Who doesn’t want to travel the world for 6 months, a year, 5 years at a time? If you're reading this post I'm assuming you do, I know I do and I did for 6 months. It was amazing. We met great people, visited beautiful locations and enjoyed unbelievable experiences. It was a dream come true and I don't regret a moment of it. However, traveling long term does have its drawbacks and it may not be for everyone. Let me tell you why.
Missing Family Events & Holidays
As you know from our previous post, 5 Things I’ve Learned from Traveling Long-Term, this was our first holiday season away from our families. Laurie and l are big on spending time with our families during the holiday season. In the United States, Thanksgiving in November is almost as big as Christmas in December. So while we had our friends with us in Thailand in November, we still missed our families back home. Christmas was especially depressing being in Buenos Aires, without any food (all food stores were closed) to make anything close to a traditional meal and pouring rain. We ended up eating instant ramen noodles and drinking a bottle of movie while watching Christmas movies. A memorable holiday but not for good reasons. After that we both vowed never to be away from our families during the holiday season.
Traveling is Exhausting
Constantly being on the road, traveling from city to city, sometimes sleeping overnight on a train or bus can be exhausting physically and mentally. Sometimes we would get lost and couldn't ask for directions due to language barriers. Sometimes we would have to camp out in stations because our train or bus was delayed. Flying across continents and multiple time zones would completely drain us of our energy. Not to mention lugging around our 65L backpacks that would weigh around 15-18kg (30-40lbs). The packs get heavy after the first mile or so.
When we first started our trip we were bouncing around Europe, visiting a different city every 3-4 days. We were excited, full of energy and wanting to see the world. This quickly became tiring. The constant packing and unpacking, take-off/landing, check-in/check-out got old quick and is a big reason why we settled in Florence for 6 days. We were able to recharge, collect ourselves and enjoy the city at our own pace which we loved. We started to settle in cities for longer durations and we highly suggest you do the same. Really get to explore a city, see the sites, walk the streets, eat the food, talk to the people; that's what travel is all about.
One of my favorite parts of traveling the world was getting to meet new people. At home we tend to get caught up in our daily routines and it's rare to meet a new person, especially one that we get along with. While on the road we would meet other travelers, who were just as open-minded and wanted to explore the world themselves. It was fairly easy to meet people in the hostels we stayed at or the tours we went on and most liked chatting over a drink (or two). However, as a traveler you have to get used to saying good-bye; no matter how much it sucks, it's inevitable.
You meet people you like, spend a couple days with them, have dinner with them, go for drinks, get to know them, then one day one of you has to go. Some people just say bye and have a good trip, some people hug it out and some people would go the extra length and exchange contact information with the best intentions of keeping in touch. But usually life gets in the way as does the distance and you lose touch. But we’ll never lose those memories which made our trip special. Whether it was a Halloween party in Lisbon, being treated like family by a total stranger (who in 2 days became a dear friend) in Naples, drinking at night in a park in New Delhi, drinking on a bus and listening to old school hip-hop in Peru or one of the countless other memories which I still laugh at today; these are all the moments that I will cherish for the rest of my life and the stories I will tell me child.
You've just went on the epic adventure, experienced things you'd never imagine, gone through changes and now it's time to return home. It's exciting to see old friends, visit family you've missed and go to your favorite local places but something is off.
I couldn't put my finger on it but when I returned home, something was different. I was happy to see my friends and be with my family but I wasn't the same. I explained in my previous post Lessons I Learned from Long-Term Travel how my 6 month trip overseas changed me. How I long for the next adventure, how sometimes my mind wanders and I seem absent. Things that used to be important to me seem to have taken a backseat to what I know I want now out of my life; I want adventure, I want to escape, I want to experience everything the world has to offer.
I try to focus on the positive aspects of returning home and how lucky I am to have went on this journey. Also, the fun doesn't stop, we are planning to go on more adventures in the future and take advantage of our close proximity to some great cities in the northeast United States.
Being on a Budget
When we used to go on vacation we didn't watch what we spent too closely. If we wanted to eat somewhere nice, we would. If we wanted to go on a tour/excursion, we would. Laurie would buy souvenirs for people. We knew we had paychecks waiting in our bank accounts and we didn't have to worry about overspending, within reason.
This all changed when we started our 6 month backpacking trip. We both had left our jobs, we had no income after our last paychecks and we had to watch what we spent. Our first 2-3 weeks overseas we treated like a vacation, spending money eating, drinking and sightseeing. It wasn't until I looked at our bank account and realized how much we had spent, that I finally downloaded a budget app to my phone and started to track our spending. We had a budget of about $50/day per person not including long flights or accommodations. In Europe it was tough keeping to that $50 but doable. Once we arrived in Asia, it was fairly easy to keep well below that budget line. We would eat local foods, drink the local beer/wine, refill our water bottles at water fountains, eat the free breakfast at our hostels, etc. We used credit card points to pay for flights and we stayed in hostels for most of our trip. It all worked out in the end as we came back with a good amount of money in our bank account and we didn't feel as if we missed out on anything.
I've Heard this Before
While meeting new people was a highlight of our trip, sometimes the conversation could get a little stale believe it or not. I can't tell you how many times we told someone what we were doing and where we were planning to visit. Of course it's natural, other travelers are genuinely interested in where you're going. But repeating it over and over again could get tiring. Laurie would always push the question on to me because she was tired of repeating herself. After a while, I would steer conversations to a more personal topic. Where are you from? What do you do back home? Ask them for tips about your current location. Anything to switch up, “Well we started in France, went to England…”.
Yes, I know having a language barrier is to be expected. It's all part of traveling. I know! We tried our best to learn different phrases and words that would come in handy in everyday situations. When you're visiting so many countries in a short amount of time, it's nearly impossible to learn enough to get by in every country. And when you're lost trying to figure out which train or bus you're supposed to get on, it can be very frustrating not knowing the language. Luckily we always managed to find our way with some help from Google Translate and/or friendly locals.
Being Bitten by the Travel Bug
As I mentioned before, returning home has been a bit rocky and a big reason is because I really just want to keep traveling. I am always looking for cheap flights, anywhere. I'm always looking for an adventure, something to do, somewhere to go. I constantly find myself talking about my time overseas, the things I've done and seen, I find myself looking back at the thousands of pictures I took and just wanting to go back. It's not necessarily a bad thing but it is becoming the majority of my thoughts and when I'm doing the exact opposite for the majority of the week it really tears at my heart. I've been coming to terms that maybe long term travel is not in my near future but that doesn't mean I need to stop traveling. Quite the opposite; I'll just be taking more, smaller trips. I'll put my focus on taking more domestic trips and exploring the United States. When it's time to go overseas, I'll take a few weeks to explore one region. It'll give me the best of both worlds as I'll be able to keep my full-time job while seeing the world.
Even with these drawbacks, traveling the world for 6 months was the best thing I have ever done. What are some drawbacks you have experienced during your traveling? Sound off in the comments below!
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Traveler. Blogger. Amateur Photographer. "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all." - Helen Keller.