Travel Guilt: Is it Selfish to Travel?

Updated June 28, 2017
This post may contain affiliate links that I earn a small commission from at no cost to you. Please see my disclosure page for information.

devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’sown interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.
characterized by or manifesting concern or care only for oneself

Another close friend has announced their engagement. You’re super happy for them, but you already have that sinking feeling that you might not be there for it…

I started writing a travel blog because I wanted to help people to take chances, in the way that I had in moving abroad. I wanted people to learn from my travel mistakes and to travel and live abroad with more knowledge than I had when I started.

Dealing With travel Guilt: Are We Selfish to Travel?

Sometimes I feel guilty when I travel though.

Guilty for what I’m missing and for promoting a life to others where they might miss out too.

As someone who has lived abroad for most of my adult life, I’m acutely aware of all the things I have missed while I’ve been travelling.

The marriages of close friends.

The birth of close friends children.

Being there for my grandparents as they grow older, and even missing their funerals.

Cementing friendships and building a really solid community around me.

Most of my friends understand it might be a long time before I come home, if I ever do. But I still feel guilty sometimes when I get asked about it.  Or when another engagement or baby is announced and I know the chances of my being present for this monumental event in the life of the people I love are highly unlikely.

In a way, I fell into travel and living abroad by chance. I can barely begin to measure how travel has enriched my life. The people I have met and the experiences I’ve had are amazing and I now can’t imagine it any other way.

But sometimes I do think about how it might have been different if I stayed at home. I’m sure I would have formed stronger friendships and ties in New Zealand, maybe even a solid career, but who really knows?

Some friends I’ve met travelling have spoken of how their family and friends don’t understand their desire to see the world. How they had to try and convince them it was a good idea to take this leap to travel, and especially to living abroad. I’m lucky that’s not so much the case for me.

Dealing With travel Guilt: Are We Selfish to Travel?

So is it selfish? This pursuing our dreams?

Part of it yes. 

Ultimately you travel for yourself. People might be interested in the stories for awhile, but you keep the memories and the lessons forever.

And part of it no. 

What good would we be to our family and friends if we wanted to do something and never did? If we constantly thought about how things could be different or daydreamed about a different life, one that included travel, and never pursued it.

If travel and living abroad is something you long to do, then how can it be selfish to go after that? In the same way it’s not selfish for your family and friends to go about their lives doing what they want to do.

Travel is a privilege and one you should take advantage of if you have the desire and the means to do so. Maybe it is selfish, but it can enrich your life and in the process maybe give you the opportunity to give the benefit of that experience to others to.

Choosing to live a life of travel isn’t so different from choosing any other kind of life. Do we call people selfish for doing that? The people that really love and support you will most likely understand this, and accept your sometimes absence from their lives.

Maybe we are selfish to travel, but the ultimate goal should be an overarching ripple effect of good. Through what we might learn along the way, the ways in which we might give back, and how those things can be bigger than just us.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Mark Twain

Have you ever felt guilty for travelling? 

Sonja x

If you liked it, pin it!

Dealing with Travel Guilt: Are we Selfish to Travel?

Dealing With travel Guilt: Are We Selfish to Travel?

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Natasha June 28, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    I certainly know where you are coming from. I feel it from so many different directions. We travel with our son and I feel guilty I am taking him away from everything. I feel guilty incase it isn’t what my family really want. And guilty I am going to have the life of my dreams while my friends suffer at home. It is hard sometimes

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 29, 2017 at 1:03 pm

      It is hard to be pulled in different directions! I think it’s great you’re taking your son travelling though, and if it’s working for you at the moment then that’s the main thing. You can always change your mind. And maybe you’ll encourage your friends to travel, if that’s what they want!

  • Reply Natalie June 28, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    Life is such a meandering path…of course things would be different had you stayed, but at each turn you make a choice. In my opinion, the best thing you can do is to make the best choice at each time. The life you lead is entirely your own!

