of my daily web-reads. I recommend it to others, not just because you’re living the life we all wish we could, but also because you tell us how to do the same thing :)

Oh yeah. I’ve heard traveling (or general mobility) facetiously called “taking the geographical cure”.

Sure, travel can be escape for some people some of the time — travel is not a panacea, obviously — but the fact remains it’s a transformational force and often helps people change, and for those with particular intentions, make changes.

Ken

I’d been accused of running away. I should stay home and use the money to buy a big teevee and stereo. Apparently, what you learn and experience doesn’t count. My reply was there are better countries and people out there. And if I happened to find a way to settle down legally in one of those places, then I’d rein in my wanderings. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out as I wished. So now I indulge in a fast fortnight back in the saddle to absorb a few more places before the economy won’t allow it.

I was JUST having nearly your entire post as a conversation with my cousin. Almost verbatim, right down to “2.5 kids.” :) He is rather despondent because he doesn’t know what to do next in his life and is mindlessly sending out resume after resume. He wants that bit of adventure, but I think he is too scared and I have encouraged him to check out Peace Corps, as a “safe” alternative to just taking off into the world with all possessions in a backpack. Great post, love it, two thumbs up. Once you enter the numbing vortex of “normal life,”, it’s hard to extract yourself. Keep running!

Nancy @ ShoreDiveLife.com

Hi Matt – I found this great quote the other day:

I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

I’ve been doing a lot of googling lately, looking for ways to help explain my husband’s and my obsession with getting the heck out of Dodge. I explore it in my blog, we talk about it non-stop, and we’ve now sucked friends and family into the topic. You are right when you say that the world’s full of people who say they want to hit the road, though few do. So many things can hold you back – legitimately – and you’re blessed if you can follow that muse. We definitely want to end up on the “did it” side when we’re sitting in our rockers at the old age home. ;-)

Keep ‘em coming…
Nancy @ ShoreDiveLife.com

So I guess you now have 87 people who prove that most people DON’T think you are running away, but living life truly and fully the way you think best. You just needed to get in with a different crowd. :)

I’m an American ex-pat living in Turkey and enjoyed your perspective on this topic. Though I moved to Turkey for love I often asked myself if it wouldn’t have been easier to find love closer to home. But the definition of home has changed for me since moving to Turkey. The longer I spend here, the more I find that having a fluid idea of home forces me to know myself that much more – to be sure of who I am independent of a physical location.

A few months ago I read an interview with Cat Stevens who’d recently returned to music. He said something like, “Half of life is leaving home and the other half is coming back again.”

But what is home?

I have been doing a lot of thinking recently along similar lines, and my take is this. People are searching for a place where they feel comfortable. For some people, where they were born and the lifestyle into which they were born is comfortable to them. They don’t see the appeal of living a different sort of life because what they are doing makes sense to them.

For others, though the life they were born into doesn’t match a life they would feel comfortable in. Life in their home could feel slightly foreign to them. Long term travel or living abroad is a way to find a place where they feel more comfortable – an external environment that matches their internal feelings.

For me, living abroad has allowed me to feel more comfortable because back in my home country I always felt like a bit of an outsider. Now I am actually an outsider, I feel more comfortable because my external circumstance (being a foreigner) actually matches my internal feelings (of being an outsider).

Greg

kbok

hi matt- i liked reading this entry, although i had some thoughts…
when you travel, in what ways do you contribute back to society? (whether local, national, or abroad?) do you volunteer during your travels? do you spend money in places that will help the local workforce/economy? do you raise awareness about issues of injustice that you see or do you continue happily traveling?

you say you are running towards the world and what it has to offer.. my question to you is, what do you offer the world in return?

Well written piece. Can completely empathize.

Kanchan

I love your way of life, how you see life and things and people, your travel tales. What the heck. I love you. Will you marry me? :P LOL
Ok, besides the joke, this is a really good one and seemed to me like you are reading the lines from my own heart/mind. I mean I had a wow-moment. Thanks for this. I got my perspective strengthened.

“I feel like the reason why people tell us we are running away because they cant fathom the fact that we are doing what we want.” — SO TRUE
I have been taking every opportunity to travel (generally solo) since I turned 18 and people always think I’m crazy and ask what I am running from. What do I say? That I just like to run! People always seem to be most afraid of what they want the most.
Thank you for your thoughtful post, reminding me to disregard society’s criticisms.

Sara

Rick

That sure sounds like you are running away. Someone who wasn’t running would see equal joy and pain in all things. However you definitely have some issues with people who are living in a more conventional sense.

Is it so frightening to stop and live life with just the people around you being the same? Is it so bad to have children and know they will enjoy the same friends for years and years?

Of course not. When you see the joys of not traveling, then you will be traveling and not running.

NomadicMatt

There’s nothing wrong with that. I have many friends who do it and love it. More power to them. I take issue with people who bitch and moan about life and do nothing to change it. “I would love to travel!” then do so!

It is up to each individual to live there life in whatever way that makes them happy. For some that is travelling around the world and for others that is living a more normal life.

The thought of back packing around the world and staying in flea ridden hostels and cheap hotels isn’t for me. I really hate hostel life and crap hotels with a passion, been there. But I can however see the appeal of it all for those that do it and good luck to them. I can also understand those that are happy with a 9 –5 job, wife and kids, nothing wrong with that, I know plenty of people that are truly happy and content with that way of live.

People need to stop concerning themselves with other peoples business and get on with doing what makes them feel good and happy. I recently lived in Barbados for 9 months before I arrived in London 10 months ago and staying in places long term is what does it for me.

Excellent! Bang on, man. Good on you for writing this… and keep on living your dream.

Ian

The downside of travelling around the world…and experiencing different cultures…is you corrupt the very thing your going to see (tourism is the worst disease on the planet) …then you get people saying “oh, I’m not a tourist…I’m a traveller”. Nope…we’re all tourists and while it is a great thing to go and meet new people and new cultures…..I believe its like driving a car…you need to pass a test before you get issued with a passport….too too many dickheads being allowed out their country..!!

Kudos Matt. I can absolutely relate to what you’re saying and you’ve said it well. Here’s my problem. I’ve lived and experienced this life before. It is my passion and there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t look back on my long term travel freedom. I eventually returned home, got a 9-5, tried to save money to hit the road again. BUT, i’m at a point in my life where I am feeling the pressures of having kids, etc. In a lot of these comments, it sounds like people see this issue in a very black and white manner. You can either be free and travel the world or you can have kids and a home. It is a very difficult and tough decision when you look at it this way.

Is there anyone out there who feels this way? Is anyone living in a way where they have kids and still find the time to feed the lust of the travel lifestyle? I would love to here from these people who live in the gray area. The middle ground between the two… a stationary life with a house and family vs a lone nomad with no debt, attachments or home.

Sarah

Thank you for putting my thoughts so eloquently into writing. I’m just starting to realise that this is the lifestyle I am aiming for, and it really is the little things like resenting the weekend chores which drives me to find something more.
It feels like a constant battle to get everyone else to understand the concept of not wanting to settle, of not being content just to make do, but to actually want to actively seek out an enjoyable lifestyle.
So it’s nice to know we’re not alone.

WOW! Awesome article! I can totally relate to you. I get that all the time. And people envy people like us because we do what we love to do but I never understood what they were so envious about! No one is forcing them to buy a $400,000 house and be in debt for the next 30 years. Life is made up of our choices! Great article- once again!

Lizenok

Its amazing, I found myself nodding in agreement during the whole time I was reading that article….until I started reading travel blogs, it always felt that I was the only one who seemed to elicit the unasked-for advice from my elders of staying in one place, and getting a “real job” – seeing how I have had my fun traveling already and its enough, time to move on to a career. Why they always need to judge my lifestyle I will never know…its not like asking them to pick everything up and go travel…

Brenda

Love the post and agree 100% with your comments. There is a whole world out there to explore, whether we do it all at once or in small pieces throughout our lives.

If somebody says “you are running away from problems”, they are just jealous because actually you don’t have all whose daily problems they have.

