A holiday for the vast majority of people has always been a short period of leisure in a foreign country. A break from the norm, a break from their lives, a short two week jaunt in a foreign clime to recharge their batteries and rest somewhere hot and sunny for a couple of weeks or so.
Backpackers know better than that of course. We travel for longer periods, immerse ourselves more deeply into the culture, the way of life, we eschew the traditional travel industry to travel independently beyond the traditional week to fourteen days and we remove ourselves from mainstream society for a while and emerge better, more rounded people.
Right? Well, not always. Even we get it wrong sometimes.
Eventually many backpackers emerge from their career break, snap year or gap year and negotiate the landmine of reintegration into society, deal with the mental and emotional trauma of reverse culture shock and then eventualy settle down. They get the job, pay the bills buy the house and begin the slow suicide of falling in line with the status quo of societal norms. They begin to think of their gap year adventure as a fond memory, as backpacking around the world as a once in a lifetime thing. They’ve done it. Time to grow up now.
I have met many people who have done this. For some it works, they had their fun and now they are happy settling in a career or with a family or whatever. That is great, they’ve found what makes them happy and I am happy for them for doing so. Others however aren’t quite so certain. You can see that glint in their eyes combust as they talk passionately about the gap year they had years ago, and then watch that light die again as they wistfully state they wish they could go back to that time and relive their adventures, you can see their soul retreat into itself as they remember what they gave up for the monotonous fabrication of settled bliss.
They have been bitten with the travel bug and cursed with wanderlust, that indefinable compulsion to travel. And being forced to stay in one place just to fit into the norm of paying the bills and trudging off to the nine to five is slowly killing their soul as surely as any illness would consume their body.
That gap year they took wasn’t enough. They want more.
Essentially – thanks in part to the commercialisation that the gap year industry has enforced on the term – the snap year and gap year has become nothing more than an extended two week break. An elongated holiday away from life for a little while before you have to return to normality. The chronological time is much greater of course, but the inevitable countdown to normality is still there regardless. The gap yearers and backpackers have got a taste of the free spirited independent passion that drove many of us a decade or more ago to travel the world on our own terms, but have fallen into the ‘you’ve had your fun, now settle down trap’ after that year long RTW ticket they had expired and they had to return home.
But it doesn’t have to be that way!
There is no time limit on travel! Travel is much, much more than just a holiday. It is a way of life, a way of being. It can define who you are as a person and give meaning to your life much more than an accumulation of possessions and things can. It doesn’t have to be a one time only thing! It doesn’t have to be something you do just once and then return to ‘normal’ life.
You can of course – if you so choose – go to the extreme and become a full time nomad. Many people have done this, endlessly travelling the world, often sacrificing all the things that their contemporaries back home struggle with, the home, the career, the 2.4 kids and the little picket fence. Some even find a way to make a career out of this lifestyle as digital nomads or as location independent workers, a rare few are even successful at this.
Or you can take a more balanced approach and balance your travelling with your lifestyle and career. Fit your life and lifestyle around your passion for travel instead of doing it the other way round and trying to squeeze your passion for travel into your annual leave whilst putting up with a sub standard life you don’t really want. Have your career by all means, but nothing is stopping you taking regular sabbaticals, career breaks, extended leave, whatever you want to call it. Hell, you can even quit and take another gap year if you want to, then another, and another.
You don’t have to let life stop you from travelling the world. Many people find their loved ones, get married, have a family even and still manage to travel, so why can’t you? Have the family, spend some time at home with them, but why not take another gap year or backpacking trip with them? Of course there are logistical issues you will have to deal with, but these are not in any way a barrier to following your passion for travel.
My point is, there are no rules here, other than the ones you allow society to force onto you.
You can make your life fit around the travel you want to do, believe me. Just because you want a career or a family or whatever else it is that you want, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dreams of travel too. Make your career, your life, fit around the passion for travel that you clearly have. The sense of equilibrium and work life balance you gain from doing this is perhaps one of the secrets to a long healthy life.
Why have one or the other when you can have the best of both worlds? Regardless of your lifestyle, your circumstances or your excuses, get out there and live your dreams of world travel.
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