Is traveling selfish?

I truly, deeply love travelling. Whenever I am feeling beaten or swamped in my day-to-day life, I jump on to Twitter to immerse myself in the travel lifestyle and talk with you guys.

But as much as I (and you and others) love to travel, some recent backlashes against the perma-travel lifestyle reminded me of a question I asked myself on my last major jaunt:

Is travelling selfish?

I don’t mean selfish as in “a traveller will steal candy from a baby” type selfish. The real question I’m asking is, at what point have you had your fill and should you then turn your attention back home?

For me, it was 2006 and I found myself travelling the Baltic countries and the former Soviet Bloc with my younger brother and another friend. In Wroclaw (Krakow for your English-speakers) we found the more centrally located hostel we could find and set up shot. Late into the night, the thump-thump of the disco across the street and the making out of the newly-made couple in the bunk across the room got to me like never before. At that point, I made the decision to take my experience and truly build something, a business based

At that point, I made the decision to take my experience and truly build something, a business based on my passion for travel.

Simultaneously I also realized that leaving every opportunity I could for prolonged periods meant I missed birthdays, anniversaries and all-around good times back home. I’ve sent more birthday messages than I would like to admit via email across international borders and oceans. While in Europe in 2003, I came back to find my best friends had arguably the best summer in man history.

Independent backpacking is after all, independent. It involves ME going wherever I want, whenever I want. If I want to see Pisa tomorrow, I’m there. If I think my tan’s fading a bit too much, a few days on Koh Tao just makes sense.

But, of course, like all good things, travel is (often times) best served in moderation. At least for some people. Some folks seemingly travel forever, while for some, a weekend in Vegas is all you need.

So, I’m tossing a few questions at you, the passionate traveller, to ask yourself…

Is there a point to which you’ve travelled too much? If so, how can you tell?


Beyond blogging, have you thought of any new ways of building something back home with your travel experiences?



About The Author

I'm a travel writer and photographer who specializes in bespoke travel experiences. I write about boutique, savvy and cultural travel. My writing has been featured in Outpost Magazine, Travel + Escape, and UP! Magazine.

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16 Responses

  1. Liv

    Personally, I believe you can never travel too “much”… but perhaps you can be away too long.

    When I was in college, I yearned to do Study Abroad but chose not to because of the fear that I might “miss” something going on back home. My roommate went to Paris; two of my friends went to Argentina. While they drank wine by the Seine and climbed Iguazu Falls, my remaining roommates and I watched SNL, baked cookies, and rode the subway. I kicked myself for years until I started traveling for real at the age of 23.

    Yes, it’s hard to miss birthdays and to watch your friends’ kids grow up via Facebook photos. I try to make it home for a good month each year, if possible. If I ever felt as though I were truly needed back home – if someone I loved were sick, if someone I loved needed my prolonged help – then I think I would go home. But who’s to say that what we’re doing isn’t “real life” or even “home”? We make daily choices. We set up camp. We develop attachments. We even get jobs. Who’s to say that our responsibility is towards one camp as opposed to the other…?

    Great post, Spunkygirl!

  2. Michael Hodson

    People should do whatever makes them happy (absent hurting others). Of course travel is selfish. So is staying home and having kids. Or working 80 hours a week at some job. For the most part, we all do what we want to do. Some want to live no more than 3 miles from the place they were born — some want to wander the world. Some want a big family — some never want to get married. And so on and so forth.

    I feel totally selfish when I travel. I feel like I’m doing it for myself… and I am. And you know how that makes me feel in the end??

    It makes me feel great.

  3. LeslieTravel

    I don’t think you can travel too much. It’s about the way you travel. If someone is hopping from hostel to hostel, only interacting with other foreigners, getting wasted and hooking up every night in their little bubble- then what are they accomplishing? They’re just suspending their adolescence to party forever. (A poor man’s Paris Hilton?). I’m not into that scene at all… you can still be an independent traveler/backpacker and not travel that way. Just my two cents!

    • Garrett

      You’re absolutely right, Leslie. After my 2006 trip, what I was looking for in travel changed substantially. And how I got it, changed as well.

    • Pamela

      Agree 100%, Leslie. That kind of stuff was fun when I was a teenager, but now I’m in for a more profound experience. I wake up early and go to bed at a decent time. I couldn’t live with myself if I traveled all the way to another country and spent the whole time getting wasted. That’s just how I am personally.

