Is Travel, Lifestyle Design A Selfish Pursuit?

Travel is just lost on some people, Christine at Almost Fearless has two of my favorite posts about people like this in Escapism: the Dirty Word that Keeps Us Doing What We Loathe and Why You Living Abroad Annoys Some People. Two short but excellent posts that sum up our feelings to these attitudes. “…to […]

Saturday September 19 2009


Travel is just lost on some people, Christine at Almost Fearless has two of my favorite posts about people like this in Escapism: the Dirty Word that Keeps Us Doing What We Loathe and Why You Living Abroad Annoys Some People. Two short but excellent posts that sum up our feelings to these attitudes.

“…to them the rules have been set. This is a zero sum game. If you decide to not play the game at all, you’ve lost.”

Christine points out the distinctions between thinking about it and doing it. In an oxford dictionary way this is correct but to those who have been lead to believe their life must consist of climbing a career ladder and having a family for them to find happiness, there is no distinction. Somehow choosing a different path equated to being selfish.

Thankfully there aren’t too many who take a hard line on this, often it is those closest to you who frown a little when they hear of your unconventional path, most of the time though it is out of misguided concern for you than of actual disapproval.

Of the colleagues I’ve told of my plans I’ve seen a very positive response, in fact all of them so far have expressed their desire to do something similar but of course cite money, children, etc as things holding them back.

There is only one person keeping score in life, while we should all show respect for others the most important person we need to respect is ourselves. Maybe we have to be a little selfish in life to achieve our goals, I’d rather be a little selfish and enjoy my life than be overly selfless and resent it. Anyway is not letting things and people tie you down really worse than chasing a bigger house, better car and a new flat screen TV? The problem is often with incorrectly defining what being selfish is…

It is selfish when:

  • We expect others to give themselves up for us.
  • We make others responsible for our feelings of pain and joy.
  • We get angry at others for doing what they want to do rather than doing what we want them to do.
  • We consistently make our own feelings, wants, needs and desires important without also considering others feelings, wants, needs and desires.

It’s not selfish when:

  • We take care of our own feeling, wants, desires and needs rather than expecting others to take care of us.
  • We support others in doing what brings them joy, even when they are not doing what we want them to do.
  • We have the courage to speak our truth about what we will or will not do, and what we do or do not feel, rather than give ourselves up to avoid criticism, anger or rejection.

Who is selfish now, eh?

This idea of being grounded doesn’t work for everyone, we live in a very individualistic world but when is comes to certain values that have been held for the past few centuries the individualist way doesn’t fit in. We are expected to compromise and if we don’t we are just being selfish. Almost everything we do in life will require some compromise but we should not over compromise on how we live our lives and pursue our goals.

For an increasing number of people, grounded is just another way of saying “tied down”. People get offended when they get the idea in their head that you think you know something about life that they don’t, regardless of whether you actually do or not they would rather get offended than question their own ideas. Their opinion is that you are running away from something or shirking a responsibility to society that they believe everyone has and must meet it in a certain way. That way is often the “grounded” life plan we’ve all be pointed down.


On the other hand Kirsty the part we do contributing to the societies we visit may be able to make a more beneficial impact than at home, we could potentially also make a much worse one too, hopefully if we are aware of the possibilities we’ll be intelligent enough to see what our impact is.

DanOctober 5, 2009

I’ve wrestled with this question a bit in the past but it doesn’t really bug me anymore. Sure, I might not be contributing to society by having my 2 kids and buying a house and filling it with crap, but what one person calls responsible behaviour, another wouldn’t. My life doesn’t fit into what society expects, but I feel perfectly happy that I am still contributing to the great good in different ways than spending money and raising families.

KirstyOctober 4, 2009

Why should we be constantly asking ourselves if what we want to do is selfish? Presumably we will be most fulfilled AND effective when we do what we are uniquely passionate about and qualified to do.

Creative EvolutionSeptember 24, 2009

Dan, fantastic post. This is just what I needed right now to help frame an issue I’ve been having with someone lately. Your definition of selfishness helps my position, so I love it. Making someone feel guilty for following their own dreams and pursuing happiness is just selfish. Thanks for helping me not let it get me down.

Corbett BarrSeptember 23, 2009

Glad you enjoyed it guys.

@Diggy I’ll email you about the sharing buttons.

DanSeptember 22, 2009

Hey Dan!

Awesome post! I agree that following your own dreams and desires is not selfish. You only live once, and if you live your life to please others, you will look back one day thinking “what If”.



Ps, I love your sharing buttons, they look so cool! Is it a plugin?

Diggy - Upgradereality.comSeptember 22, 2009

Hey Dan—

I remember when I quit my 9-5 and people were criticizing and thinking I was crazy. They all had horrible priorities and did not see the big picture. They just coasted through life debt in hand. I think influencing others decision down a good path is okay, but like you stated, judging and forcing is never a good way of being influential.

Great post I will share with my readers!


Dave - LifeExcursionSeptember 22, 2009

Absolutely! If there is one thing I’ve learned from traveling it is that people look for and want instant gratification in everything they do. We all do it but some of us are capable looking beyond what we can do for ourselves immediately and see the bigger payoffs later on. It’s the same sort of thing whether in business or in life in general, we have to look at the big picture but to benefit from it we also have to position ourselves to take advantage.

I hope that makes sense, it sounds a little disjointed even in my own head. Thanks for the comments guys.

DanSeptember 21, 2009


A great article. I agree with your points and find your distinction between selfish and not selfish awesome and realistic. The second bullet under selfish I find especially selfish and cruel. Find your stable base then go and help others find their own stable base!

Tyler McCanSeptember 21, 2009

This is something I’ve been going back and forth on, too. I’ve had a similar experience, where people want to hear all about what I’m up to, but certain aspects of the project or my lifestyle make some people cringe, drop their jaws in indignant shock, or just slowly nod their head back and forth as they murmur something about ‘responsibility.’

The way I see it, I’m taking responsibility for myself first and foremost. Anyone who doesn’t cover this important base as a primary function of their lifestyle is doing themselves and those around them an injustice (because otherwise it’s left to their friends and family and government to carry their weight).

It’s like they say, ‘Better me, better world.’ The more I’m able to do what I love doing, the more others around me have slowly (or in some cases, very quickly!) moved toward their own happiness, seeing that it can be done. Not only that, but the happier and more successful I am, the more I’m able to influence things in the world that I’m passionate about (for example, I have a long-term goal of completely scrapping and changing the education system in the United States). In this way,

I suppose my actions and goals are selfish because I have very specific ideas about how things should be and I move toward those ideas. I listen to others opinions and integrate them into my own, but at the end of the day I’m not fighting for my best friend’s point of view or my little brother’s opinion of how health care should function. Nor, I think, should I. That’s their battle to fight, not mine, and I think that selfishness in this light is used as a dirty word and probably shouldn’t be.

Great post. Lots to think about here.

Colin WrightSeptember 21, 2009

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