How Travel Didn’t Solve Anything


I thought travel would change me.

I wanted travel to change me.

I wanted to emerge from 13 months of traveling and volunteering around the world a better person – more patient and more open to taking risks. I hoped to find new, like-minded friends and develop new relationships.  I secretly hoped I might finally solve my toxic relationship with food and return from my trip healthier and several pounds lighter. I wanted to discover my life’s purpose and emerge from my travels with a new direction for my career. And I promised myself that when I did return to work, I would do so with a new attitude and perspective.

I have been home almost 6 months and I can’t shake the feeling that I didn’t accomplish what I set out to.

I don’t really feel like I have changed that much. Sure, I may be slightly more independent and I am focusing on somewhat different priorities at home. But I still lose my patience quite easily – perhaps even more so when I travel here in the United States than I did on the road. And I am still pretty risk-averse. I crave a certain level of security and as much as I loved the idea of becoming location-independent after my trip and trying to make it freelancing, it just seemed far too risky to try. Likewise, when opportunities arose to move to San Francisco or Boston, I couldn’t bring myself to make such a move. Instead, I went back to the familiarity of Chicago.


I didn’t set off to travel for a year expecting to find love a lá Eat, Pray, Love – although I certainly wouldn’t have minded. Before I left, I had fallen into a bit of a relationship black hole at home. After a major heartbreak, I subconsciously avoided dating for a long time.  When I did put myself back out there, I just didn’t seem to click or have anything in common with any man I met. And as I got closer to my trip, I just stopped trying.  So when I finally hit the road, I was cautiously optimistic that I would meet a lot of like-minded travelers and make some new, lifelong friends along the way – any romance would be a bonus.

In the end, I was disappointed.

With a couple exceptions, I spent the first six months without meeting anyone with whom I really clicked. Of everyone I met while traveling through Finland, Estonia, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova, I haven’t kept in close touch with anyone. It’s not that I wasn’t meeting people – I just wasn’t meeting anyone with whom I had much in common.  Things picked up the second half of my trip as I finally made some friends in Armenia and enjoyed one very short-lived romance, but I still look back with regrets. I think of the guys I really liked who just showed no interest and I think of the people I could have tried to get to know a little better. I also think of how much my trip strained my friendships back home – after an initial surge of getting together with people when I first returned, almost everyone seems to have forgotten I’m back.

Bishkek market

And then there’s my relationship with food. I have always been an emotional over-eater and, as a result, have always struggled with my weight. Being diagnosed as gluten-intolerant in 2010 has not helped – I have to think so much about everything that I eat and I try to compensate for the things I can’t eat by overindulging in those I can. Perhaps somewhat irrationally, I hoped that a year on the road would finally get me on the right track with eating – that without all of the processed food at home, I would settle into better habits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables and I would be so budget conscious, I would eat less.  Everyone else I knew who had traveled long-term had lost weight; I figured I must as well.

Not so much.

With all of the ups and downs of my journey, I turned to food for comfort even more than I do at home.  I was lucky to arrive back in Chicago only up a few pounds from when I left. The real downward spiral started, though, after my trip ended. I ate out all the time as I tried to network and catch up with friends and I made up for a year without Mexican food by eating it constantly.  While I worked out for about an hour daily, it was nothing compared to walking around 6-7 hours a day. The stress of looking for a job and not feeling settled led to me eating even more and suddenly I found myself at my heaviest weight ever.  Add in the fact that I have been breaking out in a rash every time I work out and have been sick more since I’ve been home than I ever was on the road, and I feel like my body is just rebelling against me.

Shing family

Finally, there’s that whole what-do-I-want-do-with-my-life thing. I didn’t have the confidence to try to make it on my own freelancing, I realized my dream job in travel was not all I thought it was and I simply didn’t find many openings in other areas that appealed to me. As a result, I didn’t use my trip to transition into a new career as I hoped I would. And now that I am back in my old field, I am finding that old habits die hard. I still let the stress from the office follow me home, lingering over my head like a dark cloud. Granted, I put a lot of the pressure on myself – I don’t like to fail and I don’t want to let anyone down – but I let it negatively affect all other areas of my life.

