How to Deal with Unsupportive Friends and Family

being sad because your friends and family don't support youWhen I first started to travel long-term, people asked me what I was running away from, wondered why I wanted to be gone so long, and would mostly tell me I was crazy or weird.

Suffice it to say, I didn’t get a lot of encouragement and support in the beginning.

Sometimes your friends and family, the people you want most to be supportive of your trip, aren’t as enthusiastic as you’d like them to be. They don’t understand and try to talk you out of going. It can be deflating and saddening. You’re so excited about this adventure and here they are, raining on your parade.

Many readers reach out to me about this topic frequently. I can feel the angst in their emails and the confusion at not knowing to how deal with the situation.

“How do I not let them get me down? What did you do? What do I say?”

As I sat down to write this article, I took a poll on Facebook and asked readers about their experiences. I was amazed by how much commonality there was among people’s situations and the reactions from their friends and family. Apparently, I’m not the only who faced such negativity, and, luckily, I’m also not the only who ignored it.

But it still sucks when your support system is so unsupportive. So below are some common criticisms future travelers hear and examples of how I’ve turned similar criticism around when I’ve been faced with it myself:

“The world is unsafe. You shouldn’t go.” – I hear this one a lot, not only from people via email, but also from people in my own life (especially my mom). News organizations paint the world to be a scary, scary place with criminals lurking around every corner. News shows love to highlight the dangers of life; as they say, “if it bleeds, it leads.” But crime happens everywhere. It occurs in NYC, London, Paris, Tokyo, Thailand, Turkey, Brazil, and every small town and medium city in between. You can walk out of your house and be mugged or hit by a bus. Just like you can travel the world and never have anything happen to you. There is no place in the world that is 100% safe. Once you put it into this perspective for people, it usually ends the subject.

“You are just running away.” – People seem to assume that if you are traveling long-term, you must be running away from something. When people say this to me, I tell them that yes, I am running away — from their version of life and to my version of life. Remind people that what they do in their life may make them happy, but that you have different goals — and this trip is what makes you happy right now. Most people will admit you have a point and drop the subject because, at the end of the day, we all want our friends to realize their dreams and be happy. True friends will let you go after yours and be supportive along the way.

“Why don’t you get a job?” – Let’s face facts: unless you suddenly strike it rich, you’ll be working until you’re dead. The notion of working until a certain age and then retiring is long gone in the modern economy. When people tell me that I should get a job, I respond that if I’m going to be working well into my old age, I’d rather spend my healthy years exploring the world instead of sitting in an office. There will always be time later to work. (Plus, nowadays, travel experience is often considered a plus by employers.)

“I wish I could do that. It must be nice to not have any responsibility.” – This is jealousy, pure and simple. I tell people, “You can travel too.” There’s nothing special about me and my decision. Once you take care of your bills and sell your stuff, you can set off on your own journey — even if you’re older than the average backpacker, or have kids. While there are always circumstances that really keep people from traveling, for the most part the only things holding anyone back are the restrictions they put on themselves. People of all ages and circumstances find ways to turn travel into a reality.

“It’s unsafe to travel alone.” – I typically respond to anyone who offers this argument by asking them why they believe this, and they will usually begin to spout stories they “learned” from the news about people who traveled alone and ended up in a bad situation. They might rattle off worst-case scenarios: “you could get sick, injured, robbed, or worse, and no one would be around to help.” That may be true, but if I went hiking in the woods by myself, the same thing could happen. Hell, I could fall in my apartment and no one might notice for days. As a solo traveler, you have to be a little more vigilant, but being alone in Paris or Thailand is like being alone everywhere else.

“It’s really unsafe to travel alone if you are a woman.” – Reports of women getting hurt or killed overseas are always played up by the media. “The world is scary. Don’t go out there alone. Evil men lurk behind bushes.” No more so than where you live right now. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s a list of solo female travel bloggers who can help dispel that myth for you:

Legal Nomads
Never Ending Footsteps
Katie Aune
Breath. Dream. Go.
Wanderlust and Lipstick

“Don’t you care about settling down and finding someone?” – The undertone of this question is that you won’t be happy if you don’t have someone. My response is typically that I will settle down when I find the right person to settle down with, and that person could be found anywhere in the world. I do want to find someone I’m crazy about, but I won’t settle for just anyone.

“Why would you want to go there?” – People ask this question with the undertone that by wanting to go to country X, you’re weird, as if certain places in the world are inconsequential and not worthy of exploration. My answer to this question is “because it exists.” Why should I limit myself? Why should you, either? I turn this around and say “Well, why do you always go to the gym? Because you want to, right? Same reason for me.”

There will always be haters. And while we can always tell ourselves “I don’t care what people think,” the truth is we do care what our friends and family have to say because we value their opinions. If a stranger tells me I am running away, I don’t care. But when all my friends do, I become discouraged that they don’t support my decision. And I get enough emails from readers to know that all that negativity does make would-be travelers question their decision to travel and wonder if they are making a mistake.

