Let’s be clear, long term travel is not a two week vacation or a magical pill that cures the mundane life with no side effects to it. It’s a lifestyle that’s honestly not for everyone, as it is a sacrifice just as much as it is a reward. And though it is very much possible to do, it’s a difficult and scary step to take.
To help paint a picture, I am only writing about the scary realities of long term travel in this post. Many articles try to soften the blow by adding cushions (the pros to long term travel) around the rough edges (cons of long term travel) of their article to ease the fall or in this case, the life changing decision of traveling long term.
I mean, you and I both know the benefits of traveling. After all, there are a million and one blogs out there, telling us how great it is.
So, I am here to tell you the truth whether you like it or not, no sugar coding it, no beating around the bush! I want aspiring long term travelers to know exactly what they’re about to get.
This is probably the scariest part about long term travel. If you choose to travel you are choosing to give up everything you know to be true about the way of life for an unknown future.
This will stress and freak you the fuck out before you even start traveling, and like me you might even develop some anxiety issues.
The uncertainty of not knowing whether you are making the right decision or not, if you will love or hate it, if family and friends will be supportive, or if you will have enough money, can possibly cause you to never start traveling.
2. No Support For Your Non-Conformist Lifestyle
You’ve just decided that you are going to take the leap to travel long term and to tell your best friend, and family members about your decision. Only problem is, they are not as supportive as you would have hoped.
If that is the case, it will hurt like hell!
For me this is by far one of the hardest realities that I have to deal with and it kills me inside knowing they feel as though I have abandon them or shoved them to the side of the road like dirt.
There are times that I feel like I have to choose between my happiness and passion to travel the world or my family and friends. It’s a battle, I have yet to learn how to master and I don’t think I ever will.
3. You Get the “Been There Done That” Syndrome
Every new place will start to look the same with no uniqueness. You won’t appreciate certain things like when you first started traveling. You will begin comparing every new country to your favorite country or city, not even giving the country a chance to stand out and win over your heart.
You will feel jaded!
This could either cause you to become addicted to finding that feeling you once felt the first time you set out into the world. Constantly yearning for something new, and searching for better and crazier adventures.
Or you will give up traveling all together, because you been there and done that and there is nothing new out there for you anymore.
4. Travel Lifestyle Routine
Yes, I know, surprising right! So many travelers, including myself, claim they started traveling to leave the routine life behind but if we are completely honest with each other, there is a routine in traveling too.
The travel routine sounds something like this:
Get to a new place – walk around with a heavy backpack to find a place to stay – find a place but it’s more than you budgeted – pick up your bag and walk some more – finally find a place you can afford – put your shit away – research cool things to do – do them – meet cool people – say bye to cool people – pack your bag and do it all over again!
5. Your Flames Will Burn Out
Constantly moving, packing your bag, taking ten or more hour bus rides, meeting new friends and saying bye to them, and living in different locations every few days will get exhausting.
It will wear you out.
Now, imagine doing this for 196 countries. This burnout is not a joke. It will have you running back to the life you left behind. In our case, the “American Dream”.
Though it took us some time to realize it but within our first year of traveling we burned out and went on what we now call a temporary Nomads’ Vacation.
Now we know that it wasn’t the smartest decision to go back. We simply should have slowed down and recuperate at a place for a few weeks/months instead of packing our bags every few days.
6. Not Everything is How it Seems in Pictures or on Blogs
If you follow the gringo trail, which 90% of new travelers will do without knowing, you will find that things are not as they seem.
Most times, it won’t be a secluded beach, an empty museum, or a I-am-all-by-myself in-this-country’s-hidden-gem-moment.
You will be surrounded by other tourists, that saw the same picture and read the same guidebook you did, looking to take pictures and say, “yeah I’ve been there”.
Sure, here and there you will visit a place off the beaten track but nine times out of ten that place you are looking for to discover, has already been discovered and is unfortunately overpopulated by tourist.
