By , May 13, 2011 6:06 pm

Somewhat recently, I read a post by Lauren at Never-Ending Footsteps titled Why Choose to Travel Long Term.  I really liked the post, because it got me thinking: why do I want to travel? It suddenly dawned on me that this seemed like something I should have already thought a great deal about. You’d think answering that question would be easy for someone who had already handed in his resignation, sold his house, and booked a one way ticket to Cancun.

Truth be told, I hadn’t given the question one iota of thought. It’s been over a year since Ashley and I decided to travel, but not a minute was wasted thinking about why. Not one.

I’ve since spent a couple of weeks rolling the idea around in my head. Thank goodness I came up with a few reasons of my own. It would have been embarrassing to realize I didn’t actually want to do it at this stage in the game.

I just want to be happy.

No surprise here, so does everyone else. Still, this is probably the biggest reason I came up with for why I want to travel. Now I wouldn’t say I’m unhappy with my life as it is now, I have a lot going for me. I’ve got a reasonably good job, I’m happily married to Ashley, I have good friends, and a good relationship with my family. I wouldn’t say I’m unhappy.

Then again, I’m not as happy as I could be.

Here’s a quick fact. When I try to think of the happiest I’ve been, I keep coming back to the month Ashley and I spent backpacking across New Zealand. Canoeing the Yukon River comes in a close second, followed by our week in Cuba, and our trip to Las Vegas last winter. There’s definitely a pattern emerging: travel and Ashley.

If I keep doing what I’m doing, I can look forward to a whopping 3 weeks of travel a year. That’s only a little under 6% of my time that I can spend doing what makes me happiest.

Kissing in Kluane

Kissing in Kluane


Where does all the time go?

Despite my generally happy life, I spend very little time doing things that I want to do. Let’s break it down.

9 hours – Work
2 hours – Commute to Work
1 hour – Eating (okay, I like eating but not when I don’t have time to cook anything decent)

Take out 8 hours for sleep, and that leave a whopping 4 hours to spend doing things that I like. Some days I’m lucky and I get to go to my Karate class, visit friends, or play board games with Ashley. Other days I waste it on the internet, watching TV, and reading a book. Either way, I’m spending 75% of my waking day doing things that don’t make me happy.

What am I looking forward to?

I like to see a steady improvement in my life. I really enjoy setting goals, and working towards them. That’s probably why I’ve started so many hobbies over the years. As much as I hate to boast, aside from the fact that I’ve never become good at any of my hobbies, I’m pretty much at the top of my game right now. Ashley and I own a house outright, we’ve completed our university education, and we’re both employed full time. I’m 28, so I can look forward to 37 more years of full time employment before I reach 65, the retirement age here in Canada.

What changes am I going to see in those 37 years? I can imagine moving into a larger house, then moving repeatedly every 5 or 10 years as I advance my career. I’ll probably start working more hours as my job expectations continue to advance, and I’ll eventually lose touch with the once held notion that there are things I enjoy doing and I could be doing them if I weren’t working so much.  All in all, not too much left to work towards except retirement.

The theory of relativity.

In super simple plain language here’s my layman’s interpretation of Einstein’s theory of relativity: The world, the universe, and everything is only as big, small, detailed, or simple as you personally can perceive. You can’t experience anything more, only guess at what more there is based on your perceptions.

What’s that mean? It means that the kid who spends his whole life locked in a closet has no idea what he’s missing out on. Sure, he can guess at what the world might be like, he knows his food comes from somewhere, but he’ll truly have no idea. Worse yet, what’s outside the closet won’t matter to him because he hasn’t experienced it and can’t comprehend what he’s missing out on.

Having been in a closet before, I know quite well that there is a heck of a lot that I’d be missing out on. The same thing applies to the world in general. I don’t know what I’ll find traveling, but I know there’s more there than I’ve experienced, and I want to make as much of it count for me as I can.

In closing.

Travel makes me happy. I’ll have 100% of my waking day to do what I want to do. I can hike, relax at the beach, or even try and get a job at my leisure. The important part is it’ll be on my terms. 37 years is a long time to spend working for someone else. Taking a break isn’t going to set me back significantly in the long term, and I’ve got a few years before I’m too old to have kids. It’s a big world out there, and I can’t wait to see it.

Ashley went through this same exorcise, you can read all about it here -> Why Ashley Wants to Travel.

8 Responses to “Why Mike Wants to Travel”

  1. megan says:

    I loved how you laid this out so scientifically – and it makes perfect sense!

    • Mike Lenzen says:

      Thanks, it made sense to me too. The only problem is, when I was finished writing it I realized what I truly wanted was a lifestyle change. It’s easy to say I don’t want to work 9 to 5, what’s harder is to say what I want the rest of my life to consist of. Travel is an easy fit right now. How long to travel for, and what to do after remains a mystery.

      Just one more thing for me to figure out on the road.

  2. Wow! Amazing that until 5 minutes ago I had no idea who you were and yet we had the same exact rationale for taking a long term trip. I even broke down the hours in the same when I started planning.

    Love what your doing. Look, there is no rule book. Many of us are fortunate enough to have opportunities. Take them! Go for it!

    We will be following your journey. All the best.

    • Mike Lenzen says:

      What’s the saying? Great minds think alike.

      Thanks for the support, and I’ll be watching to see how your breakaway comes together.

  3. Runaway Brit says:

    I can really identify with your daily breakdown. I travel for 2 hours each way to get to work so I spend 20 hours as a commuter every week.

    I find myself running through busy train stations, desperate to get the next available metro, even when the next one is only 5 minutes later. I panic when the train is late and I get angry when it’s delayed (which happens a LOT!) I spend hours standing because it’s too busy to get a seat even though my monthly commuter pass costs more than my laptop. And all this for a job which I enjoy but does not satisfy me enough to make the commute worthwhile.

    I am out of the house for 13 hours a day and when I get home I have just enough time to eat and shower before I have to go to bed again.

    Thankfully I have only a few weeks left as I came to the same decision as you – take time out to do what I love and travel!

    This comment was longer than I expected, maybe I should write a post about it!!

    Thanks for reminding me why I’m doing it 🙂

    • Mike Lenzen says:

      I encourage everyone that has a travel blog to write a post about why they want to travel. I found it a very enlightening experience.

      Looks like we’ll both be hitting up South America in September. Cheers to shirking the daily grind.

  4. Really like this post Mike, it’s come at a funny time for me as someone whose just got back from travelling and have NOT been feeling the urge to pack up and go away again…though reading this…is there a change or heart afoot? maybe it’s best if i don’t read ashley’s post… 🙂

    • Mike Lenzen says:

      I don’t know that travel is the ultimate answer for me, but it is a good fit right now. One day I’ll be settling down again just like you (probably). My only concern for that far off day is figuring out how to settle down without loosing all of the freedoms I’m craving now. Glad you enjoyed the post.

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