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Which came first, the chicken or the egg? This has been on my mind a lot recently, the cause and effect theory of commitment fears and (long term) travel. I’ve just taken a lease out on a condo on Bangkok and, in theory, that means I have to remain in one place for the next ten months (whether that proves to be the case is another issue entirely, with trips to Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Burma planned in the next 6 months – anyways, I’m digressing). On signing the contract a cold fear enveloped me and know I’m struggling to come to terms with the fact that I have a ‘base’ again, albeit only for 10 months.

Does travel cause commitment problems?

I appreciate I’ve been traveling, working and studying overseas for 5 years now and with that comes a certain expectation of constantly being on the move, and now that’s ceased temporarily it’s stressing me out! With this recognition, it brought me to the question…


Does (long term) travel cause a fear of commitment OR is it an existing fear of commitment within certain people that then causes them to travel (long term)?


I’m very interested to hear your thoughts on this…

I think it’s fair to say that the general consensus is that travel is good for you, it enlightens us, broadens our minds, helps us take a more holistic view of our lives and the relative ease in which we grew up. I am a huge advocate of travel and believe all of that without doubt. But very few people discuss the potential damage that traveling could cause, what if this lifestyle of ultimate freedom, where a day without a cool new experience is seen as a ‘boring’ day (forgetting the fact that in the ‘real world’ people do the same thing, day in – day out, for decades), causes us to shirk commitment. Living on the road, traveling so much, constantly meeting new and interesting people from all walks of life, our senses being constantly stimulated, new brief relationships burn brightly for a few days but are extinguished before they have a chance to flourish due to the weekly sleeper train leaving Kathmandu tomorrow morning, and you have to be on it! Then when you do re-settle, is something always going to be missing? Can you face a stable (stagnant?) social group and the same job for the next 2, 3, 10 years? Can you meet that one girl/guy and know that they are enough, that they will supply you with the same excitement that you had on the road? If you can, that’s great but if you can’t what then? My question is this – has travel caused that, or was that in your personality long before you booked your ticket?

Personally, I want to have my cake and eat it, every last slice– when I’m on the road, I want to savour every moment, live it and love it but when I settle, for however long, I want to feel satisfied, content and stimulated by that life in its own right. I’m just not sure if it’s possible. I’ll keep you posted.

Is it true that Happiness is only true when shared?

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18 thoughts on “Fear of Commitment or Travel – the Chicken or the Egg?

  1. Pingback: 害怕承诺或旅行–是鸡还是蛋?害怕承诺或旅行–是鸡还是蛋?-数字游民指南
  2. This is a really interesting discussion because I’m going through my own break down right now. After uni I started traveling Asia. I didn’t back pack, but taught English for a year a couple of different places. About 2 years ago I came back to get my masters in the hopes of getting jobs abroad teaching something other than English. Well I’m finishing up now and find myself in a serious relationship where we r looking for an apartment together. And it’s not the fear if commitment to him I’m worries about, but the thought of not moving around scares the crap out of me. He’s not the type to pick up a back pack and go and I’m not the type to buy a house with a white picket fence. So I keep thinking, which is more important? The great guy or the freedom to roam around? I love the comment about “always looking for the next high.” that’s a really interesting point and I think I agree. If all u do is travel, then traveling is ur routine and difficult to break just as someones elses daily routine. So to continue to grow u need a different kind of change- commitment. This all definitely makes sense, and as much as I believe it, it seems really hard to do. I actually have great anxiety when thinking about staying somewhere for more then a year or two (probably longer than most ppl here). Does the anxiety go away? Will I ever feel comfortable staying in one place for longer? I trick myself by saying we’ll move in a year or two, but knowing him it probably won’t happen. R there any psychological studies on this phobia? I’d love to read some journal articles about it. I think I might need to see a psychologist anyways.

    1. This is a great response – thanks a lot for this 🙂 Wow, a tough situation you find yourself in – personally i’d need a partner who wants the same things as me, but at some point I guess we all may come to a point where compromise is obligatory (i don’t seem to have reached that point yet!). I’d love to hear more about what your final decision is.. let me know please. You sound like a woman after my own hear April (not sure if that’s a good thing or not!)

  3. HI all,I have this dream to hold a backpack and go around the world but how do you manage the living cost,I mean what do you do to earn money to spend.
    I think it will begreatt experience in life to do something like this,it will be the real lifeinsteadd of living inside the same boring circle,watching the same faces walking the same streets.
    I wish that I can do like you before it’s to late I’m now 38 and I don’t know if i will ever have the chance to do this.
    I was in a littjourneyrny throuSyriaria and thTurkeyrky from the east to Istanbul it was something great even with all tdifficultiesiI’ve’ve faced,but i can’t consider my self a backpacker like you but i realenjoyedoyd it.

    1. hey mate, 38 years old?! you’ve got PLENTY of time – i’ve met 70 years old (literally) on their first ‘backpacking’ trips so don’t worry about age 🙂 money – my site makes about enough for me to get by on, and a couple of thousand in the bank from whatever job i did before, it’s really not too expensive after you’ve bought your first flight 🙂 just gotta take the plunge mate!

  4. Damn, I was hoping you were going to answer the question for me!

    This is something I’ve been struggling with a lot lately. And maybe because I am currently living in what I *thought* would be my dream location – in view of the Caribbean sea, palm trees, warm weather every day, etc. etc. Yet, I feel so unattached to it. And while sometimes I think I am too tired to strap my backpack on again and go full boar – the alternative (of settling) makes me so anxious and paranoid that within a month of doing so, I’ll have an overwhelming need to just GO again.

