Should You Ditch Your “Normal” Life to Travel the World? Here’s How to Decide

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Virtual high fives and awkwards hugs to all my sharers out there! ✊

It’s a HUGE decision.

Leaving your comfortable life behind (or putting it on “pause”) to explore the world is life-changing.

It’s not a decision you take lightly. I wrestled with it for MONTHS before finally pulling the trigger. 

And while I love watching people step outside their comfort zone to live a life of adventure…the truth is, travel isn’t for everyone.

So, are you struggling to decide if starting a travel lifestyle is right for you?

If so, I’m about to kick you off the fence.

These five questions will give you clarity on whether your big adventure is a smart choice (or a huge mistake).

#1 – Do you really want it?

Most people say they’d love to escape their routine, go on an adventure, and explore the world… But then these same people go and intentionally seek out reasons why they can’t. 

If you’re constantly thinking about reasons why you shouldn’t travel, that could be a red flag.

To be sure, you need to figure out WHY you do this.

Chart showing why we make excuses not to travel

If after some soul-searching, you realize you’re in red flag territory—That’s ok! Maybe travel isn’t for you. Or maybe it just isn’t the right moment. Either way, now you can stop beating yourself up for not taking action (and start focusing on what matters to YOU).

On the other hand, if you think it’s just fear that’s holding you back from taking the plunge—Good news! We’re about to solve the fear problem once and for all.

#2 – What are you scared of?

Fear is a tricky subject. To overcome it, you first have to pinpoint exactly what it is you’re afraid of. This requires some introspection. 

If you’re introspection-challenged, let me help.

Fear about starting a travel adventure can be broken down into three categories:

1 – Fear of CHANGE
2 – Fear of the UNKNOWN
3 – Fear of the DANGERS OF TRAVEL

Let’s knock them out one-by-one.

Fear of CHANGE

Humans like to feel comfortable. We prefer to stick with things we know, things we’re good at, and things we understand. 

When faced with new opportunities—whether that be travel, work, relationships…whatever— we have to decide if the benefits of the opportunity outweigh the discomfort of change

Fear of change is natural, but it’s an illusion. As soon as you face your fear and embrace change, your comfort zone will expand, the change will become “normal”, and the fear will fade. For example…

The first day at a new job is intimidating. But after a couple days, it becomes your new “normal”, and the fear fades. It’s the same with travel. Deciding to fly to a foreign country and live out of a backpack is scary. But after a couple of days, it becomes your new “normal”, and the fear fades.

Once you realize this, the Fear of Change loses its power. 

Fear of the UNKNOWN

travel anxiety illustration

Ever had these thoughts running through your head? If so, you’re not alone. Even the most experienced travelers struggle with fear of the unknown to some degree.

Here are two ideas that helped me overcome my fear of the unknown:

1.) Millions have gone before you. You might feel like Indiana Jones, but you’re not the first person to do this. The path is well-paved. Tons of people have done exactly what you want to do (and have been doing so for years). NOBODY has everything figured out before making the jump, and you don’t need to either. All you need to know is that it’s possible.

2.) Nothing is permanent. At its core, fear of the unknown is essentially the fear of bad things that might happen. Odds are, they won’t. But even if they do, nothing is permanent.

If you leave home and realize you miss your family too much…or your digital nomad business plan flops…or you just get tired and want your old routine back…well, then change paths! Move on to the next thing. You gave travel a try, had an adventure, learned valuable life lessons, realized it wasn’t for you, and adjusted your path accordingly. That’s what life’s all about.

The unknown is less scary (both in travel and in life) when you realize you can change paths whenever you want.

Fear of the DANGER OF TRAVEL

If you’ve never left home, this can be a legitimate concern (especially if your perception of the world comes from the jaded media). 

However, ask anyone with travel experience, and most will agree this is an irrational fear. 

Read the rest of Caz’s thoughts on the safety of world travel here
Read Earl’s refreshing outlook on the goodness of the world here

Unless you are purposely looking for trouble (or are completely reckless)—travel is no more dangerous than living in a big US city. If you aren’t afraid of traveling around Chicago, there’s no reason to be afraid of traveling around the world.

So, now that we’ve put our fears in perspective, let’s take any remaining excuses and examine them under the microscope.

#3 – Do you have a good reason NOT to?

Not ALL excuses are bad excuses. Some people do have legit reasons why they should delay their travel dreams. The tricky part is differentiating between excuse and valid argument. 

For example, say your grandparents are getting old and you don’t know how much longer they’ll be around. You want to spend time with them while you still can.

Excuse? Or valid argument?

Only you can decide. 

