How Travelling Ruined My Life

No one ever tells you that travel ruins your life.

How Travelling Ruined My Life

No, they sing its praises, lauding it as an experience that enhances and enriches one’s life. It’s sold as an adventure; something that everyone should try at least once. I’ve seen a seemingly endless stream of quotes adorning walls, both online and off, inspiring and encouraging wanderlust and extolling the virtues of leaving one’s comfort zone in the pursuit of enlightenment and fulfilment.

I wasn’t warned that doing so would ruin my life. I had to find out the hard way.

You see, when I was younger I had a plan. Year by year I knew what I wanted to be doing: get married at 21, have a child at 23, and then again at 25 and 27. Work part-time in a job that offered stability and benefits. Buy a nice house with a garden and a bedroom for each of my kids. Get a dog.

I started ticking off that list, albeit a little behind schedule. 2 days after my 22nd birthday I got married. We saved like crazy and started house hunting. We bought a brand new car and named it Henry. And then I entered a silly photo of us into a competition and won $5000, and suddenly the travel we had talked about so vaguely and non-committally seemed possible. On a whim, we booked round the world flights the same day the cheque arrived in the mail, and so our slow decline into complete destruction began.

How Travelling Ruined My Life

I am 29 now. I have no kids, no house, no dog, no car and no part-time job. Not only have I failed to achieve anything I set out to do, but these milestones don’t even look like they’ll appear in my foreseeable future. To add insult to serious injury, my plans have now transformed altogether. Buying a house has been replaced by ‘write a book’ and having kids seems to have been overtaken by ‘experience life as a New Yorker’. My once doable life check-list has morphed into a horrifying plan, exclusively featuring scary, uncertain, unsafe goals.

If this was the total extent of the wrecking ball effect travel has had on my life, I would probably consider it to be an acceptable consequence. After all, I’ve seen and done some incredible things over the past 6 years. I suppose a tweaked life plan is a small price to pay. But, you see, that’s not all.

It’s barely even the start.

How Travelling Ruined My Life

I used to be gifted at saving. Month after month, I’d set money aside for a rainy day; for some unforeseeable event in the future. It was my backup plan for if my real plan went horribly awry and I found myself without that stable, benefit-laden job. Wisdom, as well as savings, now seem to have developed a sense of wanderlust to match my own, because these days they are nowhere to be found. Month after month, instead of saving money, I now book flights, hotels, restaurants. On the (extremely) rare occasion when I see a chunk of money in my bank account I feel anxious, like I’m missing some important experience, and so I book another flight.

I know what you’re thinking: money isn’t everything. You’re right. In fact, all I need to do to reassure myself that my minuscule bank balance is acceptable is to read the famous quote ‘Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer’. I’m cash poor, but experience rich. “Surely”, I hear you ask, “that hasn’t ruined your life?” Well, no. It hasn’t.

But I’m just getting started.

Travel has caused me to question and test everything I’ve ever believed. My blind belief in certain ideas, people and theologies has been completely shattered. I still believe many of the things I once did but now, instead of simply accepting something as truth because it’s what I was once told, or because my parents believe it, or because I simply don’t know any other way, I have to test and examine everything to ensure it really is what I believe.

Trust me when I tell you that this process is hard work.

It’s uncomfortable. It’s scary. And it’s the fault of travel. Or, more specifically, the people I have met and talked to along my journey. Take, for example, my stance on guns. I once vehemently declared, on principle, that I would never shoot a firearm. Then…well…then this happened.

How Travelling Ruined My Life

Travel’s fault.

The blame also falls entirely on travel for causing me to take unnecessary risks. Before I left Australia, my confidence was pretty low. I mean, I was outgoing and could hold a conversation but I didn’t believe my life was headed for any kind of greatness. Being exposed to new experiences and people completely unlike those I knew back home has, to coin a cliché, expanded my horizons. It’s given me a bigger picture of what’s possible in my life, and now I believe that there’s so much more ahead of me than a mediocre job that just pays the bills and offers benefits.

