Solo girl on subway platform in Osaka, Japan

*Another* Trip?!? How to Explain the Travel Bug to Those Who Just Don’t Have It

You announce to your friends or family that you’re planning yet another trip. Instead of being excited or even plain jealous, these people just look at you quizzically, totally unable to comprehend why you would want to go away again, and especially to a place they’ve barely heard of or can’t imagine in their entire lives ever wanting to visit.

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These are people who don’t understand the travel bug.

I’m guessing there are quite a few travelers out there who have experienced this situation and I sympathize with you. If you’d really like these people to understand why you’re hitting the road again — or if it’s important that they do, because they’re your significant other or someone else affected by your travels — here are a few ways I’ve found to try to get them a bit more on side.

Don’t expect to convert them to travel addicts — it’s possible, but more often it’s just something you’re born with — but you might be able to at least elicit a normal reaction out of them when you start arranging your next trip.

Solo girl on subway platform in Osaka, Japan
In Between, Osaka © *Solar ikon*

#1: Information is Persuasion

Pass on some of your pre-trip research to your doubting friends and family so that they can know something concrete about the destinations you’re all hyped about. Be careful not to overdo this, of course. Just give them a small sample of websites or brochures or whatever info you have, carefully selected to be the kinds of things they’re most likely to be interested in — art galleries perhaps, or statistics about the cost of living. Pretty pictures can work miracles.

They don’t need to love your destination — you just want them to understand why you do.

Just make sure you do this without coming across all teacher-like or you’ll only be putting them off the idea more. Unless you’re trying to persuade them to come with you (a much harder proposition), they don’t need to love your destination — you just want them to understand why you do.

#2: Emphasize the Benefits

Many non-travelers just don’t see the point of it all. Their idea of taking a trip is limited to something like a package deal to a sun-kissed island where they’ll stay at the resort all week (by the pool) with one zany excursion into the local town for two hours. To these people, travel is equivalent to mere relaxation, and anything more complicated than that sounds much too exhausting.

If your traveling needs go a bit beyond this — and if you’re reading this site, the chances are very high that they do — it is (sometimes) possible to educate others about why you really want to go somewhere different. Angles include:

  • Excitement. Just mention that you’re a bit hard to please when it comes to something that grabs your interest, and you need to head out further afield to satisfy your adrenalin cravings.
  • Self development. Explain that travel helps you to push the boundaries in life and you hope it’ll lead to a few insights into your personality and the way forward for you.
  • Financial. Personally, I don’t care too much about the fiscal side of things, but others do: if you’re planning to work as part of a longer trip, or you can sell stories of your trip afterwards, you can make your trip sound much more logical to some by mentioning the monetary benefits.
  • Intercultural experience. There’ll be times when having deeper intercultural experiences will make you more employable, or just help you to deal with the kinds of people you meet in your everyday life at home, too.
  • Language practice. Also good for the resume.

Girl with head outside bus window in Namibia
Wind in My Hair, Namibia © SqueakyMarmot

#3: Personalize Your Motivations

Everybody has a passion for something. We just belong to a bunch of people that have this passion for travel. Narrow down the passions of your friends and explain your travel bug in terms of their own favorite indulgence.

Yes, this could lead to conversations like this:

  • “You know that new tire on your racing bicycle? How you kept stroking the new rubber and admiring its perfect fit? That’s how I feel about this airline ticket to Papua New Guinea.”
  • “Remember when you got your first girlfriend? How exciting that was? That’s how I feel when I decide on an obscure country that I just have to visit.”

But heck, whatever it takes, just say it.

#4: Bugs Can Be Contagious

It’s not called the travel “bug” for nothing. For a start, it infects you and will never let go for your entire life. You just have to live with that (I certainly haven’t heard of any cases where it’s gone away). But the bonus is that sometimes, the travel bug is contagious.

The bonus is that sometimes the travel bug is contagious.

When I first announced I was going to live abroad and travel for an extended time, probably years, I received mixed reactions. Some of them bothered me. But when I was living far from home and just sending monthly emails to most of my friends, rather than having any particularly personal contact, I couldn’t really care about what their reactions were to my travels.

That’s when a funny thing happened. I started to get a lot of emails — particularly if I hadn’t sent an update for a while — where people said that they were traveling vicariously through me. They’d caught the travel bug, or at least a passive form of it. And over the years, some of these friends started going on trips inspired by some of the places I’d visited, and they even asked me for advice. So perhaps the lesson is that not caring so much about what people think is the best thing to do.

