The Effects of Long-Term Travel

It would be a lie to tell you that travel is all blue skies and green grass year round. When I had made the decision to travel, I thought my life was going to be easier once I left. The first few weeks were indeed easy, I felt I had adapted well (partly because China makes travel so easy). I also had saved enough money to travel the entire year without work. I hardy ever looked at my bank account and went on about my days without worry. But it really didn’t take long before things started to go wrong and realize that travel is not at all that easy.

The Bad

It’s exhausting…

Arrive in a new city, attempt to locate hostel/hotel with a large backpack holding you down, finally locate a hostel but it’s over priced, continue searching, locate another hostel, see room if it’s okay, pay, unpack, lock everything up to make sure it doesn’t get stolen, get map out for a place to eat, ask reception for recommendations, see sights and attractions, get lost, attempt again the next day for the sights and attractions, pack, get on a long train or bus ride…. Repeat.

It’s a routine that gets exhausting.

Friends are short term

My friends at home have known me for years -some even since Kindergarten. The friends I have made on the road have known me for a few months if I’m lucky. Still, I can relate to my new friends because of our common interests in travel. Many of them I’ve kept in contact with and met several times more on the road. Unfortunately, most of the friends made while traveling don’t stick around as everyones paths are different. Good Byes are never easy and no matter how many times I say it, I will always hate it.

Positive side to this is I ‘ve met people from all over the world. My friends are spread out throughout the world.

Language barrier can get annoying

There are days when I really don’t feel like everything should be a mission to accomplish. Sometimes I’d like to just buy something and walk away. I attempt at learning as much of the local language as possible but it’s hardly ever conversational. Food is the worse to go wrong. I love trying new foods and I’m not a picky eater at all but there have been meals of total disaster due to the language barrier and having no idea what I was ordering.

The feeling of home

The rush of entering a new city is exciting. Exploring and discovering new things. It’s great. What sucks is when I have to leave as soon as I start to get comfortable in a place.

Things start to blend in

Details that I once noticed when I first started traveling are now blending in with everything else. Not to say that I don’t enjoy where I am but to keep things interesting, I need a change in scenery. Going to too many temples can get boring. One temple every now and keeps me interested.

Tang Paradise with Ying and Yang

Then there’s the other side when things DO go right that makes traveling long-term worth everything. I could easily list out plenty of more bad things that effect long-term travelers but I could double it in the things that are good.

The Good

Master of geography

Prior to traveling, the map inside my head was limited to mostly American states and big countries. Now I can name locations in the most obscure places on earth. Two years of travel has taken me to places.

Appreciate family more

I’m grateful to have such a wonderful supportive family. Whenever someone asks me what I miss the most about home, I always say my family and friends.

Socially awesome and growing up

As a child, I was really weird (still am but now I’m cool weird). I was often made fun of or picked on. It was like this for most of my childhood and lasted for many years thereafter. I started by traveling solo for a year which introduced me to new communication skills I had never had prior to traveling. I’m now a much better public speaker and feel more professional when in a social setting.

Relaxed

Perhaps it’s just my mind playing tricks on me but I feel more at ease while traveling. There’s always something going on and I’m never restrained to one place. If I didn’t like where I was, I could just get up and go to another city or even another country. At home, I felt more ‘stuck’ although I could have always done the same. Not sure what the mentally of this is but somehow traveling does make me feel more relaxed.

Open world to settle in

I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve said “this is a really nice place, I could live here for a few months.” I’m in the process of apply for an Italian citizenship which will open up a whole new window of opportunities. Whenever I do decide to settle for a bit, it’s going to be because I’ve traveled there before and really loved it.

At the end of the day…

The pros far outweigh the cons. I love long-term travel.

 

 

58 Comments

  1. Sasha on June 2, 2011 at 8:16 am

    Great post! Of course there’s pros and cons in every situation but with travel the pros definitely win!  🙂

  2. Sasha on June 2, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Great post! Of course there’s pros and cons in every situation but with travel the pros definitely win!  🙂

  3. Staci on June 2, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Excellent timing.  I leave MONDAY for at least a year of RTW travel.  Reality woke me this AM, long before the alarm, with a jolt.  “What the hell are you thinking?” was swirling through my brain.  I’m glad you reminded me of the discomforts I’m already preparing myself for – they’re manageable when I see them on ‘paper’ and I know the rewards will much outweigh them!  Happy journeys!

