Real People Don’t Travel

May 20, 2014 Tessa Bradford 33 comments

Real People Don't Travel

Before I realized how easy it can be to travel the world, I was going through the motions of a life that didn't make me happy.  I thought about traveling, I dreamed about traveling, but I had no idea how to actually start traveling. And all my feeble hopes of travel were crushed when the guy I was dating at the time told me, "Real people don't travel."

It started because I watched the movie, Eat, Pray, Love with Julia Roberts. (Not a great film. I hear the book is better. But that's beside the point.) The point is that the woman in the story lived the life that I wanted more than any other.

She traveled.
She tasted.
She explored.
She experienced.

I watched the sub-par movie with stars in my eyes, images of my own life of adventure and discovery and passion dancing through my thoughts. I didn't know it then, but it was the life I was supposed to be living.

I finished the movie and walked to where the boyfriend was sitting, working on university homework I should have been doing, too. And he read my thoughts before I could even say them. So he cut me off, to make sure I wouldn't let my mind run off on some fanciful, time-wasting scheme.

"That's not real, you know," he explained to me, the way a father would to a child with an over-active imagination.

"It's based on a true story. The woman wrote the book about her own life," I countered.

"Yes, but she's a professional writer. How would you do it?"

"I don't know. But I think lots of people travel, all the time."

He laughed. "Tessa, real people don't travel. Not people who have real lives and responsibilities. How would you support yourself? How would you make a life like that work?"

Well, he had me there. I had absolutely no idea how I would make a life like that work. I didn't have an income, or savings, or even a plan on how to get a job. So I halfheartedly agreed with him-- obviously real people didn't live lives on the road. Because how could they? How would it even be possible?

But here's the thing. This conversation happened about six months before I started traveling. And I have never looked back.

I got lucky. I had a scholarship to do a summer semester in Taiwan, and then to Beijing for a fall semester for my Masters of Global Studies. Well, not 'lucky.' I worked my ass off for those scholarships. But in a way, it was lucky. Because if I hadn't studied abroad I would never have realized how fully capable I was of living abroad long term.

You don't need the scholarships. They helped nudge me on my way, but they're not an essential part of the equation.

The essential part is simply getting out the door. 

Pick a country. GO.
Go teach. Go volunteer. Go sleep on a stranger's couch.

There are hundreds of online communities and resources for people that want to start lives abroad and on the road.

If I had taken that boyfriend's words to heart, my life would be completely different right now. I would never have gone on any of the adventures from the last three years. I would never have swam in hidden waterfalls in Taiwan, ridden horses across the Mongolian Steppe, explored castles of ancient Europe or jungle ruins of Southeast Asia, tasted true Thai spices or authentic Italian pastas, played games with lions or befriended monkeys.

I would never have experienced
many of the moments that now define me.

I would have continued plodding through the motions of a life that didn't make me happy.

But I didn't take his words to heart. They were enough to make me hesitate and doubt myself, but eventually my desire to see the world won out.

And the world has been so worth it.

I tossed aside the life I was living. I started over. And I am thankful every day that I did.

I had the undeniable benefit of being young and (newly) single. I realize that this made starting over more possible than it might for others. But I still set major things in my life aside so I could make a new life.

I had a full scholarship as a Graduate Assistant for my Masters, and I turned it down. I decided to go back to Taiwan instead of going back to America. And I was absolutely scared to death that I was making the worst mistake of my life.

I don't think you're ever really ready to start a new life, it's simply something that sometimes you realize you need, ready or not. Knowing you need it doesn't make it any less terrifying, though. It's full of big risks and friends that tell you you're nuts and family members that fret about your recklessness.

But if it works out, the payoff is extraordinary.

I just want it stated, loud and clear, for the record:

Real people DO travel.
Real people DO make this life work. 
Real people DO live lives of adventure, discovery, & passion. 

This real girl does it every day.

33 Comments on “Real People Don’t Travel

  1. The book IS infinitely better than the movie! 😉 And want to recommend you read Shantaram, if you haven’t yet. Best book about an inner and outer journey EVER as far as I’m concerned.

    Good for you for following your heart and not letting the naysayer into your mind. Six years ago, I was $60,000 in debt and my hubby was broke from university, but we dreamt of a life full of travel and freedom, and we made it happen. So yes, you are absolutely right. Anything is possible. When you have the will, you will find the way. 😀

    1. I’ve heard that Shantaram is fantastic– it’s already on my “to read” list, but I’ll bump it up a few spots and read it sooner, with that kind of recommendation.

