10 Round the World Travel Myths Debunked

Excuses, excuses, excuses. When it comes to travel, particularly long term travel, everyone has an excuse for why they can’t do it. Myths abound about long-term, RTW travel, and if you’re on the fence about taking the plunge for yourself, it’s time to realize that absurdity of some of these myths.

Ready to debunk these myths and get on the road?
Ready to debunk these myths and get on the road?

Why is it that the people who have never traveled long term have such a skewed view of this type of travel? Why are there so many myths out there that are just flat out untrue? While it’s difficult to answer these questions, it’s not very hard to dispel the many myths about RTW travel that are out there.

1. It’s too expensive

Too expensive


This is by far the number one misconception of long term travel, and it’s the excuse we most commonly hear for why someone can’t take a trip like this. While it’s obviously not free, it really comes down to your priorities and motivation. RTW travel is not only for the rich, retired, or those with trust funds. Period.

It is completely different than going on a one week vacation. The mindset is totally different, and the style of travel is totally different, so multiplying what you spend on a one or two week holiday by months or a year is not going to give you an accurate estimate of what a RTW trip costs.

We find it important to treat a long-term trip as a big life event – no different than saving for college, a wedding, a house, or preparing to have children.

Because this type of travel isn’t part of the big life events that society deems normal, people often have trouble getting over that mental hurdle of spending thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars, on a trip. We find it important to treat a long-term trip as a big life event – no different than saving for college, a wedding, a house, or preparing to have children.

Sacrifices certainly have to made in order to take off for an extended trip. Depending on your saving capabilities, you may have to be willing to rough it a bit by staying in hostels, taking long bus rides, and eating unique food – it’s all part of the deal. For most RTW travelers, they spend much less during a year on the road than they would at home, and while it may take years of saving and sacrificing, once you’re on the road, living your dreams, and doing what you want when you want every day, all the hard work makes it worthwhile.

>> Find out how much money you really need to travel and get tips for saving money for your trip

2. I don’t have time

Time and money are the two biggest excuses people give for not taking an extended trip. Unfortunately for those of us who live in the US, most of simply don’t have the vacation days to take more than a week or two at a time. So while it’s not as simple as taking your vacation, you’d be shocked at what you might be able to work out with your employers.

You may be surprised at employers who are willing to grant a leave of absence. My wife is an attorney, not exactly the profession that one would think would support this type of career break. While we were planning our trip, she had always just planned on quitting and finding something new when we returned, but when she finally broke the news to a few of her friends who she worked with, they posed the question, “Why don’t you ask for a leave of absence?”

She had never really contemplated this option before, so she figured, “What do I have to lose?” So she asked, and while they were surprised and didn’t immediately say yes (they wanted to meet and discuss it since no one had ever asked this before), they ultimately granted her a one year leave.

If you hate your job or are questioning your career choice, then this is a great time to take advantage and try something new. A long term trip affords you the time and freedom that you simply don’t have in your daily life at home, so you may discover a new hobby or love that you can turn into a career, or you may decide that being a permanent nomad is for you. If you have skills that can be utilized from the road – web consulting, contract review for lawyers, teaching, writing, photography – it’s possible to earn a few extra bucks while traveling or turn it into a new career upon your return (or just stay on the road and work from there). Anything is possible, and if you aren’t happy where you’re at now, then take this time to make some changes in your life.

3. The resume gap will ruin my career

Resume gap


While it is true that a big gap in your resume used to be looked upon as a major negative, the times are changing. The world has been going through a massive financial crisis since 2008, so there are tons of quality employees out there with gaps in their resumes. Many spent months or even years collecting unemployment while looking for work. If you also have a gap in your resume but have something unique to add to your resume as a result, you might be the one who stands out.

Let’s look at a hypothetical situation: Say you are the one hiring and have two resumes before you, both with one year employment gaps in them. One has been looking for work that entire year (supposedly), collecting unemployment along the way. One traveled the world and put that experience on his or her resume and cover letter. This RTW traveler may have learned a new language, taught English to children in Asia, or volunteered at an orphanage in Bolivia, all things that would look fantastic on a resume. If you were doing the hiring, which would you be more inclined to bring in for an interview?

>> Find out how a career break can help you professionally

4. It’s too dangerous to travel internationally



I’m going to be frank here. This is perhaps the dumbest myth of them all. Just stop watching, reading, and listening to the media. They thrive on sensationalism and over-exaggeration, so why so many people take what they say as fact is beyond me. By now we should all know that the media is a business, so that’s why we see so many horrific stories highlighted that are there for the sole reason of boosting ratings.

