Why There is No Right Answer

By Nomadic Matt | Published April 24th, 2014

no perfect answerIn travel, everything depends on your individual needs and desires. What travel credit card should you sign up for? Depends on your goals. Should you buy a rail pass? Depends on how you travel. Backpack or carry on? Maybe.

There is no “right” answer in travel.

Beginner travelers always seem to be looking for the right answer. Should they do X or Y? What’s the solution to their problem?

My answer is always “it depends,” because there are no universal right answers in travel.

Websites like this can provide you with all the practical information in the world so you can weigh the pros and cons, but the final decision rests with you.

The right way to travel is the way that works for you.

Recently, I was in San Francisco, hosting a reader meet-up, when I was asked a question about European rail passes. I could see the frustration in the guy’s face when I replied, “it depends.” He wanted a simple answer. I wanted to give him one — but there was none to give.

I told him the same thing – don’t go looking for the perfect answer or get frustrated when you can’t find it. Travel just doesn’t work that way.

We all want the easy, cookie cutter answer, especially when we are new to travel and don’t have a frame of reference. It makes planning easier when you have answers to go by and guidelines to follow.

No two people see the same city, waterfall, experience, or country the same way. We all have our own preferences. We all want to do different things and travel a certain way. We have different ideas on what “budget” means, or when is too early or late to book a plane, hostel, or train.

What I love, you might not (and vice versa). To me, my job is to relay my experience as fairly and balanced as I can. It’s to explain the how of travel so you can decide what will make your trip cheaper and longer.

I’ve led you to the river and taught you about the fish, now you must decide which one to catch.

At the end of the day, there is no perfect destination, no one sight you shouldn’t miss, no place you must go.

I know travel can be frustrating and overwhelming. I know planning it can be mind numbing. I know all the information on the Internet can overload your mind. We want simple answers so we can move on and relax.

But there are no simple answers and no right way to travel, and if you look for them, you’ll drive yourself mad.

Take a deep breath.

Relax.

Use the information you find to evaluate the pros and cons of what you want.

Choose the option you’re most comfortable with.

If you make a mistake or find out something didn’t work, don’t beat yourself up over it. I make mistakes all the time. You learn from them for your next trip.

Everyone travels differently. What works for another person won’t necessarily work for you. Smart travelers use all the information they have at the time to make the best decision they can.

Use the information you find here, over the web, or in guidebooks to make the best decision for you.

But don’t look for the perfect answer.

Your journey is your own – there’s no right or wrong way to do it.

When you realize that, planning your adventure becomes a lot easier and a lot more fun.

comments 25 Comments

Another great post, Matt. Thanks for sharing.

It’s something I have to constantly remind myself of when I meet travellers heading to or coming from destinations I plan on visiting. Someone might say the temples of Bagan in Myanmar aren’t worth seeing, while another might rank it as their greatest travel experience. Like you said, neither are right or wrong. What one might see in something will always be slightly different to the next person. Just because I stay in the cheapest accommodation in town regardless of cleanliness and functioning plumbing doesn’t mean everyone who backpacks should feel comfortable doing the same. And like you have mentioned in earlier posts, there is no one correct way to travel. Each to their own.

Todd Smith

Really, what useful information did this article provide? What purpose, besides providing links to his other articles, did it serve? This is just endless blathering that could have been summed up in one sentence: “Travel is personal.” Shocking what passes for a blog these days.

Rodolfo

Rough day in the office, eh?

Todd Smith

Would you like to refute anything I said? Or are satisfied posting a pathetic joke in response?

Meg

Actually, if you read a lot of travel blogs – there’s quite a bit that preach about only doing things a certain way. For example, I check my luggage when I travel overseas and there are a lot of people that are horrified by that and have told me flat out it’s wrong. For me though, it works. I have my reasons. It’s actually nice to read someone say “hey if you don’t do it my way or their way, it’s okay if it works for you!”

I actually really appreciated this. I’m someone who gets so wrapped up in researching & choosing the best possible option that I drive myself crazy. It’s nice to be assured that there is no perfect option – I’m not somehow missing it. Mistakes are just something to learn from.

NomadicMatt

Other people have found this article helpful. Not every article on this site will be relevant to every person but I appreciate you taking the time out to read and comment!

Stephanie

Actually, I found this article really reassuring with where I am at right now. I am planning two trips: a short foray into the Amazon jungle and a long term move overseas to TEFL. And this article provided me with the best piece of advice I need: stop looking for other people’s advice and focus on having my OWN experiences.

Especially with my imminent Amazon experience (I leave in 3 days), I feel really overwhelmed with all the information that’s available. I was panicking when I found one packing list that said pack this and another that said pack that. So while there might not be any concrete facts in this post, rest assured that to some of us who are still testing the waters of travel it is very comforting to read it and know that we are not alone in our worries and yes- everything will work out fine.

