How a Fatalistic Attitude Makes You a Happier Traveler

How a Fatalistic Attitude Makes You a Happier Traveler

Fatalism: the belief that destiny, that your fate is pre-chosen and unavoidable. In the words of Wikipedia, fatalism is the idea that “we are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do.”

The opposite of fatalism is this thing called “free will” (you’ve probably heard of it). If free will reigns supreme, it means you’re totally in control of everything you do. Every. Little. Thing. The one responsible for all the good stuff and the bad stuff that happens to you…is you.

Westerners are taught that free will is the only way to live. Heck, not taking charge of your own destiny is a seen as a weakness, and how about being a bystander in your own life? That’s just lazy.

Yet when it comes to traveling, consider taking on a fatalistic attitude with you. You’ll be better off accepting your destiny than a traveler who feels the responsibility to control everything.

Here’s why fatalists just might be the happiest travelers.

"Acceptance" over a grey torii

Fatalists Can Accept a Bad Situation

Fatalists believe everything that happens while traveling was meant to be – good and bad. When things go wrong a fatalist doesn’t get depressed about it, but takes in the situation and figures out what to do next. Instead of getting weighed down by disappointment, a fatalist knows that the best thing to do is move forward.

This type of logical thinking might like Vulcan logic – and it probably is – but that’s not a bad thing. Accept your situation rather than cry about it, and it won’t overwhelm you. In fact, the more you step back and think about it the easier it will be to figure out what you need to do next.

You can’t go back in time (unfortunately), and denying your situation won’t make you un-miss your flight or un-eat that diarrhea-inducing street food. Be like the fatalists, and accept your situation so you can get on with traveling.

"Move Forward" over a rough brick wall

Fatalists Don’t Play the If-Only Game

When things don’t go as planned, you could be tempted to think back through all the choices you made leading up to your situation. Then you play the If-Only game with yourself, thinking “if only this” and “if only that” listing all the ways you could have avoided your current state.

Well, that’s not part of a fatalistic attitude. Because fate is unavoidable, there is no reason to go back through your past choices, because there’s no way you could have changed anything. You were destined to do what you did.

The If-Only game is only helpful for you to learn from your mistakes and avoid a bad situation in the future, it can’t do anything to make you feel better now (in fact, it will probably make you feel worse).

Fatalists know the If-Only game is dwelling on the past for no reason. It makes you feel bad and doesn’t solve anything. Just don’t do it. Be like a fatalist, and you’ll never dwell on a bad decision.

"Fearless" over a fearsome Thai statue

Fatalists Banish Their Fear

Scared to leave the nice warm rock you live under? Fear that prevents you from traveling robs you of having new experiences. It also prevents you from growing as a person.

Travel can be scary, but fatalists aren’t deterred by fear. The fatalistic attitude is to take a chance and see what happens. When you’ve accepted that you’ll handle whatever comes your way, it’s easier to have confidence in yourself and tune out fear. With fate at the helm, fear takes a backseat because there’s no reason to worry about an outcome you can’t avoid.

Whether you’re fearful or not, whatever happens in life, happens. You’ll strengthen your confidence in the face of fear if you think like a fatalist and put your trust in destiny.

"No Regrets" over a sunset on the Mekong River

Fatalists Have No Regrets

Thinking about all the things you wish you would have done differently: that’s regret, and it’s a horrible feeling. Rather than obsessing over things they did or didn’t do, fatalists accept that everything in the past was bound to happen (or not happen). They aren’t overwhelmed by regret.

It might not feel like it at the time, but you’re not personally responsible for everything that happens to you. Travel can be affected by the unpredictable – natural disasters, transit strikes, animal migrations – and there’s no way you can avoid every unpleasant event during your travels.

When your travel plans are foiled by something unavoidable, take the fatalist approach and don’t get angry about it. Rather than blame yourself, acknowledge that fate stepped in, and there was no other way things could have happened.

Regret is created in your mind to torture yourself. Let the past go, and move forward with the future. This is what a fatalist does, and this is what a happy traveler does too.

"Fatalistic Attitude" conclusion


I like to think that free will really exists, and that I’m the one in charge of steering my life. But I can’t deny that a fatalistic attitude has helped me become a happier traveler.

The more I travel, the more I’ve learned to loosen my need to control everything that happens to me. Sometimes it’s better to just go with it, and accept that fate can steer my life just as easily as I can.

You might not know where your travels will take you next. But wouldn’t it be nice to think that it’s right where you’re destined to be?

Travel isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Check this infographic Raw but Ready: My 11 Worst Travel Experiences


  1. Fatalism is a shitty attitude. It’s basically a copout for any and all responsibility.

    You steal from someone and kill their mother. They hate you. “There was nothing I could do about it,” you say, “it was meant to be.” Uhhh, no, no it wasn’t.

    • You’re right, Samantha, that *is* a shitty attitude. I think that not taking responsibility for your actions isn’t “fatalism” so much as “being an asshole”. Making a choice to harm someone isn’t fatalism – accepting the things that you don’t have control over *is*. That’s the difference. At least, to my understanding.

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