So what does all this mean?

It means that travel doesn’t solve your problems. I will freely admit that part of my motivation in taking a year off to travel was to try to escape some of my problems at home. What I have realized is that not only did travel not solve any of those issues, it may have exacerbated them.

At the same time, almost all of it is on my shoulders. I have to firmly resolve to take control and not use various circumstances as excuses. After spending nearly two years saving and preparing for my trip, I know I can accomplish anything if I set my mind to it. Now, I need to use the same approach in dealing with my weight, relationships and career.

I also need to remember the biggest lesson I learned on the road: that things will ultimately work out the way they were meant to.

I am back in Chicago and back in my old career for a reason. I was selected to participate in the Eventbrite Blogger Tour for a reason. I was invited to speak at a CRAVE event about blogging for a reason. I am meeting new people every week and I’d like to think every interaction is for a reason.

I may not know the reasons now, but I have to believe that every day is bringing me one step closer to where I’m supposed to be.

71 thoughts on “How Travel Didn’t Solve Anything”

  1. Pingback: Make the Most Out of a Big Trip

  2. Great post! I’m glad you reminded me of this basic fact. Many travellers promote just positive changes that come with travelling and they completely omit the part about internal battles within themselves. Changing yourself requires much work, no matter if you’re safely at home or in a far away country. /Is my English ‘understandable’? 😉

  3. I’ve come across your blog while googling for Orehiul Vechi. What you’re saying is very true. I’m sorry to hear you struggle, I hope by this time it’s better. What I’ve learned from my travels is that changing oneself does not happen by an accident while travelling. From my personal experience, travels tend to get both my best and worst out of me. That’s good for one’s development as I learn my weaknesses and try and be better and stronger. But with me it’s never a passive thing, I have to actively think about changing my reactions, my behavior and try and apply that into everyday life.

    As for the food, on the road it’s difficult and if one’s on the budget, they have to make some compromises. I have received a good advice from a couple of long-term travellers saying whenever hey think they have eaten too much, they swich to two meals a day. But if you’re a compulsive overeater, I would also try and tackle the reasons behind your overeating, either by yourself or by professional help. I’ve been on the other side, borderline anorexic at once. Now I am healthy, fit and happy, but I have learned to eliminate the triggers that would make me change my eating patterns in bad way. Also, going low carb really helped me to quench all of my cravings, but maybe that’s just me 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment Tina. I think the food thing is mainly that I am an emotional eater, so when I am stressed or lonely, I eat. When I was on the road, there were plenty of times when I was one or both, so I turned to food. Also, being Celiac and not being able to eat gluten meant in a lot of places I was extremely limited as to what I could eat, so I would overcompensate by eating more of something else. For example, on many travel days, the only thing safe for me to eat at rest stops were Snickers bars – not exactly the healthiest thing out there.

      Coming home has been an emotional rollercoaster, so it’s not surprising the emotional eating continued initially. I have it mostly under control now, but my whole metabolism seems to have slowed down so that things I used to do to drop pounds no longer work and that is incredibly frustrating.

  4. I definitely felt that way after moving to Australia partway through my journey. I thought travel had imparted this awesome new perspective when in reality, it was just my surroundings. Once I got back to the western world the stress and desire for things came back, and it was disheartening.

    That said, I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my travels and at the time, it always seems like a massive waste. Then, later, it always becomes apparent why it all happened. As you said, things work out the way they were meant to.

  5. This was rather beautiful…it’s so easy to read about amazing, life-changing experiences, because with 7 billion people on the planet, they happen all the time, and they’re the only stories that make headlines. The much more common experiences–the ones that were pretty good–can feel downright disappointing by comparison.

