girl in a car gazing out of the window
Thoughts

I don’t want to settle down

I have been travelling now non stop for 1,5 years, and as soon as this lockdown is over, I want to continue. I don’t want to settle down. However, this lockdown has given me a lot of time to think about what my options are and whether I can actually continue or not. 

First of all, I will be running out of cash soon, and I will need to work. I would like to work in Australia; nevertheless, I will need a new visa to do so. I could try to get the sponsorship visa in marketing, but thinking about working full time in marketing makes me sick. Furthermore, now we are in this COVID-19 shit. So who knows when will I be able to travel for example to another country? How will this crisis affect my future as a traveller?

What does ‘settle down’ actually mean?

My mom keeps saying nowadays: ‘Oh, this is so nice that you stopped travelling, now you can settle down. I wish that you find work, rent a house, get a boyfriend’. And it is also vital that my work is something with status, because, finally, I have a university degree. Besides that, I’m 30, and I still have no partner, so it is time.

When my mom talks to me like that, I say: ‘Mom, why don’t you wish me something that I want to have? Why don’t you wish for me things that make ME happy?’. Why most of the people believe that something that our society does since centuries is the right thing to do for me right now? Why is settling down so important? Why do I have to have a partner by 30? And why do you call me weird if I don’t want all of these things? I don’t want your ‘settle down’. Not now, and maybe never

girl in a car thinking about settling down

Thinking about working as I used to, makes me sick

I had a job call interview a couple of days ago. The position was in digital marketing, similar to things that I used to do in my previous job. I tell you, I got sick after this call. I thought I could do it, but I can’t. I never want to work like I used to. Don’t get me wrong: I loved my job and the company, and I learned many things there. But this is over. Now, I learned that freedom, time for myself, exploring the world, and simple life is more precious than working to make someone else rich. I will never do it again, no Monday till Saturday, no 60h per week. I want to live more and work less. 

I don’t want to be rich or famous

I said to my mom that I want to work in a coffee shop. I want to make coffee, talk to people from different backgrounds, meet weird characters every day, chat with people who are unique, those who break the rules and do their own damn thing. Because those are the ones who inspire me, who show me that there are other ways, not just the way that I learned in my house, culture, school and so on.

My mom didn’t want to listen to it: ‘You went to university, you were in a management position, you can’t work in a coffee shop!!!’

Yes, I can and I want to. Money and status will not make me any happier. I talk to people with whom I used to work before, and I see how much struggle and stress they have, and how little they enjoy life. Look at all those successful people in high positions and with an excellent salary. They have so much money, so much stress and so little time. Do you think this is the purpose of fulfilled life and happiness?

Woman in the outback

I invested about 8 years in Communication & Marketing at the University of Vienna, and I wish I didn’t

Things that I learned at this university in all of those years could have been shrink in a three-month course. My degree from the university didn’t help me to develop new skills or to deal with the struggles of life. It didn’t help me to be a better person, either. I focused on marketing because I thought it would give me better career perspectives. But the reality is: my degree didn’t give me anything. My studies were useless. I always got a job due to my abilities, skills or character, but never due to my official degree.

I wish I studied photography or music instead. That is also why, during the last 1,5 years of my travels, I focused on creativity. And within this time I discovered more than within all the years in marketing. I have always been a creative soul, not a marketeer. I just became a marketing person because I learned how to act like one. That is what happens in our lives: we do something for money, something that we learned, we become good at it, we even think that we like it, we pretend that this makes us happy. But actually, this is one BIG LIE, and the worst thing about it is that we self believe in it.

Australian Outback during the sunset

Will I ever change my mind? Will I ever want to settle down for real?

I don’t know. I guess there will be a time when I will want to have a break and maybe I will settle down for a while. And obviously, I need to make money somehow someday. But the deepest part of my soul will always remain ‘unsettled down’. I think so 😉

While reflecting on this over the last couple of days, I asked a few friends of mine, who recently decided to stop travelling, why did they chose to do so. What made them want to ‘settle down’ and how did they feel coming back home after many months or years of travelling? Furthermore, I wanted to know if they have some tips for people who wanted to travel but can not, due to the pandemic. Have a look at their inspiring words:

Alejandro came back to see his family in Colombia after 4 years of travelling

When I came back from my 4-year trip to 28 countries in Asia, Middle East and Africa it actually felt great. It had been 4 years since I had seen my family and to see my parents and brothers and sisters and meet my nephew that was born during the trip felt amazing.

