How to Feel Travelly When You Can’t Actually Travel

November 9, 2014


Last weekend someone on the Facebook asked me why I don’t travel overseas anymore.

I’d been waiting for that.

Frankly, I’m surprised it took you all so long.

I mean, seriously, you guys, I’ve been back in the States for over two years now, and I haven’t been outside of the country since then, aside from a handful of trips to Canada.

I haven’t had to order anything off a menu that I can’t read. I haven’t had to use hand gestures to get myself to a train station or the bathroom. And I’m not entirely sure where my passport is at the moment.

I also don’t have any plans to be going overseas anytime soon.

My reasons for not traveling overseas are pretty mundane and boring and probably like a lot of people’s reasons for not traveling overseas.

Like money. Or lack thereof.

And I say this as someone who spent two months living on a Malaysian rice farm just so I could get free room and board. I know international travel doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg as long as you’re willing to rough it a bit, and, you know, maybe weed a few rice paddies in the process.

See! Traveling can be cheap! And really, really muddy.

See! Traveling can be cheap! And really, really muddy.

But, at the same time, traveling overseas does cost some money. And I don’t have a whole lot of that at the moment. My teacher salary basically pays for my rent and my groceries and my car insurance and the occasional trip to Target, during which I accidentally BUY ALL THE THINGS.

And that’s about it.

Sure, I could get a second job, and get rid of my car, and move in with a roommate, and eat ramen noodles, and never, ever go into Target again, and sell my platelets, and make crystal meth in my bathtub, and take up playing the banjo on the street corner for tips, all so I could pay off my bills faster and bulk up my savings and quit my job and travel around the world.

But, gosh golly, that sounds exhausting.

Plus, I’ve done that before. A few times, actually.

And, well, I’m trying this new thing where I actually stay in one place for a bit and have a career and a cat and more than one pair of shoes.

This is not to say that I don’t miss traveling and living overseas. Or that I have no intention of doing it ever again.

It’s just that I’m focusing on a few other things at the moment.

And one of those things happens to be paying off my credit card. But it’s really kind of hard to pay off your credit card if you keep on using said credit card to buy international plane tickets. (And, telling yourself “You deserve it!” and “You only live once!” and “Think of all the blog posts you’ll write!” and “You can pay off your credit card when you’re dead!” don’t exactly help pay off your credit card either. Trust me. I’ve tried that method. It doesn’t work.)

But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my past two years of being America-bound, it’s that you don’t have to actually travel to feel travelly. (Totally a word.)

So how can you feel like you’re traveling without actually traveling?

I’ve got you covered.

How to Feel Travelly When You Can’t Actually Travel

1. Hang out with international people.


One fun thing about teaching English to international students is that I get to hang out with foreign people every day. And they have to hang out with me or I’ll fail them.

I learn all kinds of fun foreign things from my students. Just this week, I learned a variety of gestures from my Saudi students, including the gesture parents make to their children which means, more or less, “When we get home, you’re pretty much dead.” I learned how to say “the cat is purring” in Japanese. (And then promptly forgot it.) And I learned that Iraqi sweets taste like fried butter. (Not that I have a problem with this.)

Being surrounded by foreign people everyday makes me feel almost like I’m in a foreign country. But a foreign country where I can make everyone speak English with me or I’ll fail them. Which is like the best foreign country EVER.

2. Try new foods.


My favorite thing about living overseas was going to the grocery store and buying random foods just so I could try them.

Like, glutinous rice balls (addictive) and lemon-flavored Pringles (odd but addictive) and black sesame breakfast paste (just odd).

While being able to read the food labels in the States takes some of the fun out of grocery shopping, every time I go to the store, I try to buy at least one new food thing I’ve either never eaten before or never cooked before.

In the last year, I’ve experimented with brussel sprouts (yum), kale (meh), parsnips (mostly because I like the word “parsnips”) and quinoa  (like it, but still don’t know how to pronounce it).  And I’ve made a whole bunch of other foods — from pie to chicken and dumplings — that I never imagined I would ever make. Mostly because they required me to dirty more than one dish, which is usually something I try to avoid doing when I cook.

3. Surround yourself with your souvenirs.


One fun thing about living in an apartment and, not, say, out of a backpack, is that you can nail any old thing on to the wall that you want. (I hear they frown on that in hotels.)

Which means my walls are covered in beaded belts from Brazil and Buddha prints from Thailand and fabric wall-hangings from Japan. When I’m feeling a bit too boring and un-travelly, I can just look around my apartment  at all my accumulated souvenirs and remember all my fun travel times.

Like that time I dragged that brass tea table and a rotting goat skin lamp all the way from Morocco to Spain then Portugal, and ended up smelling like a rotting goat myself in the process.

Come to think of it, that wasn’t such a fun travel time for me.

4. Explore where you live.


I’m pretty much the laziest person alive and would gladly spend all my days in pajama pants, watching endless episodes of Scandal and pretending in my head that I’m Olivia Pope.

But I do try to get out of the house at least once a week and go to some place or event in my town that I haven’t been to before — whether it’s an art festival or a poetry reading or a cemetery tour or a nature preserve.

