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Unpopular Headlines for Stories About Traveler “Culture”


11 Inspiring Stories Of People Who Left Normal Life And Embarked On An Adventure

If you follow social media and travel, you had to be hiding under a rock to miss BuzzFeed’s piece on travelers who “Left Normal Life and Embarked on an Adventure.” I managed to ignore it for the first 24 hours, then I was hammered with vitriolic commentary from friends who have Had it Up to Here with This Kind of Thing. They wanted to tell me all about it, directly or indirectly, and in some cases, had valid criticisms like:

  • Where are the brown people?
  • If everyone bugs out, who’s going to keep the lights on?
  • People have been doing this in more interesting ways for time eternal. This. Is. Not. News.

I wasted some time thinking about the kinds of stories that never get written, about the people who never end up on web traffic spiking listicles, stories that are 100% true, no hyperbole.

The truth is so much more complicated than “I quit my normal life.” What if those stories got published? What would those headlines look like? And what’s “normal life” anyway?

  • How I Found A Job I Like and Travel When I Can Afford ItĀ  (Which Isn’t Actually That Often)
  • These 6 Travelers Come from Countries with Social Safety Nets so if You’re American, You Probably Shouldn’t Compare Yourself with Them
  • These 5 People Just Worked Stupidly Hard at Highly Paid JobsĀ  and Had No Life for, Like, a Decade — You Could Probably Bug Out Too if You Did That
  • This Couple is Not Gonna Lie: They’re Loaded, They Can Go Wherever they Please
  • Expat Life Can Be Terribly Tedious, Especially if You’re a Minority
  • 9 Travelers Who Don’t Really Care Where They Go Next as Long as Someone Else is Paying for It

I posted this list to Facebook and was overrun by friends who wrote their own. Here are my favorites (revised slightly from the originals for hyperbole friendly headlines):

  • You Won’t Believe How Place X Changed Me: Not At All.
  • There’s Only One Acceptable Way to Travel, And It’s … It’s … Well, Actually, It’s Whatever Way That Works For You, Which May Be Different From The One That Works For Me.
  • 10 Gajillion Places To See Before You Die, Or Not, Either Way.
  • A Profile Of The Amazing And Delightfully Eccentric People I Met In This Exotic Off-The-Beaten-Path Place Called My Local Bar.
  • 12 Things I Had to Pay for but Purposely Left Out of this Travel Story So You Think You Can Travel Europe on Five Dollars a Day
  • Children: Oh, the Places We Could Have Gone
  • Hotties From Around The World That I Have Loved And Lost, Mainly Because I Was Staring At Them In Lecherous Silence From The Other Side Of Yet Another Irish Theme Pub And I’m Old And Fat And Where Did It All Go Wrong?
  • How to Be a Location-Independent Freespirit (As Long As You’re Permanently Living In A Hostel In Chiang Mai)
  • For Every 14 Miserable Situations There Is One That Makes A Good Story So I Tell That One
  • I Traveled The World On My Own, And It Turns Out That Didn’t Make Me Any More Interesting Than I Was Before.
  • 6 Attractive People Who Left Everything at Age 24 to Travel The World (Formerly Known as “Taking a Gap Year.”)
  • This Travel Blogger Started A Blog To Fund His/Her Round The World Travels. What Happened Next Had A Sad, Weary Inevitability About It.
  • 9 Solo Women Travelers Who Quack On as Though They’d Been on One Woman Trips through War Torn Syria but Actually it was Belgium
  • 7 People Who Used to Travel a Lot But Now Just Silently Loathe Other Travelers
  • 14 of the World’s Best Undiscovered Gems, Which Are Only Undiscovered In The Sense That This Publication Has Not Written About Them For Two Whole Months.
  • Enjoying Traveling with Children in Retrospect
  • These Family Members Spent Money they Couldn’t Afford so they Could Have a Family Vacation they Didn’t Really Want but Felt Obligated to Participate In

Thanks, Doug Mack, David Whitley, Andy Murdock, Nikki Bayley, Leif Pettersen, Mike Sowden, Kayt Sukel, Eileen Smith, Jason Clampet and everyone else who threw in on the snark and irony. For all of you, there’s this:

  • This Guy Said, “I’m a Traveler not a Tourist” at Disneyland and Got Punched by a Mouse


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18 Responses to “Unpopular Headlines for Stories About Traveler “Culture””

  1. Gigi says:

    Excellent and hilarious.

    Thank you for this.

    I find it really tiresome (as someone who did travel the world full-time for a year and a half) how many details are pretty consistently left out of the story. When I first went to a travel blogging conference, that was actually one of the biggest surprises. To discover that people who presented themselves one way were really living a very different life from said presentation.

    It’s one of the reasons I write a lot about depression, fear, etc. I’m all for inspiration and joy, for telling stories of how your life is better today than yesterday because you travel or work for yourself or whatnot (and I do plenty of that), but there’s a difference between authentic stories of challenges and joy and idealized, major motion picture-ized versions of what it’s like to quit your job and take off.

    • Pam Mandel says:

      My problem is that if the “I quit” folks don’t give us the details of how they did it — and some of them are super candid, for that, I’m grateful! — they aren’t good role models, we can’t relate.

