We’re Told Not to Travel

Thank you Rémy Lasset for translating "We're Told Not to Travel" into French and Spanish. Should you prefer listening to reading, there is also an audio version.


We’re told not to travel.

We’re told not to travel by those closest to us. By our well-intentioned parents, and uncles and aunts. By our best friends. By those we love, and those who love us back. We’re told not to travel by those who want us to stay.

We’re told not to travel by those we don’t give a damn about. By the boss who cares more about next month’s schedule than your dreams. By the landlord who doesn’t want to find someone new. We’re told not to travel by those we inconvenience.

We’re told not to travel by our calendars. By the wedding coming up next month. By the holiday season after that. By our mom’s birthday. By that thing your friend does every year that you never miss. By the season finale of that show you like. We’re told not to travel, because we’re told there’s too much to do.

We’re told not to travel by our bank accounts. By our credit cards, and our utility bills. By the price of a tank of gas for the cars we haven’t paid off yet. By the cost of tuition and two-hundred dollar textbooks. We’re told not to travel, because we’re told we can’t afford it.

We’re told not to travel by our television. By the pictures of extremists, waving guns and wearing black. By the stories about diseases, and wars, and missing children. We’re told that other countries aren’t safe. We’re told that tourists are targets. We’re told to stay inside and put bigger locks on our doors. We’re told not to travel, when we don't trust other people.

We’re told not to travel by social anxiety. By the fear we have that we can’t quite explain. By not wanting to spend twelve-hours next to a stranger on an airplane. By not wanting to sleep in a room with people you’ve never met. Because what if they want to talk and you have nothing to say? Or what if they don’t want to talk, and you’re alone the whole time? And what if you take a wrong turn and get lost in a strange country, and what if, what if, what if, what if...

We’re told not to travel when we don't trust ourselves.


And yet, we travel.

With the whole world giving us reasons not to, we do it anyway. We pack a bag, and we head for the horizon. And when we start to travel, something strange happens.

We trust ourselves. We choose not to let our lives be defined by fears and insecurities. Wayne Gretzky has a fear of flying. But if he didn't trust himself to get on an airplane a hundred times a year, he wouldn't have been the greatest hockey player of all time.

We trust others. We choose not to let the media convince us that humanity is bad. Humanity isn't bad; we've just given the bad ones the spotlight. All over the world I've met friendly people who are proud of their countries. People who will give you directions or recommend you places to go. All you need to do is ask.

We buy less. We choose to find value in things that don’t need to be bought. Every time I return from travelling I end up donating old clothing, or finding some way to minimize my possessions. It's liberating. To quote Palahniuk's Fight Club: The things you own end up owning you.

We stay less busy. We choose to save time to travel, to dream, and to live. This doesn't mean your mom's birthday or your friend's wedding isn't important to you. But if you're waiting for a free schedule before your next big adventure, you could be waiting your whole life.

We worry less. We choose to lead our own lives, not the lives others want for us. Everyone has their own perspective, and is going to want something different from you. While every traveller needs to know when to say yes, they also need to know when to say no.

And when we come home from our travels, we love more. Because there’s nothing quite like travel to show you what you had before you left.


Audio version of "We're Told Not to Travel"

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    • Thank you – a friend just showed me your blog. And also, sorry – I feel like I have blogs brewing that address similar thoughts re: fear, possessions, love etc. I’m not one to plagiarise so before I continue my blog, I just want you to know that I haven’t copied yours. The ideas have been brewing for a while… Follow mine: renovator travel.wordpress.com

  1. Well done Dan! Great story and so true… Had this… my friend got married while I was in New Zealand. And i booked my ticket after I know about her wedding. Just didnt want to not go on a 3 month andventure for ne wedding day. And I did a video in New Zealand on her Weddingday…

  2. Indeed. There is a tipping point, or breaking point where someone gets over those fears. I’ve found people have very interesting stories about what pushed or pulled them out their front door. I liked the formula you used for this writing dan. I felt like it was going towards more of a crescendo though. You established a rythym that the parallel answers didn’t quite resolve for me.

    • Everyone has their own reasons for travelling, that’s for sure! Interesting comment about the rhythm. I didn’t want to add too much weight to the ending, because it felt more natural to stick with the symmetry. Maybe your desire to see more in the second-half than the first-half means you have more reasons to travel than not to travel? Not a bad problem to have! 😉

      What do other people think? Could more have been added to the ending?

      • I read it for the inspirational sentiments.. not for the symmetry and rhythm.. why get hung up on literary techniques? The message is the reason I was drawn to it and the need to understand and be supportive of my 19 year old daughter who is making her dream of travelling come true in a few months time when she has earned enough money. I am behind her and as supportive of her as a mum can be and loved reading this. Don’t devalue it by feeling the need to dissect it for pompous literary elements.