And then, after I do that, I spend the rest of my week, sitting on my couch, eating popcorn and wine for dinner BECAUSE EXPLORING IS EXHAUSTING AND I’M OLIVIA POPE GOSHDARNIT.

5. Travel.


Okay, I realize this one is kind of cheaty. (Also a word.)

But, you guys, I can’t just NOT travel. That would just make me miserable and probably make my brain explode.

While my lack of moneys has meant I’ve had to limit most of my trips to day trips or weekend trips within Michigan, I’ve still been able to take some pretty awesome trips.

Like, that time I almost died hiking Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Okay, so that wasn’t so awesome. But there was that time I went to Mackinac Island and forced my friends to do a whole bunch of things they didn’t want to do. That was pretty awesome.

And I have some pretty awesome trips coming up. (Spoiler alert: I booked a yurt. A YURT!)

So, yeah, my life may not be as exotic and international as it once was, but it’s still pretty travelly (still totally a word).


How do you feel travelly when you can’t travel?

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I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On November 9, 2014 at 2:03 pm Jenni @ Traveler for Good said:

    Why can’t some anonymous benefactor just rain travel money on me? I’m starting to plot 2015 and I have all these great ideas, but do I have the budget to back them up? Not sure yet. So instead, today, I will continue on item #4, explore where you live. If I get myself out the door, I can go zipline for the trees today. If I can’t zipline for charity, who can I zipline for?
    Jenni @ Traveler for Good recently posted..It Feels Like Fall: The Waihou Spring Trail, Maui

    • On November 9, 2014 at 2:18 pm Sally said:

      When you find your anonymous benefactor to rain travel money on you, please make sure he/she has enough money to rain money on me, too!
      Also, enjoy ziplining for the trees. Sounds fun! And terrifying!

  2. On November 9, 2014 at 2:48 pm Paper Boat Sailor said:

    Roommates are a drag. They eat all my ramen. Maybe I’ll stock up on crystal meth instead.

    But yeah, I give my town a shot every now and then to feel travelly when I can’t really travel. And I’m not sure how the walls in my room are still standing after all the souvenirs I’ve nailed on them.
    Paper Boat Sailor recently posted..Return to Jaffna: Notes from a Post-war Town

  3. On November 9, 2014 at 3:36 pm Olivia said:

    Is that a photo of a pasty? Growing up in Michigan we would eat these all the time. I miss them.

    • On November 9, 2014 at 4:49 pm Sally said:

      Yes, it is! So glad someone got my pasty reference! That was definitely a new food for me in Michigan. And I still have no idea how to pronounce it. (I know it’s not pronounced like the things strippers stick on their boobs… but how IS it pronounced?)

  4. On November 9, 2014 at 4:03 pm zoe said:

    If “travelly” isn’t a word, I don’t want to speak English any more.
    zoe recently posted..That time I accidentally moved abroad

  5. On November 9, 2014 at 7:31 pm ChinaMatt said:

    While I was bored and living back home I took plenty of day trips. Fortunately, having NYC next door helped a lot. It took me 3 years after moving back from China to take an international trip again. Even now that I’m in Tokyo I spend a lot of time at home writing.
    ChinaMatt recently posted..Conversation at a Cambodian Girl Bar

    • On November 9, 2014 at 7:47 pm Sally said:

      I actually find that I probably get out more in the States than I did living overseas — especially more than I did living in China. I don’t know if this is because I have a car and it’s easier to get around. Or because in China I often just felt really exhausted from the crowds, so I’d spend a lot of time in my apartment watching Hulu and just decompressing. It probably also didn’t help that I had Hulu.

  6. On November 10, 2014 at 12:59 am Ceri said:

    I feel travelly by obsessing over where to go during my summer and winter vacations. I’ve become such a lazy, slow traveller lately. If I’m working and school’s on, I literally go from office to the classroom to my office to my home (*cough*bed/couch), and I’m liking it that way right now. 😀
    Ceri recently posted..Bucket List Item #18 – Visit North Korea

    • On November 11, 2014 at 9:05 pm Sally said:

      I hear ya! Teaching can be so physical and exhausting that when I’m not teaching I’m crashed somewhere. Even on the weekends, I feel like I need one day just to hide in my house and decompress. (And by “decompress” I mean “wear pajamas and drink wine.”)

  7. On November 10, 2014 at 9:51 am Tom @ Waegook Tom said:

    Travelly is totally a word and don’t you listen to anyone that tries to tell you otherwise.

    And yes to having international students, and forcing them to speak English to you. Today one of my junior high kids got to hear about how woefully awful I was at science in school. And then he tried to teach me chemistry. I’m not sure where I’m going with this comment so I’ll just stop, and say that I’m looking forward to an OMG-YOU-GUYS-I-SURVIVED-IN-A-YURT-IN-MICHIGAN-IN-DECEMBER post in the not-too-distant future.
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..I Have Stuff

  8. On November 11, 2014 at 4:50 pm Alisa said:

    This post made me smile. I’ve been feeling the travel bug for months now, but haven’t been able to go anywhere far away. I’ve done a couple of short trips, but it isn’t the same. Especially since I was supposed to be teaching in Korea right now.
    Reading your post about how to feel travelly gave me some great ideas to feel less home-bound. 🙂 Thanks!

