The wilderness stretched out in front of the newly freed slaves. Bnei Yisrael were full of hope and promise, but also wary of potential dangers.
Egypt and Israel are not that far away from each other. Nowadays, the plane flight from the Egypt airport to the Israeli airport is around an hour; driving takes around 10 hours; and walking about 150 hours.
However, the problem for Bnei Yisrael was that the most direct route to Israel was through the land of the Plishtim (Philistines). Traveling directly through this hostile land was incredibly dangerous. They were a powerful nation with an established army. There was no doubt that they would not allow Bnei Yisrael to travel through their land and the last thing the newly freed slaves needed was a battle. Who knows? Perhaps out of fear some Jews would change their minds and head back to Egypt!
Instead, HaShem led them on a roundabout route through the desert. They had to twist and turn and wind their way around. The short trip became a very, very long one.