- I’m 24 and I have never been out of North America.
- This is for a lot of reasons, including my fear of flying and my financial situation.
- I’m not planning on changing this anytime soon, and I wish people would stop judging each other for their choices.
It’s no secret that, as a whole, society is obsessed with traveling. From the Instagram accounts dedicated to dream-like destinations to news stories about people who quit their jobs to spend all of their money on traveling, we love to romanticize the hell out of navigating the globe.
It makes complete sense. Traveling can open you up to new experiences, friendships, perspectives, and life goals. But it’s just not for me.
There are a million articles online about how great it is to travel (see all of the wonderful content on INSIDER’s Travel section), but there aren’t as many that speak to my experience: a 24-year-old who has never traveled out of North America and has no desire to.
Let me explain myself.
I am terrified of flying, to the point of panic attacks.
Being nervous about air travel is not exactly uncommon. In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration estimates that about 1 in 3 adults have some qualms about flying. But my fear of flying is intense. So much so, that my last plane trip resulted in me hyperventilating and being mocked by an entire baseball team.
I haven’t flown commercial in about 12 years and haven’t flown at all in about eight. After my last flight, which was through a thunderstorm, I quite literally kissed the ground at the Pittsburgh International Airport and vowed to never put myself through that again.
I know that with some work I could get over this fear, but right now, it’s not exactly a priority for me.
I suffer from anxiety, which makes traveling more terrifying.
Traveling can stress out even the most “normal” people. Now throw in the fact that I have high anxiety, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
Itineraries stress me out, and I spiral at the thought of plans not lining up perfectly. Being in a new place overwhelms me, as there are a lot of unknown and I easily lose control of the situation. Something as simple as a taxi driver getting lost can make tears run down my face, which is just plain embarrassing.
It’s not that I avoid trips because of my anxiety. I still travel, thanks to Amtrak, but it takes a lot out of me. This makes traveling a lot less fun, though I try to enjoy myself.
I’ve never really been able to afford to travel.
Anxiety aside, money is the biggest factor that stops me, and many others, from traveling. We act like it’s so easy to just stop buying cups of coffee and afford a trip to Italy, but it’s not that simple.
I have massive amounts of student debt. I have a cat. I live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. But even when I lived in a smaller city in the Midwest, keeping food on the table was what weighed on my mind, not traveling.
According to Huff Post, the average cost of a flight to Europe from New York is $832: That doesn’t even begin to cover food, activities, and lodging. Not to mention care for my cat, and the fact that I’d still have to pay rent that month. If you looked at my savings account, you would know that it’s just not possible for me right now.
People who didn’t grow up well-off might find themselves in a similar mindset. Some fight it off and put any disposable income into traveling. For me, if I’m not using my money towards something tangible, it feels like money wasted.
We tend to shame people who choose not to travel and call them materialistic. But just because some people can save for a while and eventually afford a ticket doesn’t mean it’s possible for everyone. Some of us don’t have that money to scrape to begin with and, if we do, we use it in a different way — and that’s OK.
I never thought traveling was an option.
For those who grew up in a metropolitan city or with parents who traveled often, my resistance to travel may seem absurd. But you have to understand that, for me, traveling is not a natural thing.
No one in my immediate or extended family has ever been to Europe (besides those who were born there and don’t remember it.) Only one has been to Asia, and that was for work. Trips outside of the US were pretty unheard of in my town.
Of course, this has changed some. As I’ve gotten older, more of my friends have studied abroad and traveled on their own. Hell, my friend who didn’t step on a plane until she was 17 is now a flight attendant seeing the world.
It still blows my mind that my boyfriend often just drives to an airport and gets on a plane. It’s just not something that seems like a “normal” occurrence for someone like me.
I’ve never said I wasn’t stubborn, so it may just take a while for me to adjust to the fact that I could get on a plane right now if I wanted to. But until recently, it never even crossed my mind.
I’ve had life experiences that were just as beneficial as traveling.
So many people I know value travel experiences above anything else in life. They frequently tell me how much my life would change if I drank wine in Paris or hiked in Thailand. And maybe they’re right.
But I also think that I’ve had life experiences that have benefited me in ways people who travel to every country in the world wouldn’t get.
As a journalist, I’ve spoken to animal trainers, ghost whisperers, survivors of unimaginable violence, architects, and pop stars. I’ve been to dozens of US states, and even parts of Canada. I’ve camped high in the mountains and rested on beaches. I’ve lived next to a farm and in a high-rise. I would not call my life insignificant just because I don’t have a full passport.
I consider myself a well-rounded person, though I’m sure others would not. And as I get older and (hopefully) more financially-stable, I may also have an enviable Instagram.
But for right now, I’d like us all to stop shaming people for their informed life choices. What’s right for you, may not be right for me, and that’s OK.
And if you see someone crying from fear on a plane, maybe try offering them your hand to squeeze, rather than pointing and laughing. It may just be me.