    I’ve been to plenty of places that just fade away from memory, and it’s mostly because I just didn’t have any amazing experiences there. I visited, I met some people in hostels, maybe met some locals, and moved on. Sometimes that’s just how it goes. But I think actually saying so is pretty important. It’s way too easy to brag about things being amazing (and embellishing quite a bit), but when it comes down to it, if you meet just a few amazing people, even in the most boring place on Earth, you’ll have a good time. And knowing how rare those times can be makes them a whole lot more special.

    Coming back is tough. People say travel changes you, and I think NOT traveling changes you right back. Pushing yourself to do something new and exciting whenever you can is always helpful. You’ll never look back and wish you’d watched TV more.

  6. While I haven’t traveled long-term as you have, I find myself relating to this post quite a bit. Six years ago I took a huge leap of faith and moved across the US to start over. I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t have a job lined up.. I was just eager to go. I thought leaving the area where I was living would solve all of my issues–that they weren’t my issues as much as they were my issues living in this town. After a few years of living in my current location, I realized I hadn’t escaped any of the issues. They were in fact, mine. It’s taken me a few more years to sort out the issues and really figure out how to make my life happier without fleeing this (new) town, thinking that’s the issue.

    I really hope that you’ll find all those things you were looking for in your travels. You deserve it. 🙂

  7. I always feel the need to travel. I didnt start until 36 and I try to find new and different places to visit. Somewhere that I wont run into my own countrymen/women. I think it takes a while to find who you are! Dont let it worry you too much. And please never say ‘I regret’. Even your mistakes help improve you. Don’t want to sound like some kind of wanker, but even the bad shit does help you.
    BTW… when I was feeling down when I came back from Russia, your blog helped me remember how much fun I had!

  8. I just want to say thank you for being so honest. Don’t get me wrong, uplifting stories of finding love, friends, purpose and enlightenment on the road are wonderful to read but to read your perspective has kept me grounded. I’m glad you found some sort of feeling of independence at the very least, ultimately I think that’s what a lot of people who travel would like to achieve.

    Good luck with your new adventures!

  9. Pingback: Travel doesn’t fix you | Les bonnes résolutions de Marjan

  10. Thank you so much for this post, Katie. It’s nice to finally read about someone who isn’t looking to be a backpacker forever and also know that getting away from your life isn’t always the answer. I think some of us feel like this even before we travel, so it’s good to know we aren’t the only ones.

    I also agree with you that knowing your only friends are online is a bit depressing 🙂 There’s nothing like being able to call up a friend to get together for coffee or a movie or just hang out at home. That contact is important. Congrats on being able to put yourself out there and make new connections. Making new friends is hard as an adult…or maybe we just make it seem that way, because you aren’t five and saying “Hi, I’m xxx. Wanna be friends?” is a little awkward. LOL!

    Good luck finding your path in life. I’m STILL not sure what I want to be “when I grow up” 🙂

  11. I haven’t gone traveling long term like you did, but I can relate to a lot of things you mention. Slipping back into old patterns, often choosing the safe road…
    I’ve told myself countless times that I need to dare more, and yet I often find myself keeping back.
    I truly hope everything will work out for you in Chicago and I think that might be even a greater challenge than hitting the road for a long time. Finding out what you want and getting there under ‘normal’ circumstances and not in that special world that travel often consists off.

  12. What an intimate post Katie. This my first visit to your site and I feel as though I know you so well already. While I sympathize with your account of how travel has affected your life I urge you not to be so judgmental of your eating habits, ability to form relationships and general well being. I’ve always found that my weight, health, relationships and happiness are entwined.

    Use your travels to propel your forward not make you grind to a halt. You’re clearly an intelligent girl with many skills and talents. Find what it is that makes you happy and do as much of it as possible. All the other elements of your life will fall into place behind you.

    Above all be positive. Whether you realize it or not the experiences you had in Europe will have left their mark of your subconscious. Just because they aren’t immediately evident doesn’t mean they’re not there. Not all of us return from our travels as a ‘changed’ person. Perhaps you didn’t need to change who you were. Maybe your lovely just the way you are!

