Travelling will ruin your life

If you’re privileged enough to even consider taking a gap year or moving abroad for a short while, consider this – how will the experience change you? Maybe you’ll come back cultured; more appreciative of what you have, with a renewed sense of independence. Unfortunately you’ll become all this and more, but when it’s time for you to return home you’ll find that it isn’t always easy to adjust.

A couple of years ago my boyfriend came back from a 3 week trip to Thailand convinced that he wanted to live there. At the time I told him to get a grip. I had a ‘real job’ in the ‘real world’, in an actual office! I had my big-girl pants on, no need for holidays and wild adventures.

Overtime he chipped away, showing me Youtubers that lived abroad and telling me how life was better out there. It didn’t help to see many of my friends jetting off on their own adventures to various corners of the world. His parents tried to offer a sense of clarity – ‘it’s different when you’re on holiday‘ they pointed out, but he had answers to us all. Drop-shipping this, freelance that, it was all mapped out in his head.

The next year rolled around and he’d convinced me to see it for myself. I’m not a traveller and I’m the furthest away from ‘wanderlust’ that anyone could ever be, I’m a total cynic. However, I hadn’t been on a holiday in years and Thailand was starting to seem like great place to visit. This was my first mistake.

A different way of life isn’t always better

Everywhere you go the societal norms change, but the difference between Thailand and the UK is obviously a huge one. Every person we met wanted to stop and chat, they were happy to help with directions and were unexpectedly appreciative when we spoke back in broken Thai. The general attitude of the local people seemed dramatically different and it was easy to see why Thailand is nicknamed the land of smiles. In comparison, even though I live ‘up north’ in the UK, sometimes I can go a full day without talking to anyone other than the robotic voice on the self-service check out.

Through the rose tinted glasses you start to believe that perhaps life could be better abroad. After all, the cost of living is far cheaper than renting an apartment in Manchester city centre. The street food stands are superior when compared to a Co-op sandwich for lunch. You could work in the sun from your laptop and life would be a total breeze.

At least, that’s what you think at the time. But then you hear about criminal expats muddying the water, the healthcare that struggles to reach rural areas and you suddenly realise that life would change entirely if you left your home country – not always for the better.

(Side note: Elephant Nature Park, Changmai – Rehab & Rescue sanctuary not a place to ride elephants.)

Immigration laws are tight. If we wanted to move over to Thailand we’d have to waiver a lot of our rights. You can’t own your own business unless you’re a citizen, we wouldn’t be able to own a house for the same reason, worryingly also we’d have to kiss goodbye to the comforting embrace of our free health care. Even though I’d consider myself working class, I have an extremely privileged life by living in the UK. Some people are desperate to get to my country for asylum, so I shouldn’t be so ready to throw it away.

But then you start to negotiate with yourself. Am I really living in the UK?

Well, no probably not. I go to work, I go to the gym, I live for the weekend where I hang out with my boyfriend and then rinse and repeat. The housing market is a joke and if I spent years grafting enough for a deposit would I really want to buy a shack in the middle of Radcliffe, only to then spend the rest of my life paying it off? Or would I rather jet away to another country where I could volunteer at an Elephant sanctuary, eat fresh food everyday and work on my mental health?

The internal argument suddenly leads to you a state of limbo.

I can’t be here, I can’t be there

They say that the grass is always greener and that’s no different with travelling. You’ve had a taste of a different life, a small experience of what could be. It’s important not to look at this through rose-tinted glasses.

Life in the UK would mean struggling to get on the property ladder, a life of office work, paying a small fortune for social outings. Living abroad would mean lengthy visa stress, no assured income, inevitable loneliness. You’re never really going to know what the right choice for you is until you commit to getting it all out of your system. That in itself does come with a heavy price of course. Don’t you just hate those people who bang on about wanderlust and how much they love to travel? Yeah, we all do, Becky! Not all of us have the funds to go to Bali for 9 months though.

It’s all easier said than done. I have debts to pay and a living to make, and if it didn’t work out I’d be scrambling to rebuild the life I’ve built for myself in the UK. So what have we done? We put the conversation on hold. ‘Let’s see how much we can save and then think about what we want to do with the money’ and now I wait, in a weird state of limbo with no definite plan for the future.

I suppose that’s why they say curiosity kills the cat.