  3. Maybe not to be added but just a thought.. I love to travel but I’ve experienced this feeling of never coming home entirely, there is always a part of me that gets left behind because it actually doesn’t exist anymore.. Traveling changes you and when you get back you realize that old friends are no more than strangers and strangers become your best friends. I have pieces of my heart scattered all over the places I’ve been to, and I feel that coming home is nothing more that one more stop on this endless journey. Traveling sets your mind on the “happy traveller mood”, it starts with a few coincidences, unlikely things happen and make you think you are very lucky, you meet just the right people and you start seeing the path life has prepared for you right in front of you, you become detached and enjoy the good and the bad, you start flowing with it. Is very easy to engage in this particular mood when you are moving around, it is when you come back home that you need to keep living in it, I think only like this you can start traveling without moving because you realize you actually never left! home is not where you live, home is within you… Happy traveling to you all! <3

  4. I think everyone should have to travel outside of their own country. Overseas if at all possible. Radical mind shifter. ❤️it.

  5. I’m actually crying right now, realizing how much of my life I’ve spent without exploring new places. Thank you so much for being inspirational.

    • Wow! I’m happy my writing had such an impact on you, Kristi. The good thing about travelling is it really is a choice, and it’s never too late in life to make it.

  6. great words, amazing. it is true that you start trusting yourself. you start trusting humanity. people really do give you directions, and you didn’t need to pack 7 tshirts for a 10 day trip. i couldn’t stop smiling at all the negative ifs that coworkers, family, friends and media posed on me as i sunbathed under a bright, sunny day at a clear, clean beach in puerto rico, where might i add, got myself a very cheap flight cause i chose to go during ‘hurricane season’. (terrible run-on sentence, but you get the picture.)
    am in agreement with you 100%. great piece

  7. i like your text a lot.

    Right now I don’t feel people or life tell me not travel, i am realizing that it is more a feeling of shame or a fear that holds me back – i thought it was the others holding me back but it isn’t it is within me that it is holding – maybe some norms internalized. I love seeing this inner holding. Because it is sets me free to travel.

    I would like the end to have a bit more. Just because i like it.

  8. Excellent post. So true! I quitted my job and went for a one year long trip in 2010, and I felt all the same “not to” and the same “we do”. I come back different from each trip I make. I learn a lot about places, about people and about me. I record many more feelings when I’m traveling. And I know that I will go on the road again.
    It seems that you are just starting your long term trip. Congrats! I wish you all the best. You are welcome in Spain. I’ll be glad to share stories and ideas and help.

  9. Agree 100%. And sometimes you feel more at home in a strange place.

  10. Excellent post and so true. i was raised by the mantra, “You can do whatever you want, so long as you bear the cost.” Back in high School I “flipped burgers” to finance my bicycle trip through Europe the summer after graduation in 1970. That two month trip forever changed and enriched my life…

  11. Couldn’t agree more. I’m an American, who’s wife is Colombian. I’m a father to an amazing baby boy who’s half American “mutt” (like me), and half Colombian. I’m a veteran infantry paratrooper who’s been to Germany, Romania, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. I’m a soon-to-be tourist in Colombia for nearly half of a year (perhaps more of a part-time resident than tourist). I cannot wait to submerge myself in Colombian culture and to have the opportunity to travel around the beautiful country, meeting interesting people along the way. Travel-less life is worse than flavorless food.

  12. Dan, good writing and so true. I read your blog because of my friend Jetta who I met in Korea when I lived there 2 years ago. I am an American, I live in Taiwan with a current British Roommate where I met my Polish girlfriend. were traveling to HK next week and Australia in February. I Travel more than anything else (all over ) if your in Taipei, you got a beer and a couch with your name on it. Good stuff bro, get out there, and see it. Email me at [email protected]

  13. This is SO true! When I moved to Korea, people thought I was crazy. “You’ll be bombed by North Korea.” “You’ll get kidnapped.” etc… Turns out South Koreans are some of the nicest people in the world! Then when I moved to Indonesia, people again told me I would get kidnapped. My grandmother is still worried that I’ll be walking down the street and someone will just chop my head off. hahaha turns out Indonesians are super friendly and waaay laid back… and don’t carry around machetes to chop off foreigners’ heads.

  14. Dan – The premise that others tell you not to travel didn’t strike me as accurate and I was not going to read the rest, but I’m glad I did. As some of the others posting responses here, I believe in the value of travel. I had to create a place to come home to before I was able to go though. This may not be an issue for many, but for those who don’t have that solid home base to come back to, travel can also be disorienting. Travel helps you to appreciate home, as you say in your last sentence: “And when we come home from our travels, we love more. Because there’s nothing quite like travel to show you what you had before you left.”

