4 Lifestyle Design and Travel Myths Busted

4 Lifestyle Design and Travel Myths Busted

Misinformation runs abound. If we took to heart every tidbit of advice from someone who’s “living the dream” or its negative cousin, “escaping the American dream,” we’d all wake up every single day feeling a tad shittier about our unexciting and mundane lives.

As much as the incredible exploits of these escapees affect our mood and make us believe we are doing something fundamentally wrong and uninteresting with our lives, behind each of these travel myths, that have been perpetuated in best-selling books and on blogs with followings that could take on small European countries, is the raw, un-sensationalized truth.

Let’s look at a few, shall we?

1. Travel = Happiness.

I can’t think of a phrase more overused in lifestyle design and travel blogging. And it’s easy to see why: there’s a grain of truth in there.

Travel does bring joy. The aesthetic of transplanting yourself into an unfamiliar place is strangely beautiful, an inexplicable warmth that only grows fonder with each journey.
Happy Buddha

But it isn’t happiness.

At best, travel is bliss, a fleeting moment of euphoria that’s anchored in a specific time and place. True happiness is more than that: it floods every cell in your body and follows you wherever you go, whether at home or abroad.

You can’t create happiness by simply changing your surroundings; don’t let anyone fool you into believing it.

2. Travel cures depression.

Believing this myth is simply dangerous. Escaping an unhappy situation at home for a life of bliss trotting around the world often feels like a step in the right direction. But it’s not the only step you need to take.

Travel doesn’t fix problems; it simply ignores them. If you’re legitimately depressed, no amount of travel will cure it—as much as you’d love to believe it.

Victory Square in Minsk, Belarus

What happens when the smoke clears and reality once again rears its ragged face? You’re back to where you started, except severed from your entire support network.

Want to cure your depression? Don’t book a plane ticket, book a psychiatrist appointment.

3. Travel is always exciting.

Sensationalized: That’s the word that best describes most of what you’d read about travel. (It would be a boring narrative otherwise, no?)

Travel writers chop mundane details from their prose like dead branches: Ignored are all those 20-hour bus rides, plane delays, and of course, those days where you just plain do absolutely nothing.

Dead Vlei

It’s easy to avoid recognizing that travel has its ups and downs when all the boring—and irksome—details are conveniently omitted. Even when you’re living as an expat in an exciting place, it wears off—eventually it too becomes home, and soon, you’ll find yourself settling down and doing the same things you would do anywhere else.

Don’t get fooled into thinking you need to travel—or become an expat—to live an exciting life; excitement’s a state of mind, not a state of place.

4. The grass is always greener on the other side.

Let’s tie these myths together. Is travel an incredible experience? Of course. (I wouldn’t spend my time on it otherwise.) But does travel automatically make life more exciting? Definitely not.

Lonely House

The idea that quitting your job, buying a plane ticket, and never looking back is the only way to live needs to be reevaluated. Life is only what you make of it. And whether you live out your dreams at home or in some foreign place is irrelevant.

What matters more is that you spend life in the company of good people and experience as much as you can in the time you have. Avoid the trap of believing that the grass is always greener on the other side (of the world). You can be happy anywhere—if you let yourself.


  1. says

    Number one reminds me of the phrase “Money won’t bring you happiness…but I would rather cry in a Ferrari “. I wonder what the travel equivalent would be…”I would rather cry in Chiang Mai?” Hahaha :D

  2. says

    That’s an interesting post! I’d also add that seeing traveling of others through photos (especially those posted on social media) doesn’t give you a clear image of traveling at all. Photos don’t show all the frustration at airports, sleeping elsewhere and long lonely hours somewhere in the middle of nowhere waiting for the bus ;)

  3. says

    What an uplifting read ;) I really really enjoyed this article to be honest – I totally agree with all your points, especially the bit about depression. In fact, being stuck in a foreign environment can even aggravate it! Don’t get me wrong – I love travel as much as any other travel blogger, but it’s wise to not overestimate what it can do for you!

    • says

      Thanks for commenting, Sabina :) You make a great point: it’s as if many travel bloggers feel that they’ll lose their “street cred” if they complain about something or admit that travel isn’t a 100% cure-all for all that ails you. I don’t think you’d immediately shed your “hardcore” traveller status if you admit that taking a cold shower every day while you were in Bangkok pissed you off or that your furry room guests in Zanzibar kept you from sleeping. That’s just being honest with yourself and your readers—and there’s no shame in that. Regarding the depression bit, you’re totally right: being out of your element can sometimes have a completely reverse effect than desired. Travel needs to be done for the right reasons, and escaping your problems is definitely not one of them!