  13. I really enjoyed this post, Katie. I was surprised to read that you think you avoid risks because I think you were incredibly brave and a huge risk-taker to take the kind of trip you did! Thank you for writing such an honest post–travel doesn’t change the issues we have/had at home or personal issues that nag at us. However, we have the power to change, and as you said, you can accomplish anything. 🙂

  14. This is a very honest post, Katie. I can really relate to your sentiments about returning how. I think sometimes we expect this big change to occur and then we fall right back into this life that we thought would no longer exist after travel.

  15. if you were able to set aside your false beliefs about travel, and if you now feel you are on the right path for your life, then travel is what did that. if you think you are now working towards a better life for yourself, it was traveling that allowed you to learn the lessons to make your life better.

    had you simply stayed home, would you have learned these lessons? or would you have followed another “wrong” path? travel did solve your problem, just not in the way you expected before you set out on that part of your journey.

  16. Katie your honesty is refreshing, though I’m sure this was not an easy post to write. Real change can be hard and when the things that are ‘supposed’ to happen during travel don’t, what then? You’re still creating a new path that might not become clear for awhile, but we’re still here following your journey.

  17. yep i can totally agree with u. travel dont change nothing. i have been travelling for 21 years with short stays back in england at the house where i was born in.
    travel will leave u restless. friends? pffff as u said. my friends are all over the place.= on my lap top.
    i feel for u.
    the only way to sort this problem out is to keep on travelling. stay on the road. go back home if u must but only on a return ticket cos then u know u will return to ur new life and not ur old life.
    being resteless is not compataible to having relatiuonships…. like it or not, one night stands are the way to go but i end up going to places with no people so i dt even get the one nighters…lol

    u wanna loose weight? Russia and CIS countries is not the place. go to India and drink the tap water. the pounds will come off. is rice Gluten?
    PM me if u wanna chat more….

    1. Thanks for the comment, but I have to say I disagree. I have no desire to keep traveling continuously. The idea of all of my relationships being online depresses me. Even though a lot of my old relationships at home have been strained, I do have some that have continued strong and I am building new ones already since I’ve been back. My ideal life is one where I live in Chicago as a home base, but can travel for a few weeks at a time as much I like. Alternatively, I could see myself living somewhere overseas, but in one place, not moving around – I would want the opportunity to meet people and build relationships.

  18. Hi Katie, new reader here! Thanks for this post – really resonated with me.

    I recently returned from 9 months studying abroad and I expected to come back transformed & re-energised too. But instead I came home feeling restless, dreading having to “resume” my life and impatient to travel more. Took me almost a year to be at peace again.

    Thanks for your honesty – it was very validating to hear that someone else is feeling exactly what I’m feeling too!

    Hang in there – I have no words of advice but I’m rooting for you to work it all out (:

    1. Hi Sarah! Welcome and thanks for reading and commenting! It’s always helpful to hear from someone else who has been through a similar thing.

  19. Have to say, your openness and honesty, not to mention self-awareness and ability to articulate, is really impressive. Your extensive travels, full of amazing experiences and challenges, is just part of your personal journey, so while it may not have delivered the direct solutions you were seeking, it will nonetheless play a big part in what happens from here. The resilience and discipline you have will see you get to where you want to be and above all, stay strong in the faith that you’re on the right path.

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  21. It might be a few years before you take action on the changes you wish you accomplished. I know I felt the same way when I got back, but since I returned to the worst economic recession ever (March 2009) I couldn’t afford to change much in my life at that time to how it was before I left. 4 years later, I finally made a change I wanted to back then because I was in a better place.

    6 months is nothing. It took me that long to find a job when I got home! Give it time, it probably won’t be instantaneous.

