Henro climbing stairs in ShikokuI know, it seems rather intuitive and obvious. On the surface it may be. After all why would we do things that don’t make us happy. But I meet a surprising number of people who aren’t happy. Some people think that travel is the answer to their happiness. Other people think settling down, having a steady job and a house will make them happy. Others think making an extra $1,000 USD a month will allow them breathing room to feel happy. If you are already happy with your life this post may not be for you. Then again you will be happy enough to continue reading as well ;)

Last week a collective atomic bomb was dropped on the travel blogging and lifestyle design community. I consider myself a part of both, and yes there really is a Lifetyle Design sector (although I use Lifestyle Strategies). The bomb was released by Gadling in this post On long-term travel, snobbery & judgmental blogging. It was amazing to see the swaths of destructive energy that rampaged from over 90 comments to this not so innocent post. What was even more surprising was from whom the comments originated…cool, enlightened travelers from both side of alleged divide (long term travelers vs everyone else). At issue was basically sensitivity around perceived judgments of any one particular lifestyle choice and what travel means in each context. Yup,you guessed it, that old fight and snobbery over “traveler vs tourist” just on a cracked out Blogging level.

The bickering, attacks, childishness and some very well reasoned calls for tolerance, made me think about how I express my life here on Todd’s Wanderings. And in particular, a recent interview I gave on Andy Hayes’ site Sharing Travel Experiences. In fact the interview was published the same day the atomic bomb exploded over at Gadling. If not for the timing I’m sure my interview would have gone viral, but as we know contentious issues trump cute puppies any day (tongue in cheek, please put the pitch forks down, I don’t really think I am as cute as a puppy).

Andy picked up on one of my themes in the interview and called it Organize Your Life in a Way that Makes You Happy. Putting two and two together I started to think about travel and happiness, having a ton of free time on my hands besides work, two book projects, running a blog and pretending to be a good guy. Sometimes we attach too much emphasis to this magical word “travel”. Travel is all about adventure, new experiences, meeting new and exciting people, expanding our minds and tolerance through practical experiences.  But, travel is also real life and has its fair share of disasters, flat tires, lack of water, getting lost, feeling lonely, and being miserable. Travel is fun. Sometimes travel blows.

Travel is a tool. And like most tools it up to us how we will use it. It gives us a chance to step outside of our daily lives and examine what is and is not important. If we hate our jobs, travel is not going to cure it if our lives are organized in a way where we return eventually to the job we hate. Likewise, if we are not satisfied with our lives, escaping on vacation is just that, a temporary escape. If we are happy with our lives, travel, work etc becomes an expression of that happiness. A necessary part of what makes us happy throughout our lives.

Before you ascribe some magical meaning and power to “travel” I would suggest you look at why you want to travel. How do you want to organize your life so that you are happy, content, and excited about what you are doing. If travel is a part of that, or the freedom to travel, then it won’t matter how you travel, long-term, short-term,  Solo Travel, backpacking, flashpacking, whatever. You will be happy with your choices, and be able to change things when you are no longer happy with them. Of course sometimes it takes travel, and the new experiences it brings to make us realize we need a systematic change in our lives. This is what happened with me, but I would never presume that others need to follow exactly what I did to discover what makes them happy. But some people may benefit and I firmly believe that travel can help in discovering what makes one happy. But I could care less about defining what “travel” is besides going out your front door.

So, to sum up. Do what you love, and love what you do. I believe travel is a powerful tool to figuring out exactly what you love to do, but “travel” does not have to be the end result. More later on how I figured my own happiness out and the planning tool that got me started.

What do you think? Was Gadling spot on, am I full of it? Share your thoughts, ideas, criticisms, and praises below!

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12 Responses to “Use Travel to Make You Happy”

  1. NataliaNo Gravatar says:

    Great post Todd, and a good summary of some important point. BUT I can see where the Gadling post was coming from. There is a perception, at least among some of us, that there is a snobbery in a lot of the type of blogs the Gadling post was talking about. There has always been travellers who like to see themselves more ‘elite’ than others, I admit, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t right to discuss it and hey, even say when we think they are being elitist, or just plain daft. I have absolutely no problem with people being digital nomads, none at all. But I don’t think that all of a sudden gifts them with some kind of ‘travel moral superiority’ either. Some digital nomads write great blogs worth following. Some are just inflated blow-hards.
    Natalia´s recent [type] ..A long day and night in Berlin – the Zoo and Lange Nacht der Museen

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hey Natalia, thanks and I agree that it is healthy to debate. But there were people on the “short term” travel side that were using the Gadling post to justify that they were better than long term travelers just like some long term travelers try to do the same. I guess it is just natural for some people to believe their way is the best way. Oh well, back to traveling :)

  2. MaryAnneNo Gravatar says:

    I read the Gadling article (slowly, with many pauses to rest my fevered brain) as well as several of the posts that were put up on other sites in response (I think Nerdseyeview did one, as did a few others). That first article made my head hurt. Those who didn’t want to travel slagged those who did, and those who did disparaged those who didn’t and…seriously, why? Is it really necessary? I live my life the way I am because of who I am; I’ve spent 16 years abroad mostly as the result of a million tiny decisions along the way. My life choices are what have worked for me. They probably wouldn’t work for many others and that’s just fine. If you choose your path based on your joys and passions, you will end up where you need to be. We will not all end up at the same place. And that’s just fine.

