11 Reasons to Stop Dreaming and Start Planning Your Round the World Trip

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You may never have heard or read the letters R-T-W before.  If you don’t know their meaning, that’s all right.  If you do know their meaning and have contemplated taking one, then you have come to the right place.

If you are a travel lover, an adventurer, or are questioning what it is you really want out of life, then maybe it’s time you find out what those three little letters mean, and why it is that you should consider taking a Round The World trip of your own.

Some think it’s crazy, some think it’s impossible, some think, “There’s no way I could do it.”  I’m here to let you in a little secret.  It’s certainly not crazy.  It’s most definitely possible.  And yes, there is a way you could do it.  So get rid of those excuses and get ready to hit the road for a life-changing adventure.

1.     You are only going to get older.

This is one of the most-used excuses in the book.  “I’m not 18, or 22, or (fill in whatever age you think is still appropriate for traveling for an extended period of time), so I can’t do that.”  That’s crap, and deep down, you know it.  I was 30 when we hit the road for our RTW, and we met travelers ranging from 18 to people in their 60’s to families with kids – in hostels, taking buses, on mountain treks.  We saw people of all ages, so while it may not be common to take a RTW trip at your particular age, it is not impossible, and other people do it.

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Whether you’re 17 and sitting in class right now, or whether you’re already retired sitting at home sipping your morning coffee, or you’re any age in between, one thing is for sure: you are only going to get older.  So now is the time.  No matter your age, as time goes on, it’s common you will want more comfort and less adventure in your life.  It’s a lot easier to endure 24 hour bus rides, stinky, grimy, loud hostels, and multi-day treks through the Andes when you’re young.  These are many of the things you may have to do when on an extended trip around the world, and the older you get, the less likely you are to enjoy these types of activities.  One thing is certain, though, the longer you wait, the harder it will be to pull the trigger.

>> Read Why It’s Not Selfish for Parents to Travel with Young Children

2.    In many cases, it’s cheaper to travel than to live at home.

One of the biggest reasons people give for not traveling long-term is that they can’t afford it.  That’s simply a myth.  Having the discipline to save for a trip of this magnitude is certainly not easy, nor is having to bypass luxuries like going out for dinner and drinks and buying that new car, television, or outfit.  But thinking that a RTW trip is only for the rich or those with a trust fund is simply wrong.

When we’re talking about the everyday expenses of traveling vs. living at home, particularly for those living in countries like the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or anywhere around Europe, chances are it’s going to be cheaper to travel for an extended period of time than to live at home.  Mortgage payments, rent, bills, car payments, food, and drinks are all more expensive in western countries.  Traveling around the world to areas like South America, Africa, SE Asia, India, the Middle East, and even parts of Eastern Europe are much cheaper than simply living your everyday life at home.

But thinking that a RTW trip is only for the rich or those with a trust fund is simply wrong.

Even if you’re a little older than the gap-year traveler straight out of high school or those in their early-mid twenties traveling right after college, you can still get by easily in many parts of the world for about $35-40/day.  And that’s for everything.  Accommodation (even private rooms with your own bathroom), food, transport, and activities are all included in that price tag.  Try living in the US, England, Canada, or Oz for that much.

>> Read How to Travel Around the World for $40 Per Day

3.    You will learn much more from experiencing different cultures than sitting behind a desk or in a classroom.

While school, work, and a career are certainly important, they’re not the most important things in life.  Educating oneself and expanding your horizons can have more impact on you as a person than your job, career, or even schooling.  You can experience new and interesting cultures on a daily basis and educate yourself on how the rest of the world lives while traveling.

It’s easier to understand a country like India if you are there, talking to the citizens and experiencing their daily lives than by reading a book about India.

It’s easier to understand a country like India if you are there, talking to the citizens and experiencing their daily lives than by reading a book about India.  You can see for yourself the impact that war and poverty have had in countries like Laos and Cambodia while you’re there, perhaps volunteering and making a difference.  You can learn many new skills, like patience, bargaining, and communication with other cultures while on the road much easier than you can while sitting in a cube.  Education and careers are important, and I certainly don’t mean to downplay either, but getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing different cultures firsthand can have a much bigger impact on your life than a year of schooling and/or work.  Besides, work and school will still be there when you return.

>>Read Long Term Travel as Education

4.    If you’re not well traveled, here’s your chance.

Not everyone was lucky enough to grow up in a family that was well-traveled (mine certainly wasn’t).  Many people in their twenties and thirties may never have left their home country before.  And while this may deter some from embarking on a trip like this, it absolutely should not.  In fact, it should be a motivator to get on the road and see the world.  Don’t use “I’ve never left my country, it will be too hard” as an excuse.  Yes, it will be hard at times, but the only way to become a traveler and see the world is to actually get out there and travel.