    1. Thanks Rebecca. I agree – it probably will be a while before I fully understand how I’ve changed and get into the place in life I want to be. As silly as it sounds, I think part of my impatience is the looming milestone of turning 40. I wrote about that before when I turned 36 in August and it is still kind of there, this feeling that I want to have things figured out by the time I’m 40. Again, I know this is arbitrary and it shouldn’t matter, but it is still a feeling I haven’t been able to shake.

  22. I love your honesty with this post – thank you for sharing. It’s so true. I’m working abroad right now and I thought that being here would help me figure out “what I REALLY want to do” — and maybe that was to be location-independent and freelance. I was burnt out at my job in the US and needed a new adventure. But I’m working here (a short term consultancy) and it’s actually even harder than working at home, and I’m not having any major revelations, just that this work is hard and it can be stressful, but it’s a different kind of hard and stressful than my office job at home. True, it’s far more stimulating than work at home and my chronic shoulder/neck tension is gone. But it’s been hard to make friends I can relate to here, so I spend my free time alone or online.

    I also fell into a bad pattern of emotional eating when things got really hard here. I would “reward” myself with ice cream after a hard day (and that became every day). And in my quest to find decent chocolate, I ate way too much chocolate cake. When I went to the “big” city, I’d stock up on imported candy bars, only to have no self control and eat them all in one sitting. Add to this that it’s hard to eat well when living in a county where the diet is very carb-heavy and cooking for myself takes more effort than I can expend right now. Before I knew it, I was at my heaviest. It actually took a bout of food poisoning to help me re-set my eating habits.

    Good luck with your continued transition back — your travels have changed and marked you — perhaps not in big sweeping outwardly noticeable ways (job, body), but I’m willing to bed that inside you are a stronger, more resilient, open-minded, sophisticated, cosmopolitan person – a citizen of the world who knows she can depend on herself to get through any situation.

  23. Thank you so, so much for this post. I feel that you’re telling an important truth, and one which many bloggers avoid talking about. Unfortunately travelling can sometimes only be a form of escapism…at least it was for me.

    There was a period in my life where I was unhappy with many things, so I always spent my days saving and dreaming about my next trip. I would be so so happy while travelling, but would always return to my old life and to unhappiness.

    In the end, it was about taking steps to change my life and find happiness. Now I am finally in a spot where I love where I live and what I do, and travelling is only something which complements this, rather than one of the few things which makes me happy.

    1. Thanks for commenting Denise. I believe that, deep down, travel is a form of escape for almost everyone. When I was in Armenia, a fellow volunteer made a comment to the effect of “we’re all here because something is f***ed up at home.” While I wouldn’t put it that way, I think that if my life had been even 90% perfect at home, I probably never would’ve thought of traveling long-term. If everything is great, why leave?

      1. That’s absolutely right though, to the question ‘why leave?’ I would answer, ‘because I really enjoy travelling.’ I’m 99% happy where I live now, but I still crave travelling immensely.

  24. Thank you for a very realistic post! There are plenty of blogs of there that talk about travel as a “life changing event”, but in the majority of cases, this doesn’t actually happen – not in a very forthright manner at least. Travel doesn’t change who you are, and it shouldn’t need to.

    1. Thanks Sara. I agree – and I think that is partly why I have been frustrated. I read so many travel blogs by people for whom long-term travel was this major life-changing events and they have completely changed their lives afterwards and I’ve been looking at those feeling like that should’ve been my experience as well and wondering why it wasn’t.

  25. The problem with travel is that you can’t escape yourself. Essentially you take your problems with you. You will be where ever you go. So travel may not have solved anything but it will give you a different perspective so you can solve things, for yourself on your own terms. Goodluck in the future. You will figure it all out. It takes a bit of time but you are right, everything happens for a reason.

  26. I suspect that your travels DID change you, although not in the ways you expected and/or wanted. Travel won’t change your fundamental being, but gives you a broader repertoire of experiences to fall back on.

    You’ve been back 6 months now – just long enough for the novelty to wear off, yet not long enough to truly be comfortable with the idea. I would love to see another post at one year to see how things have changed!