Alex Buri

Hi Matt,
Just read your article in the New York Times Travel Section and followed the link to this blog. I wanted to say thanks for the information you are putting out there and for sharing your passion for travel with us. I’m sure it inspires people more than you know.

dasminas

You are running away. But what is the problem with that? Enjoy.

jo

Matt!
YES YES YES!! I agree with your words. Good for you. I myself am reading this article because I am trying to decide if I should travel. I am trying to work out if I am traveling to escape! The reason it feels like it is escaping is because we all know it shouldn’t matter where you go inner peace comes from within. And real joy is not the same as pleasure. I feel both the need to become a master and channel my energy into something productive, and the need to explore and live life to the full. If I am sad and look to travel to open my self up to a new perspective is this bad? Should I only travel if I also seeking knowledge?

Thank you

Ely

I just discovered your website and I absolutely love it. Please keep doing what you are doing. You are inspiration. Very few people have the tenacity to do what they want. I’m slowly taking charge of my own life. First by leaving DC and moving to Barcelona. This article really hit close to home. I’m glad that I’m not the only one!

Kenneth

Thanks Matt. I am K2 from bootsnall. I just had a conversation with my dad about this and I was frustrated that he didn’t understand (and I know my mother won’t either). I hope to send them your words since I couldn’t explain it myself why I wanted to travel.

Leandro

Good article. I’m going through a life pretty much predesigned by society and I’m too weak or too coward to do anything else. I admire your bravery and the bravery of others who dare to live life like you. Sometimes I get so desperate about the monotony of my life that I end up in front of a computer screen reading about other places or imagining myself traveling through Europe or maybe Egypt. In fact, a google search of “running away” took me here.

Angel

Great article brother
If people who work 9-5 understood that they are really the ones who are running away. Maybe then they would understanding that they are no longer alive. 9-5=0

Now this article makes me feel normal.

Agree with you in every word.

Jessica

I’m also American and just got back from NZ, my first trip abroad! The whole thing was very last minute and my friends’ and family’s reactions were a mix of, “You’re crazy!” and, “Wow, I’m so jealous!” It was for five weeks, which seemed like a pretty decent amount of time, but then I met so many people who had been traveling for several months around the world and who were shocked that I had never been outside of the states before. Most, if not all, of these people were from other countries, mainly Europe. Here I had been dying to travel for years and finally bit the bullet, only to find out just how wired the US culture is to follow that certain “dream”. I became well aware awhile ago that it wasn’t for me, but didn’t really have any clue how different ideals were in other countries. I mean, I found out today that my sister had never even seen a passport before, and she’s 35. Also, I only met a handful of other Americans while in NZ, just showing more how little we travel.

Anyway, I’ve decided that it’s better to travel now than later. Can’t predict the future and don’t want to have regrets about not seeing the world. Now to rebuild the funds and plan…

Thanks for this blog, Matt! Such a great inspiration and help.

Why is running away always considered a bad thing to do? Isn’t it worse to stay in one place when it’s not right or even healthy.

Besides, most people are trying to escape something, and staying in one place automatically mean you’re facing your challenges.

Steve

Hi,

I get your point here….I think most people want to travel and see as much of the world and what it has to offer. There is so many other cultures and different people to meet. My question is what do you do other than travel in your life? Do you have a degree/education/ a prospect of getting a good job when and if you ever decide to come back from travelling? Or could you offer your services/expertise to the country you are travelling in?

Alot of people I personally know travel and get wasted/party etc then come back to nothing…no prospects of were to go next. So in a way they did run away from their problems to experience the high life but in the end had to come back to the same problems. I am not saying everyone is the same but I think its always good to have a back plan so when the day comes to hang up your rucksack, you can do.

I’ve been trying to go travelling for 2 years now, but now have the prospect of a really decent job and a really good musical project. My time will come but for now I am happy doing the things I love. I would ideally do the same job i currently work as (Engineer) in another country some day.

i couldn’t agree more mate! i’ve been following your blog for a while now and it’s inspired me to start my own. Really compelling stuff.

I truly believe ppl need to sit down, detach themselves from all the sh*t going on around them and seriously contemplate what makes them happy…. and if that’s their 52 inch LED TV then so be it – good luck to them BUT if not then go out and seek your happiness, get off the standard trail and live your life. Ul regret it if you don’t!

gabz

Hey Matt! Gabz here (Remember me and Ilana from Rome??).
Thought your piece was fantastic – it got right to the point and we could all benefit from it being published in a paper, for instance, so that a wider audience could read it and begin to understand our kind.

Keep it real, and keep living the dream man! I am back in NZ for this year while I save for my next adventure…I can’t freaking wait! PEACE xox

crystal

OK- I totally would love to travel. The only problem is….travelling costs $. If you are on the go all of the time, how do you hold down a job to get that money? I am 34, so if I filled out an application showing I have worked 10 jobs in ten locations over the past year, I may not be a likely candidate to be hired and thus unable to make more $ to get back truckin on. I could give two figs for the “normal life” and I think most Americans agree deep down- we all want to be free and roam the world (even if some would prefer to do it alone while others want to bring friends and/or family). The big issue is money…….you cannot do crap without money and it is hard enough to get a job with a glowing resume these days, much less one where you look like you cannot stay put for two months in a row. Most places hiring will not even consider you if you hold more than one job every two years consistently. You could have your PhD, but a employers are leary of job-jumpers.

I would reccommend that everyone traveled- but to do it while they are young- just out of high school…between 18-20. College can wait. That is a time when you can get away with whatever and you can totally avoid listing what you have done on a resume as no one really expects you to get serious until your twenties. People admire a young person with a sense of adventure. There tends to be another way people describe an older person who likes to hop from place to place, “homeless” and sometimes “hungry.” That’s the real shame, life is wasted on killing yourself with stressful work and monotonous relationships. This is the norm, and being considered “abnormal” is not even the worst of it. The world and its systems are so catered to “the norm” that it is nearly impossible to break the mold. Everything is fenced off, it costs at least $3 to get in a park to enjoy some scenery (and it is usually packed with “normal people”), gas is damn near $3 a gallon and I am in good shape, but I can’t ride my bike across the world. I can’t even say to hell with it all and go live in the woods because I am bound to get arrested for trespassing or made to pay taxes on the piece of ground I am sitting on. And you’re right, break free from the mold (especially when you get older) and people may categorize you as abnormal.

Your “blog” is talking about doing something that has been consuming my mind forever, just get up and go….just get up and go….that’s all I think about it. But I am too scared of breaking free from the norm……I used to be fearless and I did travel between 18-20, but after hearing parents, freinds, advisors, etc. continuously tell me it is absurd, irresponsible and inconsiderate to those who love you to just pick up and go, it does seem a little too far-fetched. If you say to heck with all these people and do it anyway, who’s going to lend you some gas money and a dinner ticket if you get in a bind?

So much to be scared of- wish there was a guarantee that you would not regret your decision to skip town.

Well said….I’ve lived in three countries (Saudi Arabia, China, Thailand) and have visited to date 35 countries. I’ve done things, seen things, that still to this day I have to pinch myself to remind myself it wasn’t a dream. Yet, there are still American’s who every year ask me “when are we coming home?” As though this life style can’t go one forever. I’ve lived 8 years outside American, go back at least once a year to visit friends and family and every year America feels less and less like ‘home’ and more and more like another country, another adventure. The nomad life is a great one and if you can find a partner to do it with even better.

mOe

Thanks for sharing… I concur and dream and long for such freedom. Best to you!

Eliza

I agree! You’ve said it so well.
I’m not running away, I’m just running out of time to fully life my life – and I haven’t left school yet… =P
I think everyone should do gap years in other countries, or student exchange. It would help people become more understanding, empathetic and open minded.