Not having traveled much before is simply an excuse, and there’s only one way to change that.

If you’ve dreamed of seeing the world and traveling for an extended period of time, then do it!  This is your chance!  This was a concern of ours before our RTW trip.  We had only been to Mexico (to resorts) and on a short Western Europe trip, so places like Bolivia, Vietnam, and India seemed very intimidating to us.  While there were certainly challenges along the way, the high points far outweighed the low ones, and forcing ourselves outside of our comfort zone provided us with lasting memories.  Not having traveled much before is simply an excuse, and there’s only one way to change that.

5.    You can be free from all your crap.

While I’m very far from being a minimalist, there was just something freeing about living out of a backpack for a year.  Having all my possessions on my back just made life easier.  There was no pondering for an hour about which outfit to wear or what shoes to put on (when you only have 3 outfits and 2 pairs of shoes, it’s much simpler).  A lot of the time, more stuff means more headaches, and now that we’ve been home for over three years, I can’t count how many times we said to each other, “It was just so much easier on the road, not having a car or a house or all this stuff that can break or get damaged or costs money.”

Having all my possessions on my back just made life easier.

Don’t misunderstand me here.  I like stuff.  I grew up and live in America, a culture built upon collecting as much stuff as you can.  And while I do still enjoy having nice stuff, after having lived both ways, I can firmly say that happiness does not only come from how many possessions one has.  Happiness, at least for me, comes more from experiences, from living life, from seeing amazing sites and meeting new and interesting people.  You can have your 5 pairs of $100 jeans.  I’ll take my dirty backpack, ridiculous-looking zip-off pants, and Chang Beer tank top (which could be reason #12 why RTW travel is awesome-men get to wear sleeveless shirts).

>> Read 6 Reasons why Living on the Road is a Good Option in a Down Economy

6.    You can be free to finally pursue what it is you truly love.

When you’re working 50-60 hours a week and have family, friends, and obligations, it’s difficult to pursue what it is that truly makes you happy.  Sure, there are some who are lucky enough to love their job and have that as their passion.  But the majority of us don’t do what we really want to do for our careers.  We do what it is we have to do to get by.  This is your chance to do something different.

This is your chance to do something different.

Have you always dreamt about getting certified to teach yoga?  Have you always wanted to learn how to scuba dive?  Do you love photography but never had the time to really work on it?  Have you thought about volunteering with young children in need?  Do you want to learn how to cook a new cuisine?  Or maybe, like me, you’ve thought about what it would be like to pursue that one dream you had growing up – to be a writer?  Whatever your dream or passion is, a RTW trip will allow you the time and freedom to finally pursue those dreams.  The excuses for not following what it is you truly love are now gone, replaced by all the time and freedom in the world.  If I was ranking these reasons, this would probably be #1.  There is no price tag for getting a second chance to do what it is you love.  And extended travel releases you from your obligations and gives you that chance.

7.    You get to do what you want, when you want, every single day.

Perhaps the coolest thing about RTW travel is this.  Waking up every day and saying, without anything else holding you back, “What should I/we do today?”  When’s the last time you’ve been able to do that?  Can you even remember?  There are so many obligations at home that tie us down, and having the freedom, as an adult, to do exactly what you want when you want every single day is one of the best feelings in the world.

There are so many obligations at home that tie us down, and having the freedom, as an adult, to do exactly what you want when you want every single day is one of the best feelings in the world.

Want to go sit and lounge on the beach all day for a week with your favorite pile of books?  Do it!  Want to go hike to the top of a mountain or volcano?  Go for it!  Want to eat yourself into a coma?  Nothing wrong with that!  Want to sleep all day and sit in the common area of your hostel watching movies?  Who’s going to tell you not to?  Want to go to the pub and drink yourself silly?  Hey, you don’t have to work tomorrow!

One of our favorite mantras of the trip was, “What, you gotta work tomorrow or something?  Didn’t think so.”  Whenever someone made an excuse for not wanting to do something, this was our response, both to each other and friends we met along the way.  Once you get out of college and start working, there aren’t many times in life when you can say, for an extended period of time, “No, I don’t have to work tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after, or for several more months, so you’re right.  I can do whatever the hell I want!”

