80% of Travelers are Running Away from Something

“80% of travellers are running away from something in their lives.”

Jo, the manager of the backpackers we were staying in boldly stated. Thanks to her position in the hostel she’d interacted with hundreds of backpackers, students and young travelers and surmised this was the reality.

I was almost ready to defend those 80% when her next words settled me into an agreement.

“The change you see in them as a result of traveling is so dramatic. They come here young, scared and unsure and after a few months they grow into confident, happy, and strong men and women. Traveling helps them find their place.”

bike riding Snowmass, Colorado
Bike riding, Snowmass Colorado

Which leads me to the question,

“Is running away from a life you don’t like to a brighter future such a bad thing? Is travel such a bad vehicle to use to run away?”

Think of the alternatives: drugs, alcohol, destructive relationships, years of therapy, or worse, depression and suicide.

Running to Life

Are 80 % of travellers on the run? I say 100% are.

They are on the run towards life, not away from anything. Sure, some may have skeletons in their closets, but they are leaving them behind not running from them. They’re choosing to leave behind a person, or life, that no longer serves them.

Views Yin Yang Lookout Snowmass Colorado

Why hold onto your problems? Why stay behind and remain stuck in a life that doesn’t thrill you just so you don’t feel cowardly?

Here is news for all of us:

Your problems won’t follow you if you don’t let them.

If you are traveling to run away from your problems, make it your intention to heal them when you are on the run. You have a clearer space, time to breathe, time to reconnect with who you really are and what you want.

Life is about learning to let go of the mistakes and trauma of our past lives. They were only there to teach us something, they are not who we are and they are not here to hold us captive.

β€œLife’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” – Bernice Johnson Reagon

Sometimes, the only way to let go of these problems is to move to a new environment; to a place where no one knows your name. To a place where you are granted the freedom to choose who you want to be, to start again and reclaim the future of your design.

It takes great courage to move in order to start again. Most people remain in their bad situations for fear of the unknown.

Those who are leaving their lives in order to start again are embarking on a process of discovery. They are saying,

“What else is there for me? Who am I really, what can I be and where is my place?”

And maybe who stay say the others are running away because it helps them to feel better about their departure, as if the problem lies upon the evacuee’s shoulders.

Some people don’t want to see it for what it is, the running to life, because where does that leave them?

They can’t grasp that those they love may want to run to a place where they are not.

They don’t understand they are not running to a place where their loved ones are not, they are running to a place where they themselves are. A place where they can find what works for them and how they can bring joy and peace into their lives.

Nobody belongs to anyone in this world and the sooner we all realize that the easier it will be to let others run to life instead of holding them to a life they no longer wish to be a part of.

Why is travel such a powerful running-to-life vehicle?

As Jo said, she witnessed dramatic transformations of 80% of the travellers that pass through her establishment daily. I’ve seen transformation with almost everyone I have known who has travelled. I’ve seen it in Craig and I’ve seen it in myself.

When I first started traveling in 97, I was incredibly shy, insecure, lost, afraid and full of self-loathing. I now write my thoughts freely on this travel blog, I’m happy to talk to strangers and can even stand up to speak to a crowd of people.

It’s a complete transformation that could not have happened had I remained stuck in my problems; they would have engulfed me making it difficult to find a way out.

Along my travels, people from all walks of life embraced me. They knew nothing about me except that I was a fellow traveler, someone to celebrate life with. They helped to raise me up and over my insecurities.

Travel forced me to grow up and learn how to make choices all on my own: how to find a job in a foreign country, how to find places to live, how to communicate in non-verbal ways, how to adapt quickly to new situations and how to make friends when I was all alone.

Each new day stretched me out of my comfort zones into a more confident and better me, one who was better able to deal with her problems. I really don’t believe I could have transformed myself remaining in the one place with the same people all my life. I would have been stuck being who I always was.

Travel is rapid fire sink or swim learning. The kind of stuff that makes you forget the past, so you are able to focus on the right here and now. And in that right here and now, a new you is being formed.

A you that is free from any burdens, past conditioning, limitations or expectations that others have placed upon you.