If you really want to know about visiting a foreign place, why don’t you go straight to the source? In the internet age that we live in, it’s quite easy to find information written by people on the ground right now in a certain destination.

You can find tons of people who are in these so called dangerous destinations right now. Wouldn’t their opinions be more valid than a media report or your crazy Uncle Barney’s, you know, the guy who has never left his hometown but has an opinion on how dangerous it is to travel in Central America?

Get on message boards, read blogs, open a twitter account, get active in social media. You can find tons of people who are in these so called dangerous destinations right now. Wouldn’t their opinions be more valid than a media report or your crazy Uncle Barney’s, you know, the guy who has never left his hometown but has an opinion on how dangerous it is to travel in Central America? Just use some common sense here, and realize that the vast majority of places around the world are perfectly safe to travel in. There will always be exceptions, of course, but most so called dangerous places are greatly exaggerated.

>> Check out more of the worst advice and myths around travel

5. I’m too old to go on a RTW trip

Too old


When my wife first suggested the idea of a RTW trip to me, I was 28 years old. After dismissing her and citing the first three myths, this was next in my arsenal of why we couldn’t do it. “Babe, we’re not in college anymore. We’re too old to do this,” I said.

While it’s true that many of the people we met on the road were in college or on a gap year, we met tons of people our age, and older. We even met retirees and families with kids along the way.

Which is brings us to Myth 5a – I’m too old to stay in a hostel. Most people who have limited international travel experience have a grave misconception about hostels. While it’s true that hostels have crowded dorm rooms with shared bathrooms, it’s also true that most hostels offer private rooms with private bathrooms, so if sharing a room with 7 strangers isn’t your thing, you don’t have to do it. You can get all the benefits of hosteling – free breakfasts, kitchens to cook in, camaraderie of other travelers, common spaces to meet others – while still having comfort and privacy, and all for a fraction of the cost of a hotel.

6. I have kids. It’s impossible to travel long-term with kids



No matter where you are in life, there’s a myth about why you can’t travel long term. Having a family certainly excludes you from RTW travel, right? Well, all the families who have done it, are doing it, or planning to do it beg to differ.

It’s certainly not an easy task, and you’ll probably meet the most resistance of any group wanting to travel RTW, but it is certainly possible. Many like to cite a bunch of different myths of why it’s a bad idea to take kids on the road long term with you – it’s too dangerous, what about school, what about all our stuff, my family could never do that. All are fairly valid concerns, but all have a rebuttal.

Getting rid of all your stuff is an empowring thing, and it could make your kids realize that all the material items they had weren’t completely necessary. Each family is different, but you may be surprised at what your family can and can’t do.

We’ve already dispelled the too dangerous myth. You can homeschool your children or send them to a school abroad, and besides, the education your children will receive on the road experiencing new cultures and a new way of living will be invaluable to their education. Getting rid of all your stuff is an empowring thing, and it could make your kids realize that all the material items they had weren’t completely necessary. Each family is different, but you may be surprised at what your family can and can’t do.

Family travel is not easy, but it’s a great way to really bond with your husband, wife, and children in a unique way that not many families get the chance to do. Educating your children on the differences and similarities of people around the world, all the while exposing them to different cultures and different ways of life, will teach them skills that simply can’t be taught at home.

>> Read about how traveling can be beneficial to young kids and get tips on hosteling with kids

7. I’m a single woman. It’s way too dangerous for me to go alone

Solo female


Mom and Dad are not going to like the idea that their little girl wants to traipse around the world by herself. That’s just a fact. And while they may have some valid concerns, it’s important to point out why you can do this and why you’ll be safe along your journey.

It’s definitely true that solo women travelers have to exercise a bit more caution on the road than men or couples, but as long as you do your homework first and come armed with resources to put your parents and loved ones at ease, you should be able to prove that it’s not that big a deal for women to travel alone.

Since we live in the internet age, it would be a great idea to point your concerned loved ones to blogs or websites of other solo women travelers who have done or are doing it right now. Evelyn, founder of Journeywoman, is a 70-something-year-old woman who has been traveling solo for 30 years! Her site is chock full of awesome resources and inspirational stories of women all over the world who have done the same. Ayngelina is a young Canadian woman who traveled solo for over a year through Latin America. She has written a great post about the camaraderie of solo female travelers have when meeting each other on the road. Stephanie wrote an entire article dispelling the myths surrounding solo female travel, and she had a guest post on her site, Twenty-Something Travel, from Christine, about why she chooses to travel solo. These are just a tiny sampling of resources you can find about other single women who have safely made their dreams of traveling the world come true.

