I read an article in Quartz that explained that it’s not about what you want in life (because we all generally want the same things), but more about what you’re willing to endure to reach those dreams. If traveling long term is something you want, be ready for the following struggles and rewards:
1. You live out of a very small backpack.
To save money on checked baggage, most likely you are living out of a carry-on size backpack. However, it’s not easy to fit your entire life on your back, not to mention having to pull it all out every time you need to get to your towel. The good news though is that you can pack it like a pro!
2. You get tired of wearing the same clothes constantly.
Along with having such a small backpack, you won’t be able to fit more than a handful of shirts, dresses, and shorts in it. This gets more difficult if you’re traveling through various climates and need to throw in pants, long sleeves, a coat, and a rain jacket too. Get used to seeing that same polka dot shirt twice a week for months.
3. Hand washing your clothes becomes a weekly chore.
With so few clothes, laundry is a necessity every week, and often more than once. It’s easier to hand wash your clothes as you go than to risk a drop-off laundry service shrinking one of your four shirts. Paying $10-$20 per load of laundry at the laundromat also racks up way too fast if you’re on a budget.
4. Every liquid you own is carry on compliant.
I’ve learned this one the hard way too many times. 120 ml contact solution will not fly with one in four airline security personnel (pun intended), so you’ll have to pitch it.
5. You have to say goodbye to new friends too soon.
One of the best and worst parts of travel is all the friends you make. Yet just as you’re getting comfortable with them, you have to say goodbye (possibly forever) and start all over again tomorrow. Good thing there’s Facebook to keep in touch!
6. You get used to having no idea what anyone is talking about.
It’s really disorienting not being able to understand any advertisements, radio, TV, or conversations around you at first. Eventually though, you get used to living in your own bubble. It’s weird when you run into someone who speaks your language and you can eavesdrop again.
7. You stay in bad hostels.
Get ready for snorers as loud as lawn mowers, no air conditioning on 90 degree days, and messy rooms. Don’t get me wrong, most hostels are awesome, but if you stay in a new one every week, you’re bound to get some bad ones. We got so frustrated with our fellow hostelers once that Peter wrote a whole post on hostel etiquette.
8. You will get scammed eventually.
The “friendly local” wants to make commission off your lunch, that signed petition is a ploy to pickpocket your wallet, the taxi driver is quoting triple the price he would give to a local. Scams are everywhere. The good news is that you’ll become a pro at spotting and avoiding them.Read Peter’s article about scams we’ve run into on the road to be aware of a few of them.
9. Planes, trains, and automobiles are part of your daily routine.
Nearly every day of your life will include one of these forms of transport. I’ve traveled on more buses and planes in three months of this world tour than my entire life combined. In eight months, we have taken over 30 flights! You’ll learn to sleep anywhere.
10. You miss your home: friends, family, and pets.
Even though you’re surrounded by beauty and adventure, you’ll find yourself thinking of home and missing what you left behind. The constant movement can make you crave stability and what’s familiar.
Disheartened yet? Don’t be! All good things come with some sacrifice. In the grand scheme of things, the benefits outlined below far outweigh the minor inconveniences above:
1. Every day is a new adventure.
Literally! There isn’t a single day that goes by that you’re not seeing or trying something new. The constant excitement is intoxicating. You’ll never feel more alive!
2. You make your own schedule.
You feel tired this morning? Go ahead, go back to sleep. In fact, sleep until you feel fully rested every day. You don’t have to answer to anyone. If you feel like staying up late or spending the afternoon doing nothing but reading a book, you can! It’s incredibly freeing. All the invisible barriers you create in your life are gone.
3. You have gorgeous scenery for a backdrop every day.
Remember your favorite desktop background back home? That secluded beach or snow peaked mountain? That’s in your front yard now. Every day you can take a picture worthy of National Geographic with your smart phone. How is the world this beautiful?!
4. You meet amazing people from all around the world.
Traveling is incredibly social and fun. It gives you the excuse to get to know loads of new people you never would have gotten the chance to meet. Yes, you may have to say goodbye to them sooner than you want, but now you have an excuse to travel to their country! Even if you don’t, you’re better for knowing them.
5. You learn how others live.
The world takes on a whole new level of significance when you learn about other people’s lives on a personal level. You realize what your country lacks, and how lucky you are at the same time. Your compassion for others deepens when you see them as real people instead of a one minute segment on the nightly news.
6. You create amazing memories and great stories.
Every moment you travel, you are creating new stories to tell your children and grandchildren. They may not all be fun in the moment, but they are all memorable and life-changing. (See what we mean when we say, “There are two types of fun in the world.”)
7. You challenge yourself and learn something new every day.
Traveling is a time for firsts. You get to push your limits and find your hidden strengths in ways that aren’t possible while staying home. Even if you’re not interested in facing your fear of heights, you’re going to learn something new about yourself every day just by being in a new place and comparing yourself to your new surroundings. (Read my confessions of what it was like being a small town girl in a big city to see what I mean.)
8. You try delicious foods you wish existed at home.
No matter how many Mexican restaurants you visit back home, you’ll never truly know how good an enchilada can be until you visit a street vendor in the Yucatan. It only costs $1 USD too! Every country’s local cuisine is better where it originated. You get to try foods you’ve never heard of before either. Kushari, a pasta dish in Egypt, is one of Peter’s new favorite foods now.
9. You ask yourself, “How did I get so lucky?” every day.
Sipping your coffee while looking out over the Grand Canyon during sunrise- you ask yourself, “How did I get so lucky?” Basking in the sun as the ocean waves crash at your feet- “How did I get so lucky?” Exploring the intricate stone work of a palace built over one thousand years ago . . . . The list goes on and on.
10. You lead the life you want to live.
They say on your deathbed, you don’t regret what you did, but what you didn’t do. At the end of your life- whether that be in 50 years or 5 hours, will you feel as though you lived the life you wanted to live? Did you see what you wanted to see?
Travel doesn’t solve all your problems, and it’s certainly not always easy, but when has anything worth it ever been easy?
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