“So… when do you plan to finish travelling and settle down?”
It is a question that we are often asked, by friends and family as well as by strangers who we explain our nomadic lifestyle to. Whenever this question comes up, I stumble over the answer because I really don’t know what to say. The truth is that we really don’t know, as we don’t have a set out plan for our future. We’re just winging it as we go along. Most people either find that answer incredibly exciting or completely foolish, but we have come to accept that.
However, the more I think about this question the more I realise that I don’t agree with the basic premise of it. The question itself doesn’t make sense to me, because for me to “finish travelling” sounds just as strange as if I were to “finish reading books” or “finish listening to music” or “finish learning new things”.
Just as I will never read all of the books in the world and be “finished”, I will never feel I have had enough of going to new places and doing interesting things.
I suppose you could stop reading, listening to music or learning or even travelling, but why would you? Travel enriches my life, provides me with endless fascination and excites me to no end, so to decide to “cease and desist” at any point seems silly to me. Just like I plan to keep on reading and learning until I am old and grey, I also plan to make travel a part of my life throughout all of its stages.
The difference is that many people don’t see travel this way. They see it as something to be done for perhaps one or two years in your 20s and then never done again. Once your Gap Year is over with, you are expected to sink your roots deep down into a place, commit to a house, career and family, stuff your passport in a drawer and never leave the country again except for the odd beach holiday.
I understand that the more responsibilities you have in this life, the trickier it is to prioritize travel. The reason why people say “do it while you are young” is because when you are 21 years old, have no kids, don’t own property and are strong and supple enough to carry a backpack or sleep curled up in the seat of a bus – travel is a lot easier. You don’t have anything to be responsible for nor accountable to, you can simply roam the earth gathering experiences and making friends.
As you get older, your priorities start to shift. You choose a spot to live and settle down. Instead of hostel dorm beds, street noodles and bottles of beer, you spend your money on mortgage payments, utility fees, cleaning supplies, loaves of bread. You get a dog, or a baby, or both. You get used to your nice cosy mattress and your favourite brand of tea. You build yourself into a community, make friends with your neighbours and have “the usual” at your local cafe or pub. Travelling, especially for long periods of time, seems like a crazy idea and a frivolous waste. When you think about backpacking across Central America, or riding a motorbike through Vietnam, it fills you with a shiver of excitement but you convince yourself it is just not possible.
I can see why all of these home comforts are appealing to people – they are attractive to me too and I will enjoy them when I have them. However, I don’t believe the two lifestyles are mutually exclusive and I fail to see why having these things means that I would ever have to exclude travel from my life.
Call me young, idealistic, hopeful or naive, but I believe that at any stage of my life I will be able to make room for a travel experience. Of course, I realise that our current full time nomadic lifestyle will not be the lifestyle we always have. Someday we may have a house, some kids and a dog, but that won’t stop us from travelling. There is more than one way to go on a travel adventure and I plan to create travel experiences throughout my own life that suit whatever my priorities are at the time.
So the answer to the question of “When do you plan to finish travelling and settle down?” is “Never”. There will never be a point when I hang up my backpack for good and decide that I cannot poke my curious head into any more strange and fascinating corners of the world. The world is an infinite library and I’ll be damned if I ever stop reading.