Does Traveling Full-Time Make You A Bum?

Monday, June 8, 2009


As the U.S. economy enters its 18th month of the Great Recession and the unemployment rate climbs to 9.4% (and 9.2% in the E.U.), more and more people seem to be giving up and hitting the proverbial road, taking advantage of a forced vacation that will likely be longer than anything they’ll experience again in life.

Some people are finally realizing their goal of volunteering abroad, others are heading out on a dream vacation and taking that 3-month trek through Mongolia they’ve had their eyes on over the last few years while toiling away in a cubicle.

What gives? Some experts say it’s “a reflection of the country’s cultural narcissism — and attitudes of entitlement and self-centeredness — and a backlash against corporate America and its ‘Dilbert’-like work environment.”

This week, the Frugal Traveler profiled a Cape Codder who is used to squirreling away his hard-earned money during the good times (summer) and trekking the world for the remainder of the year.

Some, like John and Cara, have taken this to heart, documenting their travels on YouTube. As John writes on his YouTube page, “I frequently get asked how it is possible to travel for so long and the answer is simple. Work hard and save as much as possible. Chose a destination that allows you to travel for long periods of time (like Asia and South America), and then carefully budget your money (i.e., don’t drink away your travel fund).”

But what should one make of a full-time traveler: Pioneer or bum? You could probably guess which label I would agree with, but it’s surprising the level of animosity some people have for those lucky enough to go on epic vacations. A look at the comments (165 in all!) under the Frugal Traveler’s post ranges from derision (“Oh. I usually just called these people bums. But good for them.” — Michael) to outright finger wagging (“Grow up fellas.” — Bill D).

Pretty harsh in my opinion. I tend to agree with Sara’s comment: “The American mindset is so very different than that of other Westernized cultures (Europe in particular) and I find it funny to read the above posts that consider traveling the world for an extended period of time a waste or evidence of laziness. Travel enlightens you, and true travel cannot be accomplished from the side of cruise ship, a two week stint in Paris, or a spring break in Cancun.”

Cheers Sara. I’d write more on this subject, but I have to go to bed. I have work in the morning.

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