Since I was physically capable of growing one, I’ve always had a beard. Even when I couldn’t connect my mustache to my chin beard, it was still there. But since I moved abroad this past January I decided to grow the beard out a bit more. And by a bit more, I mean 6 months of sustained beard and hair growth. For me, this wasn’t just an escape. It was an active decision.
Although its unruly, growing a travel beard was one of the best decisions I’ve been made this year. This is because its allowed me to see exactly how people react to it. I don’t know how many times family members back home have admonished me to shave it. And how many times friends have commented on it. And while I haven’t gotten stopped at any airports lately (a small feat for me), I do notice the looks I get by security there.
It’s not that having a travel beard is in itself a rebellious act. It’s an act of freedom that signifies you are committed to travelling long term. Not only does the beard show that I’ve left my routine and home behind, but it is a good indicator of how long I’ve been abroad. While I do use argan oil to maintain a healthy structure to my travel beard, it is otherwise left unkempt aside for occasional trims to the mustache.
Additionally, growing a travel beard has identified my willingness to forego societal norms. Although I went to a liberal arts college and struggled a bit after graduating, I have since settled into a relatively conventional job in SEO management. While I do get to work from home, my travel beard would not be suitable for an in-office equivalent. Or really at all in the United States. However, I do plan on grooming my travel beard one I am back in New York next month.
That being said, a travel beard is more than just a look. It’s a lifestyle choice. As with any lifestyle choice, is it going to be derided by the people who think they know better. And for men like me, the act of long term travel and growing a travel beard are often conflated into one.