How a Year of Travel Can Change Your Life

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Does travel make you happier?

I’m writing this on day 367 in San Pedro de Atacama Chile. I left my old life behind just over one year ago.

Sometimes this blog feels like such a big part of my life that the comments really affect me. In my survey one responder said I appeared damaged; I was taken aback by the comment but then I realized it was true – but not as you may think.

Nothing dramatic happened. No one harmed me. In fact it was practically the opposite.  My life was easy. I was neither challenged nor inspired. I became indifferent, stagnant and bored.

I was treading water.

Preferring to sink or swim I escaped to Latin America.  This year has been the most emotional, stressful, joyful, agonizing, rewarding, perfect, disastrous…you get the idea.

Throwing myself into this situation forced me to take a good look at myself and answer tough questions like: who am I? what do I really want in life?

Through travel I was able to take a look at my life and arrive at a point where I’m excited to get up in the morning. This year I have learned new things, pushed myself, succeed AND failed.

I found my spark

I don’t think everyone needs to run off to Latin America. I could have learned all of these lessons at home. But I was afraid. Afraid to make even the smallest change in life, to stray from success, for my friends and family to see me fail.

So instead of making small changes toward real happiness I decided to throw all the cards in the air and play 52 pick up.

It was terrifying and liberating. The fear lessened when I started writing about it, letting the whole world see me and all my imperfections. I shared all of the things that petrify me because I wanted you to know you are not alone.

We are all self-conscious and unsure.

No one knows what they are doing with their life.

If we all talked about this we would feel far less lonely.

We wouldn’t have to pretend that everything is fine.

Everything isn’t always fine.

A year ago I wondered what was wrong with me. Why did I need to travel? Why couldn’t I be content like everyone else.

But we are all searching for the same thing, pretending that we already have it, we all want to be happy, to love and to be loved.


We all want joy.


It took me a while to find it but after a year I can say that I found it. If you’re wondering does travel make you happier, in this case the answer would be yes.







Join the Conversation

  1. am really happy for you. i hope you find more joy in your travels

  2. So happy you found joy in life, Ayngelina! Even though I’ve always had a joyful personality, my struggle was that for most of my life, I’ve been afraid to live out my dreams and live out my potential — until I started long-term traveling and living abroad. You’re right; it is terrifying and liberating at the same time.

  3. Ayngelina, happy that you found it. I can’t wait to find it as well.

  4. One of my favourite posts from you was the one about deciding NOT to hike Machu Picchu. It showed you weren’t trying to prove anything to anyone but yourself. I’m glad you made the leap and are not afraid of the consequences.

  5. Thank you for this. πŸ™‚ I was just wiping tears off my face after a good cry when I saw your post. It was just what I needed. Thank you for reminding me I’m not alone. πŸ™‚

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I’ve sensed it in your posts as well. You are far from being alone.

  6. Ain’t that the truth!

  7. Mikeachim says:

    Yup. πŸ™‚

    “We are all self-conscious and unsure” is the biggie for me.

    When you’re lodged inside a comfort zone, it’s easy to feel more confident than you actually are, to lose that self-reflection that keeps us honest to ourselves. It’s not a bad thing, being comfortable, but it does lull you. You lose your fire and your fear.

    And fire and fear are what keep us grounded in the present.

    Disappointments, failures, mistakes and embarrassments: they’re medals, awarded for feats of great valour and self-development. And going travelling is a great way to get promoted. πŸ˜‰

    1. Lindsay aka @_thetraveller_ says:

      Don’t be self conscious Mike you are awesomesauce!

    2. Ayngelina Author says:

      We spend far too much time pretending that we are happy and have everything under control and even more time hoping other people realize we don’t.

  8. Lily (Explore for a Year) says:

    Hi Ayngelina,

    I know what you mean about many lessons learned can be learned at home, but going to a foreign place does help by liberating you from the pressures and expectations from your “normal” surroundings, often which is what causes the confusion in the first place.

