Are you curious about what it is really like to take off on long-term travel? Many bloggers paint a picture of an ideal life full of sunshine and happy moments, which can definitely brighten your day while reading & make you forget about your boring everyday non-adventures. While I respect and appreciate keeping things positive instead of listing off a bunch of complaints or negative ranting, I think it is equally important to be truthful about the difficult times. That keeps it real, and reminds your readers and yourself that you are human.
Here is a list of ten things you may be surprised to learn about long-term travel, from my experience.
You will probably gain weight. I already have a massive love/weakness for great food, so leaving a routine work schedule behind means eating whenever the urge arises. Being away from your own kitchen and favorite food shops can have pros ((trying new things, tasting local flavors, and not least – loved ones cooking delicious meals for you!)) and cons ((settling for what you can find, and consistently overeating)). Plus, you know how when you’re on vacation and say “Oh I suppose I can eat whatever, I’m on vacation.” Well, imagine several months of this attitude and whoopsie, you’re 10-15 pounds heavier. Is there a formal term for the freshman-15 equivalent of long-term travel weight gain? If not, I’ll get to working on one.
From time to time, you miss a regular routine. When I was longing to be out traveling, the normal everyday routine seemed like THE worst thing ever. I couldn’t wait to escape it. But ironically when I do not have any sort of routine, at times I miss the familiarity of a regular schedule. The grass is always greener and whatnot.
Not every day is the highest of highs. I thought being on this adventure would bring me immense happieness. And it has. But there are still days when I have moments of sadness, confusion, bitchiness, negativity, etc. This nomadic life is unchartered territory for most people before they set out on what can be an incredible journey. I think it is pretty normal to have days where you are sad about nothing specific, or about missing your family, missing out on a special occasion back home, or just feeling a bit lonely. It didn’t help that I’m traveling through the tough winter months that are so good at bringing me down. Some of my personal goals of this adventure included being more positive and living in the moment, both of which I’m still working towards, no matter what season!
You will never have enough money. No matter how big our Excel spreadsheet of budgeting and planning was prior to departure, especially going to Europe, I should have taken all the estimates and doubled them. And it still may not be enough. I suppose you can comply to a rigid budget and stay in hostels when not with family, but honestly, being in my 30s, I feel too old & snobby for both those things. If we had saved more money and delayed our travels, perhaps life would have gotten in the way and maybe it wouldn’t have happened. We saved what we could and left when the timing was optimal, which has helped us make the best of our situation. Although I still want to visit so many more places, we have gone and done what we wanted to do in the moment, and spent money when we wanted to. You just have to do what works for you and understand that the money will run out quicker than anticipated.
Simultaneously, you will throw vanity straight out the window and also have a heightened appreciation for your hairstylist/esthetician/expensive products which you just bid farewell to in order to travel. You have no idea how much I miss the ladies in Seattle that kept me feeling pretty with regularly scheduled haircuts, color, styling, facials and waxing. Of course I could still get these things taken care of on the road, but it is never as high quality as with the ladies I’ve built a relationship with over the past several years. Plus, getting your haircut or your eyebrows waxed aren’t exactly a high priority in times of adventure and trying to use every penny on actual travel.
Contradictory to the above, you will also start to care about your appearance before starting your day. It is hard to be in England or the rest of Europe and not notice that people take care in how they look and dress. Most do not leave home in sweats, pajamas, or workout clothes, even to just go to the local shop. While I wasn’t always wearing a full face of makeup or sporting a fresh hair color, I still tried to put my best outfit together for the day ahead while in Europe. Being less of a slob is a simple lesson to learn from the fashinable Europeans, but one that can easily brighten your whole day.
You will consistently be thinking about where your next destination should be. This includes obsessively checking flights on Kayak, accommodation on hotels.com and airbnb, scouring other blogs or photo sharing sights like Instagram to get ideas of where to visit next. This is obviously not isolated to only full-time travelers; I definitely spent a lot of minutes day-dreaming about my next trip before leaving my job and belongings in Seattle, but the planning mode is certainly amplified when traveling & choosing adventure is the prime agenda.
Every decision of every day during your travels is entirely yours to make, without much outside influence. When else can you wake up and do practically ANYTHING you want? This is the time to say “yes” to every activity which peaks your interest. You get to do things you’ve always wanted to do most of all because the opportunity may not pass this way again.
Taking a long-term travel break can actually recharge your zest to return to work and routine life. Before we departed, my husband would tell people he is ‘readdressing the work/life balance, heavily in favor of life.’ I loved this description so much, and we have both found that a healthy break has made us feel amped about finding a new place to live, new jobs, and getting back to our domestic life. That is, of course, until we have saved up again and decide to take another year to travel.
No matter the difficulties or stresses you face, the invaluable experience is entirely worth it. I pinned something to my Pinterest the other day that said We must take adventures in order to know where we truly belong. Heavy, eh? Trust me on this point. Stepping away from a comfortable life of a good income, routine in order to set out for several months of travel can surprise and enrich your life in so many ways. Take a chance, and go for it. There is no better way to learn about other cultures as well as yourself. And if you are traveling with your spouse like I am, adventures allow you to you grow young together and grow closer than you could ever anticipate.