Ali

Matt, probably not much else to say that hasn’t already been said, but this article is amazing. Travelers, vagabonds, nomads, backpackers, wanderers… Whatever we call ourselves (or someday hope to call ourselves) it’s all the same. This is the lifestyle your readers either already have or dream of having. Reading this gets me excited and awakens a part of me that lays dormant while I’m chained to my office, waiting for my next opportunity to hop on a plane and explore another corner of the world. The people who think you’re running away are just jealous because you’ve found a way to live your life in a more exciting way that allows for more “you” time instead of doing what someone else wants you to do. I think that’s what most of us want, we just have to find our own way to do it. I envy your lifestyle and over the past year, since I’ve realized that this is what I want for my life, I’ve decided to search for a way to travel more permanently as well. Reading things like this helps keep me motivated to push myself until I get there. Thanks for being an inspiration to all of us nomads and nomad-wannabes out there!

NomadicMatt

You’re very welcome!

Well said, Matt. I get the same comments after I left the rat race of NYC to travel and explore, started imhereyourethere.com to document the travels and to catch up with friends, family and meet fantastic new people. We’re too focused on money, worried about what’s next and missing the Now. Life is about the journey, not the destination. Keep on keepin’ on!

Jayne-53

I typed in “running away from normal life” and your blog popped up. My husband and I are in our 50s, never going to be able to retire, both kids married and have their careers, interests, etc. I, not my husband, am always searching for something to do to see this country, never satisfied with where I am because I know that there is more! I want to see our Country – the good ole USA. Since we won’t ever have a pension and be able to retire, I thought about traveling, washing dishes for someone to get the next tank of gas and food, and hitting the road again. I know – people will think that I have a loose screw but sounds great to me!!! I admire that someone is out there really doing their thing! Enjoy your life – we only live once!

Mariano

I travelled a lot so i heard the running away thing many times…….

Travelling like a nomad is just a way of life, LIKE ANY OTHER, some people like it ,some don´t, that´s it.

It´s our life experience and we should use it as we like as long as we are not harming others……

Nice post ,i can absolutely relate to it

Matt, this is a great article. thanks :)

Payman

Matt, this is one of the best pieces I’ve read on the topic. As the old saying goes: “it’s not what we did that we regret, but what we didn’t do.” I’ll be hitting the road too from mid September indefinitely, starting in South East Asia. If I were to meet you on the road, drinks on me mate. Oh and if you don’t mind, I’d like to not only send this article to all my friends and family but as well put it on my site when my site will be ready in the next few days. Awesome blog you have there my friend. Don’t remember how I came accross your site but ever since, I’ve been glued to it.

Cheers.

NomadicMatt

Thanks for the kind words all around!

Suzy

great article!
I am still a student so I don’t have so much time for traveling. But I make up for it during summer. People always saying why I choose to spend all my free time on the road. They say they would like to try it, spend two months traveling Europe by train or whatever. Most of them will never try this. And when you ask them why, the usual response occur: money, time, family, job…. but also the fear of unknown.
In my experience the good stuff somehow (almost every time) out top the bad stuff.

Paul

You can’t choose your parents, you can’t choose where you are born….but.

You can choose where you live, what you do, and who ‘you’ want to be.

I tried to be what everyone else wanted me to be until 25 Business Analsyst, wife, car, recent promotion upgrades pending – sports coupe/luxury canalside apartment.

I’d never been so unhappy in my life. My life sucked, wake up, go work, go gym, go shopping cook dinner, sleep, weekend, go shopping with wife, go to DIY centre…

I threw it all in in 2002 Eat Pray Love Style. I had no idea how things would work out but I didn’t care my No.1 ambition forever to see the world. My father said it would be a waste of time or I’d have gone at 17 but I’m glad I went at 25 I had more perspective.

My initial trip was to China, Hong Kong, SE Asia and Oz to dive the barrier reef since then I’ve been to India and meditated in the Himalaya (where else) lived in China for 6 months teaching English, Muay Thai Boxed for a year in Thailand, spent 3 years doing a degree in philosophy with the uni of london external programme while travelling the world. Ridden 1000 miles through Thailand on a moutain bike New Year 2010, lived 3 months in New Zealand, been to Japan (lifetime ambition)……the list goes on.

Money is easy to find when you know what you want to do….you can’t always be sure 100% but listen to what’s in your heart…

dave alexander

I disagree. I think the richest lives are seen in those people who build a life in one place, with family friends, loved ones and yes a steady job. People are the same the world over, you dont ‘learn’ as much as you think by travelling! South East Asia for me was such a disappointment, full of westerners just wanting to party. The people with real lives were the locals, who don’t need to travel because they have their life and community at home, a lifelong learning experience..

dave alexander

another thing, ive just seen that you quote the thailand ‘full moon party’ as one of your best experiences! sorry, but you lose all credibility there. The party is so disgusting, full of foul westerners, so arrogant, swearing, drinking, littering a beautiful landscape. Have you seen the bars of the beach? All grafifiti’s up with stuff like ‘i love fucking pussy’, ‘suck my cock’ etc etc. most depressing. and they say that travel broadens the mind, ha ha! It doesnt. What makes a life if building one, not moving around all the time. But you are young. You will change as you get older, and hopefully see the full moon party goers as a depressing part of tourism. Thailand is now so ugly and ruined. Sure the natural landscape is beautiful, if you like hanging around on hot beaches, but all the man made infrastructure is just done so cheaply and unattractively with a quick profit in mind. Being there made me realise how rich in culture and beautiful my home country, England, is.

NomadicMatt

I take the Full Moon Party for what it is- a party. I don’t go there looking for some enlightenment experience. I got there to party. If you don’t like massive parties, it is not going to be for you. That’s it. It’s no more deep than that. I have a good time there.

dave alexander

I also meant to add that leatherback turtles had returned to the beaches of thailand, including the full moon one for thousands of years. They have a natural instinct to return to their beach of birth. Tourism and the ‘full moon party’ has obliterated that. If there is noise or lights on the beach, the turtles leave immediately and lay their eggs in the sea, killing them instantly. Its funny that ko tao is named after the turtles that used to hatch there, but now the loud, arrogant tourists playing western r n b music has ruined their natural environment! Matt, you are not as wise as you think. Travelling in itself does not make one ‘wise’. Some of the wisest and most lovely and content people I know are those that have built a family and give something back to their local community.

Wow I could not have said it any better! I also would like to add that for those who have not read The Secret or the Power, I would highly recommend it. After all, its what gave me the finances to travel for so long I believe, and I am already on the path to exploring all of the countries I have for so long wanted to see. Everyone should have their own vision board, and yes everyone is the captain of their own ship!

I read your “running away” blog. This is exactly what I believe in now. I am tired of people expecting us to find a 9 to 5 job. Who says that is the only way to live?? In the past, I had always envied those who can travel a lot. Then I realize instead of envying others, I can do the same. I do not have 9 to 5 job anymore which is good as I don’t feel tied down anymore. Now I have a home based business which gives me the freedom. Thank you for writing such a good blog which I totally agree with!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m still struggling to be proud of my vagabond nature, resisting much of the expectations that have been placed on me as a mother, college drop-out, and approaching 30. Just because I do not need to fit into society’s little box to “prove” my stability, I am in no way less emotionally mature, successful or running away from something. One life to live (that we know of), so live it.

Great point of view! and actually we share the same way of thinking towards traveling.
Unfortunately here in Indonesia there are also norm and rules which people follow in order to live a normal life. Many people are still confined in this conventional way of thinking.
So, I think it is a great thing to broaden up people’s mind and create an open-minded society (not an easy thing to do though).

Adam

People can be “running away” while living in any situation. I feel like a lot of people who are doing the “settling down” thing are running away from things themselves.

Ultimately though, if everyone is running away from something, is running away always necessarily a bad thing? I think the term “running away” has more turned into a kind of buzz word that is meant to mean the targeted person is somehow deficient. People run away from bad situations all the time, like war and abusive relationships. These are good things to run away from and some cases it’s also good to run from what others define as “normal” society and life.

alex

not dissing your post coz i think it is well written. everybody wants to live life without regret. i know i sure do.

here’s my bone with it. my husband just told me that this is the lifestyle he wants to lead because life is too short. he wants to experience life and travel. and he believes that he is not running away.

he now leaves behind 4 kids aged between 10years and baby. bills to pay. and heaps of responsibilites that i have to pick up. why? coz we don’t fit into this “experience life” plan.

sounds a lot like running away and i do think there are people out there who do it just to run away.

tell me otherwise. how do people in relationships or have responsibilities take it all in? is there a compromise in this lifestyle?