    1. Thanks Nancy. I’m sure you’re right – I maybe didn’t find the things I was looking for, but other things found me and I’m still trying to make sense of it all and what to do next.

  27. Great post. I’ve been traveling a few months alone. I think you learned two very important things at least. One is that you are less of a “wanderer” than you thought. If you stay put for a while, you probably won’t have the same yearnings for long term travel and that could bring a certain peace and restfulness with where you are. Another is the friends. I find that I want friends with a sense of adventure. Do I want every day to look the same as last? No. I think you are finding that out…because of your outlook on life your friends are changing. Just my ideas. And because I can relate to what you said I wanted to pass it on.

    1. Thanks Linda. I think you are right. I am less of a wanderer than I thought – I wanted to be that person who had an amazing time traveling long-term but in the end, that just wasn’t me. While I have an itch to travel still, I can’t see myself going for more than a few weeks at a time and for now, I’m just really enjoying being around the familiar and having a routine again.

  28. Great, honest post Katie. I remember when you started planning your trip, and I feel like you voiced many of these goals back then. Good for you sharing that in the end travel isn’t always the answer. I think so many of us want it to be…the next trip will make this or that better. And in the end, our lives are still what they are. I guess what I took from this is that in the end, it is up to us to make the changes we desire. Travel, or anything else for that matter, can’t do it for us….

  29. GREAT POST! Everything you expected to gain from you trip, are things that I hope to gain on our upcoming RTW trip. We leave in 106 days and will be gone 15+ months. I wonder if and how I will come back changed. We both say we will not come home and get stuck back at our jobs working like crazy. One of my biggest trip goals is PATIENCE something I do not have and hope to gain! Thanks again for opening my eyes!

    1. Thanks Hannah! It’s funny, I think I actually did an ok job of being patient on the road, but since I have been back, my impatience has reared its ugly head – especially when I’ve been traveling within the country!

  30. We’re going through a lot of the same things now that we’re back. My husband and I both thought we’d leap into new (and better!) careers, yet here we are, stuck in the cycle of applying for the same types of things, probably out of fear of being totally broke in 6 months. We’ve been asked a lot about how we changed on our trip, and I feel almost embarrassed to say that we don’t think we changed much. We had a great time, our relationship is better than it’s ever been, but we didn’t really change in some sort of dramatic way. It’s all very anti-climactic. I really appreciate your honesty in this post, it’s very refreshing.

    1. Thanks Ashley. Always nice to hear from someone else is having the same experience. I hope things end up working out the way you want them to!

  31. Thanks for sharing such a honest post! We push ourselves so much to enjoy our travels at the most of it and sometimes we realize that with all the planning we also added to our suitcases too high expectations – but it’s just a matter of time: it doesn’t matter if it’s gonna be a week or 10 years after we come back, the time outside our comfort zone is always gonna be awarded. Harvest the good experiences and good luck with this new challenges!

  32. I appreciate your honesty with this post. I think sometimes before we travel we have such high expectations that no matter what we accomplish or do on our trip, we’re always going to feel let down or like we just didn’t do enough.

  33. I can totally relate to your situation. 25 years ago, I left for a 6 months trip to Australia. I thought of myself as being many things but wasn’t very honest with myself. So everything I expected this trip would be wasn’t. Stuck to face myself for the first time and being forced to really look at myself, I realized that I had this fantasy image of who I wanted to be but that’s not who I was. When I came back, I was first very disappointed with myself like the whole trip had been a failure but eventually I realized that it helped me face myself and see who I really was and accept it. I may not be adventurous, carefree and a risktaker but who I am is ok too, I am many other things. And whoever you are, a trip like that makes you much more confident. Even though it was a difficult trip, it was an eye opening trip and I’ve very grateful that it happened.
    Re-entry is always difficult. People want to see you the first two weeks and then they go back to their lives and you’re stuck with all these things you want to share and nobody listens… It’s hard, I understand!