I’m greedy. I want it all, and I’ll take risks to get it. There was a time, not so long ago, when I never would have considered the possibility of doing freelance work. Or quitting a stable job in one of the world’s biggest and best-known companies for a complete career change. I’ve now done both, and the risks I’ve been considering lately have been bolder, brasher, far more terrifying and with much bigger consequences than ever before.

But there’s no turning back.

There’s no retreat from this ever-expanding life of mine, no chance of going back to the safety of a job I don’t really love, or a to-do list comprised of things I once believed I wanted without knowing why. I can no longer follow a belief blindly. I must test it vigorously before accepting it as truth, and I can no longer reject ideas and principles simply because they’re unfamiliar and therefore scary. I must move forward, take risks, face my fears and continue making unconventional choices.

You see? Travelling ruined my life.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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55 Comments

  • Patrick says:

    Travel didn’t ruin your life it enhanced it and enlightened you. Your title is inaccurate and careless. You’re young enough to get away with it. I’m 38 and travel has truly ruined my life. I’m broke, jobless and pretty much unemployable. I left a great career in banking and am now regretting it. Trust me, security and assets should be the top priority. Travel is a luxury.

    • Elle Croft says:

      Hi Patrick,
      Sorry to hear that you feel like travel really has ruined your life. The title (and indeed content) of this post was intended to be tongue-in-cheek, as for me travel truly has enhanced my life, even if it did alter the way I thought I would live.
      I wish you all the best and truly hope things turn around for you soon.

  • This is such a superb post! Honestly, travel makes on think differently about various things and cultures. One grows as a person. I have met some of the best people that I have ever known on my travels – people who are an inspiration for me to travel even more!
    I still have not been able to quit my 9-5 job to do it….and I am not sure that I will ever be able to do that in the near future…but writing my own blog and reading blogs like your surely has given me more inspiration to travel!

  • Gemma says:

    Great post! So relatable.
    I almost forgot what my life plans were before travelling until I woke up on my 26th birthday and was like ‘crap, I need to get a move on with my life!’

  • Brilliant post.

    I think it’s fantastic that you realised this so young. Many go through the usual goal lists, never touching their savings and then realising so late in life that there’s much to experience.

    Here’s to the cash-poor, experience-rich lifestyle!

  • Explorista says:

    This is my story on paper. Including the New Yorker & Book-goal. I know exactly how you feel. My friends and family, and even my boyfriend sometimes, feel weird that I want to travel. But all I want is to go, go, go and chase the experiences :)

  • Tanja K says:

    Absolutely love this post! Couldn’t agree more! :-)

  • Zoe says:

    Great post. I think we are the lucky ones though. Without travelling I cannot even begin to imagine how my life would be. There is nothing wrong with the tick box life, marriage, house and babies but somewhere I wonder if that without a passport and a plane is enough.

    • Elle Croft says:

      Thanks Zoe!
      I definitely agree – nothing wrong with choosing another path as long as it’s what you want! I definitely can’t imagine life without a passport though…

  • Claire says:

    I love this post. And can relate. Travel is starting to ruin my life too. All I want to do is flee from the drudgery of my once satisfying 9-5 life with a passport in hand. Instead of being smart with money, I now see every spare bit as an opportunity to spend on some new experience. Waking up without a plane ticket booked cause me to break out in a cold sweat. And this is extra hard when you’re a single mum of a settled 12 year old girl. But, like you, I wouldn’t want it different. I just have to come to terms with the fact travel is more addictive than meth amphetamine and except the new me (with larger hips). Claire xx

    • Elle Croft says:

      Thanks Claire – I think travel can be great for kids – I’m so happy that my parents made me leave my comfort zone at a young age to experience the world, so I’m sure your daughter will thank you!

  • Lila says:

    If that’s a ruined life, it’s probably one of the best ways to smash you life plan to pieces ;) I still can totally relate to what you’re saying. Everytime I manage to get some money together, I go abroad or book a flight and am down to zero again. On top of that, travelling has ruined my relationships in the past, because I was never lucky enough to meet someone who would want to travel just as much as I do. But I, for example, always knew that I wouldn’t be happy, if I didn’t spent some time at a foreign university and so I went and left my relationship behind. Did I regret it? Not really….I missed my boyfriend, but what I gained was worth it.

