choose to do something today to make that dream in your head become a reality. dare yourself to take a baby step toward creating your best life. today is the day to begin.
So everything is going wrong.
At least it feels like it is. You are homesick. Really homesick.
Maybe you lost your cell phone or someone lifted your laptop at an Internet cafe while you used the bathroom.
Maybe an unassuming, yet skilled pickpocket snagged your favorite sunglasses–somehow right out of your pocket while you bent down to tie a shoe. (To this day, I’m still convinced this happened to me.)
Maybe you were scammed or tricked.
Perhaps someone screamed at you or flipped you off–in a different language, of course, but you got the point.
Maybe you’ve come down with a fever, food poisoning, a migraine, or discovered you’ve been chewed on by bed bugs at the hostel.
Maybe you don’t think you can take another moment with your travel companion. Not. One. More. Minute.
If your children are with you, perhaps they won’t sleep or adjust to the time zone. Maybe they are uncharacteristically whiny or impatient.
Perhaps you feel disconnected. Isolated in a sea of strangers. Wondering if there is anyone out there left to trust–who doesn’t want anything of you.
Whatever has happened, whatever is going on, you want out.
You are exhausted.
You want to quit.
You’ve had enough.
You have no energy.
You want to cry. You are crying.
You wonder if staying curled up in a ball, hidden under the covers in this strange, foreign hotel room is the only safe spot left–although it doesn’t even feel that safe.
You can’t imagine how you will get through to the end of your trip, through the end of this so-called vacation, through the end of your year long travel sabbatical, let alone make it through the day in an unfamiliar city, with unfamiliar people, with its unfamiliar language and its unfamiliar customs. The food isn’t even all it’s cracked up to be.
You miss your friends–maybe even your significant other or spouse. Maybe even your ex–it’s that bad.
You miss your bed–even though you know it’s no longer where you left it, since you sold everything you had before you left.
You miss the smell of familiar laundry detergent.
You miss curling up in your favorite lounge pants, sitting on your couch, and watching your favorite TV show–in your language–with a slice of your favorite pizza or a local microbrew in hand.
You actually think you miss work. Even that colleague you can’t stand who sits in the cubicle next to you would offer a sense of comfort or relief right now.
You want to go home.
But should you?
Is it really time to throw in the towel on the trip or travel lifestyle that you’ve always dreamed about? How do you know when enough is enough? How do you know when it’s time to change your return flight date or buy a one-way ticket home?
Figuring out if you should cut your trip short or abort your travel plans–and when–is not always an easy decision.
Here are some things to ask, consider, and do if you are seriously thinking about heading home before you originally planned. In the end, remember, if you do cut your trip short, you are not a failure. You tried and you succeeded in stepping out of your comfort zone and living your dream.
Loneliness. Are you feeling lonely? If you are traveling abroad solo–or with a traveling companion–loneliness happens. Actually, I think it’s inevitable and totally normal, even if you have set off on a trip of a lifetime or one that you’ve been planning for a long time. I’ve actually wondered if loneliness is sometimes worse when you are on a trip that you put in a lot of effort, time, and energy into making, particularly when things don’t align with your expectations or go awry, even if ever so slightly.
Loneliness will likely pass.
What can you do? Evaluate how much contact you’ve had with others back at home. A phone call, Skype, or other contact with someone at home might help you get regrounded and reignite your trip enthusiasm. However, consider also that too much contact can actually encourage loneliness and homesickness. How supportive family or friends are about your adventure may make a big difference in how helpful contact (or continued contact) can be.
Immerse yourself in comfort. If you are feeling lonely or homesick consider immersing yourself in places, foods, and activities from home. Sometimes traveling to a new place and the constant bombardment of newness is taxing and exhausting. A break and some rest can make all the difference. Consider heading to a place that reminds you of home, such as Starbucks or another chain (e.g., Ben & Jerry’s, McDonalds, Barnes and Nobles). Grab your favorite beverage or snack, hang out, and enjoy downtime. You can also seek out a bookstore and find a new book or magazine to read in your native language.
Take time to rebound without feeling obligated to see sights in your destination. Don’t feel guilty about taking time to ‘do nothing’ or taking care of yourself. Pop in headphones and listen to your favorite songs on your iPhone or spend the afternoon streaming a movie or watching funny YouTube clips. Take time off from being a tourist or living as a traveler in a new destination, but not too much time. Your objective is to get unstuck, not stuck in not wanting to experience the place where you are.
