Journal

Is traveling for escape a bad thing?

At some point in 2019, I was in the midst of planning to leave my highly stressful workplace and do some travel. In fact, I was already traveling more than usual that year, from long trips to shorter ones. I’ll admit, many times it was because I was simply sick of work and wanted to focus on doing what I truly enjoy.

A friend put it very bluntly: “It sounds like you’re just trying to escape.”

How it began

I’ve been travelling solo since 2016. Initially, it started with simple holidays, visiting people, and exploring new lands. Like many, those early days were about vacations—a temporary break from the daily grind of work to immerse myself in new experiences as a refreshing change of pace. The activities ranged from shopping and dining to visiting attractions, relaxing on a beach, hiking, experiencing different cultures, and more. The list goes on and on.

But the point is that, during that time, I didn’t feel the need to travel solely for myself. I was content to plan my earned days off and then return to work.

When I took a sabbatical to live in London in late 2018, I justified it by claiming I wanted to focus on writing a book or experiencing life in the city I had fallen in love with during an earlier visit. Looking back, it was also a form of escape; I was struggling with work, and I had wanted to leave for greener pastures. But getting a job in the UK was not easy, so I took a sabbatical instead.

Those three months of not thinking about work, after nearly four years of non-stop effort, was incredibly refreshing.

When my work situation failed to improve after my return, the sabbatical experience seemed to ignite a desire to use travel as a means to escape.

It didn't work out

No matter how much I travelled, I always had to return to Hell.

The second half of 2019 took its toll on my body, and I was constantly sick from stress. Even after completing about four trips in four months, I wasn’t getting any better. While the time spent away from the country provided me a mental recharge, returning to my desk at work plunged me back to the depths of despair.

The only solution was to quit. It took me six months to realise this, since I first recognised the severe stress I was enduring. Once I left the company in 2020, my health began to improve drastically.

Was it thanks to traveling? No. The solution was there all along.

Lying in bed overlooking Doi Inthanon
While at Doi Inthanon, Thailand, in April 2023, I found myself reflecting on how I wished I could just stay there indefinitely, free from the stresses of life.

So, is it really bad?

My short answer: yes and no.

Yes, because traveling for escape can offer valuable opportunities for relaxation, rejuvenation, and exploration of new environments. It helps break from routine, reduce stress, and broaden one’s perspective.

No, because it can also become a persistent avoidance strategy for dealing with underlying issues or responsibilities. If traveling is used solely to escape from problems without addressing them, it may lead to neglect of important matters and hinder personal growth and development.

That’s why the key lies in balance and intentionality. Fortunately, I’m the type of person who reflects, considers my motivation, and tries to look at things from all points of view. I believe understanding and balancing escapism in one’s life is crucial for personal well-being.

In conclusion, 2024

Lately, I find myself myself yearning to travel as often as I did in 2019. Reflecting on my motivation, I realise I have a deep desire to explore more of the world, to discover and experience new things, and truly immerse myself into understanding humanity.

Yet, another part of me seeks escape. I’m tired of various responsibilities, I’m burdened by the high living expenses in Singapore, and I’m exhausted by social expectations. I often reminisce about my time in London, where I could be anonymous, make new connections, and indulge in activities I love.

This time though, instead of running away, I want to confront the issues at hand. I want to travel, not to escape and forget about my problems, but to have a clearer head on how to address them. Stepping away from the self-imposed responsibilities and expectations allows me the self-care I deserve. Being in a place with lower expenses enables me to save money.

Whatever it is, I aim to ensure that my travel serves as an escape, but in a beneficial way.

Tell me what you think by commenting below. How do you deal with escapist travel? The more views, the better!

Behind the trip

I’m Angie, a traveller, web developer and blogger behind A Head Full of Travel. I’m here to document my adventures through words and photography, kindling a love for life. You can trust that all content and advice shared here is genuine and from my own experiences.

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