Almost 6 years ago, when I started backpacking solo and embraced long-term traveling, there were people who had an expression of awe on their faces. Even before their inquisitiveness flowed out of their mouth, I could see it in their eyes!
“What are you going to do in Bhutan for a month?”
“You’ll be in Kenya for a month? Is it even safe?”
Well, the feeling of wanderlust was too strong for me to stop myself from embracing the adventures, and with time, I realized that long-term travel can bless us with the most enriching experiences, teaching us some of the best lessons of life. Long-term traveling turned out to be a boon for digital nomads like me, who have flexible work hours and can literally work from anywhere!
However, with time I also understood that traveling isn’t just about a holiday laced with fun & frolic but comes with its own share of challenges & woes. While I got to meet some of the most wonderful people on the roads, learned about different cultures, spent nights under the starlit sky, and walked on trails that are seldom visited, I appreciated the beauty of slow journeys, as well as came to terms with the adversities of long-term traveling.
If you’ve been dreaming of living out of a suitcase for a considerable period now, then it’s time that you fulfill those dreams. Embarking on a long-term journey can be intimidating and overwhelming, but trust me when I say this, it’ll change you forever!
The Pros of Long Term Travel
Let’s focus on the advantages of long-term traveling and how it’ll benefit you.
- Getting to know more about the place, people, their culture & history.
While the holiday itineraries are mostly packed with things to do and places to visit, a long-term trip gives us a chance to pause, look around and soak in the local vibes of the place. Beyond the touristy things, there’s a scope to explore the offbeat trails, and we tend to discover the hidden gems that are seldom visited.
There’s immense scope to befriend the locals, learn about the history and the culture, listen to stories from the natives, and truly appreciate the difference that exists between you and them. If you opt for a homestay, your hosts might ask you to join them for attending local festivals, teach you to cook some local delicacies, and of course, help you to learn their language as well. Can anything get better than this?
- Traveling will be cheaper!
Might sound odd, but long-term travel isn’t as expensive an affair as it looks like! For example, if you plan a trip abroad for a week, the cost of your flight tickets will be the same if you plan it for a month or more. When it comes to accommodation, there’s no dearth of backpacker’s hostels or budget hotels across the world, and it’s almost always cheaper to rent a place for a few weeks or months instead of for a few days.
Once you stay for a longer period in a place, you’ll get to mingle with the locals and figure out the best yet affordable restaurants to eat at. Also, your new friends might be willing to show you around their country or guide you to explore in the most pocket-friendly manner. The possibilities are endless!
- Traveling becomes more relaxing.
Shorter trips can be super hectic, as we try to squeeze in all that we wish to do in a considerable period of time! It’s more like ticking things off the bucket list, than soaking in the real vibes of the place. On the contrary, long-term traveling gives us a chance to slow down, relax and go at our own pace, which can lead to better experiences and connections.
Needless to say, there’s enough scope for spontaneity as well. You can hitchhike with a fellow traveler you meet at a hostel, or join a day trip with a bunch of strangers. And on days when you don’t feel like doing anything, you can give yourself a break, sit at a cafe with a book, watching people walk in and out while enjoying your favorite cappuccino!
- Learn the true essence of minimalism.
Traveling for a longer period of time will change the way you see your material things and redefine your attachment with them. Long-term travel isn’t possible with hefty luggage, for obvious reasons! Once we set out with a rucksack full of essentials, we tend to realize that more than half the things we’ve accumulated over time aren’t necessary at all. Hitting the roads will help you realize that minimalism is the key to a good life, and the less you possess, the less you’ll have to worry!
With time, you’ll also figure out that some of the things you are carrying aren’t actually used often, and you wouldn’t mind leaving them behind. You’ll understand the true meaning of less is more and this decluttering isn’t just good for your back, but also for your mind!
- An opportunity to nurture new emotions, every day!
Being away from home, you’ll wake up to new adventures, every single day. There would be new things to look forward to, new faces to greet, new lanes to walk down, and new experiences to cherish. Long-term traveling will make you more patient and change your perspective to see the world.