Travel is a place of exploration and discovery; a place where you discover differences that are minor compared with what is the same; a place where you find beauty in nature and simplicity, and the joy of friendship; a place that makes you realize just how small  and how insignificant your problems really are.

My advice to those thinking of running

If I came across a young, or old person even, who was struggling with issues in their past or present and can’t find their place in the world, would I recommend travel as their therapy?

Would I say throw on the backpack, save your life, run for the hills and live a little?


Here is what else I would say:

  • How is remaining here trapped in your pain and problems helping you now?
  • What is your alternative for finding your way out?
  • Are you ready for a change, to grow, to re-invent yourself, and to embrace life?
  • Are you willing to let go of your problems so you can run toward life freely?
  • Will you use this opportunity to heal and grow and be better?

Then let it go and travel. Start living again. Embrace the gift of life.

running to life

And for those who believe that the problems will be waiting when you return, I’ll leave you with this quote

“You may wonder, ‘How can I leave it all behind if I am just coming back to it? How can I make a new beginning if I simply return to the old?’ The answer lies in the return. You will not come back to the ‘same old thing.’ What you return to has changed because you have changed. Your perceptions will be altered. You will not incorporate into the same body, status, or world you left behind. The river has been flowing while you were gone. Now it does not look like the same river.” –Steven Foster, The Book of the Vision Quest

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68 thoughts on “80% of Travelers are Running Away from Something”

  1. I absolutely adore this post Caz. Personal development is such a huge thing for me – the fact I’m running towards it with open arms is frightening. Thank you for this beautiful post.

    1. Thank you Erica! It is terrifying but soon it won’t be so much. You’re comfort levels will just keep growing and growing and you will soon surprise yourself with all you are capable of being and doing. It is such a treat.

    1. Absolutely. I really feel travel is the best way to help you get to happiness. And i mean travel to be a broad umbrella here, it could be a two day camping trip in your backyard, a 2 week resort stay or a few months on the hard backpacking trail, whatever- why is it such a big industry and why does almost everyone want to take on some form of travel? because it makes us happy, helps us unwind and just connect with the simplicity of life.

      1. I found that I just needed a change of scenery. It’s difficult to think about what you want in life when there is so much around you to define what you “should” want.

      2. Caz…people like you are a gift to people like us. Just reading travel blogs like yours makes me happy and helps me look forward to something in life. And it is so needed when the life one is living is not exactly the life one has wished for. Thanks once again. Your blogs are Vitamin A,B,C,D,E,F………Z for travel enthusiasts πŸ˜‰

        1. Thank you so much Bhavesh! I really appreciate your encouraging words. I’m so happy that what we do here is inspiring you to achieve your dreams, that is why we do it. Go for it!!

  2. Totally true! As long as I’m moving forward, I’m progressing. That could me something like taking a trip, learning a new skill, or just finally being able to let something go.

    These days I feel that life is so filled with blessings and joy… my life is an unstoppable train, and I wouldn;t have it any other way!

    1. Exactly Kelly! You can’t be a parked car. And it doesn’t matter how slowly you are moving either, even if you are crawling you are still moving forward and will beat the parked car. Toot Toot! Go the unstoppable train. Your thoughts, your choices, and your actions will determine your reality which is why all you see is blessings and joy.

  3. 80% running away from something…I guess you could also say that those who are not travelling are trapped by what the others have run from … mediocrity, the rut, conformity, their fears…
    Amazes us travelling in poor countries, seeing how more than half the world’s population have to live, and then to return home and our local newspaper is full of quite trivial rubbish.
    The young scared backpacker today, are going to be very aware and inflential people in the future.

    1. Hey, I never thought to turn the table like that on those who do not choose to travel πŸ™‚ I’d rather run away from those things then be trapped by it. I cannot bring myself to read the paper or listen to the news, except for the odd story that might serve a purpose and I might be able to do something about. Why bother paying it attention if I can’t do anything about it and it doesn’t empower my life? I find the news depressing. Again its that choice of happiness thing. I choose not to pay attention to it because I want to live in a happy world. I hope the backpackers can influence the world in a positive way- our world needs it πŸ™‚

  4. Excellent post Caz. I second what Ayngelina said “Running away, running toward, it is really all semantics. The unifying thought is that we are choosing happiness and travel helps us get there.”

