Why Is Travel Not Considered Real Life?

Why Is Travel Not Considered Real Life?

Feeding hungry stray dogs and cats every meal of the day is real life, Isla Ometepe.


Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life. – Jack Kerouac
I was chatting with a friend about how Thenix and I are coming back home in June, earlier than we thought as Thenix has a job offer. She commented that we are coming back to real life. I thought about that statement for a while. I found it funny that she thought that just because we are moving from place to place, we are not living real life, but because people back home are staying put in one place, they are living a real life. I asked Thenix about it, and he said, ‘The reason people don’t consider travel to be real life is because more then likely you cannot make a living at it.

Even though in this trip we made money, we didn’t make enough money to cover our costs.’


Then, what defines a real life? Is it real life if you have a fixed location? Does having a job entail a real life? Or paying taxes? What is it about being back home that qualifies it to be real life? According to Thenix, making enough money to cover your daily costs is real life. I don’t agree.
I take offense to the statement that I’m living in a fantasy land just because we are travelling. True, we are moving around from place to place seeing amazing spots everyday. But I am performing a lot of the tasks that I perform back home. I worked at a job for a company back home doing purchasing tasks earning Canadian dollars, that I pay taxes on back home. I did my taxes at the same time every one back home did. I am taking care of physical needs like water, food, and sleep just like back home. I speak to friends, and family everyday, like I did back home. I hang out with friends and have food and drinks, like I did back home.
So what is the difference?

Why is travel long-term not considered real life?

Is it because long-term travel seems like a fantasy life to most? Is it because most people can only dream of a life like this (and most people will probably not like living this)? Maybe that’s it. The life of a long-term traveller seems like something out of a movie. You do not expect ‘real’ people from daily walks of life to be living on the road for months at a time, living on the beach or treehouses. It is something that you expect celebrities or billionaires to be doing.
Thus, when someone like me is living like a celebrity lives, it is supposed to be temporary. Come back to reality, people tell me. Come back to normality, they say. Are they saying it, because they wish not to feel the pressure of living the same kind of life? If they imagine that this life is only accessible to the really rich or famous, then they can pretend that they can’t make it as they are just ordinary folks living paycheque to paycheque. But once they see people travelling long-term on an ‘ordinary’ salaries, they are forced to admit something different.
I refuse to believe what everyone thinks – travelling long-term is still living in reality. I feel like I’m more real when I travel than when I’m back home. I am more connected to the people and animals around me. I feel more compassion when I see a hungry person or animal asking me for food. I talk to more random people face-to-face (rather than just on Facebook). I am able to live more fully as I am living the life that I want – I’m spending my days the way I want.

Maybe that is why travelling long-term is not real life, because you get to spend it the way you want to spend your life.

Real life, perhaps, means spending your days dictated by norms, beliefs, standards of other people, like family, friends, society, and media. If that is the case, then I am glad I am not living a ‘real’ life. And even though, I will be coming back home soon, I will still be able to say that I lived an unreal life for a little while in a way that was quite real to me.

– This post has been published in San Jose, Costa Rica.

If you haven’t heard of the Big Trip yet, you are in for a treat. Boom & Thenix are driving a 1998 Honda Civic down to the southern most tip of South America, through the West Coast of the US, Mexico, Central and South America. We left on July 17th for this amazing adventure with the help of our sponsor Wise24. For a map of our trip so far, please click here. If you have questions about costs, visas, or anything else trip-related, please see our post on The Big Trip or check out our Archives. Add us to Google+.

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10 thoughts on “Why Is Travel Not Considered Real Life?

      1. As long as your ‘real life’ is not hurting someone, I say live and let live. ‘People back home’ get nervous because they don’t understand what we are doing out in the playground of the world! I get it. They’d rather be able to label and explain it on their own terms.

        1. Humans are afraid of the unknown. Something they don’t understand, they fear. It made sense from an evolutionary standpoint. But now, it keeps us at a standstill, unable to grow, and learn.

  1. You’re are so right – I hate how restrictive this idea of ‘real life’ is. I hate the ordinary and always strive to find something different. This is why I am looking forward to making travel my life for the foreseeable future from next year. I plan to work and live in various places along the way but does that mean reality is put on hold for me? I don’t think so. Reality is what you make of it, for some that is living pay cheque to pay cheque in a two-up-two-down with two kids, for others it is being your own boss, moving from place to place and making money along the way, or even saving to disappear every few months. Like you say, humans fear the unknown and I guess just as the idea of staying in one place and having a fixed life plan makes me feel uneasy, my idea of jetting off with no plan and no expectation of returning would make others feel the same.

    1. Thank you for your comment Iruthnum… I am excited for you and your plans to be untethered next year… I love our realities as much as the people working 9-5 jobs do. To each their own.

  2. I totally get this! I got a similar comment from a few friends of mine and I too found it slightly annoying.
    It seems to me that most people mistake longterm travel with a short-term holiday or vacation, where you “flee” from your everyday life for a short amount of time and don’t have to work and and everything is all-inclusive. I mean, it is understandable as most people don’t experience longterm-travel and can only imagine how it must be, but it still hurts a little when they talk in this diminuitive way.

    1. Yes, it is absolutely hurtful. I find that most long-term travellers are not slackers, or lazy. In fact, they are quite the opposite. Hard-working, maybe even a bit Type A, where they work harder than they should.
      So being told that you are coming back to real life, feels like they think you were just chilling for a few months in some foreign country. Which is definitely not true, as anyone who has travelled long-term knows. 🙂

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