If You Don’t Succeed … Give Up and Travel Anyway

If you’ve tried all this and your friends or family members still don’t have the vaguest idea why you want to travel, it’s okay to give up. Give up on convincing or persuading them, that is. Then just throw yourself into trip preparations and fly off into the sunset.

  1. This is some great advice. We often get the “didn’t you just get back from ?!?” looks from our friends.

    We’ve been to four countries and eight states so far this year and love every minute of it! Portland, OR and Ireland are still coming up. :)

    I have found, however, that I don’t really need the understanding of those around me about why we go so many places. I have my hubby as my travel partner and a pup to come home to, so life is good.

  2. Amanda,

    It’s wonderful how you reach out and relate to so many of us who have tried to “explain” why. My husband’s family, most of whom have never left Texas, let alone, the USA after many years of courting themn, as you suggest, gently, next tactic:we even sent them passport applications and offered to pay,
    we finally realized that they are among those who can’t really figure out WHY and (after fifteen years of being on the road) we would want…why anyone would want…to be, as they refer to it “down there somewhere”…i.e. Central and South America….Well, your “give it up and travel anyway” advice is sound. Don’t limit your horizons looking for approval of family and friends. WWe never did and never will.
    Thanks for another great article,

  3. Thanks for the nice feedback, Leandra and Jody. Sounds like you’re both lucky enough to have perfect travel partners (and so am I) – but I know people whose own partners don’t understand the travel thing and that’s tough!

  4. I am the only one in my family who really has the travel bug. It’s impossible to try and explain why I like traveling and living overseas. I get sick of the question “so when you are going to settle down?”

  5. For me I LOVE the planning aspect. I’m not a good gardener – but just like those cultivate seeds and watch their plants grow I enjoy poring over maps, learning the streets, hunting for interesting places before I leave and while there.

    I’m an adventure traveler – and love running around cities, catch subways, and taking in as much as I can. But I don’t diss anyone who just wants to sit on the beach for a week. Some people have more stressful jobs – so to them its well deserved.


  6. Also I try and take two big trips a year – one in the spring and one in the fall when the weather is good everywhere. (and long weekends closer to home in between.)

    That means I’m always on the lookout for good airfare deals or scouting out my next place the rest of the year.

    I really do enjoy the planning – and its fun when its finally confirmed and booked – and you get to truly pencil in your dates and tell your friends about your plans…

  7. @ james, yes, planning is definitely a big part of the fun. I don’t like to make lots of actual definite plans, but love reading about where I’m headed and especially then picking up a few novels that were written there to get a feel for the place

    @ Mike, I hate that “when are you going to settle down” question too! I’m sure everybody who asks it is just jealous, really ;-)

  8. People ask me how I can afford to travel or how I can justify the expense. Then they tell me about the new high-def, flat-screen monstrosity they just bought. It doesn’t occur to them that for the price of that new TV they could have enjoyed an incredible trip to another country.

    Traveling has educated me in too many ways too count and made me a better person. I have awesome stories to tell and a sense of accomplishment. A television is only something to stare at while you sit immobile in one place.

  9. Jim conversely people see travel as a one time thrill that doesn’t last, where as a TV serves you for a few years.

    I see the opposite: At the end of my life I don’t remember fondly a new plasma TV or fancy car – but time with friends, weekends in the mountains with friends, and travel to places abroad gives you great memories

    and it is tangible through people you meet, photos, and stories you keep.


  10. @ Jim and James, the idea of a TV being better than a trip is kind of a shock to me, but I can see the logic – but I’m grateful I don’t think that way! You’re both right, I think, that you have better stories to tell and memories to linger on from taking trips.

  11. Good article, but I am of the belief that you will never be able to successfully make anyone understand why you do what you do (if they’re not travelers themselves, that is). This is because travelers are a different breed. We see things from a much different angle than people who don’t travel. Basically, we see life differently…most people have a notion that all there is to life is go to school, get a job, get married, have kids, buy a house, retire at 65 and live off your pension.

    This is ingrained in us from the moment we’re born. There doesn’t seem to be much thought towards any of those things…they’re taken for granted that “that’s just what you do”. Enter the traveler…curious, wide-eyed, a sense of the entire world, willing to question everything we are taught in life.

