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Maybe People Do Not Want to Travel the World

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FINCA TATIN, Guatemala- I may have made a grave miscalculation, I may have based my work and this website on a false pretense, I realized that I may be investing massive amounts of time and effort into moot points and words that don’t hit their intended mark.

Vagabond Journey is based on the premise that people want to travel the world, that their is a sizeable market, a large audience of people who want to travel perpetually, live a full life of wandering that goes beyond vacationing, that goes beyond leisure, that there are people who want to make a life of traveling.

As I have done.

I made the stark error of thinking that other people want to live like me.

I am now realizing that they don’t, people want to take vacations, they don’t want to travel the world. I feel arrogant in my assumption that I live a better life than most other people, that I found a secret key to good living, and that if I shared it people would want to take it with open arms.

For five years I have been writing explicit information on how to travel the world long term, and in doing so I think that I may have missed my true target audience.

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My friend Dave from The Longest Way Home asked the question:

Is this really marketable?

We have been discussing the possibility of doing an ebook or an electronic magazine together. We are looking at a mountain of work, we are debating if we really want to start climbing up this hill, we need to ask ourselves the question: are enough people really willing to pay money for information on how to travel the world long term?

Is there really an audience for this kind of information, and, if so, are they willing to pay us money for our knowledge?

We both need money, both Dave and I need to start making our websites, our writing projects, more profitable — or we need to pack it in. We both know this, we both have end of the year deadlines. We both are willing to work our fingers to the bone typing, assembling words, we are both more than willing to not sleep to make a living from these projects that we have come to love, that have become obsessions of sorts. So we must ask the question:

Do people really want to travel the world? Do people really want to travel for years and years and never go home? Are there enough people out there who want to give up their jobs, homes, family roles, and group of friends in exchange for the Open Road.

Or is this a merely a romantic thought which balances itself out in short vacations?

Do people want to travel the world?

Please let me know, I cannot tell.

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I began thinking a funny thought that had never really surfaced before:

Maybe people don’t want to be like me? Maybe they don’t want to travel like I do.

I never framed this question before, it was my previous notion that everybody would rather live a life of travel than working 40 hours a week inside of a cubical, it was my notion that I live pretty well, that other people are envious of me, that I can make a living from teaching others how to live abroad and travel for as long as they want.

The entire market base of Vagabondjourney.com was based on people wanting information on long term travel, on traveling as a lifestyle.

But who really wants to travel the world?

Traveling long term is life, it is not an escape. I work every day as I travel, I am not a slouch, I am not on vacation. I live a solid life in ever changing locations.

As I work in this hotel in the jungle of Guatemala, I can confirm that I have not yet meet one single traveler coming through here who displayed interest in travel perpetually. Some people are on long trips, some for multiple years, but they all have return dates, they all have plans to go home. It is quickly becoming my impression that the point where traveling mixes with real life is where most people lose interest.

The main conception of travel, as far as I can tell, is an escape from regular life, it is a way of living in which there is no work, no responsibility, where permissiveness can be given full reign, where consequences have rubber teeth, where the beaches are beautiful and the sand does not get stuck in your ass crack, where ugly old guys can lay beautiful women, where plump chicks can feel beautiful by screwing  well toned, young men, where adventure is devoid of danger, where all dreams come true on the other side of the rainbow, on the big rock candy mountain. The tourism industry has sought to service this conception of travel. This is the idea of travel that is firmly entrenched in the collective consciousness of the world.

I think I had to travel for five years before my mother realized that I was not on vacation, that I was not taking the easy way out by traveling.

Little do people seem to know that travel is work, and it is the work that lends it value. It takes work to build character, it takes world to build experience, knowledge, it takes effort to learn, to see things in new ways, to be sure you really know what you are talking about, to talk about new things. Traveling is learning, it takes effort, it takes work — both mental and physical. There is nothing leisurely about it.

The conception of travel is a fraud.

I base this website on the premise that there are people out there who want information on how to travel the world perpetually, on how they can work abroad, save money, stay happy, and travel as a way of life. But how many people are really doing this?

I need to start out selling the dream. I want to create a romantic notion of perpetual world travel: “I have been traveling for 11 years through 46 countries on 5 continents.”

Uh, la, la, and all that.

