BlogRants/Thoughts

What is Long-Term Travel Really Like?

If you’re to believe the masses of articles and posts on long-term travel you could be forgiven for thinking that sliced bread has finally been overtaken as the most awesome thing ever. Is it really that great? Let’s find out…

It’s Hot

Most long-term travellers eventually wind up in the tropics, where the heat can often be unbearable. It can suck the energy right out of you and if you’re on a budget then you probably won’t have air-conditioning to take the edge off at night. Moving around in the equatorial heat can be a pretty unglamorous exercise – you’ll sweat more than you ever thought you could and end up spending a lot of time indoors. Still though, it’s better than being cold.

It’s Cold

It is possible to travel the world without ever witnessing winter, but if you’re on a budget and you want to spend time in Europe then you should seriously consider the colder months. I much prefer being hot than cold, although winter does let you wear a bigger variety of clothes and after living and travelling in Asia for so long, it’s nice to be able to wear something heavier than a t-shirt.

IMG_8870A mountain in Nepal

It’s Boring

Long-term travel can be boring. You’ll have long waits at bus stations/airports, long, uncomfortable bus rides and times when you know you have a solid few days of travel before you get to where you want to be.

It’s Exciting

Long-term travel gives you so many chances for exciting experiences. Whether it’s stumbling through caves, climbing mountains or just exploring a vibrant new city, there’s always something new to do.  You’ll meet so many new people, try food you never knew existed and do things you never knew you were capable of.

semuc-champey-kamba-cavesCaving in Guatemala

It’s Hard

Language barriers, heavy bags and exhaustion all play a part in making long-term travel hard. Being on the road for a long time means you start to miss the comforts of home. It’s often hard to find a comfortable bed and a good pillow, wifi is unreliable in a lot of countries and the constant moving, packing and unpacking can really get you down at times. The good news is that the hard times are outweighed by the easy times.

It’s Easy

As I write this I’m lying on a comfortable (for a change) bed looking out over a stunning lake. The trees in front of our room are home to countless birds and butterflies and there are a couple of hammocks just waiting for some attention. We’ll head out soon past crumbling colonial buildings for a $3 lunch and maybe an ice-cream. Days like this are common and make you forget about the hassle leading up to them – we took 4 different buses just to get here!

suchitoto-lake-view-el-salvadorA room with a view in El Salvador

It’s Hectic

Imagine getting off a bus and having a crowd of dodgy looking men all demand you go to their hotel or take their taxi. This happens a lot (especially in Asia) and can be overwhelming. In fact, so many places I’ve travelled to have been hectic and a bit crazy. The buses of Sri Lanka are bursting with people and you’ll be lucky to get a seat. The touts and “guides” in Morocco will test your patience. The beach hawkers in Vietnam will frustrate you when they pitch their products while you’re trying to read a book.

It’s Tranquil

Sitting on the beach watching the sun slowly fall into the sea is something you’ll end up doing a lot while travelling long-term. You’ll see so many amazing views and really stop to appreciate them – something most people don’t do often at home. You’ll listen to the soft lake waves lapping at the shore just below your room and you’ll play with more random cats and dogs than ever before. Despite the long bus rides and general travel hassles (or maybe because of them) you’ll really come to appreciate the quieter and more peaceful places you end up in.

best-natural-wonders-in-southeast-asia-don-det-40000-islandsA sunset in Laos

You’ll feel worse than ever before

Well, assuming you’ve always been reasonably healthy like me. I never used to get sick, and I still don’t all that often, but undrinkable water and dodgy street food will almost always catch up with you eventually. Apart from that, long-term travel takes a more general toll on your health. It’s difficult to find the time to exercise, eating and sleeping patterns are always changing and uncomfortable buses will hurt your back.

You’ll feel more alive than ever before

Having the freedom to go anywhere you want is an indescribable feeling. You’ll have to try it for yourself!

Long-term travel is the Best Thing I’ve ever done

My first big travel experience was 6 months in Southeast Asia after my year of teaching in Taiwan. From the outset of that trip I was hooked and decided to put all my energy into creating a long-term travel lifestyle for myself. On this current trip I’ve been on the road for over a year, including Asia, Europe, Morocco, New Zealand and now Latin America. I’ve seen things I dreamt about seeing as a kid and places that a day or 2 before I had no idea even existed. If you want to really see the world and live a life (or a year of your life) so far removed from the 9-5 norm, you should seriously consider making your own plan to travel the world. I’ve met a lot of people all around the globe who are doing the same and not 1 of them regrets it.

This, of course, is one person’s opinion of long-term travel. Everybody has a different experience. What’s annoying for one person is “real and authentic” to another. What’s boring to one person is relaxing to another. You might have an iron stomach and never get sick, and the thought of a 24 hour bus ride might really excite you. The only real way to find out what long-term travel is like is to give it a go. Or don’t, long-term travel definitely isn’t for everybody – check out this article I wrote a while go on why you shouldn’t travel.

bridge-in-budapestA bridge in Budapest

Would you like to travel long-term? Do you already? What do you love/hate about it? Let me know!

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Jon Algie

Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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8 Comments

  1. May 21, 2015 at 12:18 pm — Reply

    Thanks for sharing this. We are a few years away from early retirement, and plan to travel a lot at that point. We think, though, that much of our true extended travel will be overland, which at least means we always know we have a comfortable bed, and don’t have to deal with so many crowded bus rides. But who knows how things will actually turn out!

    • Jon Algie
      May 23, 2015 at 4:13 am — Reply

      Haha yeah, the long and uncomfortable bus rides are probably the worst thing about travel, but then you do get to see so much of a country, definitely more than if you fly. We’re already thinking about our next trip to Europe and we want to buy a car – so much easier!

  2. May 21, 2015 at 2:39 pm — Reply

    I think you are right 🙂

    One of the things I have been enjoying is that it has been cheap but comfortable (SE Asia) for me. My plan is Japan next and just reading about the costs is frightening.

    • Jon Algie
      May 23, 2015 at 4:14 am — Reply

      Southeast Asia is great and definitely easier than some parts of the world. Missing it a little bit at the moment!

  3. May 23, 2015 at 2:22 pm — Reply

    It’s so true that travelling long term feels liberating, but can still be hard work from time to time! My previous trips were in Nepal and Nicaragua, but now that we have a 1,5 year old we’re starting a half a year roundtrip of Canada and the US, a bit less overwhelming but just as exciting (and without the malaria ;)). Being from Europe, there is still much to discover for us in North America!

    • Jon Algie
      May 26, 2015 at 1:59 am — Reply

      Yeah we only went to a couple of places in North America, will definitely buy a car one day and travel around for a few months – much easier than Central America!

  4. May 26, 2015 at 9:44 pm — Reply

    This is fantastic. Just how I feel about traveling continually. I especially like the part about forgetting about the hassles (4 different buses) of getting there. Sometimes I feel absolutely lucky to be where I am, doing what I’m doing. Then I remember that it didn’t happen , I earned it.

    • Jon Algie
      May 28, 2015 at 9:16 am — Reply

      Cheers Tim. Yip, even though it’s hard it’s definitely still worth it – can’t think of too many better things to be doing with my time!

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