(You’re not!)

Use these responses to deflect their criticism and help them understand why you want to travel. And if they still remain unsupportive, there is a wonderful network of travelers all over the web who can act as your support system and source of encouragement.

Use us.

Read blogs.

Get involved with forums.

Keep dreaming.

Don’t let people get you down.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to take the alternative path and travel the world. Let them try to dissuade you. Let them call you crazy — but as Steve Jobs said, “the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

  1. This is awesome! I especially relate to the “I wish I could do that” response. Those people often also tell me that I am very lucky. But you make your own luck, and that’s what I did. I was broke and didn’t even wait until all my debts were taken care of before I hit the road. And now I don’t have a single regret.

    • Rational Matthew

      When I was younger I actually used to take out personal loans and go into debt in order to fund big trips. Ha ha, it’s funny to think about it now. But you do what you have to do. I’d pay it back over the following year, and always make sure it was paid back within 1 year.

    • I remember once saying ‘I wish I could do that,’ to a colleague who was quitting law to go RTW. ‘You can,’ was his natural reply and it gave me one of the best eureka moments of my life as I realised he was right. Within 12 months I had booked my own RTW trip. I’m no longer in contact with my ex-colleague but I’ll always be grateful for his simple and obvious words.

      • Kevin

        You should find him and tell him. :) I remember saying that to more than a few people several years ago before I left. It was odd how many times I found myself saying it.

  2. Ohhhh yeah, I can’t tell you how many of these comments we’ve heard over and over since we started full-time RV traveling six years ago. It takes a lot of courage to walk away from these unsupportive comments. In time, people will either get it or they won’t. But it’s YOUR life, not theirs so get on with it, get out and have fun!

  3. Very well summarized. The bottom line is that we live in a great time in history where we can see the whole world and experience for ourselves the reality of humanity, instead of reading about it in some homogenized ‘history’ book at school or the media in the Western world.
    You meet real people and realize others are not that different from you. Customs vary but the needs and desires are the same; safety, a roof over your head, a job where you can provide for yourself and your family without slaving away for an uncaring corporation, time with friends and an opportunity to be more than what the ‘masters’ decide you can be.
    Of course, not everyone you meet will have the same outlook or level of consciousness but overall, you will meet likeminded and interesting people.

  4. I’m about to make the switch to self-employment, and many of the things in this post have been said to me as well. Many people just think I am running away from my problems and that I need to keep my “real job.”

  5. As I moved on with my entrepreneurial journey, the comments used to bother me. Now I stick with the friends who are really supportive of my life and are interested in what I’m doing. It also helps to find some great communities online where you are certainly not alone. :)

  6. Well said Matt.

    I left my very steady job at 29, to travel solo for the first time, to Africa – so I’ve heard all of these!

    I guess the hardest one to deal with is the parents and them worrying for your safety. But once I actually made the leap (and got through the parents goodbye tears) I couldn’t believe I hadn’t done it sooner! And my folks were so proud.

    People will always have opinions, but we only have one life and should live it for ourselves.

    Great post!

  7. Liz

    When I moved overseas albeit temporarily, it seemed that friends were really supportive of me. Once it became a more permanent move, they showed less and less interest. Not everyone has the inclination to travel or move abroad and often times I think they have a hard time understanding why you would choose to go elsewhere and stay there. Many have expressed that in terms of “well, I could never afford that”, not realizing that actually life abroad can be cheaper than that at home.

    Your post is spot-on, I’ve definitely heard most of those responses myself.

  8. Well said Matt! I left my job in marketing when I was 24 and spent two years in Australia and a year in New Zealand – a lot of people at the marketing agency I was working at would tell me how lucky I was and that they wished they could just up and leave and go travelling. This really annoyed me as it felt like they assumed that a plane ticket and a visa had just fallen into my lap one day, which obviously wasn’t the case, I’d worked really hard to buy those things.

    Do you know what? Some people just have a different perspective on life – like you say, there’s always going to be people that don’t understand why I don’t want to find someone to marry from my hometown and get a mortgage and have kids and a white picket fence right now. That will come later once I’ve done some actual living! Life is too short!

  9. Maureen

    Don’t pick on the Moms. I have a daughter who decided to travel, she quit her job sold her car and off she went. When she first told me I was so mad, but mostly because I had no warning of the plans and how I was going to be without her. It has been several years now and I could not be prouder of my daughter, she goes out of her way to send photos and calls regularly. She is a kind, thoughtful well rounded young woman.
    To the young people who want to travel, go slow with your parents, assure them you are not leaving them, but will take them along with emails, photos and calls. Every parent just wants their kids to be happy and if travel is in their blood, travel is what makes them happy.

  10. I think that this is really great advice, Matt.

    And I also think that a few things are happening here, too:

    1. They are projecting their issues onto other people — which is what most people do. They judge experiences through their own priorities and a lot of people can’t understand people having a different order or even different ones. (Travel helps with expanding the mind in this way, though!)