      I think most people think those naysayers and other complications are reasons why the can’t travel– I’m just hoping to encourage others a bit to know that if a life of travel is what they want, it is very possible!

      1. Well you have done a great job with this post. It’s very relatable and well-written. 😀

        I read Shantaram while backpacking India, and I must say that it made it all the better. Start in Mumbai. (hint hint) 😉

  2. First off, Shantaram is a great book. I really hope they don’t make a movie from it though.
    Secondly, I’m real and I travel. I took a job in the Middle East so I could open up a whole new world of travel opportunities. My first year here my passport was stamped in 10 different countries. I have a degree, a full-time job where I learn things daily; but I have learned more about myself and life from traveling. It can be done. You just need to sacrifice some things. Great post.

  3. I enjoyed going on my own journey through europe and asia a few years ago before I unexpectedly settled in a land down under (which has also been very enjoyable).
    I’ve been thinking about doing more travelling soon and your post has been very encouraging, so thanks!!

  4. It’s always other people that make me doubt myself, friends, family, even strangers. I’ve been travelling now for over 2 years with no plans to stop soon but I’m fed up always having to explain myself to others. Sometimes you can even start to doubt yourself. Reading this post has definitely helped, so well written and positive!

    1. Really great to hear it helped– don’t listen to the negativity, just live the life that makes you happy, because that’s really what matters most, isn’t it?

      Thanks for reading, and best of luck with your travels!

  5. Very well said! I’ve not lived in my home country (Canada) for 5 years now. Living in the UK for 4 and half years and now Switzerland has provided me with so many amazing travel opportunities and life experiences. It’s wonderful to see that you’ve been able to follow your passion and make it work for you. It’s an inspiring story!

  6. This is so inspiring! I’ve recently took a leap of faith to Australia from Las Vegas. And if it weren’t for my boyfriend I’d never be here and I’m sure I’d still be in my bubble of only traveling the us until I ran out of places to go, but by that time I probably wouldn’t be able to go anywhere. I didn’t plan on moving here a year ago. I can’t even explain how happy I am that I took that risk of leaving my comfort zone and making a home out here. My boyfriend and I plan to travel to other countries too. He’s currently in Europe on a tour with a band he fills in for and I’m so excited for him to be able to do that. I just can’t wait to experience the same places one day! Thank you for your words. This is truly wonderful!

    1. Glad you liked it– best of luck to you and your boyfriend on your travels, there’s nothing quite like seeing the world (especially if you get to do it with someone you love)! Thanks for reading 🙂

  7. Love this! Amazing and awesome that you stepped out in faith and worked hard in’s always great just to be bold and jump! Keep the stories coming, you are a great writer!
    When I travelled to Germany then Malaysia and Singapore last year, it’s like something came alive, I was unhappy for a longtime but now I have fou d reasons to be happy..just to see other cultures and interesting places makes me have things to look forward to!

  8. I totally agree with this post! I am real and I travel too. My only regret was not doing it sooner. I have a full time job and travel twice a year (during school holidays only because I teach) and the experience is just amazing. Anyway who says travel is not for real people or travel is not realistic obviously have not tried it before. There is no need to listen to that negativity. 🙂

  9. LOVE this article. My background is of course really different than yours, but my mentality and perspective is quite similar! You’re blog is really interesting. I hope you’ll like mine!

  10. Never judge a book by its movie 😉 I travel as much as I can, but not all the time unfortunately. Your article almost had me selling my apartment and hitting the road! Hopefully I can be real, full time employed AND travelling….

  11. Amazing post and so inspiring! This is exactly what I was trying to explain in this post ( there are two different types of people in this world – some of them are “real people” who don’t travel and some are explorers! So glad I read this!

  12. Go for it with gusto! Raeski and I are real people, with real responsibilities, and we are living a real life. And our real life happens to be in Viña del Mar in Chile this year. It can be done.

  13. I know people like who don’t want or even don’t like traveling. They live in their own little ignorant world and I think they are just scared to get out there, they listen to the news and then say: It’s dangerous there, you can get hurt etc… but in real, you can get hurt outside your own house, if people got out more, they would realised that it’s not so bad out there and meet so many warm and wonderful people around the world:) People who don’t travel – don’t live! That’s my opinion 🙂 I love the quote ‘the world is a book and those who do not travel, read only one page’! 🙂 I think peoples lives become more real when they travel, because of all the emotions they experience and they are so much more fun to talk to 🙂 So well done for getting out there, seems like you’ve been to so many places already 🙂

What are your thoughts?