Many of us dream of travels that last more than two weeks – imagine being able to take time off work and go globetrotting! My daughter spent over three months on an adventure on the other side of the world and offered to share her views on the pros and cons of long-term traveling.
“Due to my savings from working since I was 11 years old I had the wonderful chance to experience what it’s like to long-term travel with my high-school friend Vilma. I visited Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand and my trip was 3,5 months long. While many experienced travellers may travel for years – I would still say I know what it’s like when traveling becomes your everyday-life.
Every singe day is different. Constant change of place and plans, people moving in and out of your hostel dorm and always trying new things and foods make sure that you never get bored. There is no such things as strict routine or important obligations when it comes to traveling – every day is a new adventure.
You get to meet people from all over the world. Staying at a hostel is very different from staying at a hotel. You share everything with total strangers: your room, bathroom, the free food shelf and kitchen facilities. When you get to actually live with other people it becomes really easy to get to know them – there are people from all around the world eager to share their stories, travel knowledge, food (as long as you share yours too) and company with you. And by learning to know these people you learn a lot about the world around you too.
You have all the time in the world to make changes to your plans. During a two week holiday there is not really much you can do if you wish to stay somewhere longer or go to a different country instead. In Brisbane we stayed in our hostel for over three weeks just cause we really liked the atmosphere; when our flight from Melbourne to Denpasar was cancelled we simply changed it to Phuket and in Kuala Lumpur we just decided to go to Singapore for two nights to visit the Universal Studios. When you travel for many months you can’t really plan the whole trip in advance so you get to decide what you want to do on the road.
You learn a lot about yourself. Living on a budget in constant change really challenges you. How does all this make me feel? What I miss the most from home? Would I like to live here? You learn to know your limits and sometimes the distance to home makes you see everything more clearly. Some are even known to discover their purpose in life while traveling! Sadly I’m not one of them hahah.
You get to be free. No obligations means you really get to decide what to do with your time. You have the chance to visit the most beautiful places and take a break from a reality. There is no one around to tell you what you should do and while traveling there is a certain feel of freedom you can’t really experience when staying at home.
Every single day is different which also means that everything is uncertain. While long-term traveling there is really not much time for relaxation. Suspicious night buses, constant fear of being robbed or losing your stuff, always saying goodbyes to the awesome people you’ve just befriended and never really knowing what life will throw at you can probably make you anxious at some point. Adventure is fun, but everyday-adventure can become frustrating. Sometimes instead of new and exotic stuff you start missing familiar things.
Living out of a suitcase might sound exciting, but the truth is pretty far from that. A backpack or a small suitcase can’t really contain many clothes and by time the ones you have will get wrinkled and smelly. Packing before the trip may feel fun while you are in the comfort and space of your own home but try squeezing stuff in your way too full suitcase in a dark hostel dorm at 5 am. Not to even mention the fact that you are actually going to have to carry/drag all your stuff around the world – all by yourself.
Travel burnout – some people get it and others don’t. I had read about it and when after two months we arrived in Sydney I kind of understood what all those articles where about: I was tired and grumpy almost all the time and even the most beautiful places couldn’t get me excited anymore. When travel burnout hits you what you need is a little break from the constant moving and sightseeing. While I was experiencing it, visiting a cafe and buying pumpkin soup from a grocery store made me way more happy than seeing the famed Bondi beach.
The fact that you are going to get hungry. Never had it crossed my mind that the food would be such a big challenge. In Asia there were some pretty cheap options which was great even though I lived in a constant fear of getting food poisoning. Australia was a completely different story. Long-term traveling means living on a budget (unless you’re a millionaire willing to spend all your money). However, a low-budget and Australian restaurants don’t really go well together. You can either choose to eat at Burger King (known as Hungry Jacks in Oz) and Dominos (5 dollar pizzas!!) or cook your own food in the hostel’s crappy kitchen. That isn’t cheap either, unless you decide to stick with pasta and tomato sauce.
Traveling can be extremely tiring. My friend Vilma and I have both racked up a collection of pictures of each other napping on buses, trains and airport floors. It’s not just the jet-lag, but also the everyday-surviving which you can’t really take a break from that makes you tired.
Long-term traveling feels like living on a roller coaster: There are ups and downs and feelings of fears and excitement, but when the ride finally ends you know it’s totally been worth it. My long-term traveling experience wasn’t always fun and easy, but I would and will do it again once I have saved some more money. But now, even though I’ll probably never get rid of this travel bug, it feels good to be back home.
I can’t wait for the adventures yet to come! xoxo Em”