Is long term travel right for you?
That is a hard question to answer when you’ve never done it before. When I decided that I wanted to travel full time for an extended period, I was plagued with thoughts of uncertainty. In American culture, long term travel isn’t “normal.” It definitely isn’t normal for folks that could be described as “mid-career” age. If someone in their thirties says, “I’m going to travel full time for a while,” the typical responses are “why?” and “he/she must be running away from something.” There was no question in my mind that I wanted to travel despite that fact, but would I like it? Would I miss my life that was filled with things like my home with its outdoor kitchen? Would I miss seeing my friends in person, or waking up to go to work every day with amazing people?
There really isn’t a way to know whether or not you will like long term travel without trying it in some form. I think you can make an argument that being on vacation every day would be amazing, but that isn’t what long term travel is like. Long term travel isn’t just margaritas and beautiful sunsets. Long term travel is real life lived in a transient manner.
How do you figure out if long term travel might be right for you? For me, I decided to take a four-month initial trip to test my theory that I would like traveling for an extended period. I called it my “dip a toe” trip. I wanted to “dip a toe” into long term travel. I sold everything, packed my 65 liter backpack, and set out with my husband on the grandest adventure I have been on to date.
Post Dip a Toe
Four months later, I can tell you truthfully that I love long term travel. It is the life for me. I’m no longer just dipping a toe into this life. I’m diving right in.
Why do I like it, you might ask? I think every traveler you ask will give you a different answer to that question. Here are my reasons.
It forces me out of my comfort zone.
This is hard for me because I love to stay in my comfort zone. It took my husband years to get me to eat meat that wasn’t cooked to a well-done temperature – a fact that I now gawk at because I eat my steaks rare. Too often, I would make small decisions based on how familiar one option was compared to another. When you travel to new places, nothing is familiar, and the decision making process completely changes. The problem is no longer this option or that option; it becomes this option today, and that option tomorrow. It is no longer a matter of which, but a matter of when.
It makes me use my brain.
Let’s face it. We live in a world in which we do not need to know stuff. No one knows facts anymore. I look everything up on my phone. When I couldn’t remember what a recipe was that I made last Thanksgiving it wasn’t a problem. I had it saved on Pinterest. When I didn’t remember the directions to someone’s home? No worries, Googlemaps will get me there. My generation adopted a noun and turned it into a verb that now answers the majority of questions out there. “Google it.” However, when I travel, I’m disconnected. I don’t have a phone plan. Unless I purposefully log into wifi, which I admit to being pretty often, I must rely on my own faculties to get stuff done. It is amazing how much high school Spanish you can remember when you are hungry and need to eat. Locating that temple everyone was talking about makes you rely on landmarks and asking people for directions. Cooking meals without measuring cups, standard equipment, or a recipe becomes that day’s science experiment. Daily life becomes a fun challenge.
I must speak to people.
Did you know that many millennials do not enjoy speaking to anyone on the phone? The preferred method of communication is text. Without my phone, or a social network in my time zone, I am forced to talk to strangers. Typically they are local people or other travelers. While traveling, I have met amazing people with equally amazing stories. I met a German man that once provided such great service to the King of Spain that the King gave him a special lapel pin. That pin’s meaning is known by Spaniards and results in many a free drink for the German man. I’ve learned cooking tips from locals when asking about their favorite way of preparing an ingredient. I met a Nepalese man that decided to start a business in Thailand to help his family financially. Now, he has a thriving business with partners around the world. These folks and many others are the amazing people that I would never learn about if I could retreat into my electronics.
It makes me confident.
Unfortunately, I cannot say that I have woken up every single day of my life feeling confident. I believe confidence is earned and can be fickle. Some days you have it in spades while other days you just have a little dusting. Traveling the world provides me with a high level of self confidence daily. While I fended for myself very well back home, somehow it makes a difference to know that I can not only fend for myself in the big bad world but I can thrive. I can navigate a city in a foreign country to buy food, post a package, hop a bus to an event, and buy a computer all without understanding the language. This is perhaps my favorite reason why I find long term travel to be amazing.
I appreciate all the small things.
Tell me if the following scenario sounds familiar. You’ve got a cool place filled with all of your cool stuff. It is all cool. Then your cool friend invites you on a cool weekend trip. That’s cool. Then you get out your cool bag to put your cool stuff in it and all of a sudden, NONE of your stuff is cool enough to go and the trip suddenly is not cool. Argh. Thinking about stuff makes me want to get out George Carlin’s bit on “stuff” and go crazy. I cannot tell you how good it feels to not have a lot of stuff. I travel with a pack that most females would consider a normal sized makeup bag. I still think stuff is cool, but now I get more excited about my experiences, the many times while traveling that I laughed until I cried, found my first hidden waterfall, climbed my first mountain, and witnessed the kind gestures people do for each other. Stuff can confine you, weigh you down. I love being free.
So all in all, I love to travel. Life still has it stresses, deadlines, and lengthy to-do lists, but none of the scary aspects that I was afraid of. I do miss my outdoor kitchen, but I’ve learned that if I have a campfire, I can cook anywhere. I do get to see my friends in person – it is called “Facetime.” As for a work network of great people, I still have the opportunity to work with great folks on a daily basis. My fears about long term travel didn’t prove to be real. I am so very glad that I decided to follow my gut and go on my dip a toe trip. I have learned a lot and the best part is that the world is waiting to teach me more.