    In a sense it is isolating, which is why traveling communities exist, because we can relate to each other. Friends and family from home feign a passing interest in what I’m doing, but in the end just don’t and can’t understand it. Which isn’t to say they are any less of friends…there should just be a mutual respect that you’ve chosen your path in life. The only one that needs to understand why you do what you do, is you.

  12. Fantastic article Amanda!

    What particularly resonated for me was the realisation that family/friends may come around to understanding one’s need to travel, but it’s no biggie if they don’t

  13. My husband doesn’t like travel near as much as I do, because he grew up very poor and never traveled outside of his hometown of Lima, Peru as a child.

    I, on the other hand, LOVE travel – and since we live in Lima now, I want to travel and see everything there is to see in this amazing country.

    These tips might help me make him a little more enthusiastic about it!

  14. Great article. Most of our family and friends were very supportive when we told them of our plan to take a year off and travel the world. There were those who thought we were crazy and didn’t understand why we’d ever want to sit on a bus for 24+ hours or sleep in less than stellar conditions, but those are people who just have different priorities. There’s a lot of great advice here in the article and in comments. We don’t have to try to convert non-travel lovers, cause chances are we won’t. But we can share our experiences, and who knows, they might want to expand their interests a bit?

  15. I enjoyed this post, thoroughly. In my family not everyone has a travel bug, what is weird my mother has it and that’s one of the few things in common between the two of us. Most people are supportive though, some don’t understand the financial part of it – yes, travel is not something I would call cheap, but it’s also not as expensive as some people might imagine.

  16. I absolutely LOVE to travel and it is hard to explain to people, especially my mom, why I love it so much. It’s funny she and my dad were the ones who inadvertantly planted the seed years ago when she would pack my brother and me up and ship us off to relatives in Louisana, Arkansas or wherever anyone was willing to take us for the entire summer. I grew up thinking all kids went away after school got out and found out that many of my friends never left the block. We had special experiences that were priceless!! I don’t try to explain anymore, it’s my pleasure and vice and no one will ever “get it” if they don’t already have the bug :)

  17. Great tips, though, as you say, some people just won’t ever get it. I’ve been traveling for almost 2 years now (working on and off as an English teacher and freelance writer) and still to this day, every time I speak to my mother, she always asks when I’m going to stop “playing” and come home to “reality”. For some people, travel is reality. And beside, we’re pretty happy so that’s all that should matter right?

  18. Great article, I’ve done one in the past about breaking it to family, mainly my brother. I grew up in an EXTREMELY conservative family and at the mere mention of chasing some dream of mine I was usually mocked.

    Then the day came when I had my tickets booked and it was two weeks before I left the US for the first time. When I went and told my brother about it, I expected him to be outraged, call me stupid, and think it was the most irresponsible thing ever.

    I was very wrong, it was much worse.

    He actually disowned me and told me if I left the US I would no longer be his brother. Being that he is the only blood I have left on this planet, you can imagine I was crushed.

    I still went though. He was not there to say farewell at the train or the airport, and for 4 months he didn’t speak a word to me. After a while I broke through and we began chatting again, but it has still been rough ever since.

    But it is important that you try your hardest to have them see why this travel dream is so important, and if they can’t, you must continue on your path.

    Great article!

  19. Hi Amanda,

    Great tips! I just finished Law School and I’ve been waiting all my life for this moment. I want to take a year of and then come back and work.
    Everybody is giving me a hard time when I tell them I want to travel.

    Next time I speak to someone about me taking one year off I’ll try your tips and see how it goes.

    Thanks for shearing have a wonderful day! :)


  20. Hi Amanda and Paulina,

    Fabulous tips! I just finished law school as well and I planned an around-the-world trip on miles to visit friends from my previous time abroad living in Paris and a year in Sydney before that. The grind of law school is absolutely suffocating to free spirited individuals.

    When I announced I was going traveling, yet again, I got the “you are refusing to participate in reality,” talk from friends and confused looks from my parents.

    I was a little sad at the lukewarm and apathetic response to my trip, so much to the point that I began to doubt my decision. This felt strange after spending so much time living abroad; suddenly trying to “manage perceptions” of those around me? I never needed anyone’s blessing before! What has law school done to me?

    After some introspection, I discovered I wanted others to validate my decision. The truth is the only validation I need is my own. Developing an authentic sense of self and finding the courage to make decisions that generate happiness for your innermost self is an essential life skill and component of creating a lasting, fulfilling existence.