  4. Andi

    I think traveling can definitely be selfish, in fact I wrote a guest post on this that will be coming out later this week. I believe it’s VERY important that traveler’s give back to the world in some positive way, whether it’s volunteering or what not. Of course I think that traveling is the greatest thing, but it’s important as humans to make sure that not only are we happy with our own lives, but that we help bring happiness to others as well.

  5. AdventureRob

    I don’t think travelling is selfish, however it is certainly a privilege. I don’t think people tend to travel forever (due to financial restrictions) and plus it can get boring as a full time job.

    If no-one else is getting hurt, how can it be selfish? I think everyone is entitled to enjoy their success whether they spend it abroad or home on big houses and flash cars.

    In regards to Andi’s comment – I think travelling opens your eyes up to other cultures so you are more aware of what’s out there and how privileged we are, which is why the feeling of wanting to give back comes from. We should be giving back anyway, but it’s just more obvious when we see others in need in our travels.

  6. Jaime D.

    I am not a long term traveler yet but I am currently planning my 1st RTW trip! When I 1st started planning the only thought that kept haunting me was “Am I selfish for wanting to see the world?” I actually turn that thought into a blog post for my new blog it got some great responses. I was assured by everyone that no its not selfish. After thinking about it IT ISNT SELFISH! We only have one life to live and its a short one at it why not do what makes us happy. If working in a cube all day makes you happy then good for you and if traveling on a budget living out of a backpack makes you happy then good for you!

    As I am planning my RTW trip I have had alot of people think I am crazy or ask my why for so long and it used to bug me but now I just answer and brush it off. I am finally going to do what makes me happy!!!

  7. Eric

    I think it is all about what makes someone happy. It’s not for everyone, but many people do love it. Selfish? I don’t know. I know right now I feel selfish because its all I want to do in the foreseeable future, but I have no other responsibilities.

    • Garrett

      It’s all good! Through my lens of the world, travel is a great personal rewards that’s even sweeter when you give back to those abroad or at home.

      Regardless, go travel everyone!

  8. Laurence

    To be selfish is to put your desires and needs above those of other people. So yes, travelling is selfish. It’s not like i’m sending the money I spend on travel to children in need or whatever would be defined as putting someone else before me. Then again, I am presumably benefiting some economy somewhere.

    I think Michaels post echoes my thoughts on the matter most appropriately. We are all selfish in some way or another, apart from a very few. I’m not sure singling out travellers as being more or less selfish than anyone else is particularly fair.

  9. ayngelina

    Traveling is definitely selfish. I’m going to be gone for a year and it’s solely for myself but I’m okay with that. I think sometimes we need to do things with our own best interests in mind.

    But I’m interested to read Andi’s post because after 5 months I am looking to volunteer somewhere as I feel I need to give back.

  10. Pamela

    Personally, my round-the-world trip is very much a selfish endeavor. After years of doing things for everyone around me, I’ve decided to do something for myself. To live MY dream.

    Anything can be selfish. It depends on your personal perception. I love that as humans we’re all different and therefore our perceptions, goals, ideals etc. are different as well. It’s one of the best parts of life.

    Sometimes we need to be selfish. When the time comes for us to give back, then that’s what we do.

  11. Tanya C

    Traveling is not being selfish, it’s called personal growth! Who says we need to stay home? Or get married? Or do whatever everyone else wants us to do. Most people follow the course of life as they should and wake up miserable at 40. Traveling allows us to discover who we are and what we want. It’s never enough travel until you decide you’re ready to take a break. But normally, once you start, you never stop. There is always something to learn 🙂

  12. raandy

    I also believe traveling is selfish, but that it is important to do things for yourself. In my case, my friends and family are beginning to “need” me home. I don’t understand the need they seem to be feeling. Maybe I’m a cold person with no feelings. I miss them, sure, but I don’t NEED them right now. 

    I recently took a trip abroad for a few months and might be cutting it short. I have the option to continue in my travels but with a much more difficult time in regards to money. When I ask my family and friends for advice each one of them have told me I should return home because they miss me too much. Isn’t this selfish? I’d like to think I would be giving them just the opposite. Stay. Experience. Live. 

    I haven’t found much else that has made me happy. Does that make me a selfish person?

  13. Cory

    Good post. I absolutely love this site. Keep it


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