Yes, It’s OK to Travel and No, You’re Not Being Selfish


I know! You want to scream, “YES of course it’s ok to travel” to anyone who asks. But it’s not always that easy. A good friend of mine just accepted a teaching job in South Korea, finally freeing herself from a 9-5 desk job that she hates.

As she told me the great news, she also mentioned that she has already had to defend her choice to friends, family, and coworkers. It seems not everyone can understand why she’s leaving everything behind to go live her travel fantasy.

We hear this over and over, so here are some ways we’ve developed to deal with this.

Understand that Traveling is Education, Too

It’s been drilled in our minds that college is for fun: travel, excess, tattoos, and spontaneity. After college, it’s time to settle down and “act like an adult” — i.e. buy a house and have some kids.

However, travel is an extended form of education. You learn so much about yourself, different cultures and different ways of life just by traveling. If someone tries to say you’re putting off “the real world,” just explain to them that traveling is just about as real as it gets. All you’re doing is furthering your education.

Yes, it's ok to travel: defending the female traveler.

You’re Not Lost or Avoiding Life

People who disapprove of your wanderlust are often projecting some of their own stuff onto you.

You might hear something like “you’re just running away from life.”

We say you’re running TO life.

It’s not that you aren’t ready to grow up and face reality — traveling IS reality. You’ll come face to face with extreme poverty. It’s understanding your privilege. Traveling is, quite simply, the best form of education you can invest in.

Furthermore, for long-term travelers who often have to leave everything behind, it’s a huge sacrifice to have to make.

Yes, I have met people who saw traveling as a means to escape their family problems, but that’s even harder to do. I couldn’t do everything I’m doing without the support of my friends and family at home.

And lastly, travelers and expats are some of the most independent, put-together people I know. It takes a lot of courage and lot of organization to move abroad.

You are voluntarily giving up your safety net. You are diving into a world where you are the foreigner, where you will inevitably feel culture shock and loneliness and where screwing up means going home.

Trust me, it’s reality. And it’s work.

Living Your Dream Pushes You Forward

Living abroad has some amazing advantages, most of which are discussed in depth on this website, and it’s all true. I am living an exciting, independent life in a far away country. I’m making sure that I never have to look back with regret at missed opportunities.

Sadly, the majority of people will never understand that. There will always be skeptics. There will always be people who think their reality is more “real” than yours.

Just like I told my friend, don’t sweat it. Your “alternative lifestyle” is yours.  Your choices are brave, exciting and life-changing. You don’t need to defend that.

You’re living the dream. You’re living YOUR dream. Yes, it’s ok to travel.

Have you had others tell you traveling is a waste of time? What did you say in response?


About Author

Claire is a recent college grad turned expat, who is currently teaching English in South Korea. When she's not exploring Korea and writing about it, Claire enjoys fantasizing about future trips, shopping, dancing, and drinking dangerous amounts of caffeine. She plans to move to Buenos Aires in 2012. You can follow her adventures at


  1. Pingback: Young Girl Defending

  2. Right on Clare! A big amen for this article. I could not have put it better; it is incredible the resistance you encounter especially from those who love you most. I believe this is to be expected as you are choosing a counter-cultural path. But as you alluded to…you must be true to who you are and let your light shine bright, at home or overseas.

  3. Whenever I travel/move/spontaneously decide to take a trip, friends and family either are excited for me or roll their eyes because they see me as avoiding the “real” life that I am “supposed” to be living according to their standards. I love that you captured that in this article! Just because someone decides that the life of a corporate employee, home-owner, wife, mother, etc. is not for them, doesn’t mean that they are void of adult responsibilities. We’ve simply chosen a different set!

  4. I think the disapproval from the 9-5ers has been exacerbated by the recession. I see the default to negativity as a representation of their own fears. That’s theirs to deal with!

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.