    Great beautiful and poetic post.

    – Lily

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Thanks Lily, sometimes you need to have life shaken up to realize how you want to piece it back together. For people who don’t want to travel but feel this sense of restlessness I think they can still find what they want.

  9. I strongly believe that extraordinary people can’t live ordinary lives, so I’m not surprised that you needed this major change in your life to find happiness. So glad you’ve found it.

  10. I’m so happy for you, Ayngelina. Having read your blog posts from a year ago to now, the journey you’ve been on is really inspiring.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It’s funny how far you come without even realizing it.

  11. I think we are all ‘damaged’ in some aspect of our lives. We spend our lives trying to be happy and fulfilled. Some get married and kids, others focus on their career and you travel. There is no one right way…it’s your way.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      True damaged really just means experienced.

  12. THANK YOU for writing this.

  13. kara rane says:

    it was always Inside YOU.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Kara so true, travel simply allowed me to find it.

  14. Lindsay aka @_thetraveller_ says:

    I want to know what gives you joy. I now have a glimpse into your world from many of the most recent posts. Which explain, that you are human like everyone else. And it was amazing to see how brave and strong you have been. Because we can all relate. And it turns out your not a robot, which I was slightly concerned about. But tell us the things, experiences…. those minor moments that have played a role in making you smile, laugh, lack doubt in your choices and so on. DO DO DO it I say…

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It’s letting go of all the expectations and just allowing yourself to enjoy, rather than wonder what’s coming next.

      1. Hi Ayngelina & Lindsay, my first comment on your site.

        Could you maybe elaborate on this response, maybe in one of your next posts?

        I think we’re all asking ‘so what’s the magical answer’…

        Thank you

        1. Ayngelina Author says:

          There is no magical answer, it’s different for everyone. For me with travel gave me the distance to see that I didn’t really want to go back to my old life, and the strength to walk away from it.

  15. I am glad to know I’m not the only person who has experienced every possible emotion picking up and going off to travel alone for a year.

    When I left, I specifically told myself, “I am not going off on a grand quest to figure out who I am and what I want in life.” But I think when you change your environment and lifestyle so dramatically, those questions naturally come up. Maybe I will start to find some answers like you have.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I did put pressure on myself to figure out what I wanted but after six months I grew impatient that I still had no idea. Once I let it go things started making much more sense.

  16. You write what we feel. Once again, brilliant!

  17. superxicana says:

    You are right, we are not alone!

    “A year ago I wondered what was wrong with me. Why did I need to travel? Why couldn’t I be content like everyone else”…Girl, that is exactly how I felt before I started traveling!!!

    Today I would not take back one single minute of everything I have experienced in the past 10 months =)

    I am so thankful to know of other women like you out in the world who know exactly what I’m talking about πŸ˜‰

    Write on sister!!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I think about all the hours I wasted wondering what was wrong with me when it was really nothing at all.

  18. Erin in Costa Rica says:

    lol 52 pickup! That brings back memories from childhood πŸ™‚
    I can totally sympathize with you – I’ve been working through some crazy stuff this year. I also find getting up in the morning to be magically much easier when I’m on the road or at least appreciating life more because of travel. Glad you found your spark!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Thanks so much Erin, some days are easier than others, and luckily I haven’t had to deal with giant spiders in the shower πŸ™‚

  19. Debbie Beardsley says:

    This is a very inspirational post and I hope it inspires some people to do the same. Sometimes it is necessary to pull yourself out of your “normal” life to be able to change. We seem to fall right back into the same comfortable areas when we are “home”. So glad to hear your year has been a success and am looking forward to reading about your next step.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It’s a work in progress but I can already see how far I’ve come.