  9. On November 11, 2014 at 8:12 pm Pleddie said:

    Teachers are my heroes! They don’t get paid enough or receive enough respected. I think every student should pay 0.1% (1,000th) of their income, each year, to every teacher they ever had, AND every parent and politician should be required to teach in a classroom for one year.

    I didn’t have that problem on my first trip to China, BUT, what gestures would a woman use to indicate they needed to find a bathroom? Makes you think, doesn’t it?

    I fully support dying with a large outstanding balance on my credit card and owing back income taxes.

    When my wife and I considered traveling to a foreign country, we always seemed to find some place we rather see in the US, like our National Parks and Monuments.

    After two years in China, you traveled all the way back to Michigan to stay in a Yurt???

    • On November 11, 2014 at 9:02 pm Sally said:

      Ha ha, I know, right? I really wanted to go to Mongolia and stay in a yurt when I was in China, but never had the chance. So now’s my chance, I guess! Probably going to be a bit different than a Mongolian yurt experience, but I’m excited!

  10. On November 11, 2014 at 11:28 pm becky hutner said:

    there was a period in my life when i couldn’t travel as much as i wanted to, but made up for it by living in a house full of rotating internationals from places like chile & finland. i even married one of said internationals (from southwest england) so i guess i made out ok???
    becky hutner recently posted..INSTAWORLD: Halloween Edition.

  11. On November 13, 2014 at 6:55 am Stacey @ OneTavelsFar said:

    I hear you! Living as an expat and constantly traveling can be exhausting, and I often think back to the times when I owned more than one pair of shoes. Awesome post, and good tips! It’s good to see you’re still kinda traveling. What was the gesture by the way? I’m intrigued…
    Stacey @ OneTavelsFar recently posted..Why I have no Sympathy for Tourists Mauled by Tigers in Thailand

  12. On November 14, 2014 at 3:43 pm Coral said:

    I have been home for over 2 years, am I still travelling, yeah! Lots of small trips in the UK and Europe and Africa. It keeps me going until the next trip! And thst is ok. We all need to stay put occasionally, for many reasons. It’s ok. Just not all the time.

    • On November 16, 2014 at 9:46 am Sally said:

      Coral, Your travels still sound very exotic. I guess that’s the advantage of being in the UK — hopping over to Europe or Africa (!) is possible in a short trip. I can only hop over to… ummm…. Indiana. (Lovely, but not so exotic.)

  13. On November 15, 2014 at 4:38 pm Linda Bergstrom said:

    I have a travel suggestion for you. I just got back from a trip to Cleveland OH (not very far from you at all) where I discovered they have a local well loved grocery chain in which you can buy some beer on tap and drink it while you shop. When I rounded the corner and was confronted with the tiny bar in the regular grocery store, I just stopped dead and stared for the longest time. What a concept! I have photographic evidence of this on my FB page. It’s one of my most popular pictures.
    Oh, it’sa real nice grocery store too where they sell a large selection of Iinteresting beers.

    • On November 16, 2014 at 9:45 am Sally said:

      OMIGOD. I need to know the name of that grocery store! I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this wonder of wonders. I went to college near Cleveland and have a lot of friends who live there now. WHY HAVE THEY NEVER SHARED WITH ME THIS GLORY???

      • On November 16, 2014 at 1:17 pm Linda Bergstrom said:

        It’s Heinen’s. I went to the one in Bay Village. I thought you might want to go check it out. And while you are there you might go to the beautiful new FREE art museum. Besides the free art, they have a cafe AND restaurant AND a pretty classy full fledged bar there too.

  14. On November 17, 2014 at 9:24 am Choi Kum Fook said:

    Miss Sally, when you want to travel to oversea again, make sure you come back to Malaysia, especially visiting THE KOREF FARM and my hometown. I feel very proud of you for two months volunteer works! Thanks! A bit change in the farm!

  15. On November 20, 2014 at 11:55 am Elizabeth said:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this post!
    Just had to tell you that.
    Elizabeth recently posted..Today is the day! Celebrating my birthday with @runDisney @CMNHospitals and @PCPgh

  16. On March 18, 2016 at 6:37 pm Sandra L. said:

    I read books where other people are traveling when I can’t travel. Like “Betsy and the Great World” by Maude Hart Lovelace. And “London Holiday” by Richard Peck.

    But I am going on a real trip soon! Overseas for the first time since 1987. Alone!

    If you have any packing advice, please feel free to email me. <3

    • On March 20, 2016 at 12:44 pm Sally said:

      I also love books set in faraway places that make me feel like I’m traveling. Thanks for the book suggestions! And best of luck on your trip — I’m sure you’ll do awesome!

  17. On June 28, 2016 at 4:33 am Milena Yordanova said:

    I read travel blogs or travel guides when I can’t travel. This really puts me in a travel mood and help me pass the time till the next trip. 🙂
    Milena Yordanova recently posted..Sofia through my lens


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