Should I sell it all to see the world? A perspective on the pressure to travel

By Mallory Kirzinger

If you’re here on this website right now, odds are you like to travel. Maybe you even love it. The problem with loving to travel (other than spending all your money on airfare and occasionally getting turned around in a foreign country) is that sometimes you start to hear a ticking clock, and that clock can get louder every month and every year. It can feel like this one lifetime won’t be enough time to go all the places you want to go. You start to wonder if you’re not travelling enough.

If you really love to travel, you might have sat on your couch and looked around at your stuff–coffee table, mugs, plants, a TV–and wondered, “should I sell it all and see the world?” If you haven’t, congratulations, you’re saner than some of us. If you have, you might be feeling the pressure of time versus travel.

How do you see all the places on your bucket list with limited money and time? Should you be listing your sofa on Kijiji and backpacking for the next year? It’s all to easy to feel like your travel bucket list is longer than the days you have to travel, and maybe you should be diving headfirst into the full-time travel lifestyle, lest you miss out on seeing the world. Slow down for a second.

Enjoying the beautiful views of the Italian coast

Enjoying the beautiful views of the Italian coast

It’s okay to want travel over everything else, and it’s okay not to

So, let’s make something clear: it’s valid to want to travel over everything else. It’s also valid to want a traditional life. A white picket fence, or whatever the equivalent is to you, is a perfectly fine goal. But if your life plan includes kids, owning a home, and living out of a closet more days than a backpack, it becomes even more difficult to find a middle ground between the urge to travel and the practical demands of life. This is where some people get fidgety, debating putting their traditional life on pause and prioritizing travel to simply make sure they get it done during their lifetime.

Dropping it all and going on a multi-country adventure is one way to beat the clock, but realistically, most of us are unwilling or unable to sacrifice every other aspect of our life for travel. Your career, your partner, your belongings, they can’t all wait for you. But seemingly, neither can the 30+ countries you want to see. So what do we do?

Cancer and other motivators

This might all seem a bit existential coming from a 26 year old author. I actually got told exactly that–that I was too young to be so existential–when I was discussing whether I should sell it all and see the world with a mentor back in the day. We all have our reasons for rushing the clock, and mine is that I’m a childhood cancer survivor. I never ever feel like there’s enough time in my life to do everything I dream of doing. I’ve been racing the clock since I was 8 years old. Travel is a really wonderful thing, so naturally, it’s one of the things I’ve fixated on over the years when I’m *ahem* reminded that my time on this earth is never really guaranteed and that I only get one shot at this whole living thing.

That discussion with my mentor was what got me thinking about travel as a priority, travel how it relates to the other parts of my life, and how to work travel into my life in a way that made sense and felt like enough. When you’re considering how to prioritize travel, you might end up thinking through some of the same ideas that we did.

Couple enjoying the beautiful views of the rock formations in Meteora, Greece

Couple enjoying the beautiful views of the rock formations in Meteora, Greece

Considering the cost of full-time travel

Backstory aside, my mentor asked me what my life would look like after I hypothetically sold it all and ran away to wherever in the world I wanted to see first. Well, I’d come back to Canada with a sick tan and a lot of memories to look back on. I’d probably have no place to call home. My belongings would be collecting dust in a storage locker or they’d been under new ownership thanks to Facebook Marketplace. Those things are fixable, but what else? I’d be disconnected from my friends and family. My career would likely be at a standstill, or perhaps entirely nonexistent. My bank account would have very few digits in it. The identity that I’d created as a traveller, a real full-time traveller, would need to be recreated and reimagined into some new gal with a job and a mattress and some dishes in the drawers.

None of the above is necessarily a bad thing. In fact, hypothetical post-travel me could have been the happiest version of me yet, but the risks of finding that out seemingly outweighed the rewards. So, career travelling might not be for me. What’s the middle ground? Where do I go if not everywhere?

The particularly spacious middle ground

The great thing about going nowhere and selling it all is there is a big, wide, spacious middle ground in between those two options. For all of us, this middle ground can look a bit different. It could be a four-month tour of Southeast Asia, an unpaid leave of work to climb Aconcagua, or two big trips a year, or one. How many plane tickets you book in the next 12 months matters less than keeping true to the passion for travel in a way that makes sense for your life.

For me, I like the idea of one big trip every year while I’m still a 20-something with limited resources. That’s a doable middle ground. Maybe when I’m pushing a stroller around someday it’s a trip close to home, and maybe when I’m retired it’s a particularly lavish safari with a stop in the Seychelles on the way home (a girl can dream). The point is, I can figure out a plan of how to travel in a way that satisfies me, and that can alleviate the pressure of time and the looming feeling that I should be somewhere else, anywhere else, right now. You can look at the realistic demands of your life and prioritize travel as much or as little as you want to and are able to. One or two good trips a year can still feel very satisfying.

Traveller

Traveller

In the end, it’s up to you

What travel looks like to you is up to you. The pressure you feel to see it all will probably stay in the back of your head somewhere, but by balancing it with the demands and satisfactions that come from a life that feels full in other regards, you can have both. You don’t have to leave your life behind to travel, you can figure out how to incorporate travel into your life. It might take some saving and scrimping of your vacation days, but hey, it’ll feel good to slowly and surely make your way through that travel bucket list.

That clock will probably keep on ticking, but take the advice I’m still telling myself every single day: you’ve got time.