There’s No Right Way to Travel (and, How I Figured That Out the Hard Way)

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I’ve probably re-written what you’re about to read dozens of times.  I’ve worked it over in my head how to explain what I’m feeling hundreds of times.  I’ve finally realized that nothing I say or write will properly convey what I’m thinking or feeling.  Not really.  All I can say is that life is ironic.

I spent 15 months planning a long term trip to Southeast Asia.  I talked about it incessantly.  I wrote about it incessantly.  I drove people insane.  I ignored people trying to tell me I was crazy or ask me why I was doing it.  I reveled in the comments of praise or jealousy.  I scrimped and saved every penny.  I worked my ass off.  I sold almost everything I owned realizing that material items weren’t necessary in my life.  I changed my plans to do a US & Canada long term road trip instead.  I then changed my plans AGAIN feeling like I wrote off Asia too soon.

I did all. of. this. only to realize once I was finally in Thailand, that I am in fact not a long term traveler.  

I wanted so badly to be a long term traveler, that I wouldn’t look at any other options.  But, the truth is, it’s exhausting and just not me.  The packing and unpacking of my things became annoying – even when I stayed in one place for many days at a time.  The loneliness was overwhelming.  Figuring out transportation constantly was fun at first and then just aggravating.

These things would normally be exciting for me and I enjoy having my alone time, but the thought of doing them and being alone months was depressing.

It’s hard to explain, but something just felt off and the only thing that felt right was that I needed to cut my trip short.  Turns out, way short.  I quickly found out that my ideal trip length is about one month.  Maybe a tad longer or shorter but that’s what makes me happy.

I agonized over the decision – but mainly because of how I thought people would react.  Then, I realized, why?  That’s how I spent 10 years doing things I didn’t want to do.  For fear of what others would think or how they would react.  Getting past that made this trip happen.  Falling back into that rut, would have meant continuing a trip when my energy was all spent, would have been a waste of time and money.  I would have been lying to myself and others.

It’s taken me a long time to do what feels right to me.  To listen to my gut.  

I’m writing this from the comfort of my boyfriend’s living room in Michigan where I got to spend an unexpected Christmas with him. Now that I’m back, I know I made the right decision.  I know it’s not giving up.  It’s simply changing plans (which I’m so good at after all).  The only thing I regret is coming back to a Michigan winter (it’s my first and I may not survive!).

Everyone has their own travel style and everyone has a right to travel the way they want.  I at one point thought long term travel was the only option for me.  I was wrong and that’s okay.  It would have been okay if I had stayed gone forever too.

I hope others will realize they don’t have to follow the norm or break the norm.  There is no such thing as normal.

What are my plans now?

I’ll be spending the holidays with my boyfriend in Michigan (although he works a lot).  Then, in January I’ll be headed to see my family in Tennessee for about a week.

After that, I’ll head back to Michigan and plan on spending our time here exploring a part of the US I have yet to see.  Most of the winter, I’m sure I’ll be staying indoors a lot but spring and summer will hopefully bring lots of day and shorter trips.

We are planning a couple trips for late summer and fall and look forward to announcing them as soon as they are definite and we will also be moving somewhere new at the beginning of fall (when the lease runs out) as we realize Michigan isn’t the place for us to live.  Just in time to get out before another Michigan winter!

What do you think of my change of plans?  

weekend wanderlust linkup


Ashley is the mastermind behind A Southern Gypsy, a travel blog focused adventure, outdoors, wildlife and Vegan food! In between bigger trips, she is delivering the best of her hometown, Nashville. Hates mustard & pickles. Needs coffee to function. Other passions | activism, minimalism, zero waste, books + writing.

19 Comments

  1. Stephanie Mayo

    December 26, 2014 at 4:20 PM

    Oh Ashley, I’m so glad you chose to go with your heart and not do what didn’t feel right. All too often people do things, live lives that are just not authentic because they fear judgement. But like they (whoever ‘they’ are) say – Be the best you, you can be! No matter what you choose to do, own it and to those who think they are the judge and jury – get a life!
    I can totally relate, I’ve struggled with what kind of traveller I am this year too and realized there is no ‘right’ way to travel, just whatever feels right to the individual.
    I wish you all the best for now and in the new year!