      My husband and I attended an event once where one of the speakers was a guy who’d worked on six figure government contracts full time most of his life and then, took three months leave.

      “So, how is that relevant to us?” he asked. It’s not, It’s relevant to others with that kind of income base.

      We need to see the start line — that helps us find the right guides. When we don’t see it, we have only a tiny portion of the information we need to make our own plans.

  2. Edna says:

    So good, I can’t even pick a favorite.

  3. Lori says:

    Howzabout “I Lived Abroad for a Year, but Liked Home Better, So I Came Home.”

  4. Donna Hull says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    How about:

    12 Ways for Boomers to Go SKIing (spend kids inheritance) When Kiddos Quit Their Job to Travel Full Time.

  5. Alison Chino says:

    Oh my goodness! So so perfect. I think the ‘formally known as a gap year’ wins!

  6. Hi Pam,

    When I read posts like this it makes me miss ranting about the travel industry. I totally agree that the people who are (mis)selling the paradise that is RTW travel needs to reveal what they did prior to travelling around the world – the reality is that the majority have escaped well paid jobs, and good for them, but stop selling the story that you too can escape the cubicle when in reality most people cannot afford it.

    P.s. If my plans go as planned I too shall be escaping my living room cubicle in early 2015, but I will have worked hard for 24 years to get to this position.

    • Pam Mandel says:

      24 years is a serious investment, but it’s not the silver bullet story people want to hear. Change that to two, okay, Darren?

      I also think this attitude diminishes the value of what they did before, as though it somehow didn’t count. There’s maybe a transitive thing there that implies that if you’re doing something else, that doesn’t count EITHER, it’s not valid work. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I’d much prefer to hear the truth — “We saved like maniacs, we never went to dinner, never bought a latte” or “I ran a series of sites that cleaned up on AdSense and affiliate links.” Those are strategies that a person can weigh and if they so choose, replicate. “I lived my dream and quit my job.” That’s bullshit meaningless hyperbole.

  7. Parul says:

    Thank you for the post. Most of us full time workers who toil hard day and night can just dream about these stories. Sigh! You are just plain envious of all these successful people they managed to get out of drudgery and here you are mocking them!!!! Hell I’ll join in….

    This man couldn’t hold a job so his girlfriend’s father started a business for him. Now others work hard and he travels full time with his girlfriend and fills people’s instagram feeds with overly PDA pics.

    I always envy people who travel because its actually something we have to work hard for. Right now to leave our jobs and go back to school we have to save a lot and then get rid of all the loan money yeah I could use other people’s money too. Care to link us up with someone. Travel is awesome full time travel might be our dream but seriously its not mandatory

    • Pam Mandel says:

      “You are just plain envious of all these successful people they managed to get out of drudgery and here you are mocking them!!!! ”

      Not so much of that as saying that there are a million ways to have travel be part of your life, and also, that not everyone thinks their job is drudgery. I just got back from five days away and I’m awfully glad to be back on my couch with my coffee and my husband.

  8. Susan says:

    Ha! Loved this! Reminds me of this Onion article: http://www.theonion.com/articles/6day-visit-to-rural-african-village-completely-cha,35083/

    The honest headline I wish I’d read before taking a gap year:

    11 Million Reasons Why American Employers Are Reluctant to Hire People Who Quit Good Jobs to Travel

    Why does no one, ever, talk about the challenges of re-entry??

  9. I always read your posts through my inbox, and I had to comment on this one. I did the whole “quit and travel” thing, but gosh, I love coming home (and taking off again). But I knew it was not for me. Bloody hell, someone’s gotta pay for those travels, and I sure hell know my writing was not going to cut it–just not for me.
    But good on those who can do it I guess (doing whatever it is they do supporting their travel).

    Now, I really did have a visual on that guy in Disneyland and I am still laughing…

    • Pam Mandel says:

      “12 People Who Traveled Until the Money Ran Out, Went Back to Work, and Were Just Fine With That.” Heh.

      Lots of people quit and travel for a while, and good for them, good for YOU, Veny. I used to do it two or three times a year because US employers provide a ridiculously small amount of vacation time. Sometimes they said they’d hold my job, other times they didn’t. When I was lucky, I negotiated telecommuting gigs. If that didn’t pay out, I found another job when I got back to the US. It was fine for a while, and it’s actually why I became my own boss — so I didn’t have to explain to anyone else why two weeks vacation was not going to cut it.

      But that’s not as hyperbolic as “I quit normal life to travel the world.” Traveling the world is my normal life, and so is sitting at my desk drinking coffee and paying my bills.

  10. Dave says:

    “I Just Quit My Day Job As A Travel Blogger And Went To Work In A Cubicle Instead, Because I Actually Like Earning Money.”

  11. Jamie says:

    I quit a little at a time. I worked for a big pharmaceutical company, they allowed me some time off to travel, thanks! I went back, worked some more, and reached a point where a so-called normal life was in the pipeline. There was money in the bank to put a deposit on an apartment, buy a nice new car .. or travel for a long time. I chose the latter, this was when I was 26. That trip was 20 months, but in 1996 there were no blogs! I became a dive instructor, stayed a while in Central America, and in 1999 decided to head to Thailand. Still here. Very happily living a “normal life” with a job, 2 kids, a mortgage and a blog to earn beer money :)

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