NomadicMatt

He just sounds like he is just being selfish.

Roxy

I have friends and family telling me the same thing! I was beginning to believe them… but as India Aire says “I’d be starving if I believed all the lies that they feed!” :)… Travel feeds my soul! and It’s so refreshing to see other like-minded people with the same philosophies about living life! Carpe Diem! and Viva la vida hasta el tope! :)

Alexander

You all seem like such free spirits, while I am a caged bird. Travelling sounds nice and all, but I dont think the nomadic life is for me. Ive been to different parts of the U.S. mainly the midwest and the south, but that’s it. I keep sending out resumes because I want to get a job. Last night I applied for a job teaching english for a year in South Korea. Im probably not going to get it, but I dont know what I would do if I did. The travel bug never really bit me.

You aren’t running away – you were just born to do this!

Judy

This really helps me to realise what I should not tell my son. I do know that but I want him to be happy. In his own way. That’s all that counts.

You are living a life people dream of, so yes, I guess you are running away… from monotony. What is wrong with that? :D

If this type of comment ever brings you down, just remember that more people tell you “I wish I were you/had your life” more often than “Stop running away”.

In any case, it’s too late: you’re trapped! You’ve already marked the travel blogging community in such a way, that if you ever stopped doing what you do, it would implode… plus, you’d have thousands of emails from sad readers begging you to come back!

So yes, too late…

NomadicMatt

I thank you for your really, really kind words but I can’t imagine me having that much influence on other people. I’m just another traveler….like everyone else!

Brooke Perry

You do have influence Matt. I want to live like that to. Gosh I wish I wasn’t so scared.

Christina S.

Everyone always asks my husband and I why we travel so much, how can we travel so much (both in time and money), what’s wrong with just staying home. I’ve determined that these people are at least a little jealous, but mostly they just don’t understand. Either you have the travel bug, or you don’t. I say keep running Matt!

Jealousy takes many forms and putting down someone’s lifestyle is often just envy disguised as self-righteousness; envy that they don’t have the courage to step out and do something different, something ‘risky’. So instead, they run down those who do in an attempt to justify their inability to take a step into the unknown . There are many ways to run away from problems or things you don’t want to face – there’s probably as many people who live in one spot their entire lives (by choice) who ‘run away’ from problems, as people who travel. It’s not the lifestyle, it’s the person and how they chose to approach their lives. A happy, secure person who travels will appreciate the happy, secure person who doesn’t and vice versa. Good on you. Enjoy.

An excellent piece.

I find your blog, your tone and general attitude to life – both refreshing and inspiring. I drop by here occasionally to re-afirm that there are people out there living their dream, and to top it all off – we share the same first name. Alright, not exactly an uncommon one, but still…

I do intend to do what you do one day. I appreciate that that sentence generally goes against your ethos of ‘just get on and do it’, although I am slowly working my to it.

Cheers for the relentless inspiration.

Matt!

Wow Matt! We might have agreed with the naysayers (though not so judgmental) ten years ago, and it took a long look at things before we got the guts to take off. It was the best thing we ever did!

The “keeping up with the Jones’” lifestyle was toxic for us, and for the children’s sake we waited for the big launch until they were grown. After being on the road for three years, we’ve seen amazing people raising amazing kids – and wonder why we didn’t think of it earlier!

We applaud you for following your heart! -David & Veronica

Brooke Perry

How do you afford to travel all over the world?

I lived abroad for over 15 years and when I made the decision to settle back home I found it so hard to connect to my family again. They had expectations and family obligations that I found hard to grasp. Being on your own you basically do things for yourself and I suppose I didn’t enjoy being guilt trip into conforming. It’s still a struggle and I do long to disappear and travel again.

Rick Carassai

I’ve just started my 9th year as a nomad. ESCAPING FROM SOMEWHERE OR SOMETHING? Maybe! What if I say that I started travelling coz I wasn’t happy where I was leaving, I coudn’t find the way to change my situation or the place mentality so I decided to take a break in a close-by country. There discovered life! I went home after 1 year with the best intentions, I immediately felt like before I left 1 year before. So I decided to leave for good, I never went back. After over 8 years tho, is not like im escaping from that place anymore!! I was in Europe for 4 years and I have now been living in South America for 4 years, learned a million of things, been poor, been rich, been happy, been sad… but most of all…i have been living and I am super satisfied with my life! I am very content! So, why cant an escape be just the beginning of things? Just the primordial cause that evolved into the discovery of something more important? LIVING!

Brooke Perry

One more thing, why does it seem like there are more male nomads than female. Do you think it’s easier for men than it is for women to live this lifesyle? Why? Is it possible it’s more dangerous?

Oscar

Well said Matt!!!!

Dennis

Matt,

Great piece of writing about travel and living outside the norm. While I am living the “normal life” with a wife and three kids, I certainly often think about how I can change my lifestyle to get away from the rat race. My wife and I do our best as teachers. We feel we can make a real difference in the world. Also, we get more time off for travel or family in the summer. I feel like it is the in between life we are searching for. Summers to travel with the kids and expose them to the real world and not just the Americanized propagandized version we see and hear from American media. Have you ever read the book, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,” by Max Weber? Another interesting one is “Ishmael,” by Daniel Quinn? Both interesting books. Just wanted to say thank you for showing people they do not have to live the “American Dream” that society tells us to live. You do not have to graduate high school, go to college, get a job, buy a car, get married, buy a house, have kids, work until you retire, and then die old having worked your whole life away in this materialistic, capitalistic driven society we grow up in in the United States.

Hey Matt,
I really dig this post.
When I first took off at 16 and traveled around Europe and the Middle East, I have to admit, I actually was running away from something. I hoped that I would find happiness. I fostered these hopes with each new country I entered. However, I quickly realized that happiness can only be found within ones self. Now when I travel, I am not running away from home but rather like you, I am running towards life.
Safe Travels,
Best,
Leif

Brooke Perry

I agree with you, I just wish I would quit being so scared and just leave. I have listened to the media about how scary the world is and how hard it is financially. I don’t have any parents, so I feel that I don’t have anything to fall back on in case something happens. People all around me tell that I have such a wonderful job and that I should be so happen and fortunate to have a job like this, but I don’t feel that way at all. I want to see the world and meet new people and see new cultures, but I have imprisoned by self by being afraid of the not knowing what to do if I’m not financially stable. I need to do what your doing. I need to figure out some way to bring in revenue.
If anyone has any ideas let me know.

Trinity White

I so agree! My parents and friends think I’ve gone mad because the first thing I want to do after high school is travel. It bothers me that everyone sees travel as an interlude – after which you must return to everyday life. I have always relished the idea of living life to the fullest, without any trace of monotony. I really loved this article, and I think everyone should give travel a chance. :)

Laura

Hi,

I love this blog, it has just summed up exactly what I’ve been thinking lately. There’s just so much out there I wanna explore. I love travelling, meeting all kinds of people, cultures, seeing beautiful sights and interesting places.

I always thought I wanted to immigrate abroad but after a few months away I miss my friends and family and want to come home. I’ve just come back from living in Sydney for 5 months and after only 7 weeks of being home I’m already getting itchy feet. I’m currently working as an agency nurse and am realising maybe this job gives me the opportunity to work when I want and take plenty of time out to travel as I’m not contracted to work particular hours etc. I’ve suggested this to friends and they say it’s not practical etc. but if it works for me why not?

I just can’t imagine myself living the “normal life”, I’m not content being part of the rat race and having a house and family aren’t a priority for me right now, maybe this will change at some point but in the mean time why not make the most of my freedom? :D

the russian

YES! that’s it, that’s the philosophy of living and how i have come to think of it too over the years. traveling, doing things others would not even consider, going places and seeing the Real world with your own eyes instead of some outdated commonly accepted perception of it, breaking the mold and challenging all of the stereotypes society has created to make itself feel safe while being caged up…
that’s what i try to explain to other people as well – that it isn’t about running away from something, it’s running Towards something, true things, true life, towards even yourself. it’s about discovering your true self, the Real Person you are, as opposed to some pathetic being with barely a will of its own, created out of society’s need for mindless work drones. thanks for the post, not many people i meet are able to understand this concept, unfortunately.