    • Michael on June 6, 2011 at 2:15 am

      Ohh I remember that jolt. It happened to me at the airport when I was saying goodbye to my family. Only took me a day to make some friends and feel comfortable again. Always works out.

  4. Staci on June 2, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Excellent timing.  I leave MONDAY for at least a year of RTW travel.  Reality woke me this AM, long before the alarm, with a jolt.  “What the hell are you thinking?” was swirling through my brain.  I’m glad you reminded me of the discomforts I’m already preparing myself for – they’re manageable when I see them on ‘paper’ and I know the rewards will much outweigh them!  Happy journeys!

    • Michael on June 6, 2011 at 3:15 am

      Ohh I remember that jolt. It happened to me at the airport when I was saying goodbye to my family. Only took me a day to make some friends and feel comfortable again. Always works out.

  5. Priscilla on June 2, 2011 at 9:22 am

    I think I am more relaxed when traveling because I am away from daily chores, bill paying, social obligations, keeping up with schedules. It’s only natural that “vacation” seems better because it is better – for a while. Like you said, even beautiful temples can be taken for granted if you visit too many. Travel can become a bit stale if you don’t take time to sit for a bit and build relationships. All this takes time and money which has to come from somewhere, so when you work away dreaming of travel, don’t fret that it’s wasted time; it’s working that makes your vacation time seem so exotic and carefree by contrast! How do you know what sweetness there is if you have never tasted sour?
    Bon Voyage!
    Priscilla

    • Carolyn on June 3, 2011 at 2:55 pm

      I agree!  I love to travel and I do think that it sometimes is just the fact of being away from all the everyday nonsense that we all deal with at home.  I do have to add that after living for a year in both France and Korea, these everyday things like paying bills or rent can sometimes be even more daunting and stressful in another country!  It is definitely a different experience to live more long term in another country vs. just visiting for fun travel.  Finding someone who would rent an apartment to foreigners in France was like trying to find someone who would willingly jump off a cliff….no fun!  Luckily I knew a French family willing to co-sign with me or I would have been in the merde!

      • Michael on June 6, 2011 at 2:08 am

        I’m living in China right now and I can relate to this. It’s most definitely a different experience.

    • Michael on June 6, 2011 at 2:13 am

      Well said and very true.
      Safe travels!

  6. Priscilla on June 2, 2011 at 10:22 am

    I think I am more relaxed when traveling because I am away from daily chores, bill paying, social obligations, keeping up with schedules. It’s only natural that “vacation” seems better because it is better – for a while. Like you said, even beautiful temples can be taken for granted if you visit too many. Travel can become a bit stale if you don’t take time to sit for a bit and build relationships. All this takes time and money which has to come from somewhere, so when you work away dreaming of travel, don’t fret that it’s wasted time; it’s working that makes your vacation time seem so exotic and carefree by contrast! How do you know what sweetness there is if you have never tasted sour?
    Bon Voyage!
    Priscilla

    • Carolyn on June 3, 2011 at 3:55 pm

      I agree!  I love to travel and I do think that it sometimes is just the fact of being away from all the everyday nonsense that we all deal with at home.  I do have to add that after living for a year in both France and Korea, these everyday things like paying bills or rent can sometimes be even more daunting and stressful in another country!  It is definitely a different experience to live more long term in another country vs. just visiting for fun travel.  Finding someone who would rent an apartment to foreigners in France was like trying to find someone who would willingly jump off a cliff….no fun!  Luckily I knew a French family willing to co-sign with me or I would have been in the merde!

      • Michael on June 6, 2011 at 3:08 am

        I’m living in China right now and I can relate to this. It’s most definitely a different experience.

    • Michael on June 6, 2011 at 3:13 am

      Well said and very true.
      Safe travels!

  7. Connie Hum on June 2, 2011 at 11:10 am

    I couldn’t agree with you more! Even after two and a half years of constant travel and now that I’m temporarily living in Hong Kong, I’m still itching to get back on the road!

  8. Connie Hum on June 2, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more! Even after two and a half years of constant travel and now that I’m temporarily living in Hong Kong, I’m still itching to get back on the road!