If I started this website out with the passage:

Warning: there is nothing in this website about eating in fancy restaurants or going to tourists sites or attractions. This is the record of real life spend in perpetual motion. I work at least 8 hours a day like everybody else, I raise a family, I live a life of study, learning, writing. I am on call all day long, I collect impressions of the world as I move through it, this is a job that does not end. I publish this website every single day without any days off. My goal is to meet people, learn, process, and share. I work formal jobs for very little pay, I am constantly wondering how I am going to get enough money to make the next move. I care nothing about seeing the sites and “doing places.” This is not a vacation, this is real life. Vagabonds travel to work, and the essence of the traveling life is found in working daily for your own sustenance while seeking a glimpse of understanding of the world you live in. This website serves to share information on how people of the world really live, beyond the costumes, outside of the curio shops, beyond the smiles of tourism.

Who would read any further?

This is not a very marketable description of a travel website.

But this is the real life of the perpetual traveler. It is a real life. I think it is pretty romantic, I think that it is pretty good, though I must admit that I may be a sort of masochist: I appreciate the essence of a day spent stimulated, at full attention, eyes and ears open wide, a day of learning, a day of working, building, creating, accomplishing. I can imagine no worse day than one with nothing to do but swing around in a hammock, flinging monkeys at the coconuts, drinking colorful cocktails with twirly straws, a day of leisure. This day could only be matched in horridness by one of tours, being around other tourists, seeing sites, being catered to, not having to show any regard to my daily sustenance because I have enough money to just pay for all my needs and wants without thought.

The popular conception of travel is a hell for me.

And I am sure that the way I travel would be likewise received by most people.

“Nobody wants to travel like you do,” my wife spoke honestly to me over a year ago. It is just now that I am heeding her words.

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I thought for years that I was living a life that others wanted to emulate — I am certainly happy, I think what I do is pretty cool — but it is becoming obvious to me that just because a person takes an active interest in long term travel and working around the world does not mean that they want to do it.

Maybe people don’t want to be like me, maybe they don’t want to be perpetual travelers?

I must admit that the evidence points towards the above statement being correct: most people seem to want to go traveling, but most also want to go home. Most people want both worlds, a stable job and life mixed with a month or two of traveling a year. The idea is firmly entrenched that travel should serve as a counterweight to working, a way of balancing out the year, a shift in extremes to keep life even.

To travel year round for many years seems extreme, and some may be impressed with my record, but few want to really do it themselves.

It is a very odd person, indeed, who travels for ten years. They are also very rare.

In all of my travels, I can count the number of perpetual travelers that I know on the fingers of one hand.

Andy Graham
Malcolm Glasgow
Dave from The Longest Way Home (though he is traveling with the intention to find home)
Loren Everly
Craig Heimburger

I can also fill my other hand with travelers who change locations around the world on a year or two basis.

All together, in 11 years I have only met perhaps ten people who are moving about the world somewhat perpetually.

At most, only ten.

So when I think about Dave’s question — Is there a market for what we do? — I must step outside of my own hopes and really ask the question:

Does anybody want to travel the world?

People want to travel the world, but they want to have a home more.

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I remember watching a group of teenagers once at an interstate rest stop in the USA. They were loud, they acted as if they thought they were cool, it was clear that they thought all of us old onlookers wanted to be like them — that it was the greatest thing in the world to be young, to be a teenager.

I looked at them in disgust — being a teenager again was the last thing that I would ever want to do. I became so happy that I was not them, that I was not young and that stupid anymore.

Groups tend to think a lot of themselves, they tend to think that other people want to be a part of their exclusive club, to be like them. This is often the last thing that onlookers want. We usually look on and say, “Man, I am glad I am not one of those jerks.”

Where their are group ideologies, insider/ outsider dichotomies, the insiders often reconfirm to each other that they are doing something great, something that every other person also would like to do.

This often could not be farther from the truth.

I was caught up in this dynamic, I thought that the brotherhood of perpetual travelers had masses of prospective initiates. This could not be farther from the truth.

Maybe people don’t want to travel the world?

Maybe I need to change my strategy to meet this new impression?

Maybe people don’t want to travel the world?

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Filed under: Perpetual Travel, Travel Philosophy

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3054 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Cincinnati, Ohio, USAMap