N

I am eternally thankful for this post. While I don’t plan to travel non-stop my entire life, I have quite a lengthy bucket list and much of it is made up of cities, countries and tiny, not-on-the-map villages I want to set foot in with my own legs and see with my own eyes.

My mom has always accused me of running away, so now I finally have an answer – “No, I’m running toward.”

She’ll still roll her eyes, anyway, but I’ll have given a good response rather than gotten flustered.

Happy travels! :)

Cheers

Hazel

Thank you for writing this and filling that gapping hole of insanity I feel when all I want to do is just leave and experience life on my terms; or “runaway” as it may be more commonly known as.

I had a plan to roadtrip across the country while blogging and making a video with a buddy, but I let peoples judgments, assertions of being female travelers as absurd/unsafe and their sickenly tight grips on me change my mind, settling for something more accepted by the majority and hate it! …it hasn’t been 2 months and I feel like I ruined my life because I felt the need to listen to everyone else and gain their approval. After getting in some heinous family fights and personal struggles I find myself coming across “don’t runaway teen ad campaigns” and crazy fundamentalists’ views of self preservation on the web; both of which do not apply to me. I am an intelligent, artistic mostly sane college grad with an undying hunger to explore and do what I want for me and my life, not some angsty 15 year old mad at mommy and daddy for not letting me stay out pass curfew. So I find my self staring at square one with no real travel plans, no travel partner other then my dog and less money then I woulda had if I left 3 weeks ago as planned. So I guess my question is what next? This fire in me isn’t going to die, everything inside is boiling up and saying pack the car and go, don’t look back just take that leap of faith, see where you belong and I know if I don’t it’ll be my undoing. The fear of the unknown and consequences of upsetting a tightly woven, stubborn family seem insurmountable, however. It’s a battle between the mind and soul at this point.

Tips on travels, constructive guidance and opinions are more then welcomed.

m

Thank you for your article, Matt!!
Many people wish they could go away, but instead of fulfilling their dreams, they just settle down asap after college, to be sure they “fit” in society. The worst part is when they keep saying that we are selfish, just because we never stick around and share their everyday’s “sufferings”!

NomadicMatt

I’m happy to be selfish. After all, it’s my life and i will be selfish about it!

Kat

Thanks, Matt!

By far, this is the best post on dealing with the people I leave behind. Honestly, I’m pretty used to hearing “Stop running away from your life” and “Stop being so selfish” and other catch phrases parents and friends just love to use. Finally, an answer!! Not that that stopped me before, but it’s also for that little whisper in my head that says, “What if they’re right?” even when I know I wouldn’t be happy doing it their way. Thanks for such an awesome blog!

Aimee

Hey Matt! I’m a 17 year old student in high school right now. I just wanted to let you know that I’m so thankful I found your site and your story. I went to Italy for 6 months to study abroad and just came back 2 months ago. I’ve been having the exact same thoughts while I was in Italy, because I realized that I just loved “moving”, and just going to places. Doesn’t matter where, doesn’t matter how, but just always moving. I got discouraged because my parents, my friends, teachers, school, and everyone around me just tells me, “oh that’s a nice thought to have, a nice daydream.” And after a while, I started believing them too, thinking that it’s just impossible and impractical, and that I should just get into a good college and then keep on climbing the social ladder. But you, and others like you, give me so much hope and courage. And thank you so much, for just letting me know that my dream life is possible, and I don’t have to get a cubicle job, I don’t have to get an apartment, I don’t have to get a family and settle down when I’m 25. Thank you for reviving my dream, and I hope someday soon (after college), I will be able to do all the things I want, and go all the places I want.

And last questions: for how long do you see yourself living this lifestyle? Do you think you might want to stop and settle down one day? Are you scared of when that might happen?

This blog is truly inspirational. I hope I do not end up ‘reading blogs like this while wishing I was doing the same thing’. Yes, you are right. You travel towards life, not away from it.

If anyone ever asks me why I’m running away again, I’ll just direct them to your post.
You explained it so nicely.

I’m not running, I’m living. Without a plan.

People should try that sometimes :)

Thanks for the link that took me to this page entitled: “I quit the American Dream.” I’m stealing that line. Thank you very much!

Name

By sheer internet happenstance I found this old blog of yours. It’s spectacularly written and voices a lot of the (sadly) accurate observations of modern western society. The world is too dependent upon the little worlds we construct around ourselves, never venturing outside because they are comfortable little worlds and the great big one has a tendency to be nasty. The news never really captures the different kinds of goodness and wonder growing wherever it can.
This article inspired me a little – or perhaps set a attune to the kind of wonder I had been ignoring – to see a little more of what goes on in the mindsets of other cultures so very different from my own. It’s not much; when I think travel I think expenses and risks and having no money and no prospects isn’t a very good start. But it’s a start. And that’s something.
There is NO WAY what you do is running away. People like you are the only ones moving at all. ?

You inspire me man.. Your article completely replicates “my idea of life”.. :-)
Totally Awesome!!

Sean S

Matt, I just came across your blog. Think I heard about you from Thrilling Heroic couple weeks ago.

I was laughin to myself when I saw this post because I just announced to family and friends that I’m hitting the road in Jan 2012 for a 1yr+ trip around the world and my family said they same exact thing “What are you running away from?” I laughed as they asked that b/c to me it’s soooo obvious that I am running away, I am running away from the same city, the same streets, the same peeps, the same food, the same routine, the same story… Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and friends dearly, and if I miss them or this place I can always come back. BUT there is an entire world out there and I’m not about to let this life go by without seeing it, feeling it, tasting it, touching it!!! If I want to come back, I can whenever I want….

I’ll be launchin a blog soon specifically to document the trip, but I”ll also monetize it simply by sharing things with people that have worked for me through trial an error. Everybody wins and I get to do what I love. What could be better. Anyone can do this, that wants to. If you truly have the desire you can figure out a way…

Thanks Matt! I’ll see you on the road!

Sean

Running away… this term seems to signify cowardice or fleeing danger. You run away from a mad elephant or a god damned tsunami. Running away from 60 hours a week in the office? Something else is up!

Cowardice has nothing to do with extended travel. Hell, it takes a balls to constantly sell everything you have and move to an unknown place with no plan of return.

“If I’m free its because I’m always running.” I don’t know who said that but I LIKE IT!

Just tell people your running! I’m not interested in running away, im interested in running bru! (please excuse the Kiwi slang. I’m in New Zealand now.)

Thanks for the post! I’m a big fan!

Wheeee,
Ian

I love this! I am in Africa trying to do some development work and know exactly what you are saying !

sam

“And to all those people who say that, I say to you – you’re right. Completely right. I am running away. I am trying to avoid life — I’m avoiding your life. I’m running away from your idea of the “real” world. Because, really, I am running toward everything – toward the world, exotic places, new people, different cultures, and my own idea of freedom”

that is the greatest thing i have ever heard

Lainey

Wow, I loved reading this, thanks! I am a fellow nomad. I have been presented with the same question of running away and when I explain that I am running to…that I want to see everything I can, I rarely find those on the same page. Traveling has also provided me with opportunities to grow, really jump out of my comfort zones and at times, find out what’s buried deep inside. I love these explorations! Rock on…so glad to see so many fellow explorers.

Ken B.

I love this article. I plan to start my new nomad life tomorrow. I have a travel schedule planned out but have not told my family or friends yet. I will be keeping my facebook and cell phone for them to keep in touch but I feel like if I had told them sooner, they would try to stop me because they don’t understand. I want an adventurous life, not a boring desk job life. I have this drive in my heart that makes me yearn for mountains, deserts, new oceans, forests and all new cultures that are at present unknown to me. I plan on writing a novel about my travels around the world and starting a life I can look on in wonder and awe. I can’t wait! Here’s to all of you fellow nomads and to giving up the material things that everyone covets and that I now have very little if any need for.

