Travelers vs. Non-Travelers – Will We Ever Understand Each Other?

I would rather be a failure at something I love to do than a success at something I hate.

George Burns

I rarely visit my home country. Maybe once a year or even less. The reason being, the people I am surrounded by (mostly non-travelers) often try to bring me down and discourage me to travel by saying:

A girl is admiring Admiring the scenery of Zhangjiajie Mountains in Hunan, China.
Admiring the scenery of Zhangjiajie Mountains in Hunan, China

“You are already 24. It’s time to start a family. Time passes by and you don’t get any younger”.  – C’mon people, 24 isn’t that old! I prefer to be a happy 50-year-old single woman with beautiful travel memories rather than a miserable young wife and unfulfilled mother.

“Everyone around you is getting married or pregnant and you just… travel”. – I can still get their lives, but they can’t have mine. I bet they would love to swap with me sometimes.

“You must be feeling so lonely there. Poor girl!” – There is no time to be lonely. You are surrounded by warm and friendly people who are sometimes like a family to you!

A girl sitting on a bamboo boat Yangshuo River
Yangshuo River, Guangxi Province, China

It sucks when your family and friends don’t get your travel spirit. It hurts even more when they don’t even support you and seem to be against you and your travel passion. I am still wondering if it’s a simple jealousy or something else hidden behind it – dissatisfaction with their own lives and the lack of fulfilment in their existence.

A girl is exploring Longji Terraced Fields in Guangxi Province
Exploring Longji Terraced Fields in Guangxi Province

“You’re the lucky one. Being on a holiday all the time must feel awesome” they say. What they don’t know is that I’m not on a holiday. Part-time blogging and traveling combined with working full-time as a foreign teacher  is a hard job, often exhausting. I have plenty of responsibilities to fulfil and that keeps me busy all the time.

A girl is sitting at the Great Wall of China
Dreaming big at the Great Wall of China

When I go home I often get asked many questions regarding my live and travels in Asia, some of them are just way too funny or silly.

“Is that true that Asian boys have small penises?” (this question rocks!)

Most of people I meet when being in Poland want to talk money – how much I spend, how much I earn, how beneficial blogging is. I don’t mind it at all and I totally understand it. However, I easily get frustrated when they start asking if I am saving money for my retirement or how I am going to get financially ready for the future if I keep “wasting my money on pleasures”, etc. What they probably don’t know is that I spend less on my weekly travels than they spend on cocktails and drinks on Friday and Saturday nights.

A girl is smiling Huashan Mountains
Huashan Mountains, Xi’an.

The longer you live and travel in Asia, the less common topics you have with your European friends. It’s hard to speak the same language again. At least I find it challenging. While I am talking about how amazing it felt to be watching the sunset over Koh Phangan Island in Thailand, they are thinking of what dress they should wear tonight. When I am telling them stories of how amazing it was to live like a local in Siem Reap (Cambodia) and explore the temples of Angkor Wat, they tell me how they struggled to get a C for their exams. We are still the same, but so different.

I often wonder if we, world explorers and adventure hunters, will be ever understood by 9-to-5 job people. Why is it so difficult for them to get us?  Because they never felt the way we did. They never left their comfort zones and got lost. Never carried their backpacks, never talked to a stranger…

A girl is riding an elephant
Looking for more adventures in Sri Lanka

Therefore, I’m so glad to be a traveler and blogger, and stay connected with fellow travel writers. Being a part of the travel community gives me such a strength to carry on traveling. Knowing that there are more people like me out there who aren’t afraid of exploring the world and sharing their memories with others , keeps me going and makes me the happiest person ever!

Travelers vs. Non-Travelers – Will We Ever Understand Each Other?


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Agness Walewinder
Agness Walewinder
Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"
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127 thoughts on “Travelers vs. Non-Travelers – Will We Ever Understand Each Other?”

  1. I suspect they will never get your way of thinking. You are happy and that is the important thing in life. I will be 48 next month and it has taken me a long time to find something that makes me happy. Those people who conform because they feel that is the norm will always end up feel dissatisfied with everything.

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Thank you Steve. You’re right. I’m done pleasing people. It’s nearly impossible to do some. At the end of the day, I don’t want to end up feeling dissatisfied with my life and decisions I’ve made.