    Are we doomed to wander forever? I wonder…

    1. dalene – you and i both know you’re not too old, so you can’t use that excuse 😛 I know exactly what you mean about those ‘dream’ locations, i think they are awesome for a finite period but the travel industry force feeds us those as an idyllic place, when i’d much rather get lost in some town in the middle of nowhere 🙂

      The anxiety and paranoia are nothing to worry about i reckon, the awesome thing about backpacking is that u can set off for an indefinite amount of time and if it’s not going well, just set-up shop wherever you like or go home – maybe that’s a week into your trip or 2 years in, either way there’s always an escape route!

  5. Wow I totally relate to this. When I first moved to China it was the scariest thing signing that long term lease. Hell, part of the reason I started traveling was because I can’t stand lock-in commitment haha. It’s a little ironic in a way. I guess it all comes down to what kind of commitment.

    At this moment now that I’m not traveling I refuse to sign a long term lease. I’m just doing things month to month b/c the thought of signing a 12 month lease means I won’t be able to move abroad again for another year, and that’s just not going to work since I want to be able to pick up and go when I’m ready to head out again 🙂

    What I think happens is you just “know” that this commitment is right. You just know that person is right for you, that city, that country, that apartment, that couch. It’s all about your gut.

    1. hey lauren, cool so you’re in china now on a rolling teaching contract or what? I think you’re right with your signoff tho, you just ‘know’, or at least that’s what we’re taught right? 😉

  6. I think it’s a cop out answer, but I believe it’s different for everyone. For me, I get restless staying in one place for a long period of time – it didn’t quite manifest itself as being a permanent nomad, but more like moving from one city to another after 3 years or so. For Jack, he was content being just like any other person who never stepped a foot outside his homestate until I came along and dragged him from one country to another – and somehow it made him fall in love with the traveling lifestyle as well.

    In short, I think for some it’s the egg that comes first, for others it’s the chicken – if that makes sense at all.

    1. hey jill – i don’t mean this is a bad way but i reckon, disappointingly, you’re right! I was hoping someone would come up with a full proof answer and we could all sleeper sounder at night but, like everything else, it comes down to the individual. Also I think (hope?) it depends on the people you meet and the stage of the life you’re at too, u think so? Or once we got the bug, we’re stuck with it? :S

  7. I think its an existing fear. I have never felt happy living in the same place for more than a few months/years and being stuck in university has only been made easier by the fact that I get to go home to Bristol or to stay with friends around the country on weekends/holidays etc.

    I’m not the sort of person to plant roots. Everytime I settle somewhere I love it for a bit then im ready to move on. Ive never been in a long term relationship – quite frankly, I find them a bit monotonous. lol. I mean, seriously, how many times can you wake up with, go to work and come home to the same person, watch the same crap, eat the same crap, go to bed and do it all over again lol.

    More importantly, I think being alone means you dont have to be accountable for someone else. You dont have to be responsible for anyones feelings but your own. You dont have to comprimise or consult with someone else when you make decisions, whether they are well thought out or impulsive. And maybe some would say its selfish but then again relationships are optional right?

    I can understand you struggling with having a base. With uni coming to an end, I came to the conclusion that I never want to be tied down to anything ever again. These last 7 weeks of uni are a stretch coz its a chapter im so ready to close. To me, its suffocating. Its def. gonna be my vietnam…oh the flash backs lol

    I do think its possible to have your cake and eat too. Im not sure who the jack*ss is who said it wasnt, but if I ever come across him, i’ll be having words.

    Everyone always says leave on a high. I say ride the wave until it stops.

    I type like i think/say it so can only hope that makes sense lol

    1. hey journo, thanks for the input – a girl after my own heart by the sounds of things. Lets just pig out on the cake and never stop eating, that sounds like the only solution to me. What do ya say!? 😛

          1. Hi Johnny,

            I spent about a year traveling around the Middle East and 3 years traveling around Asia in the early 1990’s. I noticed this phenomena that you have brought up: my own need to keep on moving and the fear of commitment and settling down. I was in my early 20’s at the time and I would meet these guys in their 30’s, who had been traveling for 5, 6, 7, 10 years. They would try to stop and hold down a job but they couldn’t. On the other hand, traveling didn’t really do much for them either anymore. How many idyllic beaches can you see? How many castles, temples, local markets? How many cafes, museums, how many mountains? They were like ghosts these guys and it scared the heck out of me. It was one of the reasons I stopped traveling.

            The fact is that commitment and responsibility make us grow as human beings. There is something wonderful about being “carefree” and worrying about only myself. But it’s addictive, and like any addiction it takes more and more to get the same high. Eventually you can’t get the high at all anymore. There is something sad and pathetic about a 35 year old who never committed to anything. We start to regress as human beings without commitment, relationship, community. The point of life is to give, and as we spend years being self-centered it gets harder and harder to do that. We suck up into ourselves and eventually become so fossilized in our ways that we can’t make space for anyone else in our lives even if we want to.

            If traveling for a while helps a person to get some perspective, get exposed to new people and ideas, to think about life and what the purpose of it all is – wonderful. But once it turns into narcissism, the constant quest for the next high, the pursuit of the shimmering mirage of “freedom” which leads only to personal smallness and unhappiness – then its dangerous.

            Which comes first – the chicken or the egg – is irrelevant. The point is if you find yourself falling into that pattern then its well past time to get out. True happiness comes from real connection to others and real giving, not from illusory hook-ups, temporary travel partners and skipping town at the first whiff of responsibility or commitment.

            Take it from me. An experienced former wanderer.

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