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…
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 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.
A mountain in Nepal
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.
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.
Caving in Guatemala
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.
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!
A room with a view in El Salvador
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.
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.
A 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.
A bridge in Budapest
Would you like to travel long-term? Do you already? What do you love/hate about it? Let me know!