Things Never to Say to a World Traveler

**Disclaimer- I know world travel and expat life is not for everyone, and I get that. This post is not meant to critique people who don’t travel for not traveling, but to critique the various comments people make to travelers.

1. Don’t assume “home” is still “home” when you ask A Traveler about their return. Chances are, “home” is no longer a place, but a feeling. When asking your loved ones about returning “home,” do not underestimate that this statement also may imply that you are dismissing this traveler’s journey and growth as temporary or not serious, especially if they are trying to establish themselves somewhere abroad (and have had plans to do so for years.) A better question might be, “So, what are your upcoming plans?” Or, ” Are you coming to visit soon?”

2. Never tell a traveler that they will have time to “travel later,” especially if you do not share the same passion about traveling (or have not done much yourself.) Someone who is trying to make travel an active part of their lives or career does not appreciate this “advice.” These two words can also onset annoyance, anger, anxiety, and fear. When the heck is “later” anyways? Who knows if you’ll ever be around or have the time, energy, money, ability, or resources “later?” What’s the point of traveling “later” when you can travel now?

3. Never ever guilt trip the traveler about traveling, about living a different life, or wanting “different” things. This may include marriage, kids, a house, a car, savings, consumer goods, etc.

4. Never, ever ask a world traveler, “What’s wrong with coming home?” especially when they are passionately telling you about their next plan, aspiration, or move. Chances are you will either instill an argument, stress, anger, depression, or a combination of all of those. Travelers need the support of friends and family more than you realize, and to have your dreams dismissed from your loved ones hurts like hell. Wait unless the traveler brings up the subject first.

5. Don’t restrict solo-female travelers. Women are still stigmatized, commentated upon, or treated differently than men for traveling, and especially for traveling alone. Being a woman and being a woman who has traveled alone, I understand that there are additional factors women have to take into account, especially in regards to safety and feminine hygiene. I have experienced and know very well that as a female I need to take extra precautions everywhere I go. However, it does not mean we are incapable nor does it mean that we should be restricted just because of our gender. (Have I mentioned I’m just as likely to be attacked in my home town as I am abroad?) Women have the right to travel and are going to travel where they want and when they want and with whom they want. So, yeah, stop that.

6. Do not ask world travelers when they are going to come back to “real life” with a “real job.” Since when is my life or the life of a traveler or expat “not real?” Does not owning a car or not having savings make my life any less “real?” What does that even mean? Since when is doing something such as teaching English abroad not a “real job?” As someone who has spent almost five years of college and has $26,0000 worth of students loans from getting a teaching degree with ESL certification, it’s insulting. Just because I prefer to use my degree in France or Thailand instead of in my state’s public schools does not mean my career or job “isn’t real.” Just because the country I live in has different customs and cultures does not mean its way of life is any less “real.”

7. Don’t critique the traveler’s destinations of choice. Every person is different and traveling is an individual journey. Everyone has different interests and experiences. If you’re not interested in Southeast Asia, South America, the Middle East, Australia, Africa, or certain countries in Europe, fine, but don’t criticize other people for traveling there.

8. Don’t try to argue that traveling long-term is “career suicide.” In today’s globalized society, I can’t think of anything more resume-worthy than global competence, whether that be second language fluency, international work experience, knowledge of other cultures, etc. The average person today follows seven different career paths, and a resume is more of a jungle gym than a ladder. Adding traveling to the mix shows a well-rounded and open-minded individual, both great qualities to a potential hire.

9. Absolutely do not dismiss the realness or severeness of Reverse Culture Shock. The summer after my semester in Normandy was one of the darkest periods of my life. Travel changes you. It can be extremely difficult to put a newly-changed person into an old place that has stayed exactly the same. After living somewhere completely different and then being suddenly thrown back into an old environment can be scary, confusing, and downright emotional. Do not be offended if it takes your friends or loved ones time (a few days, weeks, or months) to adjust back after long periods of travel. Do not be offended if they need to spend time alone or even if they just need time to grieve and mourn. Had my friends and family known this about me, I feel my initial return to the US would have been much smoother and would have contained much less resentment.

Do you have any others to add? Leave a comment.



5 thoughts on “Things Never to Say to a World Traveler

  1. This makes me think of the line between being a traveller (eventually you do go “home”) and being an expat (you may or may not ever go “home”), and how there are so many of us in between. In the last eight years, I’ve only been home — the place where my parents live and I have never actually lived even a day of my life — 3 times. I’ve only been back to my home (the place I consider home) twice. In 8 years.

    I think it’s really important to remember where you come from as you see the world and as you make decisions. It’s a part of who you are that can’t be denied. When my friends (the people who understand, those who “get it”) ask me when I’m coming home, I don’t get offended. It’s a reminder that there will always be an open door to me, whether it’s France, Spain, Denmark, South Carolina, or Ohio. It’s a reminder that those people care about you.

    For everybody else — screw ’em. We travel light, so why carry such heavy acquaintences who bring us down? Learning how to let go of toxic people is one of the best skills i’ve ever acquired. Suddenly you find yourself surrounded by people that you actually like, who accept you for who you are, and who are ready to open their door to you. What more could we possibly ask for as eternal travellers or expats? 🙂

    1. Absolutely love this perspective.

      As you know for me it’s a fine line. I guess I am lucky to have somewhere I can still go “home” to if I need it. But, my individual, personal perspective, as you know is constantly changing. It’s more of a feeling even though I’m still lucky that I could go back to where I am from. Does that make sense? Xoxo

      1. I totally get the feeling and the acceptance of “home is where you lay your hat” — I often tell people I feel like I’m from everywhere and nowhere because drifting does feel like that. It’s only recently that I’ve embraced where I come from and accepted that it sometimes defines me (to others). How I define myself… well that’s another mystery entirely! We are lucky to be able to “go back” if necessary, but it’s so much more enticing to go forward to the next adventure 🙂

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