    2. They are just worried and showing their love in a protective way. They just want the best for you and with all the information out there about playing it safe, it’s actually quite heartening to know that people are just looking out for you.

    3. You already touched on jealousy. I don’t understand why people feel like they need to bring other people down because THEY aren’t living the life they want. Be happy for your friends and let their success inspire you.

    I enjoyed all of your answers and it’s good to have a resource like this to turn to and to get reinforcement — which a lot of travelers need. It may be all the rage online, having a nomadic life, but it’s still kinda weird and misunderstood in the “real” world.

  11. So true. When word got out that I was quitting my job and travelling for a year with our kids people arrived at my desk asking why I would give up my career with this great company. Wasn’t I worried about the future? Wouldn’t I miss my company car? If I left now I would never get all those perks back again (according to them). These people weren’t even my close work friends – just those that thought they should give me ‘the talk’ and set me straight! We had the time of our lives travelling and once we got home it turns out I didn’t want that corporate job anymore anyway!

  12. Reading through your post and the comments, I see, like so many, all those negatives being driven to me on a regular basis. I have left my job to travel, move countries and just experience the world on a number of occasions…and each time, everyone has questioned me, my motives and most commonly, why am I running away. The crazy thing is, coming from those you love, it is so hurtful. I have struggled with this for some time. I am so glad that I did each and every one of those trips, and I will do more. I will come back and work until I can go again and do it over.

    I sometimes feel sad for those who launch these unsupportive comments my way…mostly because some of them wish they could do the same, but so strongly believe the comments that they are making. I do find the relationship part of the equation the hardest…I am weary of a romance on the road and the legitimacy of it, but perhaps that is where I will be more likely to find a kindred spirit! For so many people, travel completes them….wanderlust is in their souls and every cell of their body just as much as a runner feels the need to run or a cyclist to cycle!

    Life is too short to not be true to yourself. If wanderlust is so much a part of you, you are not being true to yourself by staying in the 9-5 to make someone else happy!

  13. I’m another one of those solo female travelers and I would agree it doesn’t have to be unsafe at all. I was lucky because my family and friends were pretty supportive of my travels and still are. They do wonder what I’ll eventually do once I’m done traveling. As it stands, I don’t feel like ever being done!

  14. If I had a dollar for every time I heard “You’re nuts!” before I left, I could have funded more of my trip! Seriously as a solo traveler I feel like people looked out for me even more.

  15. Inspiring post, Matt! I appreciate that you included your answers as examples. I get the, “I wish I could do that” statement a lot. But I am lucky in that my family and friends are really supportive. :)

  16. To all those “friends” who don’t support me in my travels, I just stop talking to them. Real friends support each other now matter how much they don’t agree or how jealous they are. As long as you’re not THAT person who talks about his/her travels constantly, there should be a good balance. A respectful balance.

  17. What a timely article. Good enough to send to some relatives (even if I’ve already done my fair share of world traveling). Granted, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity of roaming the world WHILE keeping a job (thank you Internet!) and that consequently has made everything much easier. However, if you can save enough for a new car (or even half of it), you certainly can gather enough to do the travel of your dreams.

    As for dealing with jealousy, well, I usually answer back that we all get to make decisions in life. I have made mine and they have made theirs. That usually ends the discussion :)

  18. i certainly got the same “you’re crazy!” from so many people when i left. but it has been 3 years now and all those people in my life have come around to understand that this IS what i want to do, not something i’m doing while i figure it out, or some escape pod from responsibility. even my mom who was the biggest skeptic of all has told me how proud she is of me, which meant a lot after all of her doubts and criticisms. so, even if they aren’t offering you the support you need now, i think most of them will come around when they realize how happy it makes you. don’t let anything stop you if you know what you want!

  19. We totally agree with you. We have been travelling non stop for 5 years so far, and we had to face all the situations that you listed above. The problem is that some people (not everyone, luckily!) are so closed minded that they cannot accept a way of life that is different to the work-spend-work-spend-work-and-then-live.
    If you do not work 9-6 inside an office without windows, and if you do not suffer every monday because you have to take the same crowded metro to go the same building to meet the same workmates, then you are not working.

    We are so happy that every year we are more and more travelers living our dreams, and making a life of traveling. Most of our trips have been in Asia, and it is very hard to explain them that we are not on holidays, and they say.. “you have a different kind of luck, you can travel”… well, it is not luck, it is hard work.