  2. Hannah

    December 26, 2014 at 6:05 PM

    Good for you for doing what felt right- not what you felt you needed to do. Long term travel IS exhausting. My first time abroad I did a ton of travel but was able to frequently return to my home base in Ireland to recharge. Last spring I did 17 countries in 2 months. Loved every minute of it but I ended up really sick for a chunk of it because I was so run down. And yet the 2 week trips I’ve taken always seem too short. So don’t worry, you’re not alone, I have no idea what type of traveller I am either 🙂
    Excited to hear about what you plan on getting up to late summer/fall. And in the meantime, enjoy your Michigan winter 😉
    xo

  3. Jessi

    December 26, 2014 at 6:12 PM

    It takes a lot of guts to not only realize what’s right for you, but to follow through on making it happen — especially if that means changing plans you’ve already set down. I really admire your ability to cut the trip short and return home, to your friends and family! I think sometimes it’s easy to fall into the allure of the “full-time traveling nomad dream.” While that lifestyle definitely works for some people, it definitely isn’t for everyone! But you had the experience and you learned from it — and now you know and can plan future trips around knowing that about yourself!

    Kudos to you, and have a great holiday in Michigan!

  4. Richelle @Adventures Around Asia

    December 27, 2014 at 1:07 AM

    I definitely understand where you’re coming from. I’ve realized that “expating” is the right choice for me. I love living in a new culture and taking my time to explore a place, while having a home base and friends. I like having stuff, and a job. When it comes to length of travel, I really would like to try out a longer trip just to see how I like it. I did a month traveling through Qinghai, Tibet, Nepal and Hong Kong and that felt way too long for me, but I think I was just exhausted from moving around too much. I did a month last summer hiking Zhangjiajie and traveling around Taiwan and that felt way too short! I wanted unlimited time to see everything there was to see in Taiwan! Unfortunately, that’s not a luxury I have right now, but I’d love to try out long-term travel with no distinct itinerary sometime.

  5. Katie @ The World on my Necklace

    December 27, 2014 at 1:38 AM

    Wow Ashley that is a change of plans! Good for you too go with what feels right. I have done some long term travel and really enjoyed it but doing it solo is scary for me so who knows how I go with that. Like you, I definitely want to be open with my feelings and make sure I do what feels right

  6. Lina @ Divergent Travelers

    December 27, 2014 at 3:52 AM

    Oh my gosh!!! Ashley!! I have to agree with you that full time travel can be challenging at times, it is so different than any of the other things we do with our lives, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised! Good for you though, life is too short to suffer through things and we’ve also learned a lot about ourselves while we’ve been traveling too. We’ve coming up on 11 months of continuous travel and at about 6 months, we paid a visit home, we just needed it. We love travel and we love the freedom of traveling long term right now, but I can understand your feelings and relate. 1 month is so quick though- especially with the newness of it all, wonder if the feelings might have changed if you had pushed through it another month or so? Change is hard, and throwing yourself into Asia, alone, I can imagine was overwhelming. Hard to tell, but kudos for following your heart. Happy Holidays. 🙂

  7. Constance - Foreign Sanctuary

    December 27, 2014 at 5:30 AM

    I have to agree with Richelle as the life of an expat is perfect for me as well. I am immersed in a totally different culture but I have a place to call my own as well where I can escape to. Personally, I am not cut out for long-term travel and I am fine with that. My husband and I have gone for a month at a time and that is perfect for us.

    I am happy to hear you did what is best for you. Everyone is different and I am glad you are happy with the decision you made.

  8. Laia | colibrist

    December 28, 2014 at 12:32 AM

    I think you’re very brave to have changed your plans after a long planning. Following our heart seems easy to say but most of the time is hard and scary… so I can only congratulate you for your choice 🙂
    I am also on my first long term trip, I started one month and a half ago. As you, I planned and talked about it for so many months… and I did not even think it might not be my way of traveling. So far it is ok but I still do not know my limit, so I will keep in mind that it might happen, that long term travel is not for everyone, and if it is not for me, it is ok.
    Thanks for sharing your experience. And happy new year!