    • Elle Croft says:

      Agreed – it is one of the best ways to smash your life ;-)
      Thanks for your comment…Sometimes it is hard, especially leaving loved ones behind, but the experiences are priceless and I think it’s impossible to regret the changes and perspectives that travel brings!

  • I’m glad somebody has said this! Like you, once I see a little money in my bank account, I anxiously feel like I should be booking my next trip. It’s nice to know I’m not alone with this life-ruining travel bug that always depletes my savings.

  • Eliza says:

    Omgosh yes to everything you said from beginning to end. It appears I’ve lived a parallel adventure to your own, and as insane as it is look back at my past outlook and plan for life, I love what I’ve become, and what I’ve done and I wouldn’t trade it for anything :)

    • Elle Croft says:

      I’m glad you’re happy with where your travels have brought you to – it’s so great to look back and see how far you’ve come – not just in miles, but also in maturity, experiences etc.
      All of these comments have just made me realise how many of us there are who feel the same way. And I love it!

  • Kelly says:

    I agree with all this; I had plans to buy a house at 21 but then went travelling and got totally ruined! And have never looked back – you only have one life so you need to enjoy it and experience everything the world has got to offer. A house with a shoe room is nice to come home too though, thank goodness my other half is slightly more sensible than me ;-) xx

    • Elle Croft says:

      Ah, my other half is just as travel-obsessed as I am, which is sad news for our bank account!
      So many of us have such ruined lives, and we’re all so happy about it. I think we’re onto something here, ha!

  • It’s funny how experiencing new places and cultures can call into question everything you’ve ever believed. I’ve been in Germany for almost five years now (from California), and our lifestyle and travels around Europe have made me realize all those things I thought I was supposed to do – mortgage, kids, etc – aren’t really right for me anyway. I think travel has a way of informing you more about yourself than most other things can. That said, savings is still an important part of life. You never know when things could go wrong – especially when travelling!

    Oh, and you most definitely should give Berlin another shot. I’ve lived here since late last year and it’s one of my favorite cities, by far.

    • Elle Croft says:

      Thanks for your comment Kate!
      Yep, savings are still important, no doubt about that…one day I’ll muster the self-control to not spend everything on travel :-)
      And yes, I’m convinced I’ll love Berlin now, I really should go check it out again soon…

  • Oh how I can completely relate!! I started traveling a few months after my 18th birthday and 13 years later it’s still all I want to do. I wish I was ready for a settled lifestyle; house, kids, dog… hopefully one day.

    • Elle Croft says:

      I’m sure there’s a more settled life in both of our futures Nicole, but for now, it looks like there are quite a few of us whose lives are just in tatters! Haha!

  • Kat says:

    And what an awesome way to ruin it! Keep up that wrecking ball!

  • Lucy says:

    Love it! I’m a few years ahead of you (sob) but despite a mortgage, husband and a couple of cats by this point I still haven’t manage to get over my travel obsession – it’s caused me to go freelance, blow all my savings and constantly want to be seeing more, but wouldn’t change it for anything!

  • Chris Hartley says:

    Nice one Elle Croft! Stoked you will be ruining your life more by travelling to RSA! You can come stay in our ‘ticked box’ house :) Can’t wait

    • Elle Croft says:

      Thanks Cuz! I’m glad there are people out there who are doing life a bit more responsibly…otherwise we’d have nowhere to stay on our travels! Can’t wait to see you guys SOON! xxx

  • Brilliant! I am delighted travel has ruined my life. I haven’t even gotten to the marriage stage yet – with travel completely the thing to blame. The riskiness and consequences can sometimes be daunting and scary. But when it works out right, the experience-rich side to life is just too much fun … though I’m sure my bank account would love it if I was a bit more disciplined.

  • Having a stable home still is a good thing. It’s good to have a nest to return to.
    What do you think about it?
    Do you think you can travel all your life and enjoy the dynamism and completely give up anything stable?
    I mean, there are some who are nomadic, but there are others who travel occasionally.
    After reading your post I appreciate your honesty and underlining the negative aspects of traveling.
    I personally observed a series of negative things that keep happening to me whenever I travel and no-one ever speaks about these:
    http://www.escapehunter.com/planning/annoying-things-travel.php

    • Elle Croft says:

      Oh, a stable home is definitely a must for me. I don’t own my home but I like to come back to my own bed at the end of a trip.
      I’m definitely not saying that owning a home or choosing a more traditional path is bad or wrong – for many people it’s incredibly fulfilling, but it’s just not right for me (right now).
      I’m just happy that travel has opened my eyes to other options and as a result, changed my life forever!

