Making the Case Against Dropping Everything to Travel


This is a guest post from the Errin Oppenheim, originally published in (Future Magazine). She currently works as a writer, editor, digital content manager for GoAbroad. Read more of her witty, sarcastic, immensely enjoyable articles here. And be sure to follow her on twitter @erinoppenheim.


Making the Case Against Dropping Everything to Travel

A Traveler’s Diatribe against the Elite Daily’s of the World - by Erin Oppenheim


Within the travel industry there’s a rose-colored Instagram filter perpetuated by semi-famous travel bloggers, upper-middle class students on their semester abroad, and/or upper-middle-class-recent-graduate-trust-fund-babies taking a “gap year,” that implies everyone absolutely has to drop everything and travel. Because, that’s totally feasible and responsible, right? They say things like, “If you don’t now, you never will, YOLO,” and post mediocre photo edits with American typewriter text overlaid telling you you’ll never regret travel, you miss only the shots you don’t take, the definition of wanderlust, and any other stream of bastardized quotes from Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Helen Keller, and oh my god the Rumi quotes.

What are their reasons? Why are the Elite Daily’s and Buzzfeed’s telling you to drop everything and travel? Because you’re young, because you’re more willing to take risks, to be inspired, to humble yourself, for the stories, for the people you’ll meet, for the romance, for the food, to find yourself, to get perspective, for your soul, to gain strength, to be an explorer, to fall in love (way to be redundant, Elite Daily, but what else is new?), and last, certainly the most cliché, but not least to appreciate the moments. Let’s break some of this argument down, shall we?


Because You’re Young

Exactly. You’re young. We’re young. We have so much time left on this earth. You’re 20s last an entire decade, you don’t have to go RIGHT NOW. You can be smart, save up, get some good vacation days. It’s not a zero-sum game, you don’t have to choose between settling down right away or having an adventure. You can kind of do both. You can get a job, save up, and still go adventuring. Beyond that, this argument is horribly ageist, you’re not too old to travel in your 30s, heck you could push it and travel well into your golden years. Modern medicine is a thing, you’re not an invalid at 70+. 


You can be smart, save up, get some good vacation days. It’s not a zero-sum game...

Because You’re More Willing to Take Risks

You know what, Elite Daily, you got me there. We are more willing to take risks. Like shouldering hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt in order to receive a piece of paper that proves we’re educated, but doesn’t guarantee us a job in my field with a livable wage. But, you’re right. Let’s just ignore those pesky little loan payments and instead dive deeper in a financial hole and buy a one-way ticket to Europe (since it’s the only place you seem to think people should travel to). Defaulting on a loan can’t be that bad, right? Oh well. Just a risk you have to be willing to take I guess.



To Humble Yourself

Humble yourself right now and recognize that travel is a privilege. It costs a lot of money, and it’s not something everyone can afford to do. Honestly, the “drop everything to travel” narrative is perpetuated by people with a lot of socioeconomic privilege. It’s easy to say “drop everything and travel” when you know your parents will bail you out when you overdraw your checking account, it’s not so easy when you don’t even know how you’re going to make rent, pay the electric bill, and feed yourself all in the same week.


To Find Yourself

So it’s senior year, you’re getting a degree you don’t know what to do with, and you’ve realized you have no idea who you are or what you want. During commencement look to your left, then to your right, and recognize that none of your peers know who they are. And even if they do, they don’t, because you change so much throughout the course of your life that the you you are right now will not be the same as you five years from now. Life is just one big exercise in finding yourself, whether you’re traveling or not. Do you get closer to that person you want to be while traveling? Yes. Does that mean you should abandon everything to go find that person? Probably not, because you want to be the kind of person with common sense.


To Get Perspective

Get some perspective. See “To Humble Yourself.”


To Fall in Love

We’ve really over-romanticized travel, haven’t we? That’s how the industry makes money, of course. Advertisers make you believe you’ll fall in love with a stranger at a French café, be whisked away on the back of a Vespa, meet a busker on the streets of Dublin, all very one-dimensional, European ideas of love and travel. This isn’t reason enough to drop everything and travel. In fact, it’s shallow and horribly misguided. Travel should be motivated by nothing more than curiosity about the world around you and how you can contribute to it. It’s about intercultural exchange. Only rarely does that include falling in love while abroad. It’s not impossible, just not any reason you should drop everything to travel.


Honestly, the ‘drop everything to travel’ narrative is perpetuated by people with a lot of socioeconomic privilege. It’s easy to say “drop everything and travel” when you know your parents will bail you out when you overdraw your checking account...

To Be an Explorer

You know who was an explorer? Christopher Columbus. Do we like Christopher Columbus? No. Be a Traveler. Be a Global Citizen. Participate meaningfully in the world around you. The whole world, not just Western Europe, like Elite Daily will have you believe. That means careful planning and research, really get to know where you’re traveling to, all the history and social context. Sure, your plans might, and likely will, go out the window once you’re in-country, but it will be that much easier to deviate from a plan when you already have one.


Here’s the biggest reason not to “drop everything and travel,” the people telling you to do it? Hardly even dropped anything to travel. Travel bloggers (the ones actually making money travel blogging) are often, if not always, sponsored by certain hotels, hostels, resorts, tours, etc. etc. They’re trips are paid for, and this is their job. Your Elite Daily freelance writer also didn’t drop everything to travel. In fact, they probably did most of their traveling during a semester abroad- that’s a lot different from quitting your job and up and moving to a new corner of the world with no return-date.

While there’s not necessarily a right or wrong way to travel, it just doesn’t make sense to “drop everything” and go. Travel smart and travel intentionally. Take the time to work, save up and plan a meaningful experience. And, maybe look beyond Western Europe, Elite Daily.