>> Get the truth behind myths about solo female travel

8. I’m American, and everyone hates Americans

It’s definitely true that we Americans have had a rough go of it over the last decade or so. W didn’t exactly help our image overseas, and while there may have been some anti-American sentiment abroad, by and large it was exaggerated. Even for those who have a misconception of Americans, it’s important to meet and talk with them to dispel the rumors. Once most people who have a negative view of Americans actually meet us abroad, they change their tune and wonder why they think like they do.

In the places you’d assume have the most anti-American sentiment, like the Middle East, usually the opposite is true. Those who have traveled extensively around the region spoke about nothing but kindness and friendliness towards Americans. Just another reason to talk to travelers who are actually on the ground in certain countries and cities to obtain information about what it’s really like to travel there. Even if you do meet some people who have negative perception of Americans, it’s highly unlikely that any harm will come to you because of it. Ignorance doesn’t typically equal violence, and while there are very rare cases of this happening, it’s not any more usual than most violence happening in your hometown city.

>> Read about backpacker stereotypes you’ll find on your travels

9. My health insurance won’t cover me



Health insurance has been a very hot topic in the US for years now. Certain groups like you to think that we are the only country in the world offering top notch health care, which is why we have to pay so much. That is simply untrue. In most countries around the world, even developed countries, health care is dirt cheap for their citizens, and the quality is just as good. Even for foreigners, it often costs a minimal amount compared to the US.

Traveling without any type of insurance is certainly a risk, but it’s possible to get a catastrophic policy that will cover you in case of a major emergency. For anything minor, like a small cut, sore throat, or virus, it’s no big deal to simply show up to a doctor or hospital and get treatment for minimal costs. Many countries have pharmacies that will sell antibiotics over the counter if that’s all you need. Even if you buy a travel insurance policy, submitting the claims and dealing with the hassle to get repaid for seeing a doctor may not be worth it.

>> Find out if you need travel insurance

10. It’s too hard to plan/I’m not spontaneous enough


I’m a planner. I’m an organizer. On every other trip before our RTW, I liked to plan everything out. When planning our RTW, I realized that this was going to be impossible. You simply can’t plan for all the random things that will happen on the road, and if you try, you’ll go nuts. This was a big challenge for me, but I’m a better traveler and a better person because of it.

RTW travel can be as planned or open as you want. Some simply buy that first plane ticket and take it from there. Some plan all their flights and fill in as time goes on. No matter what you decide, chances are you’ll learn some new skills that will helpful to not only future trips but life in general. For those of who are planners, we can get pretty flustered when things go wrong. Learning to take everything in stride, which you must do on a RTW trip, is a great skill to learn and helps tremendously with learning patience. While planning a trip like this is difficult at times, it can teach everyone so many new skills that are transferable to real life situations.

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For citizens of countries where long term travel is not popular, it’s sometimes difficult not only to dispel myths your loved ones might believe, but also talk yourself into not believing them. Before we decided to go on our RTW, I though so many of these same myths were true. But then I started reading, researching, and talking to others who have actually done it.

It’s important to go to the right places for your information. Listening to the doom and gloom media reports or conspiracy theory relatives might have you questioning yourself, but if you start talking to the people who have actually done it themselves, you’ll realize that most of what you thought was simply untrue.

Do you agree with the above myths of RTW travel? Have you had to dispel these same myths to convince not only your loved ones but yourself that it’s perfectly safe and sane to take off on a world tour? What myths did we not touch on here? Comment below to share your thoughts.

Photos by: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 – courtesy of the author, 9, 10


