Over the past few months, my job has quickly escalated from good to moderately stressful to insanely stressful to flat out unreasonable. I’ve reached my breaking point about a dozen times. In the midst of all that, it’s impossible for my travel plans not to start feeling like an escape. For my motivation not to become leaving this terrible position behind me.
Travel as an escape is a pattern for me, as it is with countless other Americans. I hold myself to high standards and work until I literally cannot handle another day on the job. Then I work a few more months, and then I take a vacation. And after a week or two, I start the whole cycle over again. It’s admittedly unhealthy.
I do think the other extreme – the Eat, Pray, Love side of things, if you will – is a bit overblown. I don’t think everyone has to travel to find themselves or to feel fulfilled by their daily lives. And I don’t think it’s a given that leaving your home country for an extended period of time will open your mind and turn you into the best person anyone has ever met.
So why do I want to travel long term? What will answering that siren call really do for me?
I have a pretty good grasp of who I am, and I’m not chasing the Eat, Pray, Love dream of pseudo-self-discovery. Consider, then, my travels as an augmentation to my self-perception. For instance, I’ll never become an extrovert, and I don’t want to, but I do connect better to other people outside the 9-to-5 bubble.
I don’t know what else I’ll discover in my travels, but I think that’s one of the most important pieces of the RTW puzzle. You can’t order up an epiphany like a burger and fries. That way of thinking is how shorter trips became a commodity.
So I won’t treat my personal journey as something that can be tailor made in advance, and I also won’t apologize for needing an escape from my job.
Though I hope my motivation will evolve as time goes by, there will naturally be a dose of escape in the beginning. That’s why I plan to spend three full weeks in one place near the beginning of my trip. Starting out slow and sticking to one place for an extended period of time will shatter that vacation mindset, and bit by bit, I’ll escape my urge to escape.
It helped that I had previous experience with long-term travel. Read on to see how a study abroad program cemented my life goals.