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  1. Nelu Mbingu
    July 11, 2017 / 3:30 pm

    Travelling isn’t for everyone. It depends on what you’re looking for out of it. Objectively, life is better in a first world country than in a third world country. But I think if what you’re looking for is to learn different ways of living and to become more open-minded and not necessarily to find a better life, then travelling is alright. If you’re looking for comfortable living, then keep your passport in your drawer.

    • Jess - Actual Philocalist
      July 11, 2017 / 3:41 pm

      Yeah I hear you. I think that’s part of the problem. To be honest the only first-world luxury I’d really be attached to is the NHS. Once you’ve got used to having that cushion, it’s hard to imagine it taken away. I definitely wouldn’t say Thailand was third-world though, developing yes. It’s a weird one cause the pros and cons on both the UK and Thailand are so significant.

  2. July 12, 2017 / 8:16 am

    Curiosity is what lead us to explore different aspects of life we couldn’t even imagine if we stick to our shell.
    The world is immense and I have to believe that compromises are everything, as you can’t get everything you want, cos life itself isn’t perfect.
    I always feel like I don’t belong in any place I’ve been so far and I wish I could travel more and more to finally find my place.
    Unfortunately or fortunately, life is just one and you have to live it, aiming for living it for real, not “surviving”.
    I believe wherever you feel happy is where you should be.
    If you think you could be happy there, why not trying? If it is no good for you, you can always come back.
    Ok, if you leave the job you might not get it again when you come back, but hey, I’m sure life will adjust itself up and everything will go as it should.
    I wish you the best of luck.

  3. July 12, 2017 / 1:20 pm

    I’ve lived in about 5 different countries throughout the years, so I’ve seen so many different ways of life… And I have to say that it made me wish life in the UK was different…

    • Jess - Actual Philocalist
      July 12, 2017 / 1:36 pm

      Gareth if you don’t mind me asking, what was it that made you come back to the UK? Most people say family.

  4. danasia fantastic
    July 12, 2017 / 8:48 pm

    I don’t think putting the convo on hold is a bad thing- it gives you time to really understand how you feel and weigh the pros and cons.

  5. July 13, 2017 / 9:44 am

    I think for some people this would work and be brilliant for them, but others the complete opposite. I think it all depends on the person you are

  6. July 13, 2017 / 9:54 am

    Interesting post… as a traveller of sorts (no long stretches of travel to Bali and the like, just lots of little trips and holidays) called Rebecca (known as Becca though, not Becky), there are points I agree with here and points I don’t. I do appreciate that travelling isn’t for everyone, and I’ve never been one of those people who ram my travels down other people’s throats, proclaiming that you’ve not lived until you’ve travelled. Those people irritate me. I know I am privileged to be able to travel, when many can’t. But equally, I also know I’m privileged to live in the UK, and that’s not something I want to change any time soon x

    • Jess - Actual Philocalist
      July 13, 2017 / 3:35 pm

      I hear ya Becca! I read your most recent travel blog and I was hoping you’d pop up with some pearls of wisdom. I think there’s merit on both sides, moving and staying. It’s just awful being in-between!

  7. July 13, 2017 / 10:05 am

    I can see where you’re coming from with this, I think traveling can sometimes make living abroad seem like a much better idea than it is, and doesn’t leave you as grounded. I love to travel but do so in smaller doses, a weekend here, a week there, and rarely ever more than 2 weeks which is just right for me x

  8. July 13, 2017 / 1:05 pm

    I don’t think ‘travelling’ is for me. I like going on holiday for 1-2 weeks but I don’t think I could travel properly. It’s just not for me.

  9. Lynne Harper
    July 13, 2017 / 7:18 pm

    I’m more of a home bird, don’t get me wrong I love exploring but not travelling as such, some of my friends did it and loved it x

  10. July 13, 2017 / 10:37 pm

    I think it depends on the individual. Some just love to travel and there are those who prefer not to. One’s purpose is definitely a big factor when it comes to travelling.

  11. July 14, 2017 / 4:28 am

    The grass is not greener. I know. I have lived in a few countries including the Island of Tonga, NewZealand and the UK and travelled around too and there are always pros and cons to each place and I love to go and come back home but not travel for a long time!

  12. Dannii
    July 14, 2017 / 10:14 am

    I was in the exact position 2 or 3 years ago after a trip round Thailand. I was ready to move to chiang mai, but we sat and thought about it and realised that a holiday is different from reality. Even though we can work anywhere in the world being full time bloggers, it would be harder.
    So we decided to stay. We now have an 8 month old and have decided to leave Manchester City and move further north in to the Lancashire countryside and bought a house. Sometimes staying is a good thing.

