“You’re going home?” I asked her as we sat in the hostel’s common room.
“Yeah, I really miss my boyfriend and family. This long-term travel thing just isn’t for me. I’ve cut my trip short and will be going home in a few weeks.”
“Wow!” I replied. “Well, it’s important to do what makes you happy. At the very least, traveling taught you something about what you do and do not like. That’s a win.”
And, with that, we moved on with the conversation.
She, like many others I’ve met on the road, headed back home, not in defeat, but victorious, content in the knowledge they discovered more about themselves.
When I began my travels, a million and one fears and worst-case scenarios went through my mind. What if I can’t make it? What if I can’t find friends? What if I get so lost I can’t find my way back? What if I get sick? What if I run out of money?
What if, what if, what if!
Thanks to the many emails I get, I know those thoughts go through the minds of others too.
Many of those “what ifs” keep people from going on the road. We can become so paralyzed by our fear of failure that we forget that all those fears don’t matter because no matter what happens, we can always come home.
It’s OK to say, “You know what? I miss my home, I miss my friends, I hate hostels, and it turns out my idea of travel involves moving from one luxury resort to the next.”
The most important thing is that you tried and you learned.
I had no idea long-term travel would work for me. My original trip was only for a year, and I could have decided to come home three months in.
But here I am, seven years later, still in love with travel. I would have never known if I didn’t ignore my fears and try.
We can give in to fear, the “what ifs,” and the worry, and instead stay safe at home. Or you can head out the door and try.
Who cares if you decide to cut your trip short? Who cares if you think “this life isn’t for me?” You travel for yourself. You do this for you.
When I decided last year that after over six years of almost constantly being on the move, it was time to settle down and create roots somewhere, a lot of people emailed me, expressing sadness that I had “given up” traveling.
But times — and people — change. I had nothing to prove by continuing to travel when my desires lay elsewhere. Travel is a personal experience and at the end of the day, how you feel about it is the only thing that matters. I still believe life on the road is amazing — but sometimes I want to head off that road for a while and sit in front of my TV watching a movie.
So if you’ve been thinking about traveling but worry you can’t make it a full year around the world or that you might not have the skills to travel, I say to you: Who cares? You can always head home if you want.
So what if you can’t make it? What if others think that? I say it doesn’t matter.
Because returning home is not a failure.
Travel teaches us about ourselves and makes us better people. Deciding to come home simply means travel taught you something about yourself you wouldn’t have known otherwise — that extended travel is not for you.
And there is nothing wrong with that.
Take a chance.
Because the path back will always be there, but the path forward might not.
So travel and learn something about yourself.
Even if what you learn is you’d rather be home.