    I was very quick to criticize my country and my culture when at home. When abroad I not only learned to appreciate more what I had left, but I also felt a need to defend my culture/country and try to explain it to others. This shift in perspective was one of the most valuable lessons of my life and has opened me to appreciating the perspective of others. I get very concerned by the tendency I see more and more in the US to try to paint the world in black and white (“you’re either with us or you’re against us”, “axis of evil”, “good guys vs. bad guys”. etc.). Reality is so much more complex than that, but if you never travel and never experience different perspectives it is difficult to resist the black and while picture that the media presents. “Good” vs “Bad” is easy to understand and it fits between the commercials. Explaining the sometimes ambiguous details of a complex situation is not satisfying to an audience that wants simplicity and clarity.

    I would add that language is also an important instrument in opening our minds. North Americans have the luxury of not really needing to learn another language in order to travel, since English has become the defacto international language, but not learning another language keeps us at a distance from the people and places we visit and limits our ability to appreciate different ways of seeing the world and events.

    I would encourage every school to offer 2nd language instruction and to encourage and facilitate international exchanges. I would also encourage you and everyone else posting here who agrees with you to do something concrete to help others broaden their horizons, in whatever way is available to them. For some people hosting a foreign exchange student might be a good start.

    The wold is not as big as it once was and we need more people who can facilitate intercultural communication. Keep it up. You are off to a good start.

  15. You need to write. Not as in, “you need to write so I can stay connected with you while you are away.” No. You need to write because you are really really good at it. You have something to say and you articulate it in a way that gets the reader thinking. Have you ever read Seth Godin’s blog? He’s one of my favourites. And he must be other people’s favourite ’cause he published his posts ifrom his blog in to a book, “Watcha Gonna Do With That Duck?” I absolutely love it. Your future looks bright, Daniel. Enjoy the ride. Aunt Sue xo

  16. Thank you for this: “Because there’s nothing quite like travel to show you what you had before you left.” So amazingly true. Let go, and go. 🙂

  17. This is fantastic! You’ve got to put the share before the comments because people wanna share this but not always scroll through all the comments. Again, what a great article and inspirational motivator for my friends I want to inspire!

    • Hey Josh, you’re right, those share buttons keep getting pushed further down, haha. I’ll be updating my site design soon and that’s something I’ll be looking to fix! Thanks for the comment

      • Also, get on Twitter! Much easier to follow your articles! Great work.

  18. Awesome article! Perfectly said and so true. My daughter and I had this exact discussion today. She caught the travel bug from me and now understands what we are infected with. 🙂

  19. I wholeheartedly agree with what you’re saying and have a lot of respect for how you put it into words. I especially liked this, “Humanity isn’t bad; we’ve just given the bad ones the spotlight.” I can’t express how many times I’ve tried to tell people this and tell them that if they stepped out into the world, they’d see it for themselves.

  20. Nicely written, now here is one more reason to add to your list. The main reason why I, like many of my friends, don’t often travel to faraway places is to avoid highly-polluting flying. The ecological footprint of a flight is so huge, that it would cancel all the other efforts made during the year (walking, cycling, avoiding meat and dairy, reducing/reusing/repairing/recycling stuff etc.). I would feel extremely sad to find myself on an airplane en route to another country, say the Maldives, knowing that in a few decades low-lying islands will vanish due to the sea level rise. Or knowing that tens of thousands of people die each year due to climate change – more and more often we see extreme weather events, from heat waves to hurricanes. I could go on forever.

    I do travel once in a while however, generally by bus and train, across continental Europe, my home. And there are many unforgettable.adventures that I’ve had in new places discovered not far from places where I used to live. And if you live in a multi-cultural city you can travel to different little countries just by walking from a neighbourhood to another. Sometimes I travel to places by watching documentaries: amazing “Samsara” (2011), for instance, takes you to twenty-five countries on five continents.

    My point is, you don’t need to destroy the planet to have a great travelling experience.

    • Adela, I’m glad you added your post to the discussion. It’s an important point you raise about the environmental cost of travel. I like to think that the social and cultural benefits of people seeing how life is lived in other parts of the world can outweigh the harm of the transport it took to get there. But it’s a question travellers need to ask themselves!

  21. Exactly my thoughts, every day of my life. Beautiful, factual and stubborn. 🙂 thank you for that!
    It covered ALL perspectivesof modern urban lifestyle to me..

  22. WOW! It is just wow. The thing i have been facing. All i have is goosebumps on my body and inspiration.

  23. This is really great man. Well written and poetic. I like the tempo and how you personify the things that hold us down, making it so much more palatable for your readers. Cheers

  24. Yes! I agree with all of this. Every day there are so many factors that could give us fear, but we should not listen to that and trust ourselves. I could not have said it in better words than you did 🙂 Thanks!

  25. I love you already, Dan. I love the part about coming back, I do give away a lot of things when I come back, I do enjoy the things and people left behind, much more.

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