    2. Both you guys are really great , living the dream . I have lived for the past 5 years in the Philippines and now for 6 months in Thailand and even though i travel i wish i could find the courage to do what you do . I am from Australia 36 year old male and love to get around but i keep getting bogged down with my work . Reading about your adventures really gets me thinking about what i should be doing instead of everyday stress of working . I try to teach these people a new skill and give them a wage every week but i feel i sacrifice my life sometimes . I dont mean to sound rude but sometimes i feel i need more . How i would love to follow in your footsteps . Keep up the great blogs , i only just found them bye accident and have been enjoying all the tails you two have been through . I see the dates are from last year so i dont expect a reply but if one of you read this i just thank you for time to put all your good times out there for the rest of us to be inspired and for something to strive for . Thank you

  2. So true. Most people seem to think I did nothing all day but lay on a beach or in a hammock, etc, during my time traveling. To be fair, there definitely were a few days like that, but not all of them. Like you, most of my time in Asia was spent working to pay for those days on the beach or in the hammock.

  3. Totally agree with the post, I feel 100% identify, except because I just turn 27 and the pressure increase! :P

    Our family/friends cannot understand us. We are a new generation, the digital nomads! this is something unexplainable for them. They are not yet jealous coz they cannot understand the greatness of our freedom!

    Don’t discourage, you are never too old/young to do anything! Especially for traveling and enjoy the life without limits!

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Yes, the pressure increases with your age, that’s for sure. I don’t wanna know what’s gonna happen when I turn 30 (hopefully it’s not gonna be soon, ufff, what a relief! :P). So true, it takes time to understand us – digital nomads so we should be more patient :). So true- it’s never too late or too early to start your adventures! Thanks Noelia for such inspiring comment! Miss you x

  4. Tom @ Waegook Tom

    I really enjoyed this post! Luckily as a guy, I don’t get the whole getting married, starting a family lecture from my family – even less so because I’m gay!

    Do I understand non-travellers? Of course I do. I’m the only one in my family who travels long-term, although my mum and brother love going to new places. My dad has never left the UK. I’m lucky that my family are supportive.

    Do I understand non-travellers who judge travellers? No. I don’t get why people judge how others live. As long as you’re enjoying yourself, doing what you love, and staying safe, then what’s the problem?

    And do Asian boys have small penises? Well, not as big as European boys perhaps, but hey, I’ve been living in Asia for over three years now, so Asian guys are doing something right ;)

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Hey Tom! You have no idea how funny your comment is (especially the last phrase). I am still laughing out loud :), seriously. You rock! I’m so happy your family turned out to be so supportive. This is actually what I need right now, but it’s not happening. BIG TIME. I also think that people have no right to judge how others live, but they often do and they don’t care about it. As for the Asian guys, thanks for letting us know :)x

    2. ““Is that true that Asian boys have small penises?” (THIS question rocks!)”
      What a racist stereotype. I sometimes wonder if Europeans are this way

  5. Amy Scott @ Nomadtopia

    Ah, yes, I can definitely relate! I think one of the keys to us understanding each other is recognizing that different things make us happy. As long as everyone is truly happy doing whatever they’re doing, that’s enough for me. What makes it challenging is when we can’t imagine ever being happy living the way the other person lives, so we convince ourselves that they can’t possibly be happy with that life either, and we impose our own beliefs and preferences on them.

    1. Agness Walewinder

      I couldn’t agree with you more Amy. I guess most of travelers can relate. Thanks for sharing, great point.

  6. Jason's Travels

    You undoubtedly have a lot of differences now that you’ve been away for so long. But, when it comes down to it – and here’s where I connect Asia to the rest of the world – I think the Dalai Lama said it best when he stated, at our core, all anyone wants is to just be happy. And people who do not travel are just expressing to you what would make them happy.

    Keep smiling. :)

    1. Agness Walewinder

      I do keep smiling Jason, always!! Jordin Sparks say that if you don’t laugh or smile at least 20 times a day – it hasn’t been a good day:)! Yes, being away from home for such a long period of time makes everything so different. Me and my friends have less and less to talk about and time flies! We should all do what makes us happy – so true :)

  7. This is very true Agness! I’ve been a 9-5er for the last 5 years but have travelled twice for long periods of time so I can see both sides to the argument. As the office worker, I would say that you’re right – a lot of it is resentment and jealousy that they can’t have the same opportunities i.e. they have children/big responsibilities etc and feel trapped by them. My mum, for example, loves that I travel but is jealous because, unfortunately, when she was growing up, she didn’t have the same opportunities as we have today…so she wants to ‘travel through me’ :)
    As a traveller I would say that despite our responsibilities with writing, working, living etc, we are seen to be on a ‘permanent holiday’ and not everyone can find it in their hearts to be happy for us and see how much hard work we put into living the dream :s It’s a difficult pill to swallow from either side!