>> Read Why It’s Not Crazy for Working Professionals to Quit Their Jobs and Travel the World

8.    You can see iconic sites after iconic site after iconic site.

It doesn't get much more iconic than Machu Picchu

Over the course of a year, we hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, went on a Salar de Uyuni tour, visited Iguazu Falls, hiked all over Patagonia, went ice climbing on a glacier in New Zealand, watched the sun rise over Angkor Wat, saw the Taj Mahal, and hiked in the Himalayas.  And that was just a tiny portion of what we did and saw during our year-long RTW trip.  I say this not to brag, but to show you what is possible with extended travel.  All of these iconic places were on our travel bucket lists, and we managed to cross them all off in less than a year (though we managed to add twice as many new sites along the way).

Walking through the Sun Gate and seeing Machu Picchu for the very first time is a memory burned into my brain forever.

When this becomes your life, whether it’s for a few months or a couple years, it’s pretty amazing.  Sailing up the Mekong River one day and then being at Angkor Wat two days later was just incredible.  Hiking to different glaciers in Patagonia three days in a row was a powerful and awesome experience.  Walking through the Sun Gate and seeing Machu Picchu for the very first time is a memory burned into my brain forever.

>> Read 10 Things You Should Know About Round the World Tickets

9.    Putting your career/relationship/purchases on hold is just temporary.

These are perhaps the biggest excuses out there.  “Quitting my job will be career suicide.  I’m saving for a house and just can’t do it now.  My boyfriend is most likely going to propose soon, so I can’t do something like this now.”  I’m going to let you in a little secret.  That job?  It will still be there.  A new house?  They have many of those, too.  A proposal?  Well, maybe if it hasn’t happened, yet, there’s a reason for that.  Or maybe you can get your significant other to share this amazing experience with you.

But what if you don’t really want that path?  What if you constantly think of doing something different?  What if you just want to quit it all and go explore for a while?

For those of us who grew up in cultures where you go to school, graduate, start a career, get married, buy a house, and have kids, straying from that path can be daunting.  Believe me, I know.  We were on that exact path before deciding to go on our RTW.  But what if you don’t really want that path?  What if you constantly think of doing something different?  What if you just want to quit it all and go explore for a while?

You can do that.  I assure you.  While you may be met with negative words from some people, most of the time it’s because they wish they had the guts to do the same.  All that stuff you’d be leaving behind?  It will still be there when you return.  You may not be able to get the same job, be on the same career path, have the same boyfriend or girlfriend, or buy that same house.  But after a trip like this, chances are you won’t want all those same things.

>> Read 5 Reasons to Take a Career Break

10.    It WILL change your view on life.

One of the things I didn’t expect from our trip was how much it changed me.  I knew I would probably look at certain things differently when we returned.  But our experiences completely changed how I viewed the world, my life, and what I wanted out of it.  Maybe it was the horrific poverty we experienced in some places.  Maybe it was the freedom of being on the road and doing whatever we wanted for an entire year.  Maybe it was seeing and reading about other travelers pursuing their dreams.

As corny as it sounds, our RTW trip made me realize just how short this life is, and it gave me the confidence and motivation to seek out the life I truly want.

It was probably a combination of everything, but suddenly, I wanted more out of life.  Whatever I was going to do when we returned, I wanted to love it.  I was no longer satisfied with a job that I enjoyed, a life I really liked.  I wasn’t unhappy before we left.  Quite the contrary, I was very happy with my life.  But after the trip, I wanted more.  Call me greedy, but I wanted to not only enjoy my job, but feel passionate about it.  I wanted to not only be happy with my daily life, but love where I lived and what I did.  The trip really hit home for me and made me re-evaluate what I wanted out of life.  As corny as it sounds, our RTW trip made me realize just how short this life is, and it gave me the confidence and motivation to seek out the life I truly want.

>> Read 8 Lessons to Learn from My Round the World Trip

11.    REGRET

Want to hike to the top of a volcano today?  You can do it!

This was the biggest reason of them all when it came down to why we decided to chuck it all and head out on the road for a year.  Regret.  After reading about RTW trips, talking to others who had done it, and thinking about whether or not it was right for us, what it came down to was this:  If we decided to bypass the trip and go on the path that we were on, would we regret our decision 5, 10, 20 years down the road?  On the flip side, if we were to get rid of most of our stuff, quit our jobs, and take off on this epic adventure, would we regret it 5, 10, 20 years down the line?

What’s important when making a decision of this magnitude is how you feel about it.  Disregard what others think.  Do what’s best for you as a person; what’s best for your life.