On one hand, it does sound a bit ridiculous to say, “I’m waiting for my grandparents to die so I can travel the world.”

But depending on your unique situation and relationship, it could be a valid point. (Who am I to say it’s not?)

The problem is that sometimes these “valid points” never end.

First it’s your grandparents.
Then your BFF is getting married.
Then your nephew is born.
Then mom gets in a car crash.
Then you meet a cute guy/girl.
Then…

I don’t want to sound insensitive, but at some point, you have to live your life. These people can survive without you (and nobody said you have to leave forever).

Plus…

You can fly home for your BFF’s wedding (and if you don’t, they’ll still love you).
You can Skype your nephew (better yet, have him visit you abroad).
Mom has other friends and family to help her recover.
You’ll meet a gajillion more cute people traveling.

So, what’s really holding you back? Is it legit? Or is it an excuse?

If you truly want this lifestyle, instead of hunting for reasons why you CAN’T travel…start focusing on reasons why you SHOULD.

#4 – Can you afford it?

Short answer: If you’re reading this, you probably can.

Long answer: Travel doesn’t need to be expensive. I spent less money adventuring through South America for 10 months than I did living my normal, boring life in the US (Way less!). Now I live comfortably in Colombia (soon to be Philippines 😬) spending less than half of what I did in the US.

If you choose your destination wisely and follow these cheap travel tips, you could easily travel on less than $1000/month. You won’t be staying in luxury hotels or eating at 5-star restaurants, but that’s all part of the adventure, right?

Let’s be honest. Most people reading this could put together a few grand if they genuinely wanted to. Yeah, you might have to sell some stuff, work extra hours, make some sacrifices, or use these money-saving hacks

But really—at the risk of sounding priviledged and arrogant—the question shouldn’t be “Can you afford it?”. It should be “HOW can you afford it?”

"But Mitch, you don't get it! I'm COMPLETELY BROKE. I'll never be able to save a few thousand dollars."

 

Relax, my penniless friend, download this FREE cheat sheet and I'll show you how to travel for practically nothing.

Money-Saving Travel Hacks eBook Cover

So, unless you’re drowning in debt or have others who depend on you for survival, this question shouldn’t be an issue (especially if you follow the advice in the cheat sheet above).

Worried about student loans? Don’t let them get in the way of you and your travel dreams. Check to see if your loan provider offers an income-dependent payment option. If you aren’t earning much money while traveling, you can lower your monthly payments. This is what I do. Yes, it means paying a bit more in the long run. But if it lets me travel the world, I’m ok with that. Do some math and see if it’s worth it to you.

#5 – Do The Pros Outweigh The Cons?

Leaving your comfortable life to go on a worldwide adventure might seem like a complicated decision…but really, it all boils down to one question:

Do the Pros Outweigh The Cons?

Let’s solve this once and for all. Grab a piece of paper and we’ll do it together.

#1 – Make two columns – one for pros and one for cons
#2 – Write out every thought and concern you have floating around your head
#3 – Reread each point. Cross out anything that feels like a legit argument, but you know deep down is a weak excuse (fear, money, things that seem permanent but really aren’t, etc.)
#4 – Determine which side “weighs more”—Pros or Cons?

It might look something like this:

The Pros won in my example (surprise, surprise). But you might get different results. 

If your CONS weigh more—That’s fine! You should feel relieved. Now you don’t have to feel guilty about not traveling. You have legitimate reasons why now isn’t the right time for you.

If your PROS weigh more—Take action! You know travel is right for you. Now what steps are needed to make it happen? (My advice? Choose a date you think you can be ready by; then buy your ticket. When you have a hard, non-refundable deadline, you’re less likely to chicken out.)

Read more of Shannon’s reflections on making the choice to travel here

So, there you have it! 

If you dream of traveling the world but aren’t sure if it’s the best decision, these five questions will help you find your answer. 

#1.) Do you really want it?
#2.) What are you scared of?
#3.) Do you have a good reason NOT to?
#4.) Can you afford it?
#5.) Do the Pros outweigh the Cons?

This isn’t something you figure out in 5 minutes. Soul searching takes time. It’s a big decision, so try not to rush it.

Consider blocking out an hour of quiet time this week to sit down, revisit these questions, and really dig deep. It takes effort, but it’s worth it. When you finish, any anxiety you had about the decision will melt away, leaving you feeling refreshed with a clear path forward.

And after that, if you’re still struggling to decide if traveling the world is right for you…Leave a comment below and I’ll see what I can do to help!


⚠️HOLD UP! Before you peace out to explore the world—have you thought about travel insurance? If not, let me tell you a little story…⚠️

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