Is Traveling a Waste of Your Potential? - This American Girl

San Blas


“What’s next? Isn’t it time for real life?”


“You’re off to the tropics again? Are you having a quarter life crisis?”


“You’re so smart and talented. I don’t want you to waste your potential.”


san blas


There were times when the voiced concerns of friends and family left me questioning the responsibility of my lifestyle.


Others when the voices in my own head stirred fears of what my future might hold.


little corn island


Giving myself the permission to pursue lifelong travel has been an ongoing process of deprogramming the paradigms instilled in me by my culture.


It has required identifying which lifestyle choices are in my pursuit of happiness and which, deep down, are ego driven.


san blas


In fact less than one year ago, after traveling to more than ten different countries, I had plans to return to the states and attend graduate school.


san blas


I wondered if I was wandering aimlessly. I felt that it was my turn to offer my skills to the beautiful world that had gifted me so much. I deduced that taking my talents and commercializing them into a revenue-generating package was the only means to that end. I believed that a traditional path in education was the way.


little corn island


Then I began blogging. I began meditating.


It did not take long for me to discover that I was already utilizing my unique offerings.


little corn island


That the questions and confusion within me were the result of deep probing and introspection that leads to tremendous growth.


I realized that I had learned more in the last year of travel than in sixteen years of traditional education.


bocas del toro starfish


I opened myself to the possibility that there were other ways to feel challenged, inspired, and alive than those accepted by society.


I recognized that the more I followed the path towards my own personal bliss the more energy, ideas, and love I had to share with my family, my friends, and with the world.


The more I let my light shine without judgment the more I felt in tune with my life’s calling.


san blas


While travel may not be the ultimate path for everyone, I feel it is an experience so transformative that it needs to be experienced at least once. Even if you hate every moment of it. For this, long term travel is certainly not a waste of potential, and is in fact the best possible use of potential.


Here is why:


san blas


Travel Teaches Problem Solving


Where will I sleep? What do I eat? How do I navigate this unfamiliar territory? Can I trust this person? What is the worst that could happen if I…?


These are only a few of the questions you will ask yourself daily. Many times the outcome will not be what you anticipated. It’s not uncommon for train strikes to limit you, food poisoning to debilitate you, strangers to manipulate you, and fences to prohibit you. You will learn to solve problems because you have to.


san blas


Many of us live in a society where solutions are provided readily. Marketers create products to satisfy consumer needs. They communicate that by purchasing a good or service the consumer eliminates the problem with little to no effort at all.


What will you do when you can no longer pay to make your problems disappear?


san blas


When the storm steals your internet, running water, and electricity? When you’re lost in a jungle inhabiting jaguars, pumas, and peccari? When you’re swindled in a language that you don’t speak? When you’re stuck in a foreign city with a frozen bank account?


What will you do?


Like animals we are programmed to survive. We are natural problem solvers. Traveling connects us with our instincts and abilities to respond in difficult situations. This empowers us to make confident decisions long after the trip is over.


little corn island


Travel Cultivates Independence


How often do you engage in activities to please others? When are you simply fulfilling obligations? What if every single day you were able to decide exactly how to spend your time? Would you feel empowered? Would you be terrified?


san blas


Before I began traveling my life was centered on others. With several jobs, a generally unavailable boyfriend, and a wide social circuit, I rarely checked in to ask “Hey, Camille, what do you want?”


But traveling shows us that we are responsible for our own experience. We have the ability to decide how to spend every moment of our day. If we don’t enjoy that day we have no one to hold accountable but ourselves.


Recognizing this inspired me to learn to live for myself, at times independently of others. If I want to take a tour I’ll take it. If a run is calling my name, catch ya later!


little corn island


I’ve learned that I actually love spending time alone. I incorporate self-care into my daily routine. I ask myself what I want before agreeing to anything. I enjoy my time with others because I don’t need them to satisfy my needs.


The more in tune you are with your own wants and needs the easier it becomes to lead an authentic life.


little corn island

Travel Hones Social Skills


Life on the road can be lonely and isolating. Even when you’re traveling with companions the world around you may be so unfamiliar it’s easy to feel disconnected from humanity.


While I believe that we have everything that we need already, within ourselves, completely alone, experiences are often best when shared.


little corn island


Haggling with merchants, washing at local bathhouses, and sleeping in bunk beds in a room filled with strangers are opportunities to learn from people you would never encounter otherwise. Most of them are open and interested in learning about you.


Take advantage of that.


san blas


I know it can be scary.


I’m an extrovert and there are plenty of times when I have experienced social anxiety. The moment I enter the dorm room assessing my bunkmates. My first day navigating a city. Ponying up to a bar to order a drink completely on my own.


Meeting new people, interacting in a foreign language, and responding to cultural cues is a practice that isn’t always easy. But the more you maneuver uncomfortable situations the more intuitive it becomes.


san blas


Travel Forces You to Let Go


Many of us live in a culture where surrender means failure. It implies weakness.


Quite oppositely I believe that surrender requires great strength. Knowing when to let go is a necessary skill that enables us to move forward in life rather than being stuck in the past.


Travel is the ultimate practice in surrender.

You learn quickly how infrequently you actually have control of outside factors.


little corn island


However, you have the ability to control the way that you respond. You can dwell on these inevitable occurrences or you can accept their reality and decide what happens next.


Stunning scenery whizzes by you on buses. Epic views drift below the airplane wing. People you meet, connect with, perhaps even fall in love leave in an hour, a day, a month, a year.


You learn to appreciate the moment that exists. You learn to say goodbye. You learn to release what you loved instead of entrap it. You learn to be open to whatever it is that may come next.


san blas


Travel Opens You to Possibility


When you step out of the familiarity of your own world and into another you begin to see just how diverse life truly is.


Perhaps what you once thought impossible is actually entirely within reach?



If you feel hesitant about traveling alone, particularly as a woman, check a few of my past posts:

Traveling the World as a Woman 

Why I Feel Safe Traveling Alone

On Being Alone



Love it? Share it!