Leave a Comment

  • Big Travel Nut said at 2014-07-09T16:06:42+0000: This is a great article! I have been travelling solo for 22 years and I love it! And coincidentally, I just wrote an article about finding more time to travel on my blog: http://bigtravelnut.com/time-or-money-what-do-you-need-more/ I never travel out of my country (Canada) without buying medical insurance though. It's pretty affordable (although more expensive when your trip includes the US).
  • Anita Oliver said at 2013-08-23T20:47:59+0000: Hi Adam, In answer to your question, I think that the myth of “Being happy and satisfied with living the American dream…” was probably the biggest thing holding us back from travelling. Here’s our story. We’ve been married 33 years and followed all the paths prescribed in the American dream: education, family and climbing the career ladder to success. We lived in a water front home on north Padre Island in Corpus Christi, TX: a beautiful place to live and retire. My husband had been “downsized” which, due to the economy, had led to early retirement. He filled his time with many volunteer activities, friends and hobbies. I was a hospital pharmacist and worked with people I enjoyed but, gradually, my work became less satisfying and more frustrating. We started talking about our growing restlessness and dissatisfaction but we were doing everything right, weren’t we? I remember looking around at our beautiful house and all the things we had collected over the years and saying to myself “I do NOT want to keep working at a job I don’t enjoy anymore to maintain a bunch of stuff I don’t care about anymore”. So, I began following travel and expat blogs like Boots ‘n All and reading online about early retirement, location independence and what other people were doing to redefine their lifestyles. I was gratified to discover that there was a growing community of adults and even baby boomers like us who were also unsatisfied with the “American dream”. This realization, that people like us were actively pursuing new directions spurred us to make our life altering decision: we began to envision an alternative to our previously anticipated retirement years. We decided that we would do something we had talked about vaguely: travel. We would travel with no clear end game, no ultimate destination, no place to which we must return. We began in August 2011 and started making up lists of what needed to be done. We went through two garage sales, endless Craig’s list postings, shipping treasured items across country to new homes, etc. We finally got our stuff down to what we would need to travel. We put our finances in order, leased the house long term, arranged for worldwide health insurance, addressed issues of taxes, voting, medical records, and especially, how to stay in touch with all those who are important to us. Deviating from the norm and choosing to change our future was and has been an evolving process. Leaving a secure job and home we loved was frightening but even more terrifying was the thought of staying in a lifestyle that no longer made us happy and left the question “WHAT IF…” unanswered. As we let our possessions go we felt our priorities shift too: each thing we shed was one less thing to take care of or worry about. As our house emptied of all the things that were once so important to us we felt lighter and more focused on anticipating a future where experiences would be our priority. Some of our friends and family expressed complete bafflement over our decision to leave. We had so much- how could we leave? Didn’t we know that Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, etc. were destitute and dangerous places filled with people who hated Americans? What if we got sick, robbed, kidnapped, died…? Many people, however, shared their own longing to change direction and I kept wanting to say “Do it. Do it NOW”. Don’t buy that new television, car or house: that ball and chain that’s keeping you tied to the same place… Figure out how to let go…. We left our island home on September 11, 2012, and drove to Colorado, giving the last of our things to our son saying goodbyes to family. On September 19th we took off from the Denver International Airport for Mexico with two laptops loaded with all our photos, scanned copies of documents and other important information, two kindle e-readers with extensive libraries, two cameras, and two suitcases each. We’ve been travelling for almost 12 months now (by bus) and are currently in Utila, the Bay Islands of Honduras. Along the way we took a CELTA class to teach English as a Second language and volunteered for two months at an all-girls public school in Antigua, Guatemala. We’ve met more people and made more friends in the last few months than in the entire 10 years we lived in Texas. We’ve started our own blog (http://noparticularplacetogo.net) and have loved exploring this area of the world. We have no set itinerary or schedule. We plan to NOT PLAN and follow opportunities and interests at our own pace. In the immortal words of Dr. Seuss, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose”. Finally, we have no regrets about our decision to leave the American dream behind and pursue a different path to happiness. We hope our story helps someone else break free from living a life that’s less than happy. Anita & Richard.
  • said at 2013-08-21T17:10:30+0000: Friends, interesting discussion going on here; thanks for having me on the list. There are various obstacles but persist and they can be overcome. Cost? Travel in much of the developing world is easily possible on less than it costs to keep a basic car in North America... so ditch the wheels and go!Nobody to go with? A solo experience is often better because it forces more interaction with the locals (or diverse fellow travellers) rather than just hanging out with a person or group you know from home. Many people who may be great friends at home find themselves incompatible on the road; others learn that they will travel well but don't want to live together in one place. Avoid being 'tied' to a situation that may turn out unpleasant. Unfortunately solo travel does still seem to get one 'selected' for a more thorough inspection by customs/immigration in places like US/Canada but maintain your cool, don't be carrying prohibited stuff and all should be fine.The dreaded resume hole? I took a year off because my time commitments, health, finances etc allowed the opportunity and such a chance may not happen again soon. Don't apologize, but consider in advance that you will probably be asked such questions so have a 'positive' reply in mind that hopefully doesn't sound rehearsed.