Get some sleep. Consider getting a night of good sleep. It’s amazing how much better you can feel when you sleep well.
When things go wrong, try to stay positive. Ask yourself, could these things have happened back at home? If the answer is yes, then you may want to stay the course. Often we want to believe that a travel adventure will go smoothly and perfectly as planned, however, just because it’s a trip, vacation, or travel lifestyle doesn’t mean it’s immune from the realities of life. Real life continues to happen even when you’re traveling. Life doesn’t get paused just because you are away from home. Sickness can happen anywhere. Unfortunate events can happen anywhere, too. Look to your support network at home, to your travel companion, to any new friends you’ve met abroad, or online groups, such as Facebook’s Solo Women Travelers or Expat groups to help you weather the storm.
Consider keeping a travel journal and document your feelings and stresses, along with your experiences. Reading your stories and entries may help remind you of the good moments you’ve acquired, and allow you to see past the bad ones. Writing may also provide a stress outlet to help you along until the dust settles.
Try to remind yourself to take things day by day, hour by hour, or minute by minute, as needed–and, importantly, to breathe. You’ve come so far in planning this journey. You’ve come so far in making it happen. You can get through this experience.
Remind yourself that everything that happens to you on this trip–every experience, every event, every moment–is a thread in the life adventure story you are weaving. Your story. A year from now you’ll look back and be amazed at how far you’ve come. You’ll be amazed to see that you are the person who made a dream happen. You are the person who lived that dream.
Life is but moments. The good, the bad– together the moments create our life.
Of course, if things have gone wrong to such a magnitude that you are in danger, need medical assistance, support, legal or consular services, or something has happened back a home such as an emergency, the decision whether to stay or return home may be easier to make.
There are times that I’ve wanted to quit an adventure early, that I’ve felt so homesick or lovesick that It was hard to fathom how I could get through the next days or the next hour. There are times when it was hard to stay put in a destination. During those times I pushed myself to take care of myself, pull myself together, look for support–and even if it couldn’t be found through others–I found it for myself, within myself, by getting out and exploring, making new friends, trying new foods, and reminding myself that this is My Life. My Story.
Ask yourself what is the story you want to tell yourself? Tell others? Tell your children or future children.
Remind yourself that sometimes when you’re far away from home, when things are going wrong, and when you feel lonely, lost, hopeless, or like a failure, you are exactly where you need to be.
Sometimes, exactly where you are, even though you may not feel like it’s where you want to be, is the only place to really find yourself–or the direction you are meant to go.
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If you want to travel or go anywhere, really, you’ll want to learn to be your very own cheerleader, preferably sooner than later.
Why? ‘Cause the haters are going to hate. The indifferent are going to disappear. And, just like that, you’ll be left with…you.
Get ready for the ride of your life.
If you are smitten with wanderlust and actually take steps to put travel, adventures, and dreams into action, especially unconventional ones, such as full-time nomadic living, extended travel, or worldschooling your children, you may just discover a world of haters you never thought existed.
People are going to intentionally and unintentionally try to bring you down.
People are going to try to discourage you from stepping toward and into your dreams.
People are going to attempt to steer you toward ‘safety’–back toward
your their comfort zone.
If you’re hoping for cheers, applause, overwhelming words of support from family, friends, acquaintances, or colleagues when you announce your plan to quit or change your job and travel the world–or announce any other dreamy plan–don’t be surprised if there’s a lack of positive fanfare, at least at first.
From my own experiences, and from those who have shared their own travel experiences with me, as well as the countless stories I’ve read on Facebook or gleaned in parenting, travel, and homeschooling/roadschooling circles, it’s not uncommon for eager travelers fueled with wanderlust to discover a lack of encouragement among family and friends when they share their travel plans.
Truth be told, no one is going to support your wanderlust or travel dreams–or cheer you on and encourage you to travel more, travel broader, see the world…ALL of it–like you can and must do for yourself.
Gulp. Swallow. It’s a hard, sad truth.
By the way, this is the point where you might want to crank G-Eazy & Bebe Rexha’s song Me, Myself & I to uplift your spirits.