  9. Claire on June 3, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    I have never traveled for more than 3 months at a time, but I can still relate to most of this. There are just some days where you don’t have to battle through what would be the most mundane task at home. And that cycle you described when finding a hostel……uggh!

    • Michael on June 6, 2011 at 2:07 am

      Haha I think many of us has had the uggh sound when remembering the hassles of finding a hostel.

  10. Claire on June 3, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    I have never traveled for more than 3 months at a time, but I can still relate to most of this. There are just some days where you don’t have to battle through what would be the most mundane task at home. And that cycle you described when finding a hostel……uggh!

    • Michael on June 6, 2011 at 3:07 am

      Haha I think many of us has had the uggh sound when remembering the hassles of finding a hostel.

  11. John Alcock on June 3, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    The important thing to remember though is the things you miss, family and home etc will always be there while your travels be they short or long term will only happen as the situation allows.

    I have found you can burn out pretty easily when travelling over a few months, and the pull for home is always there until you get home and then suddenly your brain clicks and wants to be on the open raod again.

    Your article captures the beauty and struggles of travel, if it was too simple everyone would be doing it, when in fact it takes a very special kind of person!

    • Michael on June 6, 2011 at 2:05 am

      Although they may still be there when I return, it’s still what I miss most and the people I like being with the most. At the end of our life, we are more likely to say we wish we spent more times with the people we love.

      I think everyone COULD do it but probably doesn’t have the mind or will power to actually do it. Everyone could do it but not everyone wants to do it.

      • Steven Sirski on June 9, 2011 at 5:09 am

        Excellent article, but I can’t agree with the friends and family will always be there. Unfortunately, one of the things I miss most about family and friends back home is that they grow up and, well, sometimes life happens. You miss funerals, weddings and kids growing up. I think that’s the hardest part of long-term travel. Sure, travel stories are great, but why am I missing from so many family pictures?

        • Julia on February 1, 2012 at 5:15 am

          Yes, this is what I meant in my long comment above.  Travel is like a time machine, and when you get back home from very long term travel, you (or at least I) are the same except for a much greater understanding of things but some of them back home seem to have aged faster, and some have passed away.  It’s like coming back from a long sleep or coma!  It’s pretty scary. 

  12. John Alcock on June 3, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    The important thing to remember though is the things you miss, family and home etc will always be there while your travels be they short or long term will only happen as the situation allows.

    I have found you can burn out pretty easily when travelling over a few months, and the pull for home is always there until you get home and then suddenly your brain clicks and wants to be on the open raod again.

    Your article captures the beauty and struggles of travel, if it was too simple everyone would be doing it, when in fact it takes a very special kind of person!

    • Michael on June 6, 2011 at 3:05 am

      Although they may still be there when I return, it’s still what I miss most and the people I like being with the most. At the end of our life, we are more likely to say we wish we spent more times with the people we love.

      I think everyone COULD do it but probably doesn’t have the mind or will power to actually do it. Everyone could do it but not everyone wants to do it.

      • Steven Sirski on June 9, 2011 at 6:09 am

        Excellent article, but I can’t agree with the friends and family will always be there. Unfortunately, one of the things I miss most about family and friends back home is that they grow up and, well, sometimes life happens. You miss funerals, weddings and kids growing up. I think that’s the hardest part of long-term travel. Sure, travel stories are great, but why am I missing from so many family pictures?

        • Julia on February 1, 2012 at 6:15 am

          Yes, this is what I meant in my long comment above.  Travel is like a time machine, and when you get back home from very long term travel, you (or at least I) are the same except for a much greater understanding of things but some of them back home seem to have aged faster, and some have passed away.  It’s like coming back from a long sleep or coma!  It’s pretty scary. 

  13. Jet4749 on June 4, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    I think the good out ways the bad hehe

  14. Jet4749 on June 4, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    I think the good out ways the bad hehe

  15. Joe on June 4, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Interesting article. Soooo anxious to get started on a long term trip! Lots of this stuff fits for shorter term travelling too.

    • Michael on June 6, 2011 at 2:00 am

      That’s true. Although I’d imagine the longer you do it for, the more extreme these emotions are.

      • Julia on February 1, 2012 at 5:11 am

        Very true.  I’ve been doing it for quite a while now and at first I was in 7th Heaven despite all the difficulties but by the end although it was still great I saw the stresses more starkly and at the moment I’m relieved to be back and taking a big break in my own culture, which I’d somehow thought before would never happen. 

