Is Travel a “Break” From Life?

Is Travel a “Break” from Life?

Read traveler Mallory Van Waarde’s view on what travel really is.

“When I first started telling people about my journey, I heard a lot of this:

“Good for you to take a break from life!”

“So you’re off to go find yourself, eh?”

There is a stereotype that long-term travelers are all wanderers on a journey of self-discovery. Although self-discovery may be a thrilling bi-product, there are many travelers (myself included) who view it a bit differently.

I didn’t start my trip with the intention of discovering myself or to take a break from life. In fact, I never understood why travel is considered a “break.” Calling it a break from life assumes that you live a life that you need a break from. This is the same train of thought that turns vacation into more of a countdown to the real world. That makes vacation so much harder to enjoy, doesn’t it?

Travel: Life Optimization

I categorize travel under “life optimization.” A bit vague, I know. Let me elaborate.

I’ve started looking at my life through an 80/20 lens. If you aren’t familiar, the 80/20 rule suggests that 80% of outputs result from only 20% of inputs. This principle, also known as the Pareto principle, has a lot of implications for the business world, but this imbalance of inputs and outputs exists elsewhere.

Applied to life (and travel), this would suggest that 80% of our enjoyment and success in life only occurs in about 20% of our lives. That sounds kind of depressing, but the good news is that if you are cognizant of this imbalance, you realize there is a lot of room for improvement. It’s worth it to take time to examine that 20% in your life, identify the context for it and try to replicate it in other areas of life.

When I examine the circumstances/context of my periods of happiness and success, these are the recurring themes: high level of individual responsibility, out of comfort zone, an unconventional way of doing things, lack of structure, time for reflection, a good mentor, and intellectual stimulation.

I can get most of that through travel. So no, this is not a break from life. This is my chance to optimize it.

On Finding Passion

Through most of college (and post-college), I put a lot of pressure on myself to find my passion and do it fast so that I could be successful while I’m young. I’ll admit that, as a self-proclaimed over-achiever, I still struggle with this.

I don’t know how to “find passion,” but I think that overworking yourself to find it will inevitably result in burnout and/or disappointment. I’m starting to learn that for most people it happens organically. It’s a matter of knowing your 20%, constantly evaluating your options, and improving existing skills or learning new ones.

The thing about long-term travel is that time seems cyclical, which paradoxically has made me think more critically about how I spend it. I use the 80/20 rule to determine how to spend my time. Every day, I wake up and think about how to spend my time on the 20% that will add the most value to my trip, and my life.

I’m aware that I am privileged to be able to build a life in this way. I am thankful for that. I didn’t quit my job to “find myself” or discover “my passion” but perhaps those will both be bi-products. As opportunities come my way, I will take them, curious about where they might lead. I don’t know what 1 or 2 years from now looks like, but I’m excited for what will come up next.”

Mal at the ancient city of Corinth in Greece.

Check out Mallory’s website and the original post here:

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