  9. Amy @ Vacation Thrills

    December 28, 2014 at 12:49 PM

    I sometimes think it’s hard following all these other full time travelers that don’t have homes. As much as it does look like fun, I must say I do love coming home. That is not to say that we will never travel for long periods of time. Not all of us have to be full time travelers. You didn’t quit or give up, you simply realized that what works for others doesn’t work for you and thats ok. (None of us need to tell you this, you already know this!) I look forward to your weekend getaways especially in Michigan, as it’s an area I have never been too.
    If we don’t hear from you soon we will all send shovels. Hang in there.

  10. NZ Muse

    December 28, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    This reminds me of… I think Amanda from A Dangerous Business?

    For me I think my sweet spot is 1-3 months. Personally I never felt like cutting our trip short but i can confidently say permanent nomadism is not for me.

  11. Upasna

    December 29, 2014 at 1:19 AM

    Kudos to you for following your heart and doing what you felt was right for you, and not what others think / say is right!
    Personally, I’m positive I’m not a long-term traveler, though I haven’t ever tried it for myself. But if my year is anything to go by, I can guarantee you don’t need to be a full-time traveler to see as much of the world as possible. I’ve taken 12 trips in 12 months, visited 6 new countries, explored 5 cities within my home country of India, and all while working a full-time job.
    Anything is possible 🙂

  12. Anna | slightly astray

    December 29, 2014 at 4:27 AM

    As hard as I’m sure this decision was, good for you for realizing what your heart wants to do. 🙂 I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with changing plans, or realizing that what you *thought* you wanted, may not be want you want after all.

    I hate the constant packing and unpacking too, and the always having to get used to a new city and figuring out transportation, and the constant planning (HATE IT). So for me, staying somewhere, in the same apartment, for one month straight is the best answer. That way, we’re not exhausted from moving around all the time and can have plenty of rest days.

    Best of luck to you on your new adventure!

  13. Lauren

    December 29, 2014 at 6:20 PM

    You have to do what’s right for you! That’s the whole point of some people escaping their 9-5 jobs because they would rather live a nomadic lifestyle. I know that super long-term travel like that isn’t for me. I enjoy living in Canada around my friends and family with Justin and our cat. I do love traveling as much as possible though…and I know for me that would be 2-3 weeks at a time before I get too tired and feel like sleeping in my own bed again 🙂 I totally get why you feel this way. And it’s great to write an article like this as being honest is the best 🙂 Looking forward to your future adventures and enjoy your holidays in Michigan!

  14. Elaine J. Masters

    December 29, 2014 at 8:26 PM

    It takes courage to do what you’ve done – to create the possibility and then to admit when it wasn’t working. I applaud your honesty and wish you so much more fulfillment and success in the coming year.

  15. Sammi Wanderlustin'

    January 1, 2015 at 2:39 PM

    OMG, I miss you!

    I had literally no WiFi in Lapland, and feel like it’s been years since I spoke to you! I’m really glad you made a decision that was right for you (even tho’ I tried to talk you into staying to begin with). As long as you enjoyed the time you spent in Thailand that’s all that matters, as you so eloquently wrote above.

    Now I’m back in cities, I will have WiFi a lot. And in a couple of weeks I will be home. Hope to catch up with you soon, glad you had a good Christmas!!

  16. SJ

    January 15, 2015 at 8:12 PM

    Wow, I am just playing catch up and all I can say is wow. Well, that and good on you. Screw what others think, do what makes you happy. xx

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 16, 2015 at 12:02 PM

      Thanks love and thanks for always supporting me <3

  17. jennifer

    January 16, 2015 at 2:47 PM

    I am just glad for you that you came home instead of trudging on during a trip you were not enjoying. It kills me to see people feeling like they have to do things just because other people want to.

    In a way, it is kind of cool that your trip ended up like this. Now you aren’t going back home at the end, crying because you want to stay out forever!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 16, 2015 at 3:43 PM

      Thanks so much for the kind words Jennifer! I love it when people read what I write and get it 🙂

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