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Thank you Toni for sharing. You made a great point here. I wish my mom was more supportive, but she’s trying her best :). So true, that’s how non-travelers see us – happy people with endless holiday forgetting about how hard we work to be where we are and to do what we do.

  8. Sonja @ The {Happy} Travel Bug

    I think all experiences in life help us learn and grow as people. Those that are stagnant in life aren’t doing a lot of growing and therefore aren’t that understanding of different lifestyles. Kuddos to you for doing what you love and taking chances!

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Thanks Sonja. That’s so true. Every day is a great lesson to learn, especially when you travel.

  9. The CounterIntuitive

    Ah, the beauty of different views. In some ways, I’m a little bit thankful. If everyone had the same opinion, there’d be way too many travellers in the world lol.

  10. Agness, I love this article! I think you should do whatever makes you happy. While I have a sort of 9-5 job at the moment (doing internship), I know I would rather be out there exploring like you. Your life is an amazing life, let people talk, you’re the one enjoying it!
    I also love that opening quote! Keep doing what you doing Agness, maybe your friends and family will finally get it one day, maybe not, either way you get to be happy :D

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Thank you Aggy, you’ve been incredibly supportive recently, so many thanks for these kind words. I’m also working full-time in China right now at the kindergarten, but I use every single day off to travel and explore and that really makes me happy. I wish I could just travel, but I can’t afford to do it all year long :(.

  11. Rika | Cubicle Throwdown

    You’ve made some great points here Agness. It does seem to stem from two different mindsets! As long as everyone is respectful, we can agree to enjoy our different lifestyles….but I think sometimes people can be a bit closeminded!

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Yep, so true. Being close-minded is the result of not going anywhere and not seeing anything I guess.

  12. Sam

    great post and I agree its hard for non-travellers to relate or understand your passion for travelling.
    For soe people settling down and having kids is important and for others travelling til they are 100 is important..
    Different values.

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Yes, it’s sometimes never ending story to please them. Settling down and having a family is also important to me, but right now I just want to enjoy my travels, keep exploring the world and look for more adventures! :)

  13. Excellent post, Agness! I never realized how unsupportive people can be of traveling until recently. I think a lot of it stems from either jealousy or the fact that most people never see traveling as an option for them. Because of this, a lot of people aren’t supportive. I’ve decided that I’m done trying to please others. I need to do what makes me happy . :)

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Thanks Emily. Your comment really made me smile. It’s so true – we shouldn’t worry about what people say to us, we’re all different and what really matters is that we are happy with our lives and that’s it!

  14. I’ve always felt it was weird that I had to explain wanderlust to people. Yeah, I want a couch and a nice set of pots and pans, but I also want to see the Taj Mahal, and if I have to pick one or the other, well, it’s pretty simple. I don’t mind them living their life at home with friends and family, since that can be fun too, but if they don’t see the value of seeing the world, then it’s hard to have a worthwhile conversation with them.

    And it’s sad growing apart from home. The longer you’re away, the less important it becomes. You know your friends less well, and once they start getting married, they’re a lot busier than they used to be, and going home gets a little lonelier every time. And that’s why once you start traveling frequently, it’s usually a one-way road to eternal wanderlust.

    1. Agness Walewinder

      So true. I actually couldn’t agree more with what you are saying here. I have already noticed how hard going home is and how lonely you can feel surrounded by people who cannot understand the world you are lIving in. My couch and daily newspaper need to wait a little bit longer… :)

  15. Thanks for the post agness. I am struggling at the moment. I have just returned from a 7 month rtw trip and have come back to a 9 – 5 job. It pays really well, but i feel aas though thats part of the problem i feel trapped because it pays well even though its not what i want to do!

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Jenn, I can only imagine what you must be feeling right now, but chin up! I guess you have already started planning your next trip and you look forward to it ;). I am always here if you feel like nobody understands you x

  16. Interesting question. I think some people are never meant to really understand each other. For example, I have known expats in Tokyo who live for the money…and when they get it (which they do, in bucketloads), they still want more, and the “trophy bride” (whatever that is lol) and the newest BMW…and the list goes on. While I understand what motivates people like that, my values are so different, I never want to BE like that. And those guys probably don’t want to be like me, either.

    Full-time travel is another value. It’s a life choice. And it is usually acquired in exchange for stability. Or at least that’s what “stable” married people with kids back home usually tell me. They know why I love to travel. And some of them probably envy my lifestyle from time to time, but they don’t want to BE like me.