  • Kat Bedick said at 2013-08-22T03:40:33+0000: The myth that kept me stationary for so long was not on this list. The myth was...my dream of traveling the world was selfish. Bootsnall helped me realize that my dream was anything but selfish. You know when you're on an airplane and they tell you that, in case of emergency, put your own oxygen mask on before assisting those around you? Well, I needed to take care of my needs before I could make a positive influence on other people's lives. For me, that means putting myself in the best situation possible, aka traveling long term.
  • Don't worry Just travel said at 2013-07-04T10:07:36+0000: I enjoyed reading this post. Lack of time is a good excuse, but travelling is as always a learning experience and one that can only add to your education and outstanding of the world and its people. If you have enjoyed this post then I would love it if you took the time to have a look at my blog and especially my travel coward post. http://www.dontworryjusttravel.com/index.php/opinion/item/223-are-you-a-travel-coward?#.UdVFYPnVA7I
  • Don't worry Just travel said at 2013-07-04T09:55:14+0000: I enjoyed reading this post. Lack of time is a good excuse, but travelling is as always a learning experience and one that can only add to your education and outstanding of the world and its people. If yo have enjoyed this post then I would love it if you took the time to have a look at my blog and especially my travel coward post. http://www.dontworryjusttravel.com/index.php/opinion/item/223-are-you-a-travel-coward?#.UdVFYPnVA7I
  • Jeanne Dee said at 2011-08-02T19:02:09+0000: Yep, they are all myths! We know because we at soultravelers3 have been traveling the world non-stop as a family going on 6 years now to 43 countries on 5 continents on $23/day per person. You tell 'em Adam! Travel isn't expensive, buying and maintaining STUFF is. If there is a will there is always a way. Life is short, dare to follow your dreams!
  • Klarissa Meinholtz said at 2011-07-27T09:14:02+0000: Enjoyed all of these points, especially the one about travel and it being too expensive. I think that the majority of the cost is simply getting there, buying the plane ticket over, etc. After you get to your destination you can stay in youth hostels--they really aren't that scary. You can also simply buy sandwich makings or cheaper food. It might not taste as delicious as if you went to a restaurant but if you want to travel you can make it work! Another interesting point is that some people think of themselves as too old to travel, or women worry that they cannot travel alone. Certainly there are areas in every city in every country where you have to be careful and research what to do in an emergency situation but most places are not all that frightening. Most people that I have met overseas don't hate Americans at all either, rather the contrary. These myths can only be dispelled through the people who have been to these different countries. It is their comments that can help us glean information about where we would like to visit someday.
  • Anne E. Hines said at 2011-08-04T17:22:43+0000: Just curious if anyone knows how to deal with expensive ($1800 monthly) refrigerated medicines? They've prevented me from taking a RTW trip. I have rheumatoid arthritis and none of the oral meds worked for me. I take an injection every two weeks - so most of my trips are 3.5 weeks in length - I take an injection right before leaving for the airport, and bring along prednisone in case my RA flares because I'll be 1.5 weeks overdue for my shot on return. If I'm traveling to warm places like Asia, I may not have a flare. I've looked into trying to take meds with me, but commercial airlines don't have fridges on board, we buy cheap tickets and have long layovers, and sometimes are over 30 hours in transit. Also, since we go to out of the way places, it's not possible to get my meds there (think Sikkim, India, or Sulaweisi, Indonesia) - nor would my insurance allow me - I can only use one(!) pharmacy in the entire US to supply my meds. Since they're so expensive, I obviously am not going to purchase them out of pocket. Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy to have these meds - they've allowed me to trek in the Himalayas which I could not have done otherwise, but they do put a crimp in long term travel...
  • Robeck's Travel said at 2011-08-06T14:37:40+0000: The learning experience will give you new eyes to appreciate other people and your own country.
  • Cherie Ve Ard said at 2011-07-27T20:39:19+0000: Great wrap-up of RTW excuses.My partner and I have been traveling full time for over 5 years now, and have heard many of these and more. We get a lot of questions about money, jobs (for those of us that work as we travel), logistics (mail, voting, insurance, etc), family, pets, romance, community and being a homebody.A while back, we started a blog series addressing all of the excuses folks give us for why they're not doing the extended travel they want to be.For anyone interested, you can access all our topics at: http://www.technomadia.com/2010/11/answers-to-common-excuses-not-to-travel-full-time/
  • Maybell Watson said at 2011-07-28T09:52:28+0000: I really enjoy entire topic..exactly is the reason that its tough to travel for the solo women than the couple or men...but to adopt some caution its not difficult to travel alone and to enjoy and experience the world more closely. I usually saw lots of solo women that used to travel independent I do not think this could prevent us to enjoy our life fully.. we can control our life and nobody is allowed to control our life..
  • Ayngelina Brogan said at 2011-07-27T13:34:12+0000: Hey thanks for including me. I have been traveling solo for the last 14 months and there are an incredible number of women in their 30s traveling solo - although I never say 'alone' because inevitably you meet people.As for the costs, I bought a one-way ticket to Mexico for $150 and spent less than $1000 a month traveling through Mexico, Central America and South America. Sure flying to Thailand can be expensive but there are plenty of other great options.
  • Black Chick On Tour said at 2011-07-28T11:48:04+0000: I guess I have not more excuses. :)