Why Full-Time Travel Won’t Make You Happy
Despite my overjoyed and goofy smile in the featured image above, full-time travel won’t make you happy.
At one point I thought it would. I was sitting in a small cubicle, perusing through Instagram and busy being jealous of people who had the freedom to travel the world.
I wished that was me.
And then one day it was me. Alyssa and I left our jobs and started our year long trip of adventure. It was awesome and the grand adventure I had been hoping for… until one day it wasn’t.
It was four months into our quest to visit all 50 states. Money was tight. We traveled for nearly a month without a refrigerator after it had blown up and we couldn’t afford to replace it. One night we put our groceries outside because the Maine night was cooler than our ice-packed freezer box.
Alyssa and I were planning to launch a Kickstarter to raise enough funds to finish our project and fingers crossed buy a new fridge. But the idea of a Kickstarter only elevated the stress.
I hate asking for money.
I kept thinking, What the hell am I doing? Why did I think this trip was a good idea?
I was hurting, stressed, and frustrated.
In an argument and fit of unwarranted anger, I punched our shower door to the point of hurting my hand.
Alyssa and I had been married for four months and this was the first time I lost my temper. I was beyond embarrassed, my hand hurt, and I was immediately sorry (it’s even really embarrassing to write about this now).
How had I let myself get to this point? This was supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime and I was more stressed than I’d ever been in my life. What gives?
Travel was supposed to be the light and fun time of our lives. We had left our office jobs so that we wouldn’t have to feel stressed anymore. Now is the time to be happy, or so I thought.
After my hand finished throbbing, Alyssa and I went for a walk on the beach to talk things over. While walking and looking out over the ocean, I realized the stress wasn’t worth it. The stress of worrying about money, our broken fridge, things outside my control, and everything else was stealing away my happiness. It was stealing away my time with Alyssa, and more than I cared to admit.
Travel was trying to gift me something special, but I was turning it into another chaotic day at the office. Something had to give.
I needed to remove some stress points in my life. We decided to nix the idea of launching a Kickstarter on top of working a job in every state, driving the RV multiple days a week, writing blog posts, and exploring new places. If we ran out of money, we ran out of money and we would cross that bridge when we came to it.
Once making this mental decision, I began to feel a little better.
I decided that even if our financial situation wasn’t great, worrying about it was never going to change the situation. I needed to enjoy the time we had left on the road, while we had it.
This was my first brush with feeling a high amount of anxiety while traveling. Up until this point, I’d mostly associated travel with vacation and happy times, but the idea that travel is always peachy is obviously a lie. I wish I could tell you that ever since my “freak out” day that I haven’t stressed and have 100% enjoyed every moment of our travels for the past three years.
But this would also be a lie.
Lately, I’ve been stressed out about CampgroundBooking getting traction and how things aren’t moving fast enough. Last year while we were exploring Banff National Park in Canada I was stressed about finishing my book and how I’d let my podcast episodes fall to the wayside. I’m constantly finding new things to be stressed and worry about, despite living my dream of travel.
I think there is this illusion that if you are able to go and hit the road in an RV, travel for an extended period of time around the world, or move to a beach somewhere, your life will finally be filled with intense purpose and meaning. We see people living this elusive lifestyle via Instagram and wish it was our life. But I’m on the other side of that Instagram post and I’ll be the first to tell you that anyone who says this lifestyle is awesome 100% of the time is full of it.
Travel isn’t always a dream.
Travel isn’t going to carry you through all the hard times of your life. Travel isn’t going to turn an unhappy or unhealthy person into a perfect specimen. Waiting for travel to make you happy is like waiting for money to make you generous or a child to make you less selfish.
Travel is just part of our physical surroundings, which only quantifies a small percentage of our overall happiness (10–15% according to this study). The rest of our happiness comes from genetics, mindset, health and well being, food intake, and our own individual world views.
I’m not trying to be a downer about travel. But just to paint it in a realistic light. Yes, travel gives us a chance to explore the world, gain insights into different cultures, push your comfort zone, meet new people, and have incredible experiences in nature. But travel doesn’t give us happiness. Happiness is something we choose, despite our situation or what is happening in our lives.1
If happiness was a light switch, travel couldn’t have turned it on. Alyssa and I still have to wake up everyday and make the choice to be happy and to stay focused towards our goals and dreams.
Travel also didn’t help me remove my tendency to overwork and over stress. I wish it did, as it would make things a lot easier.
I didn’t write this post to turn anyone away from travel. Heck, I host a podcast that’s entire purpose is to help people craft a remote business so they can travel. But I just wanted to share this in case anyone was in a similar situation that I was in a few years ago — sitting in an office, dreaming about travel and waiting for it to solve all of your problems.
Instead of waiting for travel to be happy, make the choice to be happy before you reach that dream.
A Few Ways I’m Working to Stay Happy and Stress Less About Dumb Stuff
I’ve been doing this a lot lately in my journals. Writing down all the areas I have in my life to be grateful, big and small. Alyssa and I also have daily “family time” where we say a few things we both are grateful for. Gratitude has a way of putting things into perspective.
Pushups in the RV, a walk around the campground, hike, kayak or anything to get my blood flowing helps me worry less about dumb things and enjoy the day.
It really doesn’t matter what I do outside, I just enjoy being there.
Giving myself permission to celebrate.
Recently, my friend Chris made me realize that I do a terrible job of celebrating in my life. Sometimes I feel as though celebrating too much of any goal I achieved means I will be content (which is dumb and not true). So I’m working to do a better job of celebrating the wins in my life.
Note: March was the first month the RVE podcast surpassed 25,000 downloads. When I first started the podcast last year, this was my goal metric. Woohoo! <– practicing celebration, 5 points for Gryffindor!
If there’s a hidden lesson in here, I think it’s the importance of knowing your personal limits. I was terrible at this when we first started traveling. I overestimated the amount that I could get done, how quickly we could travel, and my ability to balance my new marriage with a million other things.
This was my fault and I know it won’t be the same for all travelers.
Travel is the experience you make it. Too often, I make it stressful and unenjoyable. I think my experience should serve as a warning for others who are venturing down this road to have realistic expectations.
Chances are, you will spend more money than you realize on maintenance and you’ll cringe every time you have to fill up your RV with gas. You will be less productive in your work (especially when first starting out) and struggle to find a good balance for your time.
Get outside more.
And lastly, remember that if you made the leap to full-time travel, then you no longer have to live by everyone else’s rules that says you should work “x number of hours per day” and make $X a year.
Give yourself the permission to go out and experience the world and enjoy it.
This post originally appeared on my blog at HeathandAlyssa.com