    Thanks for sharing this with us, we wish you the best and Happy Travels!!!! :)

  20. Sometimes, I suspect people are simply validating their own choices and fears by sharing them with me. I think of it like the contemplation stage- I have never really gotten the feeling that the people who were saying such things were really looking out for my best interest- they were just mostly voicing their own feelings, thoughts, fears, judgements, predjudice, envy etc… and the ones who actually were in my corner- bit their tongues and grew an ulcer, instead. *thanks mom, for your courage while I probably scared you witless*

    • what i mean by precontemplative stage: if I can give a strong/persuasive enough answer, then maybe at some later stage, they will have a different, less fearful voice in their own head next time they have a *crazy* idea or dream…

  21. Great post! It took almost a whole year of travelling before my family finally realised that what I was doing was making me happy and decided to support me – they do still moan when I add somewhere “dangerous” to my list though but this is something I have learnt to brush off. The most irritating comment is that I’m ‘lucky’ and people ‘wish’ they could live like me – I’m not lucky I just sacrificed a lot to get where I wanted to be and they could do it too! Wishing doesn’t get you anywhere – action does :-)

  22. Nina

    The most perfect thing happened once before I set out on a big trip.. my mum and I were in a cafe and she was doing the typical “it’s not safe out there” speech.. and I said to her exactly what you said, that bad things can happen anywhere. And in a synchronistic moment, her bag was stolen from the back of her chair. It was like the universe was making that point for me. :)

  23. Good read! I enjoyed reading your post. I have been traveling for quite some time now myself, and since I embarked on this lifestyle, I’ve had very little support from my friends. It’s typical of friends to come up with all manner of discouraging sentiments when you tell them that you have decided to travel for long term. But underneath it all, they just envy your boldness and free spirit to explore the world.

  24. amy

    I had the opposite experience when I first decided to move overseas to teach. Everyone was very excited and supportive. Now, however, I find that I always get the question: so, when are you coming back?

    I didn’t buy a return ticket and I’m about 80% sure I am going to renew my contract. I’ll tell people when I’m ready but I’m really getting tired of the “when are you coming back?” question. I know it’s cause they miss me, but I’ve only been gone 3 months!

    How do you handle people’s expectations that YOUR trip is going to be a length that they are comfortable with?

    • NomadicMatt

      I tell people I will come back when I am ready. Tomorrow’s post is actually about that! Good timing on the comment!

  25. Martina

    Perfect blog at the perfect time. About to head off for the rest of the year traveling and while a lot of my friends here are supportive, my family just doesn’t understand why I would do something that irresponsible I guess and it really made me wonder if this was a good idea. Felling much better now that I’ve read your blog, thanks :)

    • NomadicMatt

      Glad this article helped. As you can see, there’s a wonderful community of like minded people here! Your decision was a great idea.

  26. I think that all of us travelers can relate to this post and each of these items. It’s almost comical as I’ve planned responses to many of these remarks (as I’m sure you all have!)

    Here’s a funny media example. It’s been 2 years since I’d be international. I’m now in Guatemala at Spanish Language School and working as well (it’s also costing me less to live here than it would to live at home).

    I was recently told to watch out for dengue fever (passed on by mosquitoes). I hadn’t even heard of it (I’m a rookie ha). Then I heard about it a few more times in 3 days.
    I started to freak out.
    And then I realized that every time I watch the news in the summer in Alabama they mention outbreaks of the west nile virus and I literally pay them no attention.
    So why should I here?
    Just live life and be cautious — no scared.
    Fear shouldn’t take hold of you just because you’re in a different place.

    Thanks for the post!

  27. Thomas

    People seem to think that if you want something different in life that there must be a problem. I dont listen to them. They want you to do what they are doing and half of them are afraid to follow their own dreams. Im looking to move abroad and all I ever get is way? Whats wrong? You need help? No, No, No. I just want something different.

  28. Hey Matt, thanks for the shout out above!

    I definitely heard a lot of these before leaving for a 13 month career break. My parents were generally supportive, but I never felt like they really understood. And if I was to tell them I’m thinking of leaving again to travel, I know they would not be as supportive the second time around. Many friends just didn’t get it at all – I actually had one tell me, “wow, my parents would never let me do that.” To which I just thought, “really, you’re 35? you need to ask for permission?” Since I’ve been back and questioning what I want to do long-term, the number of people who really get it has diminished dramatically. No one is really negative, there just isn’t much positive reinforcement.

    As for safety, I still get asked that all the time and I can honestly say I feel less safe at times in the US than I ever did overseas. Not once was I ever really afraid for my personal safety.

  29. Sarah

    Hi Matt,

    I found this article at the perfect time! I am about to travel for 7 months, by myself, as a woman. I hear these types of remarks and it makes me feel like my loved ones have no faith in my abilities. (The worst was when my step mom told me not to bother calling home for ransom money.) But no one is going to get me down!

    These reflections of yours are wonderful ways to address criticisms and questions while remaining positive. I will definitely put these away in my metaphorical travel tool kit. Thanks!

  30. This is a fantastic post. We were in the same situation when we moved from downtown Chicago to the jungles of Costa Rica. These people really care about you even though they don’t look like it. They are saying, “I really don’t know how I could ever handle that.” But if you just get up and go, then you can come back and teach them how to handle it, as you have now grown and go off and take huge life leaps like you were riding a bike. Because you got up and did it. Like everything else, it’s like riding a bike. Love the post! Thanks!

  31. That’s funny. The same old same old questions are asked time and again, and nobody who hasn’t done the same understands the answers. The real question people should ask is why an earth someone chooses to be sedentary.