  • Jayne says:

    What a beautiful post. It seems we suffer from a lot of the same addictions and have made similar decisions! Congrats on your new start, I’m excited to see where it takes you. J x

  • Cherie City says:

    I’m the same, as soon as I get some extra cash after finishing a freelance project, I immediate think about flights.
    It can be difficult seeing friends with more stability and a life plan, but I wouldn’t trade having that flexibility.

    • Elle Croft says:

      Exactly, Cherie – sometimes I envy the house, dog, stable job thing when I see my friends making those choices, but I just couldn’t see myself giving up the way I live now, no matter how appealing it looks sometimes!

  • Helen says:

    Fantastic post! I live to travel and like you, those few pennies that dribble into my account quickly get sucked up by flights and accommodation and visas.
    I’m off to work in Australia in November. Something life has been holding from me the past few years but now I’m free so grasping it with open hands and an open mind.

    • Elle Croft says:

      How exciting Helen! It’s so cool when a goal is finally within grasp. Congrats on taking the opportunity; I hope it’s an incredible and rewarding experience x

  • What a fantastic article! How true, and how I just want to send this straight to my mum in answer to her questions ‘why don’t you just settle down?!?!?’

    It’s an addiction. Some people are addicted to booze, gambling, crack… whatever. I am addicted to travel. My life is beyond repair, but happy to see that there are others sharing the same tormented existence :)

    • Elle Croft says:

      ‘Beyond repair’ – I like it Hayley!
      Thanks, I’m glad you like and can relate to it. Let me know how you go with sending it to your Mum ;-)
      I can definitely think of worse vices than travel too!

  • Georgia says:

    Oh I can so relate to this! I’m 23 and fresh out of uni. I worked during my degree and got my first taste of travel at the beginning of 2012. Ever since, plans for buying a house/car have gone out the window, and instead every spare moment is filled with planning or saving for my next adventure. The things that seemed important when I was younger just can’t compare to travelling. My eyes have been opened to so many wonderful/confronting/awe inspiring experiences and the things I take for granted. It’s ruined me too, but I wouldn’t have it any other way :)

  • TravMonkey says:

    Excellent post and really well written!

    Life without risks is boring! :D

    I think the worst thing would be to get mid-way through your life and suddenly realised you’re trapped in a life that you didn’t want. I think you’re spot on when you say traveling makes you question everything. It’s a great thing.

    • Elle Croft says:

      Much appreciated, Paul. Thanks for your kind words!
      I agree – the thought of getting 10 years on in life without doing what I love scares me much more than no savings or a delayed life plan! And questioning things is a skill I think – it definitely takes time & practice but it’s totally worth it.

  • Kasha says:

    Haha, the title of this post totally tricked me!

    This is such a good post, especially as it’s so easy to relate for anyone who’s been bitten by the travel bug. Sure, we may not have ticked many (ahem, any) of the conventional ‘dos’ for your late 20s, but we have some pretty awesome stories to tell.

    Someone once told me, ‘Time is precious; waste it wisely’. I don’t know about you, but travel seems like a great way to pass some time ;)

  • I absolutely love this post. Great write up that really rings true. It’s so much better to experience things yourself than to just accept something because someone says that’s the way it is. I’d rather see the world than read a text book or watch it on TV any day. Bring it on, World!

  • Bravo! I read the title of this post and didn’t know what to expect. I love how you sum up your experiences with travel. It has ruined my life as well.

  • Lizzy says:

    Great post- I admire anyone that can do anything out of the ordinary like you! I think it’s amazing.

    • Elle Croft says:

      Thanks Lizzy! Looks like you’re starting to head off on your own adventures too! Be careful, you’ll soon be ruined like me…don’t say I didn’t warn you ;-)

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