Is Long-Term Travel Right for You?
As a follow up to my recent post Does Long-Term Travel Sound Appealing?, I’d like to help you begin to figure out whether you’d really thrive as a vagabond.
If you’re going to hit the road, one of the decisions you will need to make will be about the frequency of moving around. Do you want to move frequently, or would you prefer to set up a base and travel locally from there before heading to another spot to set up as a base.
Either way, the traveling lifestyle will probably mean that you will be on the move a lot, with your possessions on your back or in a suitcase. That certainly limits what you will have at your fingertips in the way of material possessions. But it opens up a whole world of amazement that you will have available as you look around. Are you willing to accept the trade-off?
As you already know, long-term travel will probably mean that you will need to be on more of a budget than at home. You will probably want whatever money you have to be stretched out as long as possible so that you can travel as long as possible. This will probably involve watching what you spend more than you are used to and denying yourself even small luxuries. Can you tolerate this?
Even though you will have to watch every penny that you are spending, long-term travel may actually give you a lifestyle that is more relaxed than your routine at home. You will not have work pressure and deadlines. Your time will be yours to arrange. If you feel like sleeping late one morning, it's your choice. If you want to stay out late partying, go for it. Does that sound good?
Not having a schedule to follow does not suit everyone. Most people give lip service to the idea that they would love to have the freedom of not having to go into the office five days a week and not having so many obligations and pressures. But then they find that get bored easily if they are not on a schedule.
Are you that kind of person? Or are you someone who has so many activities that you want to do, but work gets in the way of all those things? If you decide to travel full time, you will need to be the kind of person who is self-motivating. Keep that in mind. There will not be anyone to check whether you fulfilled your obligations for a particular day or whether you are being productive enough. You will not have anyone to answer to. That generally sounds wonderful, but not everyone will do well with that kind of freedom.
The Down Days
Travel is not always fun. There will be days when your rental car breaks down or you miss your flight or your train. There will be times when the hotel you could not wait to collapse in turns out to be overbooked, and they gave your room away because you arrived later than expected.
It will probably rain on the day you decide to camp out to save money. In fact, there may be nights when you end up sleeping in the train station or times when you have not had a shower for several days.
You will inevitably end up getting some mild tummy problems along the way from some bugs that were just lying in wait for some fresh victims who have not yet built up the right immunity. If that happens, you may have to deal with medical bills and foreign doctors.
Some of these things are likely to happen to you – not all of them, but some – and probably some that you would not even be able to predict in your wildest dreams. Keep in mind that some of these calamities will make the best stories when you return home or when you meet up with fellow travelers. But you have to live through them first.
Can you live with uncertainty? Can you be flexible enough that these little upheavals do not send you online to buy a ticket home?
Please look at long-term travel realistically. If you take to the road with the idea that everything will run smoothly all the time, you are letting yourself in for some big disappointments. The world is full of adventure, places to see, and people to meet. Go out there with the right attitude, and you will have stories and stories to tell your grandchildren.
How Long Will You Be Gone?
The answer to this question is entirely up to you, your budget, your ability to travel economically and/or earn money while you are on the road, and your capacity to thrive and enjoy long-term travel. Most full-time travelers do eventually return home. On the other hand, some like me find a new home in a place that they discover along the way.
Those who return to their original homes usually do so after about six months to a year on the road. More dedicated travelers can make it two or three years, but they are definitely in the minority.
For evaluation purposes, you should expect to be gone between six months and a year. Using this time frame will help you prepare for your trip a little better.
A mistake that some people make is thinking that they will be traveling for the rest of their lives. Before they leave, they sell the house and all their possessions and then donate everything left to charity.
Nine months later, when they have run out of money and are tired of being nomads, they suddenly find that they have no home and no belongings to return to.
The experiences that they had while traveling were probably worth giving up all their possessions, but with better planning, they might have been able to have those same experiences and still had a home and some familiar belongings to return to.
Whether or not you decide to get rid of everything before you leave depends a lot on how much stuff you have, how attached you are to it, and how much money you need to add to your fund. You will be gone long enough that just locking the door behind you and hoping everything will be okay until you get back is not a good idea, but getting rid of it all might not be the best decision either.
The important thing is that you consider everything possible before committing to months on the road. But keep in mind that you can leave the road whenever you decide that setting out on long-term travel wasn’t the right decision or that it’s just not for you.