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 29, 2017 at 1:03 pm

      Very sound advice and something definitely worth remembering! You can only do what’s best at the time, and if you change your mind later that’s fine 🙂

  • Reply Emily June 28, 2017 at 11:21 pm

    I wish I’d been able to travel long enough to feel guilty about it! Seriously though, I can understand your worries. But if travel (or anything else) is really what you want to do, then I don’t think your friends and family would want you to hold back on your dreams and end up miserable. I know I wouldn’t.

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 29, 2017 at 1:05 pm

      That’s exactly how I feel about it too :). My closest friends and family understand, I think it’s more something I put on myself!

  • Reply Arnav Mathur June 29, 2017 at 10:48 am

    I dont think it’s selfish to travel. Everyone travels for a reason best known to them, and they dont need to make others understand. I understand, that at times the guilt comes in when you realize the n number of family functions you missed, but then again, as long as the family is an understanding one, there’s no reason to feel guilty for travelling.

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 29, 2017 at 1:06 pm

      Very true! I agree that we shouldn’t have to explain ourselves to others, although sometimes it feels like we do!

  • Reply James June 29, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    I understand where you are coming from in a lot of your points. I too missed a grandparents funeral as I was a million miles away. Yes, how different life would be if we had stayed in our home town, bonded with friends better, had a solid job. But like you I would never change where I have been, I will continue to travel and follow my desire.

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 30, 2017 at 9:07 am

      It’s a difficult thing, but I also thought about what they would have wanted for me, and not going after what I want probably wasn’t it!

  • Reply Iza Abao June 29, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    Travel is really a privilege. I do not think that everybody can afford to do it. You are lucky that you are exploring the world. It is a wonderful feeling to meet different nationalities, eat foods from around the world, see beautiful sunsets, and so much more. I remember the time when my grandmother died, I was not at home. I wished that I could have bought a ticket immediately and be in that moment. It was one of my regrets. We all have different choices. Your loved ones will respect and support you no matter what.

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 30, 2017 at 9:06 am

      I completely agree, it is all about privilege, and if we have the ability and want to do it, then why not get out and see the world?

  • Reply Claire Summers June 30, 2017 at 4:52 pm

    I can relate so much to this post. I have a super supportive network of friends and family. Although they mostly think I’m nuts and I’m searching for myself haha. They never give me a hard time. I’m forever grateful for them about that. But I oftent feel so guilty and privileged. But I think just having an awareness of that helps. Thank you for sharing. its good to know I’m not alone in my thoughts!

    • Reply Migrating Miss July 3, 2017 at 7:28 pm

      Haha I think some of my friends and family thought I was crazy too, but I just got married to an amazing man I met through my travels so now I think they realise this isn’t just a phase and I’m going to be away a long time yet! Having a supportive network doesn’t stop me feeling guilty at times either, but I think it’s so important to live a life that’s meaningful for us and do it to the fullest! When we’re happy, we’ll spread that happiness around :). At least I hope so!

  • Reply Kristine July 1, 2017 at 12:31 am

    I can totally relate to everything in this post and I often find myself asking the same question. Am I selfish? I guess, kind of. But at the same time, my family and friends would be just as selfish if they made me stay, just because they want me there and don’t think about what’s best for me. I think it’s healthy to be a bit selfish, to be honest.

    • Reply Migrating Miss July 3, 2017 at 7:29 pm

      I totally agree! You can always change the questions around the other way, and we do need to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves, as well!

  • Reply Yukti July 4, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    You are speaking my mind in this article. Sometimes I also feel myself selfish but on other hand I think that I want to know many other people, different georgraphies and culture. I make friends with new people. Also travelling clear my myths about many places and become open minded.

    • Reply Migrating Miss July 4, 2017 at 9:04 pm

      Thanks! I think the opportunity to meet so many different people is amazing!

    Leave a Reply