If it’s running away then i wouldn’t mind running away for a while;) It sounds like a great way to enjoy life;)

A nicely put blog, great read! i feel that people treat travel like a once in a life time treat but if discovered can be a long term lifestyle choice. its just shutting out the people telling you otherwise and then 10 years along the line seeing what they think then. life passes and never comes back so use your time wisely on this planet.

NotConvinced

I’m not saying your “running away”, and I agree with the anti-establishment/expectation message. Your methodology seems week to me. The whole white picket fence, 2.5 children thing has been done to death. I am not and will not be a follower of the prescribed path but I can’t help but think you’re running away from the true issue here – everyone needs someplace to call home, someplace to make their own and to have a impact on something besides themselves. You may not think you are running but you are – from yourself.

It’s OK to runaway, especially in this economy. It’s tough to compete as the best ideas and best companies have their pick of the best people now.

There’s no coincidence the nomadic lifestyle has taken off after the 2008 recession. Life is tough! The best is if you can enjoy a great career or start-up and take 2 months off a year. That’s great balance.

Enjoy your journey!

Sam

MSF

Very inspirational and true words Matt. I like it that you dont mince your words,you say it as it is, and how you feel.

Here is an interesting and true story. When I was eighteen, my friend and I decided to travel to france. I had a car and was to drive. We saved and planned and as time drew closer I became more excited. Then my friend became strangely quite on the matter. When I discussed it with her she told me that on hearing her travel plans, her parents had offered to buy her a puppy if she didn’t go travelling! She chose the puppy!! Needless to say I was confused and disappointed. I didn’t go either as it knocked my confidence.

I never lost the urge to travel and a few years later announced to my family that I was going in a few days time. People were shocked and worried. I’ve been a few times since and people react in interesting ways, some with jealousy. Why? Is it because it challenges their own boundaries?

Yolanda

I have enjoyed reading your blog for quite a few months now. I don’t read it frequently, but when I do it refreshes my mind on why I continue traveling.
Last year, I did “ran away” on my own on a trip to Rome. It seemed that I needed to be away to find my place in myself and I found it. Once I came back, I knew the life I was leading wasn’t uplifting enough.
This year, I took my two children to London, Paris and Rome in the hopes to open their eyes to something more. I know they would make their own decisions with their own lives one day, and I’m glad they were able to experience the enthusiasm and the passion I’ve encountered in my travels.
Continue having the time of your life in your travels…

Whether you’re running away from something or towards something what it boils down to is the pursuit of happiness. One of the questions someone I asked me on my travels that really stumped me was “What’s the point?”. There is no guarantee that traveling the world, marrying your high school sweetheart or being rich will make you happy. The joy is in the pursuit, the process, the removal of regret and the hope that the outcome will lead to joy.

Imagine you could do everything you ever wanted to?
Really think about it… Now what?

Bex

I’ve just stumbled across your blog and this post is brilliant. I love it when people think outside the norm, or maybe I mean I love the people that have found their own brain! I packed up the clockwork life style and sold nearly everything I owned and now I’m living a very different life in Italy – at least that’s the country of choice for now. One thing I have discovered though is that the path I have chosen in life isn’t taken by many people, and therefore I’m not understood by many, and at times feel like an outcast and a bit lonely. But when I find blogs like yours, and I meet those rare indviduals who choose to live their life their way, I feel so inspired again. You’re like a little comfort blanket! Grazie.

This definitely appears to be a topic that generates different views and discussion which reflects the thought provoking nature of this post. I believe the purpose of life is to attain happiness. Life is also about choices. If one achieves happiness with a nomadic lifestyle then a good choice was made. Maybe some people will choose that lifestyle and go down that road and not be happy. Also, my experience has been that people sometimes criticize things/people/lifestyles of which they are envious. Maybe there is some element of that as well.

Wandering crouton

My husband & I, 47 & 53 respectively, were made redundant 2 years ago from ‘respectable’ careers in the UK civil service. He thought I was mad when I suggested that we let the house and go travelling around the world….but I was very determined….
Our daughters had both left home 9 months later, so after some house renovation to make it lettable, we bought RTW tickets and haven’t looked back since. I am writing this in New Zealand whilst planning the next leg of the trip to South East Asia.
Husband still has some work ethic Calvinistic pangs occasionally, but when I point out the alternative; being employed by box-ticking mindless bureaucrats, staring at a wall, to service a mortgage? And would we even get jobs now? Sure it is sometimes tough ‘on the road’, especially when money is tight, but how much more of life one experiences! We have already seen & done so much, and met so many interesting people.
Travel broadens you, and YOU ARE NEVER TOO OLD! I plan to carry on until they carry me off.

Jay Kane

I’ve heard this once or twice myself. Don’t mind the naysayers and live your life. I personally enjoy renting vacation homes through sites like HereStay.com over stayin in hotels or hostels, just so I can experience the locale just like a local would.

Lulu

my dream. i need to escape from the beginning of my conventional life before society sucks me in. only 16 but waiting for the exact right time. great article, inspired me even more. love x

Mark

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”
— Saint Augustine

I believe you travel for the sake of living life to the fullest.

Though, I suppose we cannot stereotype all travelers as either living or escaping. I also believe you can do both simultaneously. There is always the possibility that someone travels to escape from their problems, such as running away from debt or relationship problems. I know because I have met some on my journeys.

Good article.

kiwi888

People, in all their condescending arrogance, can’t handle anything too different. I’d love a monolithic dome house, not a square one. I like alternative schooling and learning methods instead of brick & mortar. That gets me plenty of unwanted advice and derision, esp from people who claim to love me most!

I notice my fellow Americans have big brains in their big heads, yet have the smallest minds. If you do things they wouldn’t do, something must be wrong with you. They believe their religion is the right one. Their habits are the normal ones. Seriously, when I was a kid, I thought I’d grow up and small minded people would magically be gone (die off). But people pass on their numbskull ideas to offspring, unfortunately. It’s hard to be surrounded by zombies. But keep doin’ what you’re doin’ and you eventually find like minded people! As a single mom with two boys (one severely disabled), I’m just now finding my way to my real self…..and it feels good.

G’day

Lauren

Matt,

I was directed to this website by my fiance who just informed me that he wants to drop everything and travel for at least a year. We are supposed to get married in four months and he just dropped this bomb on me.

I really see what you are saying, and I do see the allure of the lifestyle. But what about for people like me who aren’t particularly good writers or candid bloggers? How could I possibly feed myself if I were to lead a nomadic lifestyle? And most importantly, how do I get past the fact that it really does feel like he is running away from me? He informed me he is going with or without me. Can you defend his sudden urge to become a nomad at this time, or do you think that he is running away from me?

NomadicMatt

I used my savings to fund my first trip around the world.

As for the other part, I can’t speak to his feelings.

Great post and great writing! I ran away 17 months ago. I always admitted that I was running away. I never denied myself that. I just couldn’t stand the reality of my life anymore and running away brought me the peace, happiness and contentment I was craving. If running away is what it is, then I am a better person for doing it. I embrace it and will beg, borrow and deal to continue.

Good luck and happy travels!

Hey Man,

What you do is LIVING! Most people don’t even know what that is, they simply exist and there is a huge difference. I personally think God created us because before us there was nobody to appreciate what he made. We were put here to see it all!

Running away? In my opinion is running free, a person should do what his heart desires, not running away would be a betrayal to your own self

wow. that was my thought magnified, running away is just a sweeter term for wandering :)

Jp

Matt,

I am a 23 y/o college student studying Computer Engineering, I must say that this article has opened my eyes. Ever since I finished high school I have been working on and off random jobs and have already switched college programs 2 times (Computer is now 3rd) due to the total lack of interest and was only doing it in the first place because every one I know is sort of doing their own thing with work and university. As soon as I ran across your blog while looking up backpacking, I was completely glued to it and was amazed at how a lot of people can get up the courage to leave everything they know and just with their trusty backpack set forth and explore the world. I might not be the smartest or the bravest guy out there but hell I know that I can do this (going backpacking for a really loong time) and not regret this decision, because I know this is what I really wanted to do for awhile now but I have just been denying it. Anyway thanks for sharing a lot of information about backpacking and everything in between that we need to know. I might leave in a few months once I finish planning everything. Wish me luck!

