A vast majority of people are well aware of the positive sides of traveling and exploring new places, particularly in recent years as world travel becomes more accessible than ever before. But, I’ve never encountered anyone highlighting the other side of the travel coin. Sure, the “Reasons For” vastly outweigh the “Reasons Against.”
This piece is in no way, shape, or form intended to snuff out your wanderlust or dissuade you from exploring your exotic locations and chasing your adventure.
That said, I feel that being made aware of the negative realities of travel can make for a more conscientious and considerate globe-trotter and can only benefit would-be travelers who may have never considered this side of the coin.
Long-term Travel Can Induce Anxiety
It’s not unusual to develop high levels of anxiety while backpacking, particularly when doing so for long periods of time. The anxiety won’t necessarily be about the trip itself – the spectacular experiences you’ll have and people you will meet will be far from anxiety-inducing. That said, there can be an undertone, an itchiness in the back of your mind that grows from the extended period of having little-to-no structure in your day to day life, and no kind of goal to work towards.
I call it the “I look like everything is fine, but inside my shoe, my sock is coming off” sort of feeling.
It can bleed into returning home, making the process of arranging your journey and fitting back into normality a daunting prospect.
The Unexpected Challenge of Returning Home
I found this extremely difficult. You go home, and nothing changes. There’s the “Welcome back, we missed you” and “Let’s grab a coffee and catch up” period. But inside of two weeks, you’ll feel like you never left. Often, I felt lost and confused, overwhelmed in an existential crisis “what do I do with my life” way.
Home Feels Less Like Home
Upon the discovery that the world is more vast and diverse than you could ever imagine – and that it’s a lot more accessible than you thought – the little corner which you call home can lack that old sense of permanence. With a broader perspective and a 4-hour journey looking more appealing than it did before, options and opportunities you never previously considered are now more appetizing. This lessened feeling of “home” can also influence anxiety as it fuels your overall uncertainty.
While these negative aspects may sound dramatic and very much like a burden, this is not entirely true. They can fuel your desire to follow a path that’s totally different from the one you previously envisioned. Though your sense of home may change, the world has been opened to you.
These “negatives” still offer the potential to inspire more dreamers to chase their goals despite the odds. How easy it can be once you get the ball rolling.
Traveling and exploring the world is a phenomenal experience which enables a person to grow exponentially, and it should always be encouraged. But I think that the other side of the coin should also be addressed. Hopefully, knowing about the potential of anxiety, the struggle of returning home, and the unusual feeling of “homelessness” that can set in after serious travel will help you avoid being caught off guard and experiencing these struggles alone.