Taking in the View, originally uploaded by bexadler.

I am what most people might categorize as a traveler. In the past ten years I have spent more time away from home than in it. This is true. I love seeing the world through a different lens and experiencing new cultures for myself, rather than just reading about them in books. Also, true. I don’t own much in this world that can’t be carried on my back, and I would quickly drop $1,000 on a plane ticket, whereas I would have to seriously consider spending $25 to go see a doctor for my regular checkup. Yes, my priorities are weird to most people. Those who do not live a traveling life often do not get me. It is something I have fought with friends and family over for years. I think many of us traveler types do.

But here’s a little secret: I hate being lumped in with all of the other travelers. I read travel blogs here and there. Sometimes they are interesting, and often they give me new ideas for places to go or things to see, but for the most part they just really annoy me. Travelers have to be some of the most pretentious assholes on the planet. They post these fabulous travel photos and write with exclamation points and flowery words describing the beauty of all of the places they visit, as if they’ve never had a bad travel day in their lives. They try to convince everyone that travel is the only way to live life, in the same way that so many people have tried to convince me that I don’t need to travel to enjoy my life. For realsies, to me, they come across like evangelical Christians trying to convert the masses to their way of life. There seems to be no sense of reality among the traveler types.

So let’s get real. If you are a long-term traveler, I guarantee that many of your days are either frustrating or uneventful. It’s carrying your pack from buses to trains to hostels to subways to more buses in heat and rain and snow and mud and crowds. It’s no air conditioning, no sheets, food you don’t recognize, no electricity some days, not being able to find drinking water, and taking cold showers. It’s making new friends constantly, only to see them move on to a new city a few days later. It’s feeling sad, lonely, frustrated, joyful, angry, confused, and lost. It isn’t always full of fun and glamour, as the pictures may suggest. I get sweaty and tired and irritated all the time – just like I do at home. The one thing that makes it worthwhile for me is knowing that every day is going to be an adventure, which is something I like. But I know that lifestyle is not for everyone.

It seems that other travelers have forgotten this. They seem to want everyone to be just like them, even though they get irritated by non-travelers always wanting them to be “normal.” I read articles all the time imploring people to travel because it is the best thing they’ll ever do with their lives and on and on and on. I agree, travel has been AMAZING for me. I would not go back and change any of it. But there are people, like my best friends back home, and my little sister, for whom travel means taking a two-week vacation every year to go visit family, or go to Hawaii, or visit the Grand Canyon. And that is OK. It’s more than OK. They are happy with their lives and I often envy them for being able to be so content with their mortgages and pets and children.

For people who are considering long-term travel, yes, you should go. Without a doubt, I think that if you have been talking for years about taking a trip around the world or taking three months off to travel South America, you should absolutely do it. You will always wonder what it would have been like and you may never get the opportunity to do it later in your life. Do not worry about money, or your job, or your other responsibilities. They will all be waiting for you when you get back. I promise. But if travel is not your thing, don’t let these pretentious travel types make you think that you are missing out on something. If travel is not your thing, picking up a backpack and going to some godforsaken place where you don’t really want to be is not going to suddenly turn you into a traveler. Instead, it will most likely confirm for you that you are not a traveler. Embrace your two weeks of vacation and make them fun and glamorous, and call it a day. I’m pretty sure most people don’t need to stay in a flea-ridden hostel in India to say that they’ve lived.

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