NomadicMatt

I wish you nothing but the best of luck!

DEK

I was a grown-up for a long time, but I was never much good at it. The only job I ever liked was done away with; wife died; cats died; sold my house into an insanely overpriced market and became someone I read about in a book. Or maybe saw in a movie. Works for me, though I would hesitate to recommend it to anyone else.

Glad to hear that you are happy.

Best wishes,

Melody-Anne

People say this to me all the time and I am glad you wrote about it! Especially when I went to live in Argentina for 3 months. What I found, though, that I was the conservative one, with many people staying 6 months to becoming expats! Now, I am finding out how I can travel for longer this next time. I have learned so much about myself and the world on all of my adventures. I say, the people saying we are running away are just jealous and do not have the guts that we do to walk towards the unexpected!

PS: I just found this blog today and definitely will be following it! Thanks and happy adventures!

Paul

Very inspirational, and I agree that fear holds us back from doing so much. I have been planning my 3-month trip for months now and to be honest I have had some worries. This article really gave me a boost, thanks and wish me luck.

NomadicMatt

I’m glad i could help push you a little bit closer to getting out the door! Best of luck!

When I was 26 (about 5 years ago) I bought a sailboat. My brother, living the life of convention (happy and successful as a doctor; to each their own) reacted to my purchase with the following: “Laura, you can’t just buy a boat and sail off into the sunset. That’s something people do when they’re old and retired.”

I bought my sailboat from a widow. Her husband had said for 4 years running, “This year is going to be the year. I’m going to get her ship-shape, and we’ll sail to the Bahamas this winter.” The years came and went, and one Spring, when he finally retired and began making ready for the journey of a lifetime, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. He was dead by September.

We can’t sit and wait for the ‘green light’ from friends/family/society in order to live out our lives how we see fit. I left Canada the following year, and am still in the tropics with my sailboat, loving life. Not rich or working towards a stable career or retirement fund, but loving life.

My wife and I have recently decided that we are going to pull the plug on our quiet domestic life and indulge our love of travel full time. Whenever we mention our plans we get an eyeroll or two from someone in the crowd. One thing I know for sure is that when I’m on my deathbed I’m not going to be thinking, “Boy, I’m sure glad I worked 9-5 all my life and had a comfortable retirement.”

Wow! Those are some powerful words but you know what? I couldn’t have said it better myself. It seems to me like the full-time traveler (the form that lives life on the road) is a very…VERY small portion of todays society. Too bad there weren’t more of us willing to step out of our comfort zones and experience life from a different perspective. Thanks for the inspiring words. :-)

I’m feeling this. I always get asked when are you going to settle down? i love your responses. i have said things of that nature though out the last 5 or 6 years but just not as well written. follow the what you want in life and if you want a house and 2.5 kids go for it but don’t be expecting everyone will want that.

I do remember a great quote, “all that s#@t they feed us in the movies and greeting cards is just propaganda to get us to marry, have kids and keep the economy going.
Marriage is just the keystone to economics.”
Becky; Clerks II

Great Movie by the way. Bring it down to a very low level i know. Being marred stay in the country and having babies does grow the local economy. So this has been the life that has had glamorization for a very long time. there use to no be boarders and more people roamed and more freely. In today’s world it’s seen as strange.

Blimey. A friend just emailed me this piece. You’ve hit upon many of the themes I’ve been fumbling around with absolute precision.

Though, that said, I like to think of travel as just running. Running for the sake of running and for no other reason than running makes you feel good. I’ll stretch that metaphor. If, similarly, your life isn’t making you feel good, if the office and the DIY store aren’t floating your boat these days, then maybe its time that you ran too.

I totally identify with this! I spent 3 years in Cairo for college and a summer in Jerusalem during grad school (Manhattan). When I first wanted to move overseas, my parents asked me if I was running away from something. I told them yes, and then I went and found myself!

NomadicMatt

Beautiful!

That’s what people in my life say… I’m running away from my problems, people, and especially COMMITMENT and RESPONSIBILITY. I wonder sometimes if they’re right or not. Maybe I am running a way. But the way I see it… I’m not running away from problems, people, commitment. In fact, I’m looking for different problems, challenges, people, commitment, and responsibilities. And honestly, that’s how you learn. In my opinion, at least.

Kristof Geldhof

When I was 22 I quit my engineering job already after 6 months to do what I had dreamt of: a one-year solo bike trip through New-Zealand, Australia and South-East Asia. After a few weeks I got hooked to the nomad life of wandering and experiencing new events and people every day. However, things changed after an encounter in Indonesia. Resting along a road in West Timor, I met a young guy who impressed me by his cleverness. He had tought himself english, math and physics by means of textbooks only. His dream was to be an engineer like I was, but his family had no money to pay for the studies so he worked at his father’s farm. He would never be able to realize his aspirations. This struck me very heavily and it meant a turning point for me: two months later I ended my life on the road and returned home. I have now been working as an engineer for more than 10 years. I have never felt the urge again to go travelling for many months, even though that single year was one of the greatest years of my life. What brings happiness for me is family, friends I can rely on and doing a job in which I feel I contribute something to society.

Well said, Matt! I’ve also been accused of running away by my father. Heck yeah, normal life is worthy of running from. Whenever I visit “home” I notice that everyone has gained weight since the last time I saw them, and their postures are hunched over from spending their lives in front of the office computer. They all tell me how great I look, how much my Spanish has improved, how jealous they are of my adventures. Different people find different life-styles fulfilling, but an unfulfilling one means you should run away.

Actually every single person who doesn’t travel said this to me. But I think it is them doing something wrong and not having the guts to ”run away”… to the better ;)

NomadicMatt

This is a timeless post. It will never get old.

In holland we have a program called “3opreis”. It is a travel program. 3 people are travelling around the world to let us watchers see how beautiful the world is. I am glad there are people like them who are not afraid to explore. I don’t think it’s running away at all. It is the urge to find out if there is more to this life then just your own surroundings.

Great blogg!!

Truly inspiring. Makes me want to take the next flight to somewhere warm and foreign. Thanks for the inspiration!

Stephanie

Wow, Matt!
I have no idea if you’ll even read this response as I see the article was posted 2.5 years ago, but I need to know that I have expressed my thanks from this awesome article!
I am a young, religious 19 year old girl from Canada who absolutely loves to travel. Due to religious reasons I am not able to travel the world the way I would like to, but I do not feel this as a hindrance in any way. (We have strict modesty rules – and I mean that more as privileges, not rules – and I cannot eat the food of others.) I am proud of my religion and heritage and not only due I keep to its strict laws, but I do so with pride and I spread that knowledge to others. I actually took this year off to go do outreach work ie. teach about my religion in Russia! I was a volunteer counsellor in a religious camp here for 2 years, got completely addicted and came for the year. In our crowds we are brought up relatively sheltered (a good thing :-) go to high school, do one year of a religious secondary school and are expected to marry young. For the most part, we don’t go to university, though there are several girls only college options. To begin with, I think outside of the box, I like to consider myself a thinker and I don’t do things just because it’s what everyone else is doing. I enjoy business and started a retail store in 10th grade featuring modest teen apparel for those in my community as a hobby. I am currently studying real estate investing by correspondence as I do not want to commit myself to a 9-5 job. I do not live nor do I plan on living a nomadic life, yet I still feel really passionate about this. My summer plans so far include a tour to Poland and a tour to Morocco, Portugal and Gibralter with the people of my nation. As I mentioned, I’m volunteering this year, so not much money coming in, but this is important enough to me to make it work – I still don’t know how, but it’s something I’m thinking about on a constant basis. So, unlike most travel junkies, I do plan on getting married and settling down – still at a relatively young age – but I hope to do things my way. (I’m definitely keeping my fingers crossed for a husband who loves traveling as much as I do.) And like most other travellers, I’ve gotten the, “You have to settle down. You may not realize it, but you’re running away from something…” speech. As most teens nowadays, I definitely can point to x, y and z and say “that’s what I’m running away from”, but I’m not. These are things I’m aware of and dealing with and my travels are actually about exploring and learning and discovering. I see it from a religious perspective – there is a proverb that says “the entire world was created for me”. G-d created and gave us such a wonderful gift – this world has so much to offer us – in respect to nature, wonders of the world, art, cultures, heritage, differences among people – and yet there’s a connectivity… how can I leave it undiscovered? I could basically paraphrase the whole article up there, but I’ll leave it well said. Thank you for an amazing article I can forward to family and friends!
Stephanie

I came across your blog via “How to Make My Blog” where an interview of you is being published. I am really impressed by you and just like you, I want to travel a lot and live life to the fullest. That has long been my dream and hopefully, it will not just remain a dream. I am still currently trapped in the rat race and I want to live a life I wanted for myself and embrace true freedom, be able to learn other cultures. Good luck and continue to inspire us.