  34. Is it possible that you have changed and just haven’t had time to reflect on it enough? I never know when I change – you don’t really feel it. It just happens. I am so different than I was in my teens and early twenties but I didn’t recognize that growth as it was happening.

    It can also be that you feel like you should be moved and changed more because it’s such a long time away that the hard times must mean something. I don’t know 🙂 Interesting post though!

  35. Katie I hope you can take some solace from the idea that you have the courage to actually do what the vast majority of people wish they could, but simply will never do.

    When I came back from living in the US for 9 years I had no money. Many of my contemporaries had families, homes, nice cars and all the adornments of a sensible, adult life. Although I felt a little sorry for myself at times, I realised that the time I had spent living a more adventurous life had contributed immeasurably to my character and perspective. I think differently, I treat people differently, I live differently. I am happier with who I am. There’s a cliche about the road less traveled, and while it’s a bit corny, there’s more than a grain of truth in it. x

    1. Thanks Dave. I know I should take solace in the fact that I’m very unique in having taken the journey in the first place – sometimes I just need to hear it from others to be reminded. 🙂

  36. Such an honest, helpful post, Katie! There’s nothing easy about this lifestyle and the changes that come with it. I have similar issues with my weight. I thought it would be so much easier on the road and yet, it was SO MUCH worse. And that whole nagging question of “What now?” never went away, and that was the one thing I most wanted to get away from. Thank you for sharing this other side of travel – it’s not always roses, but I think in the end you’re always a better person for having done it!

  37. A really honest and thought provoking post, thanks for writing it. Many of us travelling like to put on a brave face when we find these ‘life changing experiences’ aren’t delivering what we thought they would. Maybe you need to give the whole experience a little more time to embed itself in your life path. People often say you look for love it will elude you until you give up looking then it will creep round a corner and consume you without you knowing. keep this post tucked away and have a look at it in a years time, you may be surprised.

  38. I’ve been following your blog since around the time you got home (and catching up on older posts). I want to thank you for writing this. I am pre-trip and I have many of the same hopes and fears that you describe. I appreciate your openness and willingness to admit that the trip didn’t fulfill all of your expectations or change your life in the way you envisioned.

    Even as I build excitement for my own trip, the “how will this change me?” and “will it bring a new direction to my life?” questions are constantly in my mind. I try to remember that I can’t place all my hopes and dreams on this trip.

    You are right: Things will work out in the way they are meant to. The key is to try and not put too much pressure on ourselves to “figure it out”, which is something I have a very hard time doing. I know how hard this sort of patience and acceptance can be, but even though you don’t me, you have my support in working through it!

  39. i have noticed that when i travel and look for change, i come back unchanged. but somewhere far down the road, i discover something in me that is a result of the traveling. maybe you werent actually meant to change in the first place 🙂 im more impatient today than ive ever been and have concluded that it is a lost cause. we may have something in common here!

    travel affects everyone different, thats for sure. you were already well traveled to begin with so this is just another chapter in your ever evolving book. and while you didnt have any huge relationships come out of it…you did build some relationships via the internet and through your blog 🙂 and you have inspired sooo many people and helped me on numerous occasions with upcoming travels and i cant thank you enough for it.

    im glad you shared your thoughts on this because it is nice to hear a realistic POV regarding post travel thoughts. you always read ‘ohhh my RTW changed my life and im going to be nomadic the rest of my life.’ that is relatable and inspiring to some people, but i dont relate to that scenario at all.

    hope all is going well back in chicago!

    1. Thanks Megan. I think your last point really nailed it – before I went and during my journey, I read so many blogs by people who just decided to keep traveling, who had these huge “ah-ha!” moments and felt so free on the road that they just want to keep going and they’re willing to take the big risk of trying to make it working for themselves. There is a part of me that so badly wanted the same thing to happen to me and I was disappointed when it never happened. For a long time while I was job hunting, I kept thinking to myself, if I go right back to my same career, then what was the point? I’m trying not to feel like that as much anymore and instead look at it all as a continuous journey toward something that will be the right fit for me, but it’s still hard sometimes.