  16. Joe on June 4, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    Interesting article. Soooo anxious to get started on a long term trip! Lots of this stuff fits for shorter term travelling too.

    • Michael on June 6, 2011 at 3:00 am

      That’s true. Although I’d imagine the longer you do it for, the more extreme these emotions are.

      • Julia on February 1, 2012 at 6:11 am

        Very true.  I’ve been doing it for quite a while now and at first I was in 7th Heaven despite all the difficulties but by the end although it was still great I saw the stresses more starkly and at the moment I’m relieved to be back and taking a big break in my own culture, which I’d somehow thought before would never happen. 

  17. henryk jacek on June 10, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    Well, Travel offers people the adventitious to see new places, feeling a new cultures, make new friends, and apprentice about yourself.  

    travel recommendations

  18. James Branca on June 14, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    This was a very insightful post. When vagabonding, family and friends can sometimes have this idyllic image of a glorified vacation but it’s never as easy as it seems. I agree that the positives outweigh the negatives. The real value is what you gain philosophically and subconsciouslybecause after backpacking you’re usually a stranger to the person who began the adventure.

  19. James Branca on June 14, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    This was a very insightful post. When vagabonding, family and friends can sometimes have this idyllic image of a glorified vacation but it’s never as easy as it seems. I agree that the positives outweigh the negatives. The real value is what you gain philosophically and subconsciouslybecause after backpacking you’re usually a stranger to the person who began the adventure.

  20. ORS Yolene on August 27, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    Very relevant to talk about the bad sides of long term travel too. But i agree with you (i guess that’s why i’m still stravelling  ) the good points overweigh the bad ones (hey your list is a bit short ! 😛  )

  21. ORS Yolene on August 27, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    Very relevant to talk about the bad sides of long term travel too. But i agree with you (i guess that’s why i’m still stravelling  ) the good points overweigh the bad ones (hey your list is a bit short ! 😛  )

  22. ValerieHamer on September 1, 2011 at 7:59 am

    I hear you on both sides of the topic. But the benefits definitely win out.

    • Michael on September 5, 2011 at 9:19 pm

      Agreed! 🙂

  23. ValerieHamer on September 1, 2011 at 8:59 am

    I hear you on both sides of the topic. But the benefits definitely win out.

    • Michael on September 5, 2011 at 10:19 pm

      Agreed! 🙂

  24. Julia on February 1, 2012 at 5:05 am

    I totally agree with most of the things you’ve said about travelling, although my style of travel in the last few years has been a little different since I’ve been living in many different countries, working and/or studying in them and travelling overland between many of them.  It is true that it is very stressful and not so wonderful in many ways after doing it for a while (I now have a bit of travel burnout).  On the other hand, I was shy and lacking confidence before travelling and now, like you, I’m still a little different from others back home but in a cool way in which I can hold my own, relate well socially, and have a lot of confidence in myself the way I am.   I am presently going through something though where travel seems a bit of a time machine where I feel about the same as before, only more confident and knowledgable about the world, but others whenever I am back home and see them again seem to have aged much faster than me, which is pretty scary.  They also are developing big businesses, married with children, while some of my career goals were put slightly on hold by the travel break and I also added different priorities, travel itself having become one of my careers and part of my lifestyle.  I’m also spending a bit of time now in Italy, having become burnt out from being in the otherwise very fascinating eastern cultures.  Probably as a woman though that part of the world burnt me out (eastern cultures) due to certain attitudes (“You are a woman so why arent you married at home with your husband and 16 kids and not travelling and working on graduate studies?  Give up on your goals!”)

