Nobody Gets It – What to do when your traveling lifestyle attracts doubters

Most of my friends that are living unconventional, international lifestyles absolutely LOVE their lives.  When I talk to them they tell me how glad they are that they made their decision to live differently, to explore, to grow and to experience life outside of their home country.  As much as I love Sweden, I feel the same.  I would not trade my traveling or my long-term relocation experiences for anything.  The international life is perpetually exciting, adventure-filled and full of opportunities to grow and experience the best that the world has to offer.

One of the biggest caveats to the undeniable advantages of the mobile lifestyle, however, is that a lot of people just don’t get it.  Whether they be parents, friends, bosses, colleagues or people you meet on the street, people will find it difficult to understand you and your way of thinking.  You are too different for them to get their heads around and they may therefore treat you differently, question you or hold you at arms length.  This can be discouraging at times.

Realize that although they may mean well, friends’ gut reactions to your lifestyle should be taken with a grain of salt.  I am not advocating blowing off the counsel of friends and family.  Certainly the important people in your life that care about you should be listened to and respected.  But do not expect the international, mobile and service-centered life that you have spent years dreaming about and preparing for to be understood by your average acquaintance.

Often the mere fact that you are approaching life radically differently is enough to make insecure people around you feel like you are judging their lifestyle.  There is little you can do to avoid this other than deciding for yourself that you will not judge others for their lifestyle decisions and – just as important – that you will therefore relieve yourself of the need to worry about how others see you.

Be Patient.  Cut those that question you some slack.  Put yourself in their shoes.  What if someone told you that they had decided to spend the next 10 years at a silence retreat to fully experience the benefits of never speaking a word?  If you were relatively open-minded you could appreciate the potential benefits of such a life choice but you would probably still consider the decision questionable at best.

Now look at your situation.  You are telling friends and family that you are leaving behind school, your reasonably paid job or even worse, your current stint of unemployment, to travel the world and do some volunteering in Asia.  You what?  On face value it does sound a little crazy.  But hang in there, some of the doubters will turn into supporters if you stay in touch faithfully and give them updates on your progress.  Who knows – your updates of new friends, adventures, romances, exotic job offers, delicious food, fascinating conversations and meaningful opportunities to serve, might turn some of the doubters into your staunchest supporters.

Embrace your new family.  Here’s a refreshing rule of thumb:  Your new base of supporters and “fans” will soon outnumber the doubters, detractors and naysayers.  As more and more people hear about your refreshing and empowering life choices, you’ll start to develop a support crew of people that think what you are doing is great.  They will often be more passionate in their praise than the party poopers complaining from their armchairs at home.  You only have one life so focus on the smiling, happy people that are building you up rather than those that do nothing but criticize.  These new supporters become your new road “family”.  Whether they are Facebook friends, blog readers, Twitter followers or real life local friends, celebrate the people around you that love and appreciate you for who you are and what you stand for.  They are there for you and they “get it”.

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Bjorn Karlman