7. You Will Learn How to Say Goodbye
Goodbye will be the one word you might learn how to say it in every language because that is how often you will use it.
One of the greatest aspects of traveling is the people you meet and become friends with. You will learn so much from them and they might even be the ones that understand you more than your family and lifelong friends.
But eventually you will have to say goodbye because duty will call and you will once again have to pack your bags for your next destination.
At first, it will be fine but sooner or later it will take a toll on you. You will begin to feel like you can never keep friends because you’re always on the move or that your friendships will never get the opportunity to grow because you are millions of miles away.
After all, how many times can someone say goodbye to a good friend without it affecting them?
8. Long-Life Friends and Best Friends Will Become Acquaintances
That friend that knew everything about you and you knew everything about them will become an acquaintance.
Now, this is not by choice or because they hate you or don’t love you anymore, it’s because time and distance will take you out of their lives. That’s not to say that when you come home, they won’t still be your best friend or act as such, but in reality, that friendship will not be the same.
Yes, there are millions of apps out there for the occasional catch-up, but it won’t be the same as if you were present and there in their life. You will barely know what’s going on in their lives and vice versa.
Let’s be honest, out of sight, out of mind right? Their life will continue just as much as yours but this time you won’t play a major role in it.
9. Missing Out on the Big and Small Moments of Your Loved Ones
Now this is one of the things that hurts me the most about traveling long term.
I will be missing out on my little sister birthday parties. I won’t get to hold her and tell her everything will be okay when she is sad. I won’t get to see my other sister graduate from high school or help her with college applications. I won’t be able to help my mother get out of the poverty hole that society dug her into or eat her delicious cooking whenever I want to. And so on.
Just like me, you will miss out on both the small and the big moments that happen in your loved ones’ life.
Yes, they will send you pictures or call you and give you updates on what’s going on but nothing will or can substitute being there in person.
You will have to live with that fact that though you’re out making memories of your own, you will be missing out on theirs. You can’t have the cake and eat it too, you have to choose what is “more” important.
Food for thought: What if something happens to your parents or close family members and you don’t get to say goodbye one last time, how could you ever forgive yourself?
10. You Will Feel Homesick
It’s inevitable, after missing out on important moments, missing friends, feeling burned out, missing some home cooked food, or missing having a place to call home, you will get homesick.
You can’t help it. It will happen more than once too!
11. Home Will Seem Like a Foreign Country
That place that you once knew like the back of your hand, where all your family and friends live, where you had hopes to plant roots in the future or that place where you found comfort from everything else, will become foreign to you.
When you first go back home for a visit, it will be great, you will catch up with friends. You will share all the great stories about things you’ve learned, people you have met, and how much you’ve evolved. You will be the star of your very own show.
But soon, that feeling will die down. You will start to realize how much you have evolved and how stagnate everything else seems.
You will feel like you don’t belong anymore, like this life isn’t for you anymore. But the hardest part to swallow will be that this was your life not too long ago.
How could you have changed so much so fast?
12. You Will Still Have to Work
A lot people have the misconception that once you quit your 9-5 job to travel full time you will never work a day in your life again.
If you want to continue traveling you will have to work to replenish the money that will eventually run out.
You will probably work odd jobs that may be on a cruise ship, teaching English, working in a hostel, making and selling bracelets or necklaces on the side of the road, or even blogging.
Whatever it is, you will still have to work to sustain your lifestyle. So, please don’t be naive to think that your traveling reality does not include working.
So there you have it, the true realities of living the long term travel lifestyle. You now have all the sides of traveling to make an educated decision on whether long term travel is worth all the above mentioned sacrifices.
Yes, it is scary and difficult step to take but if after reading this you believe that you can tolerate the side effects of traveling long term, then go for it!
As a wise old man once said, oh wait maybe it was me, “Courage is not the absence of fear but rather it’s the acknowledgement of the fear, worries and troubles that come with a decision and still doing it anyway.”
Now that you know all the realities of traveling long term, is it still worth it?