  32. I started my travels back in 1997. Been living abroad ever since, and generally worked for 1 year, then travelled for 6 months, rinse and repeat. Now I am not planning to stop for work, and will keep travelling for a few years at least. Family and friends knew I was adventurous and never really had problem with me travelling for 6 months and living abroad etc. But when I told them my plans to spend at least 3 years constantly travelling, all the questions came… why so long? don’t you want to settle? etc. Best reply is simple: its my life, this is what I want. Explain that bad things can happen anywhere. I’ve personally felt more safe travelling in places like Iran, than I have living in Amsterdams red light district, for example.

  33. I enjoyed reading everyone’s comments and can relate to many of them, although I haven’t been away from Australia for extended periods (except a three month trip using Eurail and Britrail Passes when I was 21). I had 25 years without leaving Australia as I brought up 5 children so now they are adults I travel as much as I can. Some people think I must be wealthy and make snide comments to that effect but I certainly am not. I just prioritise travel over other things and do extra work to earn money for my trips. Others think I’m brave to travel solo, the implication being it’s dangerous. I’m old enough not to worry about what they say these days and just enjoy the planning, the anticipation and the adventures. Follow your dreams and be inspired by other people and places is my advice. Life will be so much richer.

  34. I sometimes get kind of get annoyed with people who say ‘I wish I could do that’ because they are the only ones standing in their way and they are not taking responsibility for their own lives and choices when they say that. In reality, though, most people don’t actually want to do it. They sort of like the idea but in their heart it’s not for them.

    My sister did the ‘you’re so lucky’ thing recently in an email. I replied ‘yes, I’m grateful every day for the life I have but it’s because of the choices I’ve made. I don’t have children, a car, nice clothes etc. I’ve made different choices’. She just replied ‘you’re still lucky’. Missed my point entirely!

  35. The Montane Vole

    When one of my relatives–a preacher, in fact–came at me with the usual stale “it’s time for you to settle down” routine, my reply to him was: “Which part of that is supposed to be appealing? I don’t like ‘settle’ and I don’t like ‘down.'” THAT remark ended the conversation forever, at least from him, and my attitude hasn’t changed a bit in all the years since.

    Anyone going through such issues, whether from friends or family members, should read Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem “Ulysses,” the definitive reply to it for all time:

    “I cannot rest from travel; I will drink life
    To the lees. All times I have enjoyed
    Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
    That loved me, and alone . . . .
    For always roaming with a hungry heart
    Much have I seen and known–cities of men,
    And manners, climates, councils, governments,
    Myself not least . . . .
    I am a part of all that I have met,
    Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
    Gleam that untraveled world whose margin fades
    Forever and forever when I move;
    How dull it is to pause, to make an end …”

    Or to explain it to them another way: “Still waters run stagnant.”


  36. Donald

    I did it the “smart” way, people would say. I built a large nest egg, got very good (read profitable) at doing something online that could be done from anywhere, and before this, I worked in a job that moved me every 3 months so I already had lots of experience with acclimating to new places (having to find new doctors, dentists, banks, people to cut my hair, mechanics, etc.) So I was both experienced at starting fresh in new places and well funded. And, on top of this, I waited until my only daughter left for college so I was unattached. So, again, people would say I did it the smart way. But I can tell you that as someone who took the safe way, I have a great admiration for people who make the leap without having the safety nets I have. It would be better to die poor in your bank account yet rich in memories and experiences than the other way around. Yes, I’m getting to have both so it may seem “easy for me to say.” But I lost out on years of potential wandering while I was setting it all up and that is time I’ll never get back. Go for it while you can. You never know what life will throw your way.

  37. ottermother

    Really hate the “you’re so lucky!” comment from people. I’ve gotten that at home before I leave and abroad when I’ve gotten good jobs/good situations. Luck is a cop-out word that people use to cheapen others’ experiences and determination or to take pity on themselves. Bad luck is a term that should only be reserved for the physically or mentally handicapped and the terminally ill, not the unmotivated or callow.

    • NomadicMatt

      It’s my least favorite expression. There’s nothing lucky about what I am doing. It was conscious effort. Luck has nothing to do with it! :)

  38. Great post Matt, and I have bought your book and would recommend it. I have been taking serial ‘gap years’ since leaving university in England in 2006 and I totally agree with you are going to be working till the day you die in todays economy so why not travel and have adventures during your younger, stronger and single years. I actually write travel stories about my adventures which are on my website – but its funny how people think you’re this amazing person when we’re actually no different to anyone else – we’ve just chosen to not date anyone, not have a mortgage, car or take on other responsibilities society has conditioned us to think we ‘should be doing’ at 30 years old. Haha I tell people travel is simple, downsize, sacrifice = now you can travel! The blogs are great keep going….I’m now trying to save for my next volunteer overseas trip house building in Cambodia – details on blog. Keep up the good work and words of encouragement…

  39. Skirotica

    No one who says “I wish I could do that” really wishes they could do that. That statement really is about the “you have no responsibilities” accusation. They don’t want to travel to exotic places. But “I wish I could do that” is a knee jerk response to try to be positive and supportive when one cannot possibly relate. It’s easier than saying “wow, isn’t that where the _____ empire ruled and there’s this great statue of ____?” or something similarly intelligent that indicates they actually know something about the world other than the Kardashians’ kids’ names.