    Regarding the last picture. I would imagine that a lot more people would be embracing and running to life if it was a beautiful, tanned woman wearing a bikini top! Just sayin’. =)

    1. You guys are too lovely!! With the expansion of the waistline this past year I’m not sure if me in my bikini would be so enticing!! I think those who are travelling should be giving a clap as they are choosing happiness. I don’t think many people realize it is a choice, and they leave it up to others to try and make them happy. What a futile path that is! How can you leave your happiness in the hands of something else. When ever my students try to explain that “Somebody else made me do it” I always say “What? Are you telling me you are a puppet? I didn’t realize that. You mean you don’t have a say in what you do? Does someone else control you?” It makes them stop and think about it at least.

  5. When I was on the verge of turning 30, I began to intensely question what I was doing with my life. I had a job I didn’t care for and felt a certain restlessness. I knew I didn’t want to settle down and do the traditional thing.

    A few months later, I had to opportunity to leave it all behind and move to Ecuador. And I went for it. I half felt like I was running away and half felt like I was running toward something; I just didn’t know what that was.

    In the end, none of that mattered. What did was the fact that I found what I needed and became who I am because I’d taken a risk and left the safety and comfort of my old life. And to me, that’s what it’s all about.

    1. A guy I know is a big time options trader. He is in training in Russia to go standby as the first amateur person to go out in space, he’s preparing to climb Mt Everest (he has done most other high mountains) and he has had lunch on the Titanic in a submersible. He always said (advice given by his father) that being comfortable is a dangerous thing to be. Being comfortable means you become complacent and complacency doesn’t allow you to grow. Discomfort is your most powerful friend. Embrace it as it means you are stretching yourself and you will be rewarded. It is scary taking the risk and breaking free from your comfort zone but it is the only way dreams can happen. Thanks for leaving a comment Lisa πŸ™‚

  6. So nice to read this – such a great take on the “running away” aspect of travel and all the feelings that go along with it – both the travellers’ and those of the people who care about them. We are absolutely running – and running towards something, not away, as you’ve said here. If anyone ever questions our travel, I’m going to direct them to this post! Lately everyone we speak to has been really positive about our plans, though. Even people who we thought would object. So I don’t really feel like we’re being so rebellious anymore πŸ˜‰

    1. When you look at the experiences you have travelling there is no way you can say it is running away. Who wouldn’t want to run to it, it is such a carefree and happy existence. The sad reality for some people is that they like their problems and their unhappiness- I can never understand why and I don’t think they are even consciously aware of it- but when you hear their conversations are always negative and about problems and negativity it must mean this is all they see or want as their reality. It really is a choice. And that is why we say, break free from it and run to that choice of happiness. It really is a reality. I am so glad that you are getting lots of positive response about your travels. It makes leaving a little easier πŸ™‚

    1. Exactly. I mean look at Forrest, he ran non-stop for three years and became a national icon. He got to meet the president, see Monument Valley and do all sorts of wonderful things!! πŸ™‚ Thanks Candice. I sure am ready to start running again.

  7. Brilliant post Caz. We believe that travel will help us find ourselves and ultimately make us better human beings – it will boost our confidence, our communication skills and a whole range of other things.

    The only thing we’re running away from is a mundane, average life that so many of our peers settle for!

    1. Love it Keiron- your intentions are spot on, ultimately make yourself a better human being. I’ve been travelling for many years and have met many travellers along the way and this is why I love it so much, because 90% of the people I have met are becoming or have become a better human being because of it which has a direct impact on this beautiful planet of ours. This is why I try to encourage people to travel. This is not to say that people can’t choose to do this without the travel, but it makes it that much harder for a person to choose this when all they see around them is problems, pain and depressing news stories. Once you travel, your eyes begin to open up to the fact that the world is a positive and beautiful place to be a part of. Not only that, but it is filled with people who are warm, loving and friendly no matter what their skin colour or religious beliefs.