    (I will admit to feeling rather hurt by a number of posters who accused long time travellers of being trust fund babies or recent-corporate escapees with big leaving payouts. I am neither, but I’ve been living on my own and travelling since I was 19, working my ass off in a million different jobs and living quite frugally up until recently. Sometimes travel can cost a lot less that living at home…)

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Mary Anne, I guess people who sling mud rarely read how much work it takes to stay on the road. Oh well. There is enough room in the world for us all and the nicest thing about the internet is that you can stop reading anytime you want :) Vigorous debate is great, petty insults are not fun at all and I have better things to do with my time. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. NaradbNo Gravatar says:

    This post is perfect! This is what people need to hear and feel it out! Travel is what you make travel to be. It’s your life – love it or hate it, make the choice. Love what you do – very true! Great Post.
    Naradb´s recent [type] ..Flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport- Booked!!!

  4. LaurinaNo Gravatar says:

    Sheeeesh! I think the whole discussion is petty (excluding your post that is).. for myself, traveling wasn’t even a choice I made consciously, I made an intuitive choice to explore the world. Only years later was I able to rationalize the decision by saying ” I travel because I love it, because it makes me happy” etc :) excellent post… and for me, creating a blog would be about sharing experiences and bonding with like-minded people

  5. Great post Todd, I started reading the Gadling post and comments the other day and many seemed silly and petty. As you say, travel is a tool, a choice, a lifestyle. Those of us that have made this choice are usually not doing it for any other reason that it makes us HAPPY. Different people have different ways of achieving happiness, for us its travel. We see life as having one simple rule, OK maybe a few, but the most important is JUST BE HAPPY. To sit and ridicule others over a lifestyle choice that makes them happy just shows how unhappy, jealous and petty so many others, sadly are

  6. SuzyNo Gravatar says:

    Nice positive take on travel and the travel blogging debate. I read the Gadling post and started looking at the comments. I couldn’t believe there was so much back and forth from travelers, people that see so much of the world and have unending perspective. I think you hit the nail on the head, do what you love and love what you do. If travel is in there in some shape or form for you, who cares how you go about, backpack or 2 week vacation trip.

  7. EarlNo Gravatar says:

    You’re absolutely right of course. Travel is just one aspect of life and should not be treated, or prescribed for that matter, as a cure all for someone’s unhappiness. Achieving happiness involves more than purchasing a flight ticket to Bangkok, most of the time!

    What struck me most about this entire debate/discussion is that those debating the issue are travelers, the very people who have spent a long time learning about other cultures and ways of life. These are the people I would expect to have a greater understanding and respect of other people’s decisions and choices, and as a result, I just can’t understand the bickering at all.
    Earl´s recent [type] ..How To Travel When It’s Ridiculously Hot Outside

  8. AndiNo Gravatar says:

    I agree that travel is a very powerful tool and can definitely, absolutely bring about happiness! It’s a lot healthier than a pill…
    Andi´s recent [type] ..Brasil- Day 1 Part 2

  9. I like this post Todd. It speaks perfect sense. I am putting together my own thoughts on this whole slanging match. We often use the phrase live life out of the box, and my upcoming post is going to explain just what I mean by that. It’s not that my life outside of my box is what everyone else should be living. As you say, it is up to each individual to make the choice for themselves as to how they should live their lives and what makes them happy- this is living life out of the box and this is what we try to encourage and inspire. The need to criticize others or defend your choices comes from a sense of insecurity. You can choose not to take the words of others as a personal assault against yourself. Just keep doing what makes you happy and let the rest take care of themselves.
    Caz Makepeace´s recent [type] ..Comment on Travel Photo- Overnight Bus Travel in China by Andy Hayes Sharing Travel Experiences

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Thanks Caz. I am looking forward to your post on living outside of the box. As you can tell from my logo I’m a big fan of it myself! I think people get offended if they think we suggest they are living in the box ;) Fair enough, no one likes having their lives judged by others. Although, like you said they have a choice on how to take our words…I for one am not critising anyone, just point out what is right and wrong for me. And hoping to connect and encourage those who want/need it.

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