  4. says

    Completely agree. I read a lot about how travel bloggers shouldn’t write about their negative experiences, but I actually am rather fond of reading about them in a story. Perhaps because I’m a traveller not looking to read about glamorised experiences, but I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

    • says

      Yeah, I definitely don’t agree with people not writing about negative experiences; it’s all part of travel! I don’t really care for glamourized experiences either, so you’re not alone. Frankly, I find it boring—I’ve read about them so many times that they don’t phase me anymore. What I love reading about are how cities have revived themselves (or even how they’ve set into a decline) and well-rounded social and cultural tie-ins that expound the good along with the bad. The world is not a perfect place. Why present it as if its flawless? Thanks for commenting, Charlie!

  5. says

    Thanks for this honest writeup. It’s true, you can find happiness at home and sometimes travel introduces even more stresses than it alleviates. But maybe you need to leave home before you can appreciate how great it can be :)

    • says

      You’re totally right, Mike: Until you experience the stresses and inconveniences come along with being on the road, it’s hard to not take everything you have at home for granted. Thanks for commenting!

  6. says

    I love Ryan when you say “Life is only what you make of it. And whether you live out your dreams at home or in some foreign place is irrelevant” and I agree with you totally. After travelling for more than 2 years non stop, I starting realizing that what it matters is to follow and do what you really want and care about, if travelling is part of that than don’t waste any more time, just do it! :)

  7. says

    Great post. I love item No. 3: Travel is always exciting. Ha! Ha! I was Inverness in Scotland with my then 5 year old son, and the B&B that I had paid for and booked had completely disappeared. Along with my money. It was 6p.m. and peak season in Scotland. It wasn’t funny at all. I practically had to beg “fully-booked” B&B’s so that we could have a place to sleep for the night. Or what about the time when we had to sleep in a hostel office ‘cos they had “cancelled” the booking I made one year ago, in the only hostel on the Isle of Skye. Again in Scotland LOL! I love Scotland though and continue to go there but mistakes happen and you’ve got to deal with it.
    P.S. Once they sorted everything out, the rest of our stay at the hostel was free of charge LOL!

    • says

      Oh yes, the convenient reservation disappearance! Nice that they made good on it in the end. These are definitely not things that you would normally expect while travelling (especially in Europe!), and if you’re not ready to be flexible, they can really turn a relaxing trip into chaos quickly. Sounds like you handled it like a pro, Victoria! Thanks for commenting :)

    • Edie says

      I’m glad you are returning to Scotland despite some of your bad luck with accomodation! A lot of the time, even the painfully annoying things that happen to you on a holiday end up becoming the funny stories you tell for many years to follow! =)

  8. Edie says

    I agree with your article totally, but let me add something more which I’m sure you can relate to. Travel opens your eyes and let’s you see different ways of living and existing within a society. There are countries that have happier people, you can just see it reflected in the community and in the surrounds, you can feel it when you live for a few days in a different setting with different rules and infrastructure. So what I would add to your great candid article is that, no, travel does not cure depression, but if you are depressed in the current country you live in due to issues or concerns out of your control, such as stress due to needing to work long hours in an average job just to survive in your city, or overpopulation, or lack of community support, or low employment, or too many cars and pollution, then there is nothing wrong with quitting your job, packing your bags, and finding a new place to live and exist. Not everyone can do this and feel comfortable, but sometimes a change of scenery isn’t just an escape of personal circumstances, but rather, an escape from an unhealth environment. That is no longer just travel, of course! =) Thanks for the great read =)

    • says

      Very good point, Edie: You do need to find a living situation that works with the lifestyle you are trying to achieve, no doubt. You captured the true spirit of the conversation when you said, “That is no longer just travel, of course!”. Travel doesn’t make one’s life any better than a lack of travel makes one’s life worse. They’re simply two different lifestyles, suited for two different types of people. (And isn’t diversity one of the reasons people love travel in the first place?) There’s nothing wrong with wanting a change of lifestyle and a change of scenery (it’s something anyone would benefit from trying—at least once), but I think the idea of needing to escape permanently—buzzing through the world at breakneck speed, posing in front of famous monuments, and checking off countries as you go—has become overinflated in importance. The journey to find our true selves is never-ending, and just because a handful of travel bloggers have told us that the only way to do it is to speed off to far-flung places, doesn’t mean it’s true. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Edie :)

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