    I bet if you, Nomadic Matt, were a Euro, you would never have written this blog post. You would have hardly encountered any resistance to your travel aspirations. It seems American’s only travel after they retire.

    • NomadicMatt

      I get a lot of e-mails from people in the UK, Europe, and other parts of the world expressing frustration that their family members are trying to talk them out of their trip. It’s not just an American thing.

  40. I think travelling and shearing photos and stories has inspired others to travel or do something new.

    I have to make a lot of sacrifices to make my travels happen that people don’t see and getting back to the norm on return can be costly. My friends, family and work colleges have been very supportive. Sometimes they are a little worried when I tell them where I think I am going next.
    I think they are now use to me disappearing and asking where I off am to next and can’t wait to see my travel photos. Sometimes I go without telling anyone, except my Mum, who naturally worries but never says anything and my 2 daughters and the oldest one, can come and meet me for a week or 2 and she is already telling me she is thinking of taking 6 months of work when she has her qualifications and experience.
    Also have a lot of Latin & European friends, so most of my English friends have a better understanding of the rest of the world, as I like to share a lot photos when away and when we have parties at home, I always cook an exotic meal and play a lot of Latin music.

  41. This must be one of the best inspiration blogs I´ve ever read, it feels like it was directed to me :) in all the points. This is my goal, to travel the world, and I´m pretty sure I will make it! Thanks for these savvy words and advice. If you don´t mind I will post the link on my little blog site. Thanks and if you ever travel to Bolivia, feel free to contact me for advice travel tips to my home country.

  42. Aptraveler

    Great write up Matt! Thanks for re-assuring me that I’m not alone in having heard all the ‘not-so-encoraging’ comments that people had said to me through the years about my world travels. It got to the point that I wouldn’t tell anyone besides my boss & mom, where I was heading. I did have her support about fulfilling my passion, but my boss would at times just scratch his head in simple wonderment!

  43. Melinda Niekum

    Bravo for this article!!!!! I am a 61 year old woman who has
    been traveling solo in Uzbekistan off and on, for the past 20few years. I have gotten the exact same criticism
    from friends and family; not only do I politely counter and
    deflect these attacks, I feindishly enjoy doing so! These are
    the same folks who derided my pursuing an “unemployable” Master’s degree in cultural anthropology.

    In January I am off again to Central Asia–Uzbekistan,
    Tajikistan, and Xinjiang

  44. People will always be there to discourage you, especially when you first begin to travel. Just like you’ve said many times before, at first people are really supportive but after a while, you begin to get questioned. But as all of us should know, the people that matter most to us in life and those who love us will always support our decisions in life. It doesn’t matter what you do, they’ll be there to support you. And those who keep holding you back need to be cut loose for the “traditional lifestyle” is by no means for everyone. Great article Matt, you’re a great inspiration to all of us & we can only dream (or work our asses off!) to get to the point where you are today! :-)

  45. Thanks for this post Matt. I read all the comments posted by fellow travelers and I couldn’t help but feel relieved that I am not the only one out there who experienced that sense of loneliness and lack of support when I went on my RTW, at least initially, from friends/family.

    My family eventually warmed up to it and a few friends followed by blog so I am thankful for that.

    It’s so rare to meet others who share the same goals, purpose, and desires in life. Yeah, the best place to meet them is on the road. But once I’m home, it’s loneliness all over again because everyone else wants something different from me. We are truly a rare breed.

  46. Hi Matt, I enjoy reading your blog. All of us have family or friends like this. The world is much more then the street or city you call home. You need to travel to really understand the world. My wife and I are in the early stages of our blog, we began travelling in 2010 and have not stopped. Three more trips planned in the next 18 months. If you take a moment to visit our (very young) blog, I’d appreciate any feedback on how to make it better.

  47. It’s crazy how prevalent this story is to travelers past, present and future. I remember distinctly all the times I told people “yes, you can do this just like me” to which I got various versions of disagreement, but no matter.

    There was also this feeling, in the months leading up to my departure that I had already left in a way. Everyone *knew* I was leaving and there was this firm end date to my time in the states. In many ways that portion of time was harder than some of the hardest times on the road because it was so long, and I had no other travelers yet to confide in and relate to (that time would certainly come and in spades) and of course, hadn’t discovered blogs like yours, Matt. I remember it well… seems like a life ago.

  48. This post was exactly what I needed ???? so thank you!!

    I have been reading your blog for years and you are truly inspiring. You helped me realize my true passion for food writing and traveling. I plan on traveling for the next 10 years on and off thanks to you. I would love any advice from you or hear any amazing stories.