  8. True & excellent post. Remaining unhappy will always be unhappy so why not make a change of heart and see what it leads you. Sometime being free is also having a new perspective.

  9. I agree that running away doesn’t have to be considered a negative thing, and traveling can be a positive, life-changing experience, but I read this post and stewed on it for a bit and I came to realize that I really don’t think I’m running away from anything by moving abroad. I had a pretty sweet life back in DC and in a couple years I’m fairly certain I want to move back to the states. My reasons for traveling were basically, “Why not?” I’m young, I have a little cushion of funds to keep me going, and I know that one day I’ll want to buy and house and have kids and won’t want to tote them around sketchy Central Asian cities for extended periods of time, so why not try that out now? Several years ago, when I took my first extended solo trip abroad, I put a lot of weight on it to be a meaningful, soul-searching experience. Now, I have a much lighter approach to travel. Why did I move to Kyrgyzstan? Eh, just because.

    1. I like that “Just because” It reminds me of my daughter, when she can’t find the ways to explain the why of something she says “Because yeah!” The perfect response. I love how your answers for travelling laid with the question “Why not?” I love this question and use it all the time, I think it is so empowering. You are right, there are a lot of people who aren’t travelling because they are running away, simply because its something they want to experience. Still falling into the running toward category. I’m not so much travelling for the soul-searching experience anymore, although I still love to learn new things about myself and life from it. There is that lighter- just let me swing in a hammock- sort of travelling that I crave constantly.

  10. I went traveling nine years ago because the thought of settling down just do not appeal to me. Correction, I had tried to settle down with someone and it went a**** over t*** but made me realise that life was not for me. The travel path I took lead me to meet someone who I did eventually settle down with and I never looked back. A very deep post and so true in many aspects.

  11. Thank you for this blog post. Very true.

    I traveled to get away from my old life. It just wasn’t appealing to me and I had grown so dispassionate about everything that I felt dead inside. While I was traveling people would tell me how brave I was to leave everything behind, to do this solo, and it took a long time for me to realise that I hadn’t taken the cowards way out by running away from my old situation – I’d taken one step closer to who I am.

    1. Yeah, definitely not a coward. It really is a big step to decide you don’t like your life as it is and then do something to make it better. And taking a step closer to who you are can be terrifying. Most of the time you find out that what lies in there is pretty cool.

  12. Great post Caz – as always you’ve captured it elegantly and thoughtfully. I also agree with Ayngelina re the “running away, running toward” – life is meant to be an experience, not something that other people expect or want it to be.

    1. I know. No one should really have to explain why they are travelling. “Because yeah!” as Kalyra would say. It’s just what I want to do.

  13. Caz, a well written and well thought out piece. I love reading post’s on travel blogs that stay with you after you’ve finished reading them. This is certainly one of those and will no doubt get me thinking of the day I ran from the small world I once knew, into a world that is far bigger and more complicated than I ever imagined.

  14. Agreed, the only problem is family and friends don’t understand why I want to run away. I’m in the process of running away, to actually travel and leave everything behind. I think I’ll be much happier away from everything and become more confident with myself. I always had dreamed about escaping my life here, and now it’s going to be a reality this spring in Germany, my first place I planned to travel so far. The rest are up in the air.

    Running away might be the best idea I ever will have among the many ideas I tend to have.

  15. Good post! I was afraid that you were going to take the other approach to this article and agree with Jo. I think travel is a great way to live life while also figuring out what to do in our sedentary life. Why sit and feel sad because you don’t know where you fit?

  16. I agree with “Travelling helps them to find their place”.
    I think we all started with ‘running away’, but it leads to ‘find true who I am’.
    When I first started backpack, I thought I need change, some grand gesture for next stage of life.
    I barely knew about backpacking or travel or english, but I just left to not very well known country for backpacking-New Zealand. All of people only knoew Europe. Well anyhow I changed after, completely.
    And I feel I am growing every each travel after.
    So, yes. Running away (just like my name πŸ™‚ ) but ultimately, it is not.

  17. Was i running away when I decided to quit everything at age 28.. hell yes I was. I wanted new and fun and exciting and guess what I found it in bucket loads.