  20. Can I just reemphasize these five great lines?
    “We are all self-conscious and unsure. No one knows what they are doing with their life.If we all talked about this we would feel far less lonely.We wouldn’t have to pretend that everything is fine. Everything isn’t always fine.”
    Thank you for letting us know we are not alone. πŸ™‚

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Thanks Michi, if we were all more honest I think we’d feel less alone.

  21. You’re so right. What most of us want is joy, but so many settle for simply absence of pain, or at least a level of pain with which they can cope.

    Obviously, you have found out in the last year that you weren’t “odd” for wanting to travel, and you’ve met (literally or online) so many kindred spirits, who’ve helped prove that to you.

    Just a word of warning. Now that you have this knowledge don’t let it go. I’ve been surprised at the number of people I’ve known over the years (and before it became so trendy) who have done RWTs or gone to live abroad for a year, and gone back to the same old, same old. Not that there is ANYTHING wrong with going back and settling down, or settling down elsewhere, if that’s the right thing, but the people I’m thinking of, have kind of let the experience be their “shining moment” in life, and simply live off their stories now, and, are not happy. I doubt you’ll do that, and I know you have immediate plans, but I definitely have a sense that there is a whole lot more traveling you have to do yet!

    Lots and lots of luck with it!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      So many people feel odd for feeling the pull of travel but once out on the road you meet all the other people who felt the same way.

      I’m not sure when I’ll come home but I hope I don’t lose what I have learned.

  22. You summed up everything I am feeling right now perfectly in this post. I am traveling by myself for the first time next month for two weeks and am looking forward to some me time to write, reflect and explore Stockholm and Copenhagen. Good luck to you!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I really enjoy the time alone, especially the travel days where all there is to do is look out the bus window and let your mind wander.

  23. Pingback: The Weekend Escape: Self-discovery on the road « AnywhereAndHere
  24. ‘No one knows what they are doing with their life.’ I find these words very comforting. Even though we will be traveling until July, we couldn’t help but wonder, what’s next? What are we gonna do with our lives. I think we’ll know in time. This really helps Ayngelina.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I know I felt that pressure in the beginning and when the answer didn’t come to me I just let it go.

  25. Happy is such a difficult word to understand

    But, I personally experienced how liberating it is not to be in your hometown. Mine is about moving, not travelling, but I guess the same happens.

    Nobody knows you. You are able to reinvent yourself, and you don’t feel the social pressure, you don’t have to feel so self-conscious.
    That is something I am really greatfull of: it’s easier to deal with the social pressure, you don’t feel it the way you felt it in your country, and you have an excuse ‘so I don’t do it your way, well, I’m european’ (and the same way counts when I’m back in Europe, what do you want… I’ve lived so many years in south america)

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I think one of the easier things is that Toronto is not my hometown so while I left my friends and work, I had left my family and childhood friends ten years before. One less thing to deal with when I wanted to leave to travel.

  26. Very inspirational Ayngelina! I want to travel almost as a way of hitting the reset button on life too. It is easier to do so when not boxed in by the already formed expectations of others.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I really like your idea of hitting the reset button, it explains it so perfectly.

  27. Raymond says:

    Seeing that “being damaged” comment must’ve stung like the bejesus. Damage is not all bad though. Sometimes it’s a catalyst that leads to detox, mending your ways, and coming back stronger than before.

    Kinda like your liver. πŸ™‚

  28. Laur @ The Mad To Live says:

    You know what? After my 1 year living in China I can honestly say that I was so much happier… still maybe had some of the same issues I’m tackling to day and learning lessons and facing challenges, but the way travel makes you grow, and find yourself, and realize that spark… how can you not be happier!?

    For me, I want Everyone to travel and Everyone to start a blog haha. Both these things have brought so much happiness to my life.

    But you’re right… none of us know what the f*ck we’re doing… we’re all just trying our best πŸ™‚ And I think you’ve done pretty damn good woman!

  29. Leslie (Downtown Traveler) says:

    Awesome! Glad that you found happiness. Some people are homebodies and some crave adventure. To each her own! We all have to do what’s best for us in this life. “Damaged” seems way harsh!