Once we broke it down like that, the answer was easy.  By not going, we were setting ourselves up for a lifetime of “What if’s…”  By going, would we really ever regret doing and seeing the things we were going to experience?  How would it be possible to regret volunteering at an orphanage in Cambodia? Or spending New Year’s Eve with a local Argentine family in Buenos Aires?  Or being invited to a home-made lunch at a painter’s studio in India?  Or teaching English to college kids in Laos and learning about their lives?  Or waking up to the view of 23,000 foot (7000 m) Himalayan peaks?  The answers?  We wouldn’t, and we haven’t.

It’s never easy to do something that isn’t deemed normal or popular by the culture you live in.  Some will denigrate you, some will put you down, some will dismiss your plan as stupid.  What’s important when making a decision of this magnitude is how you feel about it.  Disregard what others think.  Do what’s best for you as a person; what’s best for your life.  RTW, long-term travel certainly isn’t for everyone, but there are tons of people who would benefit from a trip like this.  Are you one of them?

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Photos by: The Other Dan, xurdeEric & Cynthiahjl, mars-hill, travelingtamas, scorbette37Yo SpiffGlobetoppers

Leave a Comment

Older comments on 11 Reasons to Stop Dreaming and Start Planning Your Round the World Trip

06 April 2011

You tell ‘em Adam! So TRUE!

We’ve been on an open ended RTW trip non-stop for the last 5 years..as a family to 39 countries on 5 continents..traveling & living large on just 23 dollars a day per person.


Traveller At Heart
06 April 2011

Fabulous photos, especially the road sign of the elderly couple! Cracked me up because I’m almost there!

Adam, what a fantastic article. I couldn’t agree with your points more. The hardest part is making the decision to go!

Thanks for the great piece, it brought back many found memories of my RTW. Looking forward to your weekly feature.

world explorer
06 April 2011

Great article and I couldn’t agree with you more. In 2009, I took my 12 year old son out of school and took off for one year around the world. It was the best experience I have ever done. I thought that I would have to wait until my son was older, but I decided to take the plunge. I would do it all over again, definitely no regrets.

We traveled to 19 countries, volunteered at some orphanages and villages, learned some languages and traveled slowly through some great countries. We will always be able to share those memories and my son and I have the closest relationship. I have given him the travel bug forever….

We have been home 9 months now and I totally agree with Adam that I want more out of life and settling for mediocre is just not in our vocabulary. I can honestly say that I am more happier and satisfied in my life, maybe because I have realized how lucky we are to live in the Bahamas.

Reading this article, makes me want to plan for the next week right now!

We kept a blog while we traveled: http://www.travelpod.com\members\worldtraveler2

06 April 2011

Wow, I feel like you were channeling my thoughts in your article. I agree wholeheartedly. My husband and I decided to take a career break in our late 30’s and took our kids (5 & 7) on a RTW trip in 2006/2007 and we’ve never regretted it. We loved the simplicity of living out of a backpack and never missed our stuff. When we came back, we moved to a place we loved and then found jobs and now make more money than we did before we left. Definitely no regrets! Now we’re starting to think about where to go on our next trip…

Adam Seper
06 April 2011

Thanks so much for all the great comments everyone!
@WT, We have been following your adventure for years, and I have to say that you’re a HUGE inspiration for those looking to break out of the normal routine and create a new and exciting life.
@Canadian–Thanks so much! I appreciate the kinds words, and I think about our RTW multiple times every single day. It really did change our lives.
@worldexplorer–Thanks, and what an awesome and amazing journey that must have been, for both you and your son. I’m sure it changed both of your lives forever.
@kidsnall–And this comment is really for everyone with kids that has done something similar. You are all definitely inspirations. When we first decided to go on our RTW, we thought it was one big, last hurrah before coming back home and settling down, but after reading stories like yours, and meeting families on the road, we realized that even when we do have kids, long term travel doesn’t have to stop. IMO, what better way to educate your child than to show him or her the way people in the rest of the world live. I can’t wait to share that with our children someday!

Michael Figueiredo
06 April 2011

This is a really inspiring article, Adam! I came to the realization about a year ago that I want to take an RTW trip and am in the process of getting my life together in order to do it. I’m hoping 2012 will be the year!

06 April 2011

Very inspiring article! I’m alas, still at the dreaming stage right now, but at least I’m not making excuses!

wandering educators
06 April 2011

love this! bravo!!

Michelle Cali
06 April 2011

Before I had children in 2003, I met a couple in Costa Rica with their two children going RTW, and it inspired me. I now have 2 children — ages 3 and 5 — and am committed to making this a reality for our family. Question for those who’ve done this with kids… what do you think is the ideal age? (If it matters any, I have two girls…) TIA for your thoughts!

