6 Things They Don’t Tell You About Long-Term Travel

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long term travel

You can’t scroll through your Facebook feed anymore without coming across an article about yet another intrepid individual who left their daily grind to travel around the world. Millennials aren’t shy about valuing “experiences over stuff,” and as the result, massive trips are becoming increasingly popular. Who doesn’t dream of taking that leap? While it may seem like a carefree paradise, these fantasy excursions do come with their own stresses and struggles. Here are six things they don’t tell you about long-term travel.

1) It’s nothing like a vacation.

When you imagine leaving your worries behind to travel for months on end, you probably conjure up images from your last vacation… sitting by a resort pool, sipping fruity cocktails in your breezy cabana. However, it should go without saying that most extended trips are completed on much tighter budgets. You are probably more likely to find yourself sipping a frothy beer in a plastic chair on a crowded local beach, and eating street food over fine dining. Is the experience just as, if not more enjoyable? Sure is! Just don’t expect the Four Seasons.

2) It’s hard work.

“Long-term” and “independent” travel tend to go hand in hand. You are unlikely to find yourself on a guided tour, will rarely have very much booked in advance, and will never rely on a travel agent to handle your flights. Taking care of all of these logistics takes time and patience. Factor in additional details—like researching activities and accommodations, deciphering public transportation, communicating in a foreign language, and obtaining vaccinations and visas—and traveling can often feel like a full-time job.

3) Freedom isn’t always easy.

Having the world at your fingertips is a tremendous luxury that can sometimes feel like a never-ending series of questions. What should I do today? Where do I want to eat? How long will I stay here? Which country should I visit next? It’s a fantastic problem to have, while admittedly exhausting to those with decision-making difficulties. It’s all fun and games, until somebody doesn’t know what to do next.

4) It can be bad for your health.

It’s not uncommon to lose weight on a vacation. You are away from your desk, constantly active, and on the go soaking up every bit that a place has to offer. But as your time line stretches indefinitely, the rush to see and do wanes. Mornings sipping lattes at a local café drift seamlessly into afternoon drinks and late-night dinners with new friends. It’s easy to forget about the workout regimen, and difficult to pass up delicious treats—after all, you want to experience it all! When every day is a Saturday, it takes a conscious effort to stay in shape.

5) Reverse culture shock is real.

For many, coming home from an epic journey presents more of a culture shock than the trip itself. Returning to a routine and relating with friends can present challenges after a life-changing adventure. Further, the sheer ease of life back home can seem shocking, especially after traveling in developing countries. This transition period is a difficult side effect of traveling that often goes un-discussed, because let’s be honest: the traveler isn’t going to gain much sympathy.

6) It’s worth it.

Despite all of the above, long-term travel is one of the most rewarding gifts you can give to yourself. Disconnecting from the culture you are familiar with to put yourself (literally!) out there will completely shift your perspective of the world around you. Each new challenge is an opportunity to learn and grow in ways you couldn’t have imagined back home. The good far outweighs the bad, and if you are prepared for both, you’re in for the time of your life.

Have you traveled long term? Do you share these experiences? Where did you go?