  30. Just want to say Thank you for being honest and brave enough to share the journey you’ve been on. The good, the bad and the ugly – all of it is helping to make you into the great person you’ve always been meant to be. Glad you’ve found happiness – it’s inspiriing to see someone go after their dream, instead of just waiting for it to come to them someday.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Thanks so much Alouise, it’s been a year of drastics highs and lows and I couldn’t imagine my life without sharing it all on this blog.

  31. Federico says:

    Isn’t it odd how travling, or leaving your comfort zone, makes you find something that was always with you yet never realized? Yourself! Very good writing in this post, a lot of feelings in it …

  32. Rob Bloggeries says:

    Are you just chilling?

    I find that if you had a full life back home, just hanging out in a foreign city is depressing.

    If you had not much on the go, it’s probably not a lot different than before you left.

    Being on the road is fun, just hanging out and doing “web work” in some cheap city in a 3rd / developing country is when you ask yourself…

    WTF am I doing with my life.

    Nice work, best of luck.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I had a really full life back home. Here I’m no longer just chillin but actually working on things.

      I just moved into an apartment in Buenos Aires to work on my blog and a few other projects and have been meeting up with people who live here. I had to get out of the hostel and find some structure.

  33. Ayngelina Author says:

    I had a really full life back home. Here I’m no longer just chillin but actually working on things.

    I just moved into an apartment in Buenos Aires to work on my blog and a few other projects and have been meeting up with people who live here. I had to get out of the hostel and find some structure.

  34. Norbert says:

    I’m really glad you found happiness on the road. It’s true what you say, we all experience stagnation and loneliness at some point in our life, so it is not abnormal to do things like you did… to leave everything behind and test the unknown waters. Kudos for achieving so much in your life! πŸ™‚

  35. Roy | cruisesurfingz says:

    Absolutely agree. We all want to love and to be loved.

    Congrats on finding joy. I think I left mine in my other pants! πŸ˜›

  36. Jeremy B says:

    Your most profound statement – we all want to be happy, to love, and to be loved. The former isn’t always possible, the last two are essential.

  37. so happy for you ayngelina… glad you found your spark…

  38. Such a beautiful post! I love the way you sum your thoughts up so profound and yet so easy to relate to! Traveling makes you see how much bigger the world is. I feel as though we get in our little comfort zones and think that this is all there is to the world, when in reality there is SO much more! Thanks for sharing, I look forward to the coming adventures you face!

  39. Nomadic Chick says:

    I agree with many others here. It was always in you. While living your full life in TO, it sounds like you needed to know who you are outside of that world.

    It’s funny when you find something out about yourself, something magical.

    You know you can’t ever let it go again.

    Travel did that for you and I”m glad!

    Congrats on finding it. πŸ™‚

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Agreed it was always there but either too busy or too afraid to see it. Leaving to travel is like unraveling an onion, so raw at times but totally worth it.

  40. Sarah Wu says:

    It’s true, everything isn’t always fine but we all want happiness. Not only you were afraid, I think I’m afraid sometime too. Thanks for sharing your deepest thoughts with us.

  41. I don’t necessarily agree with the damaged comment, but I will say this-I have been reading your blog since just about the beginning and you are certainly different from then to now. A good different though-and if you weren’t different, that would be worrisome. You didn’t seem sure of yourself when you started, and now that clarity is really coming through in your writing.

  42. Another wonderful post, and I agree with many of the other comments. Travel opens you up to all kinds of ideas, adventures and realizations. This “damage” you’re referring to can make it extremely difficult to readjust to the “real world” and your post brings me back to my (embarassingly long forgotten) blog and a similar moment of realization:

    Each of your experiences provides a smile of nostalgia. I look forward to your continued adventures!