  25. Julia on February 1, 2012 at 6:05 am

    I totally agree with most of the things you’ve said about travelling, although my style of travel in the last few years has been a little different since I’ve been living in many different countries, working and/or studying in them and travelling overland between many of them.  It is true that it is very stressful and not so wonderful in many ways after doing it for a while (I now have a bit of travel burnout).  On the other hand, I was shy and lacking confidence before travelling and now, like you, I’m still a little different from others back home but in a cool way in which I can hold my own, relate well socially, and have a lot of confidence in myself the way I am.   I am presently going through something though where travel seems a bit of a time machine where I feel about the same as before, only more confident and knowledgable about the world, but others whenever I am back home and see them again seem to have aged much faster than me, which is pretty scary.  They also are developing big businesses, married with children, while some of my career goals were put slightly on hold by the travel break and I also added different priorities, travel itself having become one of my careers and part of my lifestyle.  I’m also spending a bit of time now in Italy, having become burnt out from being in the otherwise very fascinating eastern cultures.  Probably as a woman though that part of the world burnt me out (eastern cultures) due to certain attitudes (“You are a woman so why arent you married at home with your husband and 16 kids and not travelling and working on graduate studies?  Give up on your goals!”)

  26. Jeremy on February 24, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    I love this post.  I also have to say I am a geography expert and I could have cared less for the topic before traveling.  Still shaky with US geography though. Too close to home.

  27. Jeremy on February 24, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    I love this post.  I also have to say I am a geography expert and I could have cared less for the topic before traveling.  Still shaky with US geography though. Too close to home.

  28. nick on January 7, 2013 at 4:54 am

    Hi Michael,
    I would like to ask you for some “real” advice, I have tried just about every line of work that interests me, then eventually starting my own business, needless to say i remain unsatisfied , unhappy & most of all wanting more out of life…
    The idea of selling all of my possessions and hitting the road has been in the back of my mind for ever a decade now.
    I’m engaged by your stories and i would really love to do the same, however i do have some issues, I’m in a relationship for starters almost every family member,friends and relatives have walked out on me because I’m constantly unhappy with life and never satisfied. I am overall a really good guy, i am in love and happy in that part, but I just want more! and when i think of the idea of backpacking, I begin to glow from the inside out, the mere thought of it excites me to my inner core!
    My hope is that You or someone out there see’s my comment and relates to how i feel….
    I need to relate to people to feel grounded, and sane.
    I also want to make sure I’m not doing this for the wrong reasons, and end up worse off than ever before….
    Thanks again for sharing your experience’s
    Rgds
    Nick

    • Michael on January 7, 2013 at 9:48 am

      Hey Nick. Thank you so much for your comment. I thought about your comment for awhile and I think it would be a very lengthy comment back. I’m actually going to write a separate article just for your comment. 🙂

  29. nick on January 7, 2013 at 4:54 am

    Hi Michael,
    I would like to ask you for some “real” advice, I have tried just about every line of work that interests me, then eventually starting my own business, needless to say i remain unsatisfied , unhappy & most of all wanting more out of life…
    The idea of selling all of my possessions and hitting the road has been in the back of my mind for ever a decade now.
    I’m engaged by your stories and i would really love to do the same, however i do have some issues, I’m in a relationship for starters almost every family member,friends and relatives have walked out on me because I’m constantly unhappy with life and never satisfied. I am overall a really good guy, i am in love and happy in that part, but I just want more! and when i think of the idea of backpacking, I begin to glow from the inside out, the mere thought of it excites me to my inner core!
    My hope is that You or someone out there see’s my comment and relates to how i feel….
    I need to relate to people to feel grounded, and sane.
    I also want to make sure I’m not doing this for the wrong reasons, and end up worse off than ever before….
    Thanks again for sharing your experience’s
    Rgds
    Nick

    • Michael on January 7, 2013 at 9:48 am

      Hey Nick. Thank you so much for your comment. I thought about your comment for awhile and I think it would be a very lengthy comment back. I’m actually going to write a separate article just for your comment. 🙂

  30. nick on January 8, 2013 at 4:50 am

    Hey Michael,
    Cool, well i am sitting here waiting in anticipation 🙂
    Thanks again for the reply 🙂 🙂

  31. nick on January 8, 2013 at 4:50 am

    Hey Michael,
    Cool, well i am sitting here waiting in anticipation 🙂
    Thanks again for the reply 🙂 🙂

  32. Jason on August 21, 2013 at 9:26 am

    Howsit Michael, absolutely loving your blog, very keen to backpack for a month before my internship starts next year. Your blog has helped me so much in making the decision to backpack over getting a tour done.

    • Michael on August 26, 2013 at 1:31 pm

      I’m glad! Safe travels 🙂

  33. […] the negative aspects of travel (see examples from Nomadic Matt, Goats on the Road, Art of Adventuring, and So Many […]

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