NomadicMatt

I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It will all work out fine. Take a deep breath and enjoy your trip! Send photos!

Meg

This is what I love about your site Matt! People get so hung up on the right way to do things when it comes to travel they never consider the fact that “Your Mileage May Vary”. It’s going to depend on your personal preferences, how you approach things, and so many other factors. Thanks for writing this, is a good reminder to have.

Jen M.

I absolutely agree. I try to explain this to people when they ask me about places I visited or did not visit in a certain country or when they ask me for recommendations of things to do and see. For example, I’m going to Panama next week and everyone keeps asking me if I’m going to see the canal. I get a lot of surprised answers and “oh, you have to’s” when I tell people I don’t have any specific plans to see it. If I happen to pass by or visit something else that’s right there, then I’ll see it. But if not, that’s fine with me as well. I have just a few days and really don’t care about seeing a canal just because of it’s name. I’ve seen plenty of canals before. But for many other people, their trip to Panama would be incomplete without a visit to the canal.

NomadicMatt

As someone who has been to the canal, you didn’t miss much. Unless you are sailing through it, the tourist/museum area isn’t anything special if you aren’t into canals.

I agree. The important part is that people simply get out there and travel and your website certainly inspires people to do that. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Happy travels :)

I like getting advice on places to see or things to eat, but I know I can’t always rely on that. I remember asking about a new backpack before my current journey, and everyone just said, “Go to REI and try them out.” I didn’t get what I really wanted, but I got what was comfortable and in my price range.

NomadicMatt

REI is great but if you didn’t like them, why did you buy from them? Did you try EMS?

I know in the UK – making a mistake with your travel arrangements can cost what you can’t afford to lose, in time and money but I think you’re right – you do have to think about it a bit differently and relax into it.
I love long term travel and the feel of being constantly on the move, without having to take my house with me – I feel like a tortoise when in the UK sometimes with it all on my back.

I recognise this as part of my freedom but its not always possible. So I learn to embrace those small moments I experience when I connect with it fully. I’ve learnt that I can do this quickly when I scuba dive – when I keep mobile rather than stay in one place, spend time close to or in water with mountains close by. Getting to know what you like and what you enjoy can make the work of sorting out your travels a lot easier but of course, it takes time!

You are correct. Travel is always personal. Ten people may visit a place and come back with ten different stories of the place! Another problem with many travellers is impatience to do homework and expecting a ready made recipe for their trips! Since, travel is personal, experiences are personal too. That’s how it should be.

So true! Every trip is different, but who you choose to travel with can make or break a trip. That’s why have a lot of travel related convos with friends and family to get an idea of how they travel before EVER plan a trip with them. People have different ideas of fun, of budgets, of how to get around, of adventure to relaxation ratio. So important to discuss these things with your travel buddies.

I agree completely. No two people are ever going to agree 100% on certain ways to do things when it comes to anything in the world. That’s what makes living so interesting. If we all did the same things and liked the same things the world would be a very boring place.

Great lesson, and SO true. Perfect example: I land in Hanoi the night before Tet begins. I need to exchange some Lao Kip for Dong. I go to the counter and am told “You can’t exchange currency anywhere in the airport because it’s Tet.” If I had been told that as a beginning traveler, I would’ve freaked out. Instead, I walked across the airport to another counter. When I asked the woman at the second counter to exchange my money, she didn’t bat an eyelash and exchanged it right away.

So is there a right and wrong answer? One person said no, another said yes. It just depends. (:

Anthony

Thanks Matt.

I’ve recently purchased a rail pass, and instead of stressing myself out on whether I have made the right choice or not, I am going to enjoy the train experience and learn from it. Travelling is all about learning.

NomadicMatt

Rail passes are worth the coset! Don’t worry!

LauraC

A nice read, thank you. I think people do get hung up on the ‘must see’s and do’s’ when visiting anywhere and I think we all need reassuring at some point to go with what we want and what we like and that thats OK! :-)

‘Really good article Matt. I quite agree. People get so high-strung and think they’re missing out if they don’t get THE answer. Apparantly, it’s called FOMO I think: fear of missing out. Which to be quite honest, is a little silly! Each person is an individual and one man’s meat is another man’s poison and all that.

Recently, I answered a question on a bloggers’ website: a young American lady had been asking where to go in Europe as it was her first vist and almost everyone told her to avoid Western Europe as it was expensive and full of tourists! My comment was that if it was her dream to visit Paris, Rome, and all the great European cities, she should go ahead and do so and not worry about cost and crowds. It’s her dream and not theirs.

Thanks for sharing Matt.

NomadicMatt

Ha! Well, thank you!

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