    • Jess - Actual Philocalist
      July 14, 2017 / 2:06 pm

      Ahhh Danni that crazy cause we’re looking at Chang Mai too. I just think in the long run it could be a mistake to rinse our savings on a life abroad that couldn’t be forever. At the same time, I don’t want to struggle to buy a house in the UK that I probably don’t really want. Heck!

  13. July 14, 2017 / 11:46 am

    Although I am a big home bird, I do yearn to be able to pack it all up and head off travelling for a year or two x

  14. July 14, 2017 / 11:50 am

    I don’t think travelling would ruin my life personally. I think I would grow as a person and experience some amazing things. However, I agree that you do need to be financially prepared for just quitting your life and starting anew abroad. It’s something I don’t think I could do any time soon!

  15. July 14, 2017 / 2:34 pm

    We are lucky to live in the UK – even though we moan about it all the time. My folks love to travel and go on holidays, but they also know of the sacrifices needed to be be made in order to fund the lifestyle. Living in the UK and going on holidays is the best of both worlds. You need to have dark days in order to appreciate the light 😉 Unless we won the lottery we would never life swap for another country x It must be hard starting again. Good luck in whatever you choose.

  16. July 14, 2017 / 9:01 pm

    I love living in the UK and have had no desire to go travelling. I love to visit places now and again but travelling seemed like a huge committment I wasn’t ready to make.

  17. July 14, 2017 / 9:04 pm

    I can completely see where you’re coming from! I absolutely love to travel and I want to travel around the world but right now I can’t afford it. Even still travel ruined my life in the way that I would rather put my life on hold to go travelling than be here right now, however I don’t think I could even move out of England, we do have a lot going for us here and it’s always nice to be able to come back to some form of normality, even if that is a 9-5 job!

  18. Jen
    July 14, 2017 / 11:54 pm

    I imagine that making a choice that is life changing, is without doubt, daunting. You have to determine how much of that feeling is excitment, and how much is justified fear/reasonable reasoning. A friend once said to me, that if you can think of five reasons not to, and justify those reasons so they make sense to her, then I had a right to say no (to my own decision at the time). I made a list of pros and cons, and the pros outweighed the cons, so that was that.

  19. July 15, 2017 / 10:54 pm

    i enjoyed reading this as i love to read other peoples opinions. being in the uk is a love hate relationship. I’m always like, i want to go on holiday or move abroad etc but then the UK is home home. it’s a constant battle.

  20. July 16, 2017 / 4:21 pm

    I’m with you on that one. I am a homebody too but very occasionally I too have thoughts about whether the grass is greener is on the other side and truth be told I love the UK. Despite the difficulties I have faced in London it is my home and I could not imagine living anywhere else x

  21. July 16, 2017 / 8:14 pm

    I love that you were so honest and open with this post, it can sometimes be difficult to be vulnerable and put your true thoughts out there. I am a bit different, quite different actually, I am by nature more of a nomad. I love the experience of seeing other cultures, and immersing yourself in them. I’m actually currently an expat here in the UK, and it’s been quite a journey – there is so much that I love about life here, but also bits that I don’t. All of that aside though, I do agree with you overall that you are changed by travelling in so many ways, both good and bad. One of the things that I struggle with is the ambivalence of what is “home”. You get to a point where you do so much comparing between places and you feel a bit dull inside. It’s so strange. I, by nature have more of an issue with being in one place for too long, but even then if I feel that I know those that lean more towards home comforts have struggled even more so. It’s great to step outside your comfort zone, but sometimes you should listen to that gut feeling. xx

  22. July 17, 2017 / 12:23 am

    This is the most honest post i have ever come across! I would love to travel to different places for a few months but there is absolutely nothing like coming back to the comfort of your own home! We are renting in the UK right now but it sucks that I can’t call the place my home as of yet. We’ve entered the prime of our lives and we are just running all over to save for a better life, that might be anywhere in the world!

  23. Evelina
    July 17, 2017 / 6:18 am

    I am one of these people who are extremely passionate about travelling. I lived in China for a year and now I am considering moving to Bali for a short time. For me this is the beauty of life, immersing yourself in different cultures and enriching your life experience