Back in university, I took 21st U.S Women’s History, where I had an epiphany. My professor said to me, “Guilt is a completely useless emotion.” This blew the doors off my house. I thought about it for months working to wrap my brain around it.
Back then, guilt was taking up a lot of space in my emotional reservoir. Now, three years later, I look back at that time and I’m thankful I figured out how to let it go.
I think there is an important difference between guilt and remorse, and they should be kept separate. Guilt is the feeling of responsibility for some offence, wrong, or crime, whether real or imagined. More often than not, I think the majority of most people’s guilt is imagined.
I’ve heard from a few travelers that they feel different types of guilt before they depart on a long trip or moving away to live in a new county. I gave some thought to it and I’ve identified six types, which are usually self-invented and imposed.
1) Departure Guilt – This is the guilt you feel leaving those you love to fulfill a solely personal goal or to start fresh. Those who feel this will find they wonder how loved ones will get along without them. This is ridiculous.
2) Money Guilt – Feeling terrible about spending lots of money on a trip instead of saving for what others think you should spend YOUR money on such as a house, savings, new car, fancy clothes… the list never ends. But it’s your money and if you want to invest in travel and cultural experiences that is just as valid as a house.
3) Responsibility Guilt – Worrying about taking time off work or leaving a job. “Who will take on my responsibilities?” is a looming question. Try putting trust in others and find comfort that you are special but not indispensible. You’ll find you have less pressure and stress while actually performing better than before.
4) “Don’t Leave Me” Guilt – This guilt is a little more difficult to contain because it’s dealing with comments from friends and family. They are trying to express to you how much they will miss you – consequently, you feel guilty for making them feel sad. This is not how your friends and family want you to react. It’s a compliment – not meant to make you feel badly!
5) Jealous Guilt – This is the dark side of “Don’t Leave Me” guilt. Friends or family who wish that they had taken the plunge to go on an adventure only share negative remarks that make you feel terrible. Comments are aggressive, negative, and leave a sour taste in your mouth. Try to shake it off and move on. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
6) “Cultural Guilt” – Guilt for feeling fortunate and/or ashamed of your own culture’s previous historical atrocities while you are traveling. This is tough, but take it as a learning experience and leave it at that. Move forward by acknowledging the problems and by making socially & environmentally responsible decisions.