      And you are right about the relationships – some of the best ones that have developed over the last year have been people I’ve interacted with online through my blog, even if we’ve never met in person.

  40. Great post. I would like to think that maybe traveling did change you, but I didn’t know you back then. Would you have ever joined that nerd meetup romance thing before you traveled? Would you have done the eventbrite thing before you traveled? I guess I see more confidence. You didn’t take those jobs because you were scared, you didn’t take them because you knew in your heart of hearts that they weren’t right for you. I would like to think that traveling made you confidence and know what you want.

    But I get that about traveling. I have not done a trip like yours before. I’m taking my big leap in September. The important thing is you tried it. You didn’t back down and you did it. That’s what it brought you.

    Good luck!

    1. Hey Kristi. You are right, I think it did change me in that I am more comfortable doing things on my own. Previously, I wouldn’t have gone to something like the nerds dating event unless I convinced a friend to go with me (confession: I did try to get a friend to join me, but she backed out). I think that’s probably the most noticeable change being back is that I don’t feel like I fit in as much with my old friends so I am being much more proactive about seeking out new people with similar interests.

  41. Problem is I don’t think anyone ever feels like they achieved (fully) what they set out to do, so I wouldnt feel too bad. It sounds more to me that you’ve been bitten very hard by the travel bug and struggling to settle back into ‘normal’ life. I went through (still am going through) the same thing.

    1. It’s funny, for a while I felt like I was settling back in just fine – there were so many of the comforts of home that I enjoy having and I was flat out exhausted after traveling for so long and just wanted to stay in one place. Now, I’m starting to feel the itch to travel some more (not an extended trip, just to go somewhere) and it drives me crazy that I can’t – at least not for a while.

  42. In many ways I think that returning home is harder than taking that big leap to go. Sure, leaving has anxiety and oh-so-many freak out moments but coming home lacks the excitement and is fraught with expectation that has no novelty to overcome it. It’s the whole ‘now what’ and ‘what did I learn….how did I change’ that weighs so heavily. I love posts like these Katie – coming home is such a huge part of the journey and it’s as important to document. I hope that knowing you’re not alone in feeling this way helps. 🙂

    1. Thanks Gillian. There has definitely been this ongoing feeling of “now what?” I spent so much time preparing for the trip beforehand and was looking forward to it for so long that now that I’m back, I feel a little lost without something new on the horizon to aim for. I also struggle with the fact that I left with big expectations that I would use the trip to change directions in my career and pursue a totally different path and that opportunity just didn’t arise when I came back. I am still hopeful that it will at some point, I just have to move past the disappointment that it hasn’t happened yet.

  43. Now, that’s an appealing post! Thank you so much for sharing!
    I think that many people who hit the road have very high expectations, including solving the problems they have. However, the longer the trip lasts the more they discover what you described.
    My lifetime trip is still before me and as much as I care about technical issues I try to prepare mentally to actually travel for real. At the moment I’m trying to answer the biggest question: why I really want to do this? And figure out whether it is possible or not.
    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. This is so precious!
    Wishing you all the best with your current plans!

    1. Neil Ratcliffe

      I think that travel is the best form of escapism in the short-term but enriches one’s life in the long-term. I have travelled extensively but am also aware that there is so much more to see and experience.

      Each day isn’t rosy on the road and there are good days and bad days. Even the bad days encapsulate themselves as nothing more than blips in the grand scheme of things. Is it the journey or the destination that counts? Perhaps they are one of the same thing.

      I look back at my bad days and laugh at them. The experiences on the road have changed me for better or worse but that’s simply a side effect of travel. What seems bleak at the time has a rosier outlook in the future. I look forward to more chronicles of this beautiful world in 2013…

      Safe travels…

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