The Realities of Long Term Travel

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.

1. Uncertainty

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

There will be a point in your travels where you will feel like “been there done that”. You will get tired of all the beaches, the waterfalls, the volcanoes, and all the parties.

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.

WRONG!

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.

Final Thoughts

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?

The Author

Jazzy is a professional travel writer and the editor-in-chief at Road Affair. She has been traveling around the world with her partner in crime, Ben, since 2012.

Like What You've Read?

Sign up for our newsletter and get more great stuff like this in your inbox.

Comments

  1. Refreshingly honest post. I travel a fair bit compared with the average person combining vacations and tag along trips on my husband’s business travel, but I am certain I could not do it full time. I like the anchor of a home base, and to me, anticipating a trip while in your home routine is part of the joy of travelling. I also find actual travel days (airports, transfers, hotel/rental check-ins) a bit of a grind after awhile so not sure how I’d do if that was routine. Travel lifestyles have to fit the personalities and situations of the individual traveller. There’s no one right way to do it.

    1. Hey Deb, thanks for sharing! You are definitely right about the joy of traveling involving the anticipating of the next trip. I guess that is also the case for long term travelers, as I am pretty sure that looking forward to the next destination and it’s mysteries keep us somewhat sane.

      “Travel lifestyles have to fit the personalities and situations of the individual traveller. There’s no one right way to do it.”- love this, I will have to quote this somewhere in a upcoming post … it’s so true.

  2. Wow! Point #3 really struck a cord! The thought of never being excited when you see something new! That would suck. Wonder, beauty, excitement, counting days until your next trip are things I really look forward to! I couldn’t imagine feeling otherwise. While everything looks fascinating on the web through perfectly exposed images, as readers we don’t see the low points, the hurdles and the deal-breakers! We begin seeking comfort in the mundane and most of us are content with having semi-ordinary lives. Kudos to you to be able to leave everything behind to make a life full of adventure and newness. Indeed it takes courage to set an example, pack up, go and be vulnerable to the innumerable experiences the world throws at you!

    1. I would have to admit that we are one of those blogs that shows mostly the glitter and glamour of travel but the more we travel the more we realize that it’s not all unicorn and rainbows. And with each discovery we are slowly moving away from just writing blog post that only illustrate the well “polished” travel lifestyle. The shitty parts of travel needs to shine too!

  3. Appreciate your honest insight on this. Though I envy reading the travel blogs as I sit at my 9-5, I have learned to realize that the grass is not always greener. There are pro and cons to everything. We need more travel bloggers who are honest instead of constant marketing of the “lifestyle”.

    1. Man, I really love what you said, “constantly marketing the lifestyle”. As professional bloggers it’s pretty much in our “job description” to market the lifestyle. Actually we do it without realizing it, at least we do.

      Though we (Ben and I) believe that everyone should travel at least once in their lifetime, we know it’s not for everyone and that is why we also “market”/ preach that everyone should follow their dreams regardless how crazy it may seem to others. When I refer to dreams, I don’t mean the ones that were implanted in our heads at birth but the ones that we truly want, the one that makes us happy, and help us reach our happiest and freest self.

  4. very honest. and sometimes honesty is such a lonely word. i do long term travels and planning for another one. I have experienced the same dilemna… and blogged about it too.

    people need to realize that it’s not always about the glamorous picture, there are always lots happening in the background, but sometimes the information remains hidden. ..

  5. I appreciate the honesty in this post and a lot of the points you laid out are exactly why I could never travel long term. I need a home base, I don’t want to miss out on my nieces and nephews growing up, I like a steady paycheck and so forth and so on. Nonetheless, I have a great deal of respect for you and others like you who do it anyway! Great post!

    1. Thanks Sanura, not everyone loves or wants to travel the way we do and I completely understand why. I am struggling with it but making it work because it’s something that makes me happy. I have a huge respect for the people that have been doing it for years because I just started and I am already feeling the burn lol.

  6. Adding one more voice of appreciation for your honesty. Such a refreshing change from the usual ‘My way is the only way’ posts on long term and solo travel. I have long dreamt of switching to a full nomadic lifestyle, but I know in my heart that both my husband and I are not cut out for it for the very reasons you list here. I can appreciate the effort involved to make it work. Kudos. And happy travels…no matter where life takes you.

    1. Hey Madhu, Thanks for sharing! I have come to the terms that traveling long term is not for everyone and sometimes I even wonder if it’s for me either. People should travel the way they want and the way that makes them the most comfortable and happiest. If you travel the way others tell you, it is a quick way to hate traveling and burn out quickly.

      So Kudos to you for traveling on your own terms especially with other bloggers out there “marketing” the full nomadic lifestyle as the only way to travel.

      Safe travels Madhu :)

  7. Many of these points are the same when you live on the other side of the world long term. I think that makes me more prepared for long term travel. There is always bad and good side, I focus on the good and try to outweigh the bad.

  8. Point #3 really resonates “You Get the “Been There Done That” Syndrome” I find that I’ve had this feeling more than a few times over the years! An interesting way of counter balancing this is by finding fresh travellers (sounds weird when I write it – ha) but what I mean is that it’s really wonderful to witness the contagious excitement that other people feel when seeing something new for the first time. I always try to track down a new traveler when I start feeling this way and jump in on a tourist trip with them to see it through their eyes. It’s a good a reset I find. I wonder if this differs when traveling in a couple vs. solo? I’ll have to follow up with my long term travel couple friends but I have a hunch there are different dynamics to both that positively and negatively effect the points you’ve mentioned above :) Thanks for highlighting the hard stuff, I think those that have been on the nomad track for a while have experienced all of these in various degrees!

    1. Hey Kyrie,

      That does not sound like a weird idea at all! It makes sense. It’s great when someone new to the game can spark your love and passion for travel again. They remind you why you fell in love with travel in the first place. They will spark travel back into you without them even knowing what they ever did!

      Love that idea!

  9. Sir / ma’am
    Just read your article about travelling as a way of life…
    Very honestly you have pointed out the pros and cons…. However, I found it slightly depressing.
    I am a 57 year old almost senior citizen…. I have a family…. Children…
    My children are of marriageable age now…. I stay in India… Mumbai. All my life I have spent my days behind a table… Looking at the familiar sights…..
    I have now achieved the exalted recognization in my soul that I am a furniture or fixture of this part of Mumbai.
    That is to say that tomorrow if I vanish from this exalted position, my family members, my neighbours, my peers , my wife would miss me as much as they would miss a table, a chair an umbrella.
    When I read articles written by travellers like you.. Its like a whiff of oxygen in outer space….
    You do not know, nor comprehend how repititive life degenerates your joints to a point that the only regenerative compounds are either alcohol or death….
    So my dear bless your stars that you are travelling…. Watching a new sunrise everyday…. Fielding a new vocation every other day…. Know the planet as no one has ever done before….
    Guess we all like the neighbours wife…. Lol.

  10. This is very honest and eye opening because we often get caught up in the perfect travel posts sold to us. I like this and I am sure you will encourage others who are going through this process and feel downtrodden.

  11. An entertaining piece of article. Insightfull and honest. These are the reasons why i still keep my day job amd travel whenever I can take off. Now and then i just take unpaid vacation. This is a must read for someone who are contemplating about being a long time traveler.

  12. Great post and very true. Though only a couple fit me. I don’t know if I’ll ever burnout. I haven’t lost my wow factor, haven’t started chasing the travel dragon yet. Always saying goodbye is the hardest for me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *