So, you’ve scoured the internet looking for advice on long term travel. You’ve probably spent hours reading travel blogs, liking thousands of Instagram photos that depict your dream travel destinations and, somewhere in the process – as you’ve become more enthralled by and committed to the idea of long term travel – you landed here.
That tells me you’re already deep in your decision making process so I hope this article serves as that last little push you need…that reassuring friend who agrees that you’ve chosen the absolute perfect filter and caption for that “to die for” photo you’re about to post. Through my personal experience and learning of the experiences of hundreds of other long term travellers, I’ve figured out a few things that absolutely must be 100% true before deciding to travel for an extended period of time. If you can answer “yes” to the following questions…you’re ready for long term travel!
Is Your Plan Not All Planned Out?
Yes, you read that correctly. You are not ready for long term travel if you have every detail of every day you will be gone planned out. It is, however, important to have a general plan regarding duration of travel, route of travel, and time of travel so you can vaccinate, pack, and budget appropriately. Researching the cultures of the places you’re interested in visiting will help you transition. Having an idea of how transportation works in certain areas of the world (i.e. buses, trains, and metros are easily accessible and cheap in Europe but are pretty much non-existent throughout the Middle East) will save you a lot of trouble down the road…pun very much intended. Being familiar with the different currencies and how they could potentially affect your budget is extremely advisable. But, when it comes to your day to day, there should be a decent amount of unknown.
Having everything planned is a short-term mindset and a short-term mindset doesn’t mesh well with long term travel. Having every flight booked and attraction accounted for will make for an exhausting trip. You will not maximise your enjoyment and you will miss out on so much. Sounds ironic, right? You want to plan and plan and then plan some more so you don’t forget to climb Machu Picchu in Peru or miss Carnival in Rio but having a set schedule limits your flexibility, and will cause you to miss out on some of the most amazing places and events around the world. Leaving unplanned time will allow you to experience things you didn’t find on the internet – things you’ll learn from the locals and other travellers you meet. And you’ll only get to check them off your list if you don’t already have a flight to catch. I’m not saying just because you have a loose schedule you’ll mark every bucket list item off (you’ll actually add more to your list as you travel) but you will certainly see more of the world than you planned.
Not knowing everything ahead of time will allow you to truly see the beauty in the places you’re visiting. You’ll see something for the first time instead of for the first time in real life after seeing it a million times on Instagram. Your travel will take on a dimension you didn’t know was possible – it will become a lifestyle rather than a trip. That’s the dimension that makes long term travel work. You don’t live your normal life having every single detail planned out and you shouldn’t plan long term travel that way, either. Leave room for surprises. Allocate time to get lost. If you have the half-way buttoned up plan…you’re ready.
Is Your Realism Level Equal To Your Optimism Level?
Travelling is amazing, wonderful, eye-opening, and downright incredible. It is also difficult, challenging, frustrating, and downright exhausting. While long term travellers need that special amount of optimism, I have found that having an equal dose of realism is just as important. Understanding that every day isn’t going to be a new and beautiful destination full of excitement is a hard concept to grasp. I mean, that’s the reason you want to travel long term anyway, right? To see those spectacular places plastered all over your feed? But every day isn’t going to be a beautiful destination. You’re not leaving the comforts of your home to have those same comforts on the road. That’s a vacation.
You’re leaving to experience new places and cultures and often that means sacrificing the things you’re used to and letting go of preconceived ideas of what your long term travel once looked like. Long term travel is a full time job. Behind every photo you see and every story you hear there are hours of planning and number crunching. And even after everything is perfectly planned and the numbers are just right, there are times none of it goes right. You’ll miss a bus, your luggage will get lost, and things will be more expensive than you anticipated. You have to be ready for these situations. Being blindly optimistic will not work. You’ll be disappointed and your travel plans will likely get cut short. Realism is knowing the bad days are going to happen and your optimism is there to get you through them. If you can open both the realistic and optimistic sides of your personality…you’re ready.
Is Your Money On Your Mind?
Money is extremely important in determining the aspects of your travel plans. Dollar amounts decide weeks vs. months and months vs. years. They dictate which countries you can visit and how extended your stay in a certain country can be as some countries are far more expensive than others. Money decides which type of transport you can afford in between destinations. Money determines your meals. The bottom line is: money matters.
However, there is an up side. You do not have to have a six-digit bank account to see the world. If you’ve started setting money aside for your travel plans, you’re well on your way to that first one-way ticket. Depending on the type of travel you want to do, your budget can range from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. There are plenty of budget-friendly options when it comes to transport, accommodation, and experiences, and there are ways to cut costs and make money once you’ve begun your journey, but you absolutely have to have a significant amount of funds to get started. If you’ve allocated a nice chunk of change specifically for travel…you’re ready.
Is Your Fear Of Missing Out Greater Than All Other Fears?
By this I mean your fear of missing out on a great opportunity for change. You can be afraid of leaving your friends, family, and career behind, you can be nervous about some of the countries you plan to visit, and you can even be terrified that it’ll all go wrong and you’ll end up back home in a few weeks. But your fear of missing out on this chance to change your life has to be greater than all other fears. Long term travel enhances your life in a way nothing else can. If you know you won’t be satisfied in life until you make this journey…you’re ready.
I hope that somewhere thousands of miles away I can hear the slight sounds of, “yes, I’m ready” and know another like-minded, long term traveller has been added to the grid!
About The Author
Katie Hughes is an American born full-time traveller, currently making her way across the world with her boyfriend, Peter. She has been to over 30 countries in the past eight months and has gained valuable logistical knowledge on budget travelling. With a professional background in operations and planning, she has naturally gravitated toward making long term travel more efficient for those sharing her passion for seeing the world. To learn more about planning to arrive to, getting around, and exploring the beautiful destinations showcased on her Instagram, check out The World Travel Planner website.