It takes a huge leap of faith to travel long term. Back in 2012, when I left for my first and solo trip around Southeast Asia for six months, I was petrified. I told myself that if I didn’t like solo travelling I could just go home after two months, and knowing that helped me get through those first few weeks of almost debilitating homesickness.
While it took a couple of weeks to find my travel feet, I found I absolutely loved long term backpacking and when the time came to return home, I was already planning the next trip. I love the adventure of leaving on a long trip through foreign lands, with a let’s see what happens attitude.
But a trip like this costs quite a bit of money. You can read how much I spent travelling Southeast Asia for six months, or South America for six months. I spent a year of saving before each trip and a whole lot of time thinking about the pros and cons of what I was about to do.
You see, when people travel for a few months, or maybe a year or longer, they often quit their job, sell their cars and possessions, and rent out homes. Very few have a life they can step back into when they come home and rebuilding everything from scratch can be very difficult.
This is why many backpackers are on gap years. They’re between high school and university, or between university and work. They’re already at a point in their lives where they’ve just finished one chapter of their lives and are about to start the next one anyway.
There are quite possibly thousands of travellers on Instagram and other platforms that promote the ‘paid to travel’ lifestyle. They’ll sell you their secret to making money while travelling, when in fact that is how they make money. They make their money off the people who buy into the dream.
But the reality is that if you do something for long enough, it too will feel mundane. There were days when I was hopping from one beach to the next along the Carribean coast of Colombia, enjoying some of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever seen, but it was no longer exciting. I wanted to go back home, to a routine and a regular income.
Because for all the wonderful adventures to be had, the reality is that it can be just as exhausting as the typical lifestyle.
So let’s go over the pros and cons of taking time out to travel for a year.
Pros of long term travel:
It’s exciting right? To be able to create a list of everywhere you want to go, to complete the ultimate bucket list. The end of the trip is so far away you don’t have to think about it, unlike those two week getaways that end so quickly.
You can travel without a plan. If you like the town you’re in, stay a few extra days. Don’t like it? Move on. Plan your adventures at a whim.
It’s a chance to travel slower and get off the beaten path. There’s no rush cram two countries into your two week a year vacation time. Take it slow, go where you feel like without worrying about wasting your time.
It’s cheaper. Take the local bus at a fraction of the cost of a flight (usually), have quiet ‘do nothing’ days where you just roam the city streets for urban art, people watch, and sample food from street carts.
The long periods of rest allow for some soul searching. It’s a great way to deal with a breakup, decide on a career change or even just figure out what the fuck we want to do with our life.
Every day is different. It’s a challenge to try to sleep on 12 hour long bus rides, to learn a few phrases in another language, to navigate, learn and understand different cultures.
Cons of long term travel:
You can feel quite lethargic most days. When you can stay in a destination for as long as you’d like, it’s so easy to stay in that hammock with a beer in hand all day long.
We all have to go home eventually, and when that time comes we have to stay with friends and relatives until we can find a new job and home.
Homesickness is pretty common and Facebook can make matters both better and worse, so Skype home regularly, keep busy, and find familiar activities to do that remind you of home like going to the cinema, shopping at the mall, or going for a jog.
Having to deal with worn out, fraying clothes and being unable to find a size that fits or a similar quality to what you’re used to outside of major cities.
Uncertainty. Not really knowing where you’ll be the next week can be both a pro and a con. You will grow to love it eventually, when every day is different. But at first it’s a little nerve wracking.
I think I still prefer long term travel to short term. I love the adventure of throwing myself into a region for half a year with little to rely on but my own hard earned capabilities to keep me afloat.
There will be very few periods in your life when you can give yourself over to travel completely, so if you’re in that position where you are considering taking time out to travel, then go, take the risk and see what happens.
You’re always only a plane ticket away from home.
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