    Leaving just after Christmas. Totes excited! Maybe I’ll see you both on the road.


  21. Hi Grant,

    Thanks for sharing your experience, it sounds a lot like what I’m going through right now.

    See you on the road! :)


  22. I wish I had found this article years ago :p I have struggled greatly trying to explain travel to people and most people just don’t get it so I just give up!

    That’s alright, I always tell my backpacker friends…”Yup. We’re the ones that got life right”

    I’m about to head out on an 18 month rtw again this jan!

  23. Thanks for posting such an inspiring article. We can 100% relate to this!

    We quit our jobs, sold our house and all our belongings and set off on a 13 month backpacking trip. Most people were super skeptical of our choice and didn’t think we’d last on the road. They thought we were pretty crazy for giving up everything.

    After an amazing, eye-opening, life altering trip, we returned to Canada to “real” life….and realized we didn’t belong there anymore.

    So, we planned another trip and mos people were shocked. “What? Another trip, but you just got home” The thing was, this wasn’t home anymore, we were used to a completely different style of life now.

    We left Canada again after one year and have been travelling now for 22 months and we don’t second guess a minute of it.

    People don’t understand it, they don’t really want to hear about travel stories, but you know what? We don’t mind anymore. We have new friends that we’ve met on the road and we have each other, so basically if you find people who can relate to you, it’s all good.

    Thanks a lot for this post!

    Safe Travels.
    Goats On The Road

  24. There is no need to explain. You get confused looks and questions of why. All I can do is laugh. People going to work each day with nothing to look forward to than their two weeks vacation don’t get it. Seeing the sun rise in the Andes, sitting on the beach in Belize, looking over a rain forest from the blue glacier in Washington, walking the streets of Salem for Halloween, the adventure never ends. I have worked part time for an airline for the last 15 years. Waking up in the morning knowing that I am 45 minutes from a flight that will take me anywhere in the world makes it hard to sleep some times.

  25. I found that when I finally decided to do my trip my way on my own, that friends of mine were eager to meet up with me while I was in destination. I met up with three different friends from my city on my trip to Europe –some who were going to be there anyways; and others who were inspired that I was going and kind of had an excuse or a friend to be with while in destination. WIN WIN. Trust your instincts and others will follow.

  26. So true… just travel and enjoy…. you’ll meet and discover new friends along the way :)

    happy travelling…

  27. “Are you going away again? When are you going to settle down? It’s time you buy yourself a new car…..”

    I hear it all the time! But I still NEED to travel. To meet new people, see new places, experience new things and learn!

    And I also love the planning, research, etc (although I do minimal bookings except for my inbound/outbound flights and first few nights accomodation).

    I will settle down in the near future, but that does not mean I have to give up travelling. Just travel in a different way…

  28. I’m glad there are people that don’t have the travel bug… at the famous places, it’s unbelievably crowded as it is. I’ve traveled to many places where i was the only or one of a few tourists in the area… I like it that way.

    1. Hi, im better than you because I travel, I’m glad you don’t travel because that means its less crowded for me. This is the most egocentric bs I’ve ever heard. Moderator won’t post this because she will be biased. So this and the last message is for you. You are not better than one person, not posting my comments proves you have an issue with your ego and are too stubborn to post someone elses opinions that might conflict yours as your concered how it will look on “your cool travel page guide”. Oh please, do us all a favour, move to a 3rd world country without internet and live out your traveling dreams.

  29. Oh please,
    There is no such thing as a travel ‘bug’ or contagious illness to travel. I do travel, often off the beaten road, this article however made my toenails curl. I can’t stand people who think that they are better people because they have been here or there, quite frankly this article screams that. I would love to travel more but can’t afford it, just because I don’t go on about traveling all the time doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it. People are far to concerned now days about what other people think about what they are doing. If you want to go traveling, do so, don’t bore myself and all of your friends of the planning details, I can’t think of anything worse. Isn’t part of the idea to go there and see what happens, rather than a regimented trip? For someone who is a travel writer, and been to over 30 countries (would of expected more from a travel writer) this article seems as it was written by a 18 year old girl who just got back from a gap year and is desperately trying to get as much attention and reaction as she did when she announced her first trip. Thank you for confirming that the majority of people who travel are yuppy ego centred twits.

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