    Don’t ever stop traveling. (seriously, cubicle jobs are horrible haha I had one also and it was definitely my first and last)

    Emily :)

  49. Damn, it’s so annoying when everyone around you asks the same questions. Why do you wanna stay there? Why do you wanna go there? Why don’t you settle down?
    They try to view or understand your reality through their reality. And if it’s a bit different, then something is not good.
    If all our parents have never or very little traveled out of the city they grew up in, they expect us to do the same, because it’s safe. Well, f*ck that.
    You’ll never be truly happy and satisfied if you stay in your comfort zone. Thanks for the well written article!

  50. Saki

    Great post Matt, I’m glad you put this up. It’s something I still have to deal with, despite having already taken numerous trips around the world. After taking all those trips, which I got by saving up money at home, I decided I want to try and adopt the nomadic lifestyle. The most annoying thing is that my parents think I’m crazy for wanting to leave my ‘stable’ job behind to go overseas, where I won’t be making as much money. It really annoys me when people think money is what it’s all about. For me, I need experiences, not money. I couldn’t care less about how much money is in my bank account. I want to experience the real world and live in the present moment, even if it means I’ll only make enough money to just scrape by in each city/town that I decide to live in. I think it beats city hopping every few days. It most certainly beats staying in one location for 48 weeks of the year.

  51. Ciara

    This is both funny and sad at the same time. I just told my parents I want to travel the world for a year after college and after a few years of working and I couldn’t believe what I was told. My dad simply said “that’s just stupid” umm well okay then.
    I’m traveling the world for a year.. Who’s stopping me?

  52. Matt this helped so so much! I’m super young and I’ve never really travelled before and my family does not support it at all. I was getting ready to nearly cancel my plans because I didn’t think I could or should do it. But this helped affirm me, that I need to travel. Thank you so much! It has been very helpful.

  53. Louis Sanderson


    I’m so glad i have found your blog. Its filling me with more and more confidence to go travel on my own.

    I’ve had a fair few people scare mongering about the dangers of traveling on my own to distant countries, Asia in particular as i’m heading there soon. My mum in particular has left me deflated and guilty at the prospect of leaving to travel on my own :( She wanted me to do just a year in Australia (which isn’t bad, but just not different enough for me).

    My friends and colleagues of the same age (im 21) just wanna find a job and settle down and the women just wanna have kids, which i kinda agree with because the job market is very competitive, but to me I cant stand the thought of being caught up in the rat race which is ‘normal’ life, 9-5, bored out of my skull. so i’m very happy to discover you pretty much had the same sort of experience, not wanting top be stuck in an office.

    Glad to read this post. And i’ll continue to read the rest of your blogs!



  54. Serena

    The other day I was telling my best friend how I wanted to travel but wished she could come. The conversation went…
    Friend: “I’ll take a week off work and we can go wherever you want.”
    Me: “Well, I mean more like several weeks… maybe even several months. Actually I’d really like to travel for a year.”
    Friend: *looking shocked* “Serena, do you have any clue how expensive that would be?!”
    So, long story short I wasn’t able to convince her that traveling long-term is possible. I just can’t get her on my side. Its incredibly disappointing, but makes me want to do it even more just to show her what’s what.

    I do have support from my dad, though. He’s always encouraged my sisters and I to backpack Europe or travel somewhere exotic, just do what we want. It sounded good to me, but I thought I’d have to have thousands upon thousands of $$ just for a few months. He looked at me like I was crazy when I brought it up. In fact, he looked almost disappointed. My dad travels a lot for his work and is very frugal, so he’s great at getting deals and using hotel/air points to go on cheap vacations.
    I did more research, came across this site and am learning how I can cut costs. I’m planning a trip to Ireland in a few months and am so excited! Maybe I can even convince my friend that traveling this way is wallet-friendly.

    So, thanks so much for sharing with us all!! I really wouldn’t have thought of some of those things on my own.

  55. Wow, this is just what i needed to read right now. I just told my family a couple of days ago that I’m planning to travel the world this next year 2014 and they all freaked out and they are giving me a lot of negative thoughts about it, not a single one has supported me, I felt a little bit down but either way I’m gonna go after my dream. Matt I wanted to thank you for such a beautiful blog, I’ve being following this blog for a couple months now, and this blog is the main push button that made me realize I have to do this. Thank you very much!!!! :) You are a great inspiration

  56. It’s often pure envy that makes some people hate you for traveling.

    Many have the money, but lack enthusiasm, lack the knowledge/skills to travel,… yet, they hate travelers for simply feeling great and being free.
    To them, it’s trendier to spend it on snobbish club entertainment, a nice car and just showing off…

    Another thing I often encounter is the worry about time: “I have no time for vacation”, but it’s rather poor time management that brings them there.
    Many have a lot of time, but they choose not to spend it on travels.
    Just think about all the time we waste every year on various useless activities, most of which we aren’t obliged to do!

    It’s so very wrong: we cannot buy time back. We only live once. Travel and enjoy life!