My plan is to continue traveling so maybe that’s made it easier to come back and I haven’t had a hangover from the trip. Now I’m just solidifying how to turn the digital nomad lifestyle into my new permanent job and life. I actually returned because my family convinced me to come back and visit them, and I now see that it was the best decision. Especially now with the COVID19 pandemic, I think it is the best place to be during these crazy times.

My tip to those who had to change their travel plans due to the epidemic is: Don’t worry, it’s a beautiful world and it’s still going to be there when this is over to go explore!

I met Alejandro in Africa. He is a beautiful soul and a travel blogger with many wonderful tips from all around the globe. Make sure that you follow his adventures on his blog www.pleaseliveyourdream.com and on his Instagram account @viajarparainspirar.

Ali travelled for almost 5 years across Asia, Australia and Africa, and came back to England to study

I was travelling for 4 years and 9 months by the time I returned back to England. While I was travelling I had realised what I was interested in and what I could see myself working as – an occupational psychologist. I wanted to study in Australia but the fees weren’t exactly within my price range. So I decided to head back to the UK to complete a Psychology conversion course.

Returning to the UK was lonely, I moved to a city I’d never been to before after being accepted into University. Having recently given up alcohol, my social life was limited as I was not comfortable in bars. I also struggled with being in one place, not being able to leave because my life was now here. But I did enjoy coming back to the UK for the countryside – I think after being in Africa and it’s dry land, coming to the UK and seeing how many different colours of green there were literally gobsmacked me. One of the biggest positives for coming back was being close to my family, and being able to see them more regularly.

I think the important thing was to take every day as it comes and to have something to do each day – something productive and something you enjoy for the balance. Especially now with COVID-19 and lockdown, it is time to focus on what we can do with what we have, rather than what we could have.

Ali and me have a few adventures together. We travelled across Africa for one month side by side and she was one of the best travel buddies I ever had! Find Ali on Instagram.

Kathi travelled in Asia and Australia, and after 5,5 years of being on the road she decided to take a break

The reason I have decided to stop traveling and slowly come back home was simply because I GOT TIRED.  It has been 5,5 years of constant change of accommodation, of packing & unpacking, of cleaning new place after previous users, of not being able to stick to my yoga/sports routine, of always being concerned about what to buy due to backpack weight limit, of not always being able to cook my healthy food. The second main reason was a personal reason: it was time to take responsibility for my actions (=traveling) which can affect my loved ones. 

My main concern about coming back after so long traveling was ‘would i be able to fit in? I have seen so much and I am not the same person any more. Will I be able to feel comfortable in modern society of consumerism and materialism? Will others understand and accept me the way I am now? It’s been 1,5 month already since I am in Austria and funnily enough, I am still not able to answer those questions due to Corona circumstances and social distancing. But I am not suffering from this situation. Neither am I missing my travels and adventures.

I am very grateful I have seen and experienced so much, so now I am happy to stay put. I know that this is not the end of my traveling, as it is a part of me and my lifestyle. 

I met Kathi in Vienna, shortly before she went on her adventures. I followed her since then on social media, and she inspired me with all her stories and experiences! Check her IG with all the encouraging messages and beautiful photos @thedreamerlab.

Kevin returned home to Boston after teaching in Africa and travelling across Europe and Asia since 2017

Traveling was one of the most precious joys & honors of my life. I quit my job & left my home in 2017 to work in a rural village in Ghana as a math and science teacher. I had the privilege of teaching some of the brightest and most talented children I have ever met. I miss them dearly. 

When I left Ghana 2 years later, my gf and I decided to travel more for 6 months. We went to France, Italy, Egypt, India, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. To say it was an adventure, would be an unjust understatement! It was the time of our lives. 

All that said, with Christmas 2019 came the time to return home. For me it was EASY to come home. I had missed my family, my friends, my dog, American food, and my beautiful city. I always felt like I could never be one of those people floating around the world for an endless amount of time. One of my favorite parts of traveling to beautiful far-away places, is going back home and sharing my experiences with those that I love. Sharing the new things that I learned with my friends and family. Sharing the new person I’ve become. 

Now that COVID-19 has happened, I am happy that I get to spend this time in the city that raised me. I know this too will pass, and soon I will be planning more adventures to more beautiful places and coming back to share all the things I learned and beauty I saw, and I truly I can’t wait.

