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.

“Life’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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