The American Dream
- Graduate high school
- Go to college
- Start your career
- Get married
- Buy a house
- Have children
- Watch them grow up
- Send them off to college, then to start their careers
- Become a grandparent
- Retire, travel, and enjoy life
It’s the American dream, right?
Anyone who has grown up in the United States usually has some variation of what I like to call the “10-point-plan.” It has been ingrained in our brains since youth. The majority of Americans just take this life path as if we have no other choice.
“So, I was reading a blog about this couple who took a year-long trip around the world,” my wife innocently blurted out as we were strolling around our suburban neighborhood.
With that simple statement, our “10-point-plan” was about to be turned upside-down.
Most Americans think it’s absolutely insane to quit their jobs to travel for a year. If it’s something you’re thinking about doing, you will probably run into many questions from friends and family who don’t think it’s possible. After a while, we found that the same three concerns kept popping up.
Here are some of the common concerns and how you can put yourself, your family, and your friends at ease.
No one else travels long-term until they’re retired, so why should you?
It’s not uncommon for Australians to take a year to travel after college, or, in some cases, after high school. Many Europeans do the same, or they may work for a few years to save up some money and go explore before they have children. A large number of Israelis take their military pay after their obligations are met and take off to see what the rest of the world has to offer. But Americans just don’t put international travel at the top of their priority lists.
If you do decide to buck the trend and do what many others think impossible, it will intrigue most everyone you encounter. You become a quasi-celebrity overnight. Once people find out about what you’re going to do, they will be curious and want to chat with you about it. Once you return home from the trip, the same thing happens. Everyone is excited to see you and hear all about your exotic adventures abroad. You are suddenly known as “the world travelers.”
And let’s be honest, who doesn’t like attention and feeling famous?
Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but I can’t count how many people in my parents’ generation lamented that they were jealous of what we were doing and wished they would have thought of doing something similar when they were our age.
>> Read about more myths of rtw travel and why they aren’t true
Taking a year off to travel will ruin your career.
Because so few people in this country travel the world, it becomes a point of interest when someone finds out what you did. Turn that one-year employment gap in your resume into a positive by mentioning what it did for you as a person and how that makes you valuable to a prospective employer. Add your international travel experience into cover letters just as you would job experiences. Talk about your time volunteering in Laos or learning Spanish in Guatemala.
Isn’t standing out what we were always taught was important when writing resumes and cover letters? What better way to stand out than to have experiences and attributes that very few other people have?
Put the time into something you’ve never had the chance to do before. Write, sew, draw, make music, study photography, or learn a new language. Who knows, you may tap into a talent you never knew you had, and that could possibly translate into a new opportunity once you return home.
You’re going where? Aren’t you afraid of being kidnapped, killed, drugged, robbed, etc.?
Fellow employee: “So I heard you’re going to travel abroad for a year. That’s awesome. Where in Europe are you going?”
Traveler: “Uh, actually, we’re not going to Europe.”
Employee (looking bewildered): “No Europe? Where are you going then?”
Traveler: “Well, our plan is to start in South America, then maybe some time in New Zealand, then Southeast Asia, and India.”
Employee (with a questionable expression): “Well, I hope you take a gun, and if not, it’s been nice knowing you.”
I can’t count how many times I had some variation of the above conversation with someone, whether it was a friend, a family member, or someone I worked with. Even after we returned, one of the first questions people asked was, “Were you ever scared? What place made you feel the most uneasy?”
I’m not going to lie and say that I didn’t have safety concerns when first trying to figure out where we would be traveling. The media in this country doesn’t exactly make it desirable to head to a place like Colombia (which, coincidentally, was my favorite country on our trip). So it wasn’t a huge shock to hear concerns like these.
It seems so logical, but it’s difficult not to listen to the vocal majority, many of whom have no idea what they’re talking about. Once we started researching on message boards and getting in touch with real people who had actually been to places in South America, Southeast Asia, and India, our concerns became a non-issue.
Violence happens everywhere. We all know this. Literally 2 days after our departure from our nice, safe, Midwestern city, our families got a sad reminder of that point. We received an email from a family member telling us about a bomb that had gone off in the office building garage next-door to where my wife worked before we left. Luckily no one was killed or seriously injured, but while so many of our loved ones were concerned about our safety in Peru, a bomb was detonated in an affluent neighborhood known for minimal crime. How’s that for irony?
>> Learn more about which countries can be statistically dangerous, and which ones you should visit anyway
Any big lifestyle change, though, whether it’s heading off to college, buying a house, having a child, or taking off on a trip around the world, brings big risks and unknowns along with it.
Even though concerns abounded about how this would affect our futures, the main thing we kept coming back to was the feeling of regret. If we decided not to go, would we regret it ten, twenty, or thirty years from now? Ultimately, that’s what it came down to. Regret. We felt like we would never forgive ourselves if we didn’t do it. That was much riskier than any other possible ramifications.
To us, not quitting our jobs and traveling the world was crazy. Doing it seemed logical.
>> Still not convinced? Discover a few more reasons to start dreaming and start planning your trip
Need more inspiration? Check out:
- 8 Lessons to Learn from My Round the World Trip
- 5 Reasons to Take a Career Break
- How to Travel Around the World for $40 per Day