Kevin and I met in Vietnam. He is the funniest, honest and most caring person I have ever met. You can find him on Instagram @k_pizzle21

Geertje travelled from South Africa to Uganda and decided to come back home after 7 months 

The reason why I decided to come back was simple: I felt full and satisfied with all my experiences. There was no space for new ones, so it was time to go home. Instead of meeting new people I wanted to spend time with my friends and family again.
 
In the beginning, I had no idea what to do, no job to go back to and I decided to sublet my apartment a couple of months longer because I didn’t want to go back to normal/caged life straight away. So I lived at my parent’s place. For the first time in my life, I was in the Netherlands and I had no long term plans. No goals to achieve. I wanted to do everything different than it was before I left.
 
When I write this today it has been one year since I came back. Everything is different than it was before. When I first came back I could only think in big gestures. But now I think it is not really about that in the end. So now, I work as a bookkeeper and for the first time in my life, I have a contract, I rent an apartment and my life is more civil than ever. I used to scared of that before but now this kind of living gives me peace. I don’t run away from my fears and feelings anymore.
 
However, I still cannot wait for my next travel, because I know that travelling is the best way to learn for life.

Geertje and I met in Africa. We travelled together in parts of Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi, and today we still keep in touch and share our lives! Find her on Instagram @geertjespanish.

Shape your own life and do more of what makes YOU happy

Every one of us has its own decisions to make – we are the creators of our happiness. We should stop making it dependent on what our society wants. The only person who is capable of telling me what is best for my life is me alone. So, settling down or not – I make my own choice.

I hope that we use this current times, to look deeper and ask the self: is this what I really want, is this who I really am? And according to what we discover, we take the chance to shape our lives and do more of what makes us happy.

Australian desert

If you would like to share something, please leave a comment below or write me a private message. You can also have a look at my other travel thoughts here.

17 Comments

  • Francesca

    I get that! I’m always longing to just go off somewhere and explore. Just be free really! It’s particularly hard right now when the future is so uncertain.

    • Karolina

      Hi Francesca!
      I’m sure that we soon will be able to travel, and I also believe that the current situation around the world will contribute to that, that people will look more after themselves, after their health and after their happiness.

  • Megan

    I completely understand. I have a degree in nursing. I worked very hard to obtain it. It was my dream, but it left me stressed and missing out on my son’s life.
    I was settled down, with a house, husband, son, dogs, etc and we decided together we wanted more. We wanted to travel, so we did.
    My family doesn’t understand but we are happy.

    • Karolina

      Hi Megan!
      Good for you that you had the courage to go after what really makes you happy! Good luck in the future!

  • Jen

    I relate to this so much! I’m not very good at staying in one place for too long. In fact, the farther away from home I am, the more “at home” I feel. I don’t think that’ll ever change!

  • Farrah

    I’m in the same boat as you! My parents aren’t pressuring me as much to find someone and settle down (possibly because they’ve given up on that happening?)–I think it’s important to find your own happiness and to never “settle” (in the sense of never settling for something you don’t want/that makes you unhappy). I wish you the best, and I hope your mom lets up on you! <3

  • Arra Cuyno

    Interesting article. I am in the same boat as you. Home is where the heart is, so home can be wherever you want it to and you can keep changing that. I’m going 30 this year with no plans of settling down, I’m not even dating too. I enjoy that I can do whatever I want to do and will have no regrets in life later on! Salute to you!

  • Pam

    I am so over the “settle down” just the word “settle” rubs me the wrong way. I don’t ever want to “settle” in my life. I married because he understood my vision of travel and life – and he compliments it, doesn’t try to stop me <3 keep traveling and keep being you!

  • Ashley

    I am struggling with this forced lifestyle of staying in one place and love your post! I love how you brought in other traveler’s prespectives. It’s great to hear how travel changes a person and it’s never easy to go home 🙂

    • Karolina

      Hi Ashley! I think all travellers ask themself the same questions and struggle when it comes to decision-making about going home:)

  • Emma

    I love travel, but I also liked a stable group of friends at home, although looking at this you formed some amazing relationships along the way while traveling. I live in a different country than my family, but I got a job in tourism so that travel was still part of my every day life. I want to travel more and to find any way to do it. I still get itchy feet all the time and wonder if I made the right decision “settling down ” but nothing is permanent.

    • Karolina

      Hi Emm, right… the stable group of friends at home must be gold. I do not really have it, because I moved to another country when I was 15 and didn’t really build up a stable group of friends. And those who are my friends encourage me to travel and understand my decision. As you say, nothing is permanent, and we always can change our decisions and go back home or go back to travel…

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