Constantly living with diverse people in different places with various cultures, languages, religions, and traditions for a considerable period of time will make you a more compassionate & mature person, nurturing your overall growth and turning you into a better human being. When I was in Kenya for a month, volunteering at a childcare center, I realized that the language barrier is a myth and emotions can be the best means of conversation.
Traveling long term will have a huge, positive impact on your personal life, and as they say, ‘You’re never the same after seeing sunsets in different parts of the world!’
The Cons Of Long-Term Travel
Well, while the advantages of long-term travel are endless, there’s another ‘not-so-rosy’ side of this coin! Before you decide on setting out for that ‘life-changing journey’, know that it’ll not always be a cakewalk and things might get downright awful.
There are risks. And you must be aware that things won’t always go as planned!
- Traveling for weeks will make you exhausted.
Travel fatigue is a real thing and there’s no escape from it. While hopping from one place to another might seem delightful in the initial phase, the excitement will eventually die out at a certain point. You’ll lose the zest for waking up to catch the sunrise or feel too tired to hit yet another cafe. You’d crave your homemade comfort food, feel like seeing familiar faces, and want to get the next flight home!
There have been times when I also ended up feeling tired from the journeys, and quite disgusted with wearing soiled clothes for days – all I wanted to do was to get back home, and sleep in a fresh pair of clothes!
- Constant budgeting can take a toll on you!
Let’s accept the fact that we all need to keep a tab on our finances when we’re traveling for the long term. No matter how much you try to cut down the expenses, your bills will start to rack up – accommodation, food, transport, and other miscellaneous things have to be taken care of, on a daily basis. There might come a time when you’d end up thinking that it’s much cheaper to stay home, and you wouldn’t have to worry about the constant budgeting!
- Health issues might be bothersome.
Traveling for days can often affect your health (especially for those who already have some underlying health issues). Whenever we are in a new place, we love to try new things – and food is an important part of our journeys. But sometimes, eating too much junk on a daily basis, or falling into an irregular food habit might lead to health issues. At some point, you’ll inevitably get sick, and your appetite will die along with your love of street food!
Too much traveling can lead to headaches (from over-exhaustion), and body pains. Also, you might miss out on your regular health check-ups if you’re traveling around places where the healthcare facilities aren’t up to the mark. If you’re traveling abroad for the long term, it’s essential that you get Medical Insurance beforehand, to avoid any hassles when you are sick/ unwell and you need some assistance.
- Travel buddy tensions!
If you’re on a solo trip, then you wouldn’t face this problem. But if you’re traveling with someone else, then no matter how much you love them or enjoy their presence, there would be situations where you’d not feel comfortable around them! You might not want to do a particular activity or visit a place that they wanna try or go to. There would be times when you wouldn’t be on the same page, and that might lead to resentment.
Traveling as a couple can lead to frustrations when your partner fails to give you enough space or doesn’t share the same vibe as you do! (Well, there’s no shame in asking for some space to take a day to yourself – to regain your sanity.) If you’re traveling with a group of friends, then be sure that everyone will have their opinions (and would want them to be heard) – so clashes would be inevitable, ruining the travel experience!
Thus, it’s essential that you consider these things prior to setting out for a long-term journey with your travel buddies!
- You’d miss out on a lot of things that happen back at home!
I was on a month-long trip with my friends, exploring the Himalayan towns in Ladakh, and missed my nephew’s birthday. All I could do was gaze at the happy faces over a video call – and for a moment, I wished I could be at home, celebrating with my family!
Let’s get this straight, a lot of major events will happen back at home in your absence, and you’d end up missing them. Life never stops for anyone, and you’ll realize this, even more, when you’re away from your friends & family, embracing adventures! So the next time you pack your bags and leave, make sure that there are no big events at home or prepare your mind to not regret if you miss anything.
Like everything else, traveling is also like a coin with two sides. While these are the pros and cons of long-term travel that I’ve experienced myself, I’m sure you’d have your share of stories too. No matter what it is, let nothing stop you from seeking new experiences.
To put it in the words of H. Jackson Brown Jr., “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.”