Last year, I became a full-time traveler.
The decision was hard, but ultimately I wanted the freedom of working wherever I want. So far I’d been to Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines and a few other countries in less than eight months, and I gotta say, it’s been one of the most transformational moments of my life.
I became more street smart. I became more confident. I met a lot of people. I don’t recall how many I’d spoken to, but we’d swapped stories, talked about culture, and discussed our ambitions while bonding over food. And over time, I began to notice a pattern that existed in these conversations. It usually starts off with me telling one of my travel stories — how I started to illegally sell food off the streets in Taiwan, getting lost in the sketchier part of Vietnam, or skinny dipping in the pools of Indonesia — and ends with them telling me how envious they are of my lifestyle. They talk about how they regret not traveling more, and how they wish they could but can’t because of work, kids or certain responsibilities.
These people envy me for having a lifestyle they don’t have, but the truth is, sometimes I envy their lifestyle instead.
Having a stable income, being able to settle down with a family, raising your kids, getting together with friends on the weekend, and having a place to call home — these are all things I vie for but don’t get because of how often I travel.
Most of us see things from one perspective, and that’s the perspective we’ve lived our entire lives. The only way we can relate to life outside of our own are from strategically curated Instagram and Facebook photos where only the best and most memorable moments of that person’s life are shown.
Traveling is great, but there’s a side to it you don’t often hear about. The fatigue accumulated over weeks and months of endless traveling, the jetlag that haunts you from one country to the next, the constant need for caution against thieves and pickpockets, and the flickering moments of loneliness when you’re by yourself in a country whose language you can barely speak a word of.
There are moments when I dread having to pack my bags, and to wake up at insanely early hours all for the sake of sitting through another cramped and under-ventilated long haul flight.
Don’t get me wrong. I still travel and I still love it. I just want people to realize there are trade-offs to every lifestyle.
Instead of worrying about gas prices, I worry about flight prices. Instead of worry about health premiums, I worry about when my next paycheck will come. Instead of worrying about where to eat, I worry about whether or not I’ll have food poisoning.
It’s always a tradeoff, a sacrifice. What you take for granted in one country won’t be there in the next.
I love traveling and I highly encourage it but don’t be so quick to feel envious of another person’s lifestyle — keep in mind that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. While there are things you might not be happy about in certain aspects of your life, it’s at the very least familiar and to a certain extent, stable.
Don’t take things for granted. See things from another perspective and realize that there’s a lot to be thankful for in your life.