Megan Hennessey
06 April 2011

This has reminded me why I want to travel so badly. I talk to so many people (I am a college student and they tend to be older) that have seen the world and brought back pieces of it. I am always blown away. I could not imagine traveling around the world for so long (how long were you traveling) but I do not think I would pass it up for anything.
I think I will start by backpacking around Europe, and go from there. Thanks for the motivation to do it :)

06 April 2011

Reason #12 The job market is shit. You won’t lose anything by forgoing employment for a year or so.

06 April 2011

beautiful inspiring article. i am all the more excited for it now!! thanks for starting this section Adam. I will be paying very close attention to it.

Ben Reed
06 April 2011

Love all of these. For me, I sometimes get worried that I’m much older than most RTW travelers.

the roamantics
07 April 2011

yeah adam! way to dispell so many of the myths!!! i worried about the money aspect for soooo long. then i went to thailand for 2.5 months and francisco & i BOTH lived off of $1500- for the whole time. now i’ll be heading out on my rtw. woo hoo! :)

Evan Fusco
07 April 2011

My family and I (we’re mid-40s, the kids are 11, 11, & 6) have been on an extended sabbatical for the past 8 1/2 months including 6 months living and working in Australia/New Zealand and the past 2 months traveling around the world including Tokyo, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Turkey, Greece, currently in Italy with Spain and Paris yet to come before heading home.

Adam, this is a perfect article, we’ve heard and thought all those excuses, but the bottom line is where the priorites were and if we wanted regrets. It’s been an amazing journey and an incredible classroom for our kids.

Lisa Overman
07 April 2011

What a great article! You’re right international living and international travel completely change your priorities and perspective.

Graciel Cecilio
08 April 2011

Adam I love reading all your bootsnall articles they are inspiring and well-written. Age and money is something that always pops up in my head but I know it shouldn’t be a show stopper.

Adam Seper
09 April 2011

Thanks for all the wonderful comments everyone. No matter what stage you’re at–dreaming, trying to decide, or planning, just know one thing. What it really comes down to is priority. If you make travel your top priority, you CAN do this.

No matter your age-from college student to young professional to family to retired, you’re NEVER too old to do it, and while you may be in the minority by not being in your 20’s, you’ll still meet plenty of people on the road that are your age and even older. We stayed in hostels with people in their 60’s.

I’m very happy that this article is inspirational for some of you. That’s the whole point of this new column. We want to inspire people to get out on the road and live life the way YOU want to live it.

Jeffrey Drulia
10 April 2011

Did you own a home while doing this trip?

Ms. HalfEmpty
11 April 2011

My husband (Mr. HalfFull) and I are going to take a RTW trip this summer. We own 3 homes (2 that we rent) and 2 cars that we plan to keep for our return. So #2 does not apply to us since we will still have a lot of expenses at home while we are on the road. But I am definitely looking for a new outlook, and we have named our trip the 30/40 World Tour: Quest for Passion.

18 April 2011

Very inspirational words, Adam!

I was only meant to be going to Australia for 8 months in June ’09; I was a year out of university. I ended up meeting my boyfriend, staying for a year, and planning an incredible 7 month trip around Asia. Just come back from there…just mindblowing. 2 years ago, I never thought I’d have climbed a mountain, scuba dived (I’m scared of depths!), ridden a camel AND elephant, bungee jumped, skydived, and ridden on the back of a motorbike for 12 days! Traveling expands your limits and possibilities, teaches you about other cultures and ultimately yourself, ridding yourself of your fears, and makes you realise that literally ANYTHING is possible! Am now off to Fiji for 4 months, then planning to take a TEFL course…there’s so much more of the world to see yet, and so much more to learn!

Good luck to everybody embarking on a RTW trip; I promise you will NOT regret it.

John TravelChocolate
22 April 2011

Great article. Another excuse that people use for not travelling is “it’s dangerous”. It is just no so. Easier/safer to be in Asia, and/or Europe than most US cities. Thanks John R

28 April 2011

Great post! One thing I always try to tell people who are worried about not being able to find a job when they get back is all you typically need to do is convince one person to give you a shot and then you’re back at work.

04 May 2011

What about not having anyone to travel with? thats my problem and the only reason I havent embarked on my RTW trip, I have travelled a lot and I know for a fact that some places are not safe for a girl in her early 20s to walk around by herself. What do suggest ?

06 May 2011

Hi adam. I really want to RTW, but ‘m from India, where the currency ratio is low w.r.t $$. Plus ‘m broke, have nothing to sell to have some money. i am in-between jobs right now. do u have any ideas for me to start my trip ?