  43. I’m very glad to hear that I am not alone in not knowing what I’m doing with my life. I tend to be quite honest about this with people but rarely meet others who say they feel the same way. So thanks for that! =)

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      One of the great things about being on the road, you realize so many people have no idea and have no problem admitting that.

  44. Justin Hamlin says:

    So happy that you found your place and your happiness.

  45. Fifteen Blocks Out says:

    Your blog is beautiful, full of joy and sadness. Life really isn’t supposed to be full of doubts and hurdles, we all have a place. Sometimes you have to experiment, seek and journey to get to your own. You will find yours and may you have many many moments of joy getting to it.

  46. Bluegreen Kirk says:

    What you mention is true to so many, as we are afraid to do things because of what the people around us may think. Yet we are willing to move to another country and we are truly able to be ourselves and grow. Though this is something we could have accomplished at home. Everyone does just want to be happy.

  47. sandra in south america says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. It takes a lot of courage to be so open about your life and experiences. I am so happy I came across your blog. I found it on nomadicmatt blog.
    You are doing what many women are afraid to do.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Thanks so much for the kind note. It seems that so many women are afraid but once I reached Central America I realized so many were doing it. It just goes to show we need to surround ourselves with people who will support us and push us in the right direction. If they aren’t in our immediate area sometimes that means going online.

      I’m glad you found me.

  48. Ian [EagerExistence] says:

    I recently CouchSurfed in Greece with a Psychology major. After many late night deep & meaningful conversations, usually over some Ouzo, she told me that I was a bit messed up, and using travel to run away from my issues; that I should go home to get to the root of my problems and find happiness. I wouldnt say Im unhappy, and Im loving every minute of travelling, but I know the issues will still be there when I return home.. so in that respect she was right. Stuff it, Im still not going home =D

    Im glad you found Joy.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I think she’s right in some ways. I did have things to work out when I left but doesn’t everyone… at least on the road you proactively contemplate issues and think about things you avoid at home.

      Perhaps I could have figured it out in Canada but I didn’t.

  49. I hadn’t read this one before. Just found it through Twitter. It’s a beautiful post. Thank you for your honesty. I have been thinking a lot recently about why I wanted to leave and what I’m doing. When I stopped stressing about what had been, or what might be, and started to wake up to what was – to essentially be mindful – it started to become a little clearer. That’s not to say its a journey without its ups and downs. It’s always great to hear that others are going through similar things. Thanks ayngelina.

  50. “My life was easy. I was neither challenged nor inspired. I became indifferent, stagnant and bored.”

    That part hit home with me. It’s the way I’m feeling now, and I just so happen to be planning to take off for Long Term Travel. It’s scary though, I’ve been thinking of it for three years and might finally just do it.

  51. Lauren Rains says:

    Hey Aygn,

    Dang girl, I’m right where you were 1 year ago. I leave for Guatemala in March. One way ticket. It’ll mark what I am loosely calling a 2 year block of travel.

    I’ve tried so hard to settle down. I’ve looked at friends around me having a great time at Happy Hour here in San Francicso where I am now. But I am completely disengaged. I’m thinking about where I want to explore, who I am, what I could learn, where my curiousity could take me. I’m so bored at those happy hours routines.

    I’m about to get very, very lost. In a really good way. My first time traveling solo. My first time doing something completely and utterly for myself. My first time throwing all 52 cards up in the air.

    I feel so many things. But I have never been so excited and curious to see where the wind will take me.

    Cheers girl! Thanks for putting it all out there. Reminding the rest of us we aren’t alone in this madness helps wonders when I’m at those happy hours surrounded by people that supposedly have it all figured it out, at least on the outside.

    – Laur

  52. Reshma Narasing says:

    So true that travel changes so much in you, especially when you are away from home for so long! I can totally resonate with many of your emotions!

  53. Natasha | Meldrums On The Move says:

    I really enjoyed this. We are leaving for almost a year with our son in a couple months and its so scary. But we know it is the right thing and will do us wonders

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