    I prefer to think of it as changing career paths just on an extreme level.

  18. I only had to see the title of this post to know it would be an interesting one. Agree with the comments above – running away can become running toward. Stay open, keep looking. Don’t be too sure of yourself. Make sure you love someone. It will be fine.

  19. great post, guys. We were running, but not really away from anything in particular, just knew that there was something more that we needed to explore and discover. I don’t think i’ll ever be *finished with travel, it is a part of me now, and I’m a happy person because of my journeys.

  20. Hi Caz,
    this is a great post. I have to admit though when I first took off and ran away from home at 16, I was running from something. As I began to explore the world more, running away turned into living my life to the fullest. I am going to do a few posts soon on running away. I love the points you bring up.
    Safe travels,

    1. Thanks for sharing Leif. I often think that running away is so much braver than remaining in the same situation you are running from. When you run you have more freedom to change and become who you want to be.

  21. What the lady from Aquaries Backpackers said, I can completely relate to and I love this post about it Caz. I arrived in Sydney a little scared, nervous, unsure of who I was or what I wanted. I wasn’t ‘running away’ from my 9-5 and my friends and family, but I wanted out of the mundane and I didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of most people we know at home who will never leave our hometown! 16 months later, I’m stronger, I know myself a lot better and I feel like I can see things ‘clearly’, if that makes sense?!?!

    1. Absolutely makes sense. Even if you do have problems I honestly think a lot of the time running away from them is the perfect solution. As you said you remove yourself from the situation so you can think more clearly. IF you remain stuck in it then all you can see is the problem and not how to make it better. I’m all for running.

  22. Such a nice post! Cant wait to run away, ive planning it for a while now n honestly sometimes running away is the bravest decision. Loved it!! Slaint from Brazil

  23. I love this post and agree completely. Who I am today has been totally defined and sculpted by my adventures in the world. Even if you don’t know what it is that you are looking for, the simple act of starting the search can go a long way towards bolstering your confidence and resolve. Travel helped me discover talents and strengths I never knew I had, and I saw myself clearly for the first time. Opening the door to the world has, in turn, allowed me to open the door to my true self. I have set forth on a journey I never want to end and am excited by every day.

    1. Absolutely Hannah! i love what you have written and you have summed up perfectly just why travel is such a great thing for everyone to do. Run run run

  24. What a great article! I am now (finally) less than 24 hours before I start my around the world journey and I wanted to thank you for the inspiration and courage to say goodbye to my family. I will miss them so much, but I know I’m making the right decision. I’m running too life and cannot wait to see what it has in store for me!

    1. You are so welcome Sean. I know how difficult it can be to say goodbye to loved ones. But you have to live your life for you, that is why you came here. You have the most amazing world journey. I am so excited for you.

  25. Lovely post.

    I ran away from my problems via traveling to a new place, only to make the same mistakes I did back home.
    It is then I realised that I do want to travel more and see new places, but this time not in order to run away, but in fact to run towards. I realised I wouldn’t be fully capable of that until I work through my issues here face first.
    This brings me to my quote of the moment “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

  26. Love this post, thank you for writing it, it has really resonated with me. Im always running away to travel, life starts to get too predictable and I start to feel really stuck in a rut. Then I will very spontaneously book flights and I’m off. Always returning more confident and with a fresh perspective. Will read this a few more times to reassure me that it’s was the right decision and that its all going to be good on my next adventure. Thank you.

  27. My question – and it’s a serious one – is what happens when you stop running? You can’t run forever. I’m curious to see what people think.

  28. Loved reading this! Thank you. I agree with you 100%. πŸ™‚

    I’ve only just discovered the joy of travel in the past 2yrs. Let’s just say the travel bug has bitten me hard!! I am constantly planning my next adventure! πŸ˜€ Every single opportunity I get to go away (often weekly), I embrace. Surprisingly, I’ve had a few friends comment & criticise my new lifestyle… as if I’m perhaps doing something wrong. Most of the time I brush their comments off. But occasionally I wonder… am I running away from something? Am I neglecting responsibilities back home? Am I failing somehow as a human/sister/mum/friend by enjoying travel?

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