    So, no, we will never fully see eye to eye. They don’t really value my existence as being “mature,” and I don’t really see what they do as anything except repopulating the planet in their secure nest. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — they are happy in that life. But I can’t help thinking, “Why don’t you want to see and learn more?” and I’m sure they are thinking, “Why can’t you be happy with less and just stay here?”

    I think I’ll stick to my path of seeing and learning more :) Glad to know people like you guys are doing the same :)

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Thanks Mike a lot for this comment. I am a lot like you
      – never actually paid much attention to money and the more I travel, the less I need and the more I want to share and it is a fantastic feeling. We all should collect moments, not things. I do really understand people who decide to devote their lives to their jobs and careers, but for some reason they do not get me. Maybe you are right and some people are not meant to understand each other…

      1. I like that — collecting moments, not things. If that’s the case, you’re actually quite wealthy :)

  17. niestety zawiść jest narodową cechą Polaków, a ta o podróże to już w ogóle. I to wcale nie musza być podróże po Azji, wystarczy dobre wyłapywanie promocji na tanie linie i latanie za grosze na weekendy to tu to tam (co w ogólnym rozrachunku wychodzi taniej niż noc na mieście albo wypad na zakupy), a już jest się na językach wszystkich. Ja pracuję na etacie, codziennie 8 godzin, kokosów nie zarabiam, a i tak mam czas i kasę na podróże. I to ludzi boli, lepiej ponarzekać nad swoim losem i poobgadywać innych niż ogarnąć się i zacząć coś konstruktywnego robić ze swoim życiem. Na słowa “jak ja ci zazdroszczę” mam już alergię i reaguję mini agresją ;)
    a co do ustatkowania się, zakładania rodziny itp – rozumiem aż za dobrze. za rok mi 30 stuknie, a nie planuję w najbliższej przyszłości zmieniać swojego życia. Ludzie na wszystkich patrzą swoimi kategoriami, a że im odpowiada siedzenie w domu i spędzanie czasu na oglądaniu durnych programów nie znaczy, że wszyscy tak mają. Nie dla każdego spełnienie = rodzina, dzieci, mieszkanie na kredyt, dla innych (jak Ty czy ja) są to podróże. ale cieżko to innym przetłumaczyc niestety… moja rada – olej to co inni myślą i rób swoje! bo to w końcu Twoje życie i Twoje wspomnienia na stare lata!

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Hej Kami, dzięki wielkie za komentarz. Zgadzam się, że wielu ludzi zazdrości innym wszystkiego, a sami nic nie zrobią, aby zmienić swoje życie. Nie zamierzam oczywiście przestawać podróżować, ani zmieniać swojego życia dla innych, bo spełniam się w 100% i jestem szczęśliwa. Zrozumieć chyba może nas tylko ten, co sam podróżuje :).

  18. I loved this post. A lot!

    Since I’ve been back from my travels I’ve felt a lot more disconnected from friends and acquaintances who are moving forwards with their lives in that “get job, settle down, have kids – done” route, whilst I’m further away than ever from that. And happily that’s through choice! But it is a shame to start feeling that you have less and less in common with the people you know.

    Thankfully I haven’t really felt that pressure from friends/family yet that I should be “growing up” or however they may phrase it, but I also get the feeling it won’t be too long haha…

    Really funny timing with this post on a personal level too, as I was just looking through the “gift list” for a friends’ wedding I’m going to next month, and – with my jaw on the floor – realised how different we are now. I’m really glad they are happy, but I’m personally happy being a traveller (whenever I can) ha! :)

  19. Doreen Pendgracs

    H Agness: i really enjoyed your post, and I feel your pain.

    I’ve always gone against the grain when it comes to the norm. But I’ve always lived a rich life (experience-wise) with limited resources. I chose to be childless, left corp life 20 years ago to go freelance and have never looked back. You’ll find that as you go thru life, your compadres and confidantes will change as you grow, experience life, and your priorities continue to evolve. My advice is just to continue following your heart. You are likely inspiring others more than you know.

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Story of my life Doreen. People keep saying I’m so childish and will never grow up because of my travels. Of course I’m going to continue following my heart. I have always been doing that and I’ll never stop. Thanks a lot for those words. They made me smile. Sending my love from sunny Macau.

  20. Great writing, Agness. If I would sign it, it would be 100% my true story :) I guess non-travelers are the same around the world.

    1. Agness Walewinder

      True. Thanks a lot. I’m glad people agree and relate to what I’ve written and been feeling for a long long time :).

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