  57. YES MATT!!!!! Thank you….
    If I’m running from anything, it’s normal. And it must be terrible because I hate running….

    Job- I work online so I don’t get much flack for that.

    Solo Female Traveler RIGHT HERE! And OMG…. I’m alive and well after three years on the road. (I’m such a rebel, I know)

    “No responsibility” Uhm really? Obviously these are the people that DON’T travel. When traveling, you have tons of responsibility! You need to navigate train stations, airports, and cities that you have never been to with nobody around you speaking your native language. You need to find places that fit your budget, manage your time wisely, negotiate prices….etc. Let me throw you in Bangkok and I’ll take over your “responsibilities” at your desk job. Let me just answer this phone call for you…. Have I completed my responsibilities of the day yet? Yea….

    There are many ways to respond to these people, but really, they are probably the people that will just never get it.

  58. “Why would you want to go there alone?” This is the one that I get most often and it is so hard to answer this to someone who has zero awareness of the world. Not everyone who has not travelled for whatever reason is ignorant. Some people just choose to close themselves to the world and remain in their comfort zone which is OK if it makes them happy, just as doing the opposite of that makes me happy.
    ‘There’ usually is some village or small town in Asia. To rightly answer ‘why’, I would have to launch off into a long description of landscape, hill tribes, the joys of hiking, experiencing village homestays and the fascination that experiencing different food and cultures brings me. No one wants to hear all that and so its hard to answer.

    As for being alone, or safety concerns, you’re just as safe or unsafe in your own city- road accidents and illnesses can strike anywhere. Agreed there maybe higher risks in some parts of the world, but that’s where common sense comes in. I would not go to a completely unsafe place solo. And when travelling solo, I’m never really alone, always meeting other travellers. Its just hard to explain to people who are stuck with their baseless opinions that the world is actually a great place with good people. I always like to think/say, “Trust the world”.

  59. Angelica

    Thank you so much for writing this. I just recently bought a plane ticket to Chengdu, China. I plan to solo travel. I didn’t realize how many people I would have raining on my parade. I also have some anxiety going on this adventure by myself but this blog has settled some of that anxiety… now I just feel complete excitement. Thank you! :)

  60. It surprises me that people have to deal with unsupportive friends and family, I guess I’ve been lucky. I think travelling and living abroad is such a normal thing in New Zealand, people just expect you to do it, it’s almost weirder if you don’t!

  61. So refreshing to read this post and other comments! About to go on my first solo trip around Europe and it’s been a trying couple of months since I broke the news.. so it’s nice to see the other open minded people out there!

  62. Yeah, it’s a bit of a downer when family and friends aren’t supportive. I try and counter the feeling by remembering how I haven’t been supportive of others. Like any disappointment I also try to find a way that I can benefit from it. In this case it makes me all the more determined to be successful at what I do. That’s the way I channel it.

  63. Naija Chick

    It baffles me sometimes when people with passports free to travel round the globe without visa restrictions still find it difficult to make travel a reality, family or no family support. Being an African, the only barrier to travel destinations is Visa restrictions. But I still make effort to obtain visas to fulfill my travel dreams. Even if it means denials at times. Aside that…there is no obstacle to exploring amazing travel destination. Currently, planning my trip to the U.S after 4 visa denials.

  64. Capt.Canuck

    My recommendation is to resist the temptation to try to justify your choices to others, or to try to convince others of your point of view.

    • Capt.Canuck

      I also think that sometimes the lack of support (from friends and loved ones) stems simply from the fact that they will miss you when you’re gone.

  65. It’s so nice to read this and feel like we are not alone with the lack of support from friends and family. When I first told my mom I was moving to Korea for a year it was as if I told her I decided to quit my job to become a stripper. After taking a 6-7 month SE travel break after our teaching contract ended in Korea we also get alot of comments like when are you going to get a real job and what are you going to do next, things we feel like we have answers to but our answer doesn’t fit into their cookie cutter ideal of how your life is supposed to go. It’s overwhelming and frustrating. I also feel a lack of support from some of my closest friends. This is also saddening because I feel like I have been supportive of any career/life decisions they ever made and I can’t even get them to look at our travel blog. We have been away from home for 2 years now and are hoping that at least our families will understand and accept our lifestyle choices. Unfortunately for my friends I think we are just drifting apart and I am the one who is changing too much for them. Again, it is nice to read your post and all the commenters that can relate.

  66. Samtravels

    Late to the conversation, but thank you. At 46 I am taking off with my husband (58) to do a round the world trip. To us, it’s the culmination of a life long dream! And a totally responsible, well-planned choice. The reactions we hear are seldom supportive and range from dismissive (what a waste of money/time) to jealous (you must be rich to be able to do that) to outright hostile (don’t you have everything here now? Why bother). The most egregious: ” why don’t you spend your money on a better house or car instead”. We actually outright own a waterfront house and older convertible that we like. What more could we need? Bottom line, I don’t need people to approve my choices, but it is disheartening when they are so thoughtless. Best to find our tribe.

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