Desanimado

Read it with tears in my eyes – you’re soooo right ….

Carol

I totally agree with you. I get that all the time, just because I’ve been traveling for a while. People are constantly telling me, I lead an unstable life.. yet, when I look around me everyone seems to be on prozac and I am the one unstable?? I am semi-nomadic now, but I don’t think the travel bug will leave me anytime soon. Keep the blog, its really interesting!

I haven’t even left yet, but I’m getting similar responses to heading out on a solo long-term travel experience. I think that what you’re doing is awesome and this living “outside the box” might even be more difficult in some ways than leading the conventional lifestyle! Especially when you have to motivate yourself to write about your travels (but I guess it could come easily if you really enjoy what you’re doing–and it seems like you do). Kudos to those living their dreams, even if it doesn’t fit in with everyone’s expectations!

I quite enjoyed reading this, especially since so many think –under their breath– that I too am running away. Alas, I am not. I’m running to something, if anything at all.

Every time I get ready or get back from a trip, I’m continuously shoved into this box – the box that society things I’m supposed to fit in. The most recent comment came while having dinner with my sister – I’ve spent a lot of time traveling already (I’m only 22), but have plans to do a RTW trip in the next few years. Despite knowing this, she made a couple comments about ‘settling down’ (finding an apartment and “putting down roots”) and once I do that, it’ll be easier to date (we were having typical girl talk).

Sure, there are times when I think desiring a more simple lifestyle would be easier. Society is built around the notion of being inside the box, so when you’re outside of it, scaring other people comes naturally :) But who wants to spend their entire lives wondering what the world is like when it’s truly at their fingertips? There’s nothing better than living the real thing than just thinking about it and wishing you had the chance.

Wow, it’s exactly 2 weeks before I head off for my first real trip. 2 months away, 2 weeks with family (first and last weeks) and the rest with someone I’ve never met, a friend, or a school that I found online. I’ve booked all the plane tickets and all the money for the school program… but I keep putting off my return home plane ticket. I just don’t want to say, okay this day I’m coming home… I don’t want to stop traveling. Unfortunately I have a year left of school which a lot of money has gone into for me not to finish. But I just know I will be dragging my feet when I get on that plane ride home. I’ve been exploring your site and love so many posts! I wish I could have a nomadic lifestyle, but I just don’t have the money – really. But one day, I will be nomadic! Thanks for the post!

I think it’s good to run towards the direction of our dreams! Fulfill your dream like it’s nobody else’s business, because that’s the truth.

Great article.Thanks for sharing.

Sigh! So good to read this. So good to know I’m not alone in this viewpoint…

Lol Matt, another great post! I agree with you, I am trying to live your life but just taking baby steps for the moment. I wish more of us had the courage to do what you do, then we would discover how truly magnificent life can be!

Viktorija Samarinaite

I love you for the opportunity to read the same thoughts I have in my mind.
All in all, running is not good at all. Even as a sport.

All Good Things Are Wild And Free – Thoreau

Heba

HEY MATT,I READ YOUR INTERVIEW WITH HEATHER POOLE ….LOVED YOUR INTERVIEW SKILLS LOL…I JUST SIGNED UP FOR YOUR SITE….I’M A WANNABE FLIGHT ATTENDANT AND I LOVE THE IDEA OF TRAVELLING WHENEVER YOU WANT TO(JUST LIKE WHAT YOU DO) BUT OFCOURSE WITH GOOD PLANNING…GOD BLESS YOU…TAKE CARE..PEACE AND BLESSINGS…HEBA.

Beth

This blog has just saved me. Thank you, that’s all I can say x

Gregory

Nice article, and agree, I have been living abroad for 10 years, and the people back home have mixed feelings about this. Some say “amazing” other say “running”, all in all people are different, some look to be normal, fit in and simple, others just want different things. Conformity is not always the answer, and people have to follow their dreams.

A friend told me 10 years ago that when he was old he wanted to have stories to tell, have the grandkids all around talking about their amazing grandfather. He did not want the only story to be his cubicle. Thats it for me, the grandkids are going to be talking about me long after I am gone :)

Good post

Dunno which one might be seen as “worse”…going around the world to experience new places and cultures or sitting all day in front of a telly watching where others have gone

Well said Matt!

I couldn’t agree more. For many of us travelers, we are simply experiencing life…there is definitely way more to life than to just stay at home behind the television, or even worse stuck at work behind a cubicle!

I have been away from my home in Canada and have been living in Asia for the past 6.5 years..the amount of new things I have learned is priceless!

All the nay sayers just got to learn push their boundaries and get of of their comfort zones!

Katie

L.O.V.E this! You are my new hero.

I want to quit my job right now.

Amen! Thank you for such an inspiring piece. I’ve had so many wonderful visitors come see while I’ve been abroad in Europe (have been here 5 years now and have been able to travel all over), but one of them – an acquaintance, really – indeed proceeded to rub in my face (for the next 10 days) that I was “running away”, that I was only “pretending to be happy” (whaaat??), that Spain was “boring” (whaaat??), and why wouldn’t I just come home? Of course, this was a person who was born and raised in L.A. (as was I), but that never left the world outside L.A. to explore the world other than the occasional resort holiday to Mexico or Hawaii (nothing wrong with resorts, but it’s definitely not any sort of cultural immersion, and you pretty much have all the comforts from home and more). And of course, my parents are always the first ones to get disappointed when I don’t head home…

Anyway, at the moment, my husband and I are at a crossroads where we have enough saved up, despite the heavy financial crisis in Spain, to either a) head to the States, which is nice because all of my family and friends are there, but it’s not the lifestyle we have in mind, or b) head in the opposite direction, even further away from family and friends, but might perhaps be exactly what we’re looking for at this moment in time.

*sigh* I can only hope that we’ll have enough strength and balls to go through with what’s best for us, whatever that may be. Even if it involves family members probably wanting to disown us for… “running away”.

Darrel

I agree with everything you wrote! However I am the exact opposite. People find me strange because I don’t want to leave my house or explore the world. People get frustrated with me for having my roots so buried deep into the soil that my movements are mere bending in the wind, rather than breaking to it. They demand I must explore the world, or else I’ll forever be a child. But I digress. All the fantasies I could ever wish to explore within are always with me at all times — they exist inside my mind. Images of other countries with their gently rolling grass and bright blue skies can be seen without my eyes. Cultures can be read through books and blogs of citizens who participate in them. Even cultures that do not exist can be visited and brought to life.

I honor your desire to see the world. We live on a gorgeous planet. And I completely understand the restraints that society tries to shackle us with.

I don’t enjoy traveling because there are too many unknowns. Too many unknowns that are uncomfortable. I would love to see all of the different wildlife and plant life Earth has to offer us. All of the interesting people, with their unique personalities and rituals. But there are so many things keeping me from wishing to visit them physically — bacteria and viruses, dangerous animals, dangerous plants, potential accidents (either by car or by plane), confusion between cultures which could result in harm, or getting sick from the unfamiliar food. Too much worry would prevent me from enjoying the pleasures of my surrounding environment.

But that’s okay! I experience freedom through my imagination. Life is short; we should enjoy it however it is most comfortable for us.

I actually do feel like I’m running away… from a boring life!