Somehow, when wanderlusty types actually put their dreams and plans in motion, people you thought would offer the most support run for cover. That’s why you need lyrics or a mantra in your head, such as “Oh, it’s just me, myself and I, Solo ride until I die, Cause I got me for life, Oh I don’t need a hand to hold, Even when the night is cold, I got that fire in my soul.”
Be warned everyone under the sun is going to offer you their unsolicited opinion about what you’re wanting to do. Why would you want to do that? It can’t be safe for a woman to travel solo? Isn’t that country dangerous? You need to grow up and get your priorities straight. How will you afford all that travel? You’re going to shortchange your kids if you don’t provide them a ‘real school’ experience if you take them around the world instead. What do you need to see out there anyway, everything you need is right here (in this town, in our friendship, in your job, etc.).
Somehow wanderlust and travel can have a polarizing effect on relationships. Even long-term friendships that you thought could weather anything.
Friends and family may think you’re running away from them. Friends make think your abandoning them. They may tell you or suggest that you must believe you’re better than them–or you’re too stuck up, special, spoiled, privileged, rich, wild, free-spirited, or too selfish to stay put and live an ordinary life.
Despite your enthusiasm and best laid plans, your mother-in-law may freak out, your own parents may suggest you’re not thinking clearly, your siblings may think you’ve gone off the deep end, your neighbors may tell you that you’re making a mistake, your boss may say you’re behaving irrationally, or your bestie may argue your travel plans make you too untamed for a continued friendship.
Unsupportive family and friends may believe you have a problem–your wanderlust, your cravings for more…. They may even tell you that YOU are the problem.
You’re going to have to dig deep and remind yourself that those who refuse or even hesitate to support your dreams are likely insanely jealous or fearful about what your willingness to travel or risk it all in the name of adventure ultimately means or says about their own lives and decisions. The lack of support is not about you.
Few people are going to jump up and down and yell at you to be gone, already. Few people are going to encourage you to dream big, go big, or chase after your jumbo-sized, adventurous travel dreams.
Most people will respond with words like, ‘wow,’ ‘cool,’ ‘neat,’ or the classic line, ‘I wish I could do that’ (to which you’re probably wondering, why can’t you?), and then be done with the conversation. A handful of people will ask follow up questions with genuine curiosity.
Some people will say an encouraging word or two, but are secretly shriveling up with envy and jealousy, or on the verge of eruption–ready to spew resentment that you are doing what they’ve always hoped to do. After all, why do you get to be the girl (or boy) who got away from the regular, ordinary life?
Some people will feign support. Others will say gossipy, maybe even over-the-top judgmental things about you as soon as you’re out of earshot. Some will keep their thoughts quiet until you board the plane. Others will have shared their opinion about your ‘ridiculous, hopeless, childish’ (or insert any other unsupportive or unkind word) plans on social media before you’ve even finished telling them your travel itinerary.
Others will rip your plan apart in front of your face. They will try to rip you apart too.
Somehow when people choose travel dreams, friends, family, acquaintances, and even strangers react in unexpected and unpleasant ways. The response you get from friends and family when you tell them you’re following your dreams, taking time to travel, or making any other lifestyle change to pursue your wanderlust can be heartbreaking.
But you might also discover your biggest fans. Those fans might turn out to be the people you least expected to stand up alongside you with pom-poms in hand.
Regardless of who whips out pom-poms, if anyone does or when, it is ultimately YOU who must rock the cheerleader outfit and attitude.
Your travel dreams are YOUR dreams. They belong exclusively to you.
You don’t have to justify your plans, dreams, or wanderlust to the naysayers.
You don’t have to meet others’ expectations–or compromise who you are or what you believe in.
You don’t have to do what other people think you should do–or what other people think is reasonable, rational, or well behaved.
You don’t have to be anyone, but yourself–the one with dreams, plans, and a passion for experiencing adventure and soaking up possibilities.
Life is too short to pretend you’re someone you’re not, especially if pretending is to make others feel comfortable in their own comfort zones, at the risk of not expanding yours.
Once you let go of the need to hear cheers and applause from family and friends, you’ll come to see you really are your own very best cheerleader.
And the ironic thing you may discover in letting go of your need for acceptance and approval by others is that some of those haters and unsupportive people who initially dissed your dreams come around and take some interest in your adventures, once they realize that you still bear resemblance to the person they once knew…you just happen to be someone more amazing thanks to incredible, life-changing travel experience.
So, go ahead, grab some pom poms and get ready for the ride of your life.