10 Great Things About Long-Term Travel…
1. You don’t feel rushed
Leaving for a year or more, with a one-way ticket out of your hometown is an indescribable feeling. You arrive at your destination and you don’t feel that you have to cram in every sight, smell and experience into a 5-7 day timeframe. You take each day one at a time and enjoy moving slow and lingering in the places you love.
2. You get to know the locals
When you stay in a place longer you become a part of that place. You start to be recognized by the locals, you have your coffee guy and your sandwich guy who have learned your order since you show up at the exact time every day. It’s nice to feel like you belong in a city that was foreign months ago.
3. Packing is easier
You would think this is backwards. I still pack the same for 1 year of travel vs. 1 week of travel. With long-term travel you expect to pick up clothes along the way and you know you are going to need to buy the necessities at drugstores around the world. With this in mind you don’t pack your toiletries bag full, you simply take off and pick things up as you need them. You don’t worry about what you forget because you know your next destination also brushes their teeth and wears clothes, assuring you that you can find what you need when you get there.
4. The stories you return with
The stories I come home with after a week-long vacation sound like this: I went to the beach, ate at some delicious restaurants and now I need a second vacation to rest up before returning back to work because it was such a whirlwind of a trip. My stories after returning from long-term travel sound more like this: we walked for 10 miles around Bangkok and found the smallest hole in the wall restaurant serving up the best Thai food I have ever tasted, the coffee guy around the corner knows my order because I’ve been going to him every day for the past month and we got lost in Laos while motorbiking in the mountains and met locals who took us in during a torrential downpour for 3 hours until the rain stopped.
I know depending on how you travel you can come back with a number of different stories, but with long-term travel you have more time and develop a level of comfort that gets you outside of your normal activities and creating awesome stories to tell when you return.
5. You understand a minimal lifestyle
Try to pack for a year in a carry on bag and you will better understand a minimalist lifestyle. At home I have a closet full of clothes, but on the road I have 5 dresses, 2 workout outfits and enough underwear to last me until I do laundry. You realize quickly how little you can get by with and still be overwhelmingly happy.
6. You know your priorities
Realizing your priorities is a big turning point in how you spend your time, your money and your energy. When you decide to become a long-term traveler all your money goes into savings or towards something that will help you travel easier, further etc. You start saying no to meetings and events that aren’t in line with your long-term goals and you free up your time.
7. The food
With long-term travel you not only go to more locations, but you give yourself the time to experience and discover different types of food. With 7 days you will usually go to the most recommended restaurants or the ones closest by, with a longer period of time you venture out further and learn from the locals where the best eats are.
8. You spend less money
I am still amazed that in a year of traveling, eating on the road and living in hostels, hotels and bed and breakfasts we spent less than we did the previous year living in Chicago. Rent is expensive depending on what city you live in, and we look at our budget and spent money on so many social events, drinks out, and buying random things that we never needed in the first place.
When you are on a budget you look at every $50 new piece of clothing as another day you could spend traveling through Thailand. You spend less because you start thinking about the alternatives you could use that money for.
9. You are better able to handle stress
Stress is inevitable when you travel, it’s how you deal with that stress that can make or break your sanity. With long-term travel you learn to deal with the stress, it was one of the main lessons learned during our 18 month trip. There was always a late bus, delayed flight or canceled hotel room that you couldn’t do anything about. We got creative and solved the problem instead of complaining about it and stressing.
10. You become much more open-minded
You realize that your way isn’t necessarily the right, easiest or best way to go about something. You learn from other travelers, you listen to the locals share their culture and you pick up a different mind-set on the road. You realize not only isn’t everyone like you, but almost no one is and you start asking questions why, in the process you become more open-minded to cultures around you.
… and 10 Not So Great Things about Long Term Travel
1. You are away from your friends and family
We love our friends and family and this is the hardest part of long-term travel in our minds. You miss big events, weddings, babies being born and big celebrations at home that you want to be there for. Although you know that long-term travel is exactly what you should be doing, it is still hard to regret missing the big events and the small weekly get-togethers that are happening back home.
2. You are always off balance
Nothing is easy when you travel. Even staying in one place for awhile, it’s hard to feel settled as it’s not your home, your bed, or even your “stuff”. You learn to be comfortable in all uncomfortable situations. You make your home where you can and you find familiarity in anything you can grasp onto.
3. Being sick on the road
Being sick at home is bad enough, but when you don’t have your comfy bed or favorite blanket to wrap up in it makes it worse. Puking in an unidentified toilet in a questionable hostel all because you ate a sandwich that had expired mayo on it is not what you think of when you look at the beautiful travel photos from around the world.
4. Bathroom situations
You never know what you are walking into. Is it a sit, squat or hole in the floor type of toilet? Is there going to be toilet paper when you show up or is it a BYOTP (Bring Your Own Toilet Paper) type of situation. When you gotta go, you gotta go, but pray there is a decent place to get your business done.
5. Travel is a full-time job
Long term travel is a full-time job. When you start planning your trip you realize that there is a lot of planning that goes into long-term travel. Even if you aren’t a planner, you still need to find plane tickets, a place to stay, how you are going to get money throughout your trip, credit cards you are going to carry, immunizations you need, etc. While on the road the work of logistics doesn’t seem like “work”, you put in a lot of effort to travel.
During your travels you won’t always be off the beaten path. You will want to see the famous museums and landmarks around the world and with that comes crowds and tourists. If you are a long-term traveler it is easy to get frustrated with crowds of people when you are used to walking the streets and exploring they city on your own. Instead of just dealing with a day or two of crowds, you are traveling for 365 days of the year so inevitably, run into many more crowds of tourists.
7. Internet Access
If you are like us and work from the road, the Internet is a necessity. We try to take days and weeks where we completely shut down, but most of the time we need it. This becomes problematic depending where you are traveling through and you learn to plan for not having access, or you make it one of your first questions when booking a guesthouse for your stay.
8. Your wanderlust never goes away
This is one of the worst parts (and best parts) or travel. Once you are bitten by the travel bug, your wanderlust never leaves. You are constantly planning your next trip, seeking out new destinations and dreaming about your next adventure. Very normal things start to freak you out such as mortgages and car payments because they seem to permanent for your ever-wandering heart.
9. It’s not always paradise
You dream of cocktails on the beach with your feet in the sand, when in reality it is sweat season in the middle of Thailand that leaves the pool water scalding hot and you in search of the closest air conditioner. Your comfortable air-conditioned bus, might end up being local transportation where you are sitting on a pile of vegetables and fruit. If you are going to travel for long periods of time, you can’t expect paradise – be prepared to be flexible.
10. Challenging the norm isn’t always easy
Long term travelers are challenging the status quo, or the American Dream as we like to put it. They are quitting their jobs, saying that they don’t care about money or climbing the ladder and are taking off. They believe their adventure is more important than what is happening back home. Maybe it is, and that’s ok, but it’s not always easy to go against the norm and swim upstream.
What are your best and worst parts of long-term travel? Leave them in the comments!