Long-term travel had always been a dream of ours and, in October 2018, we finally took the plunge. We left our jobs, got rid of most of our processions, put the rest in storage and hopped aboard a one-way flight to Delhi.
We spent the next thirteen months traveling but sadly it all came to an end rather abruptly in November last year when I broke my right leg!
Long-term travel sounds great and, to be fair, it mostly was. I miss it every second of the day right now; especially since I’m largely confined to our newly rented home, recovering from my accident.
But as much as we loved long-term travel, the reality is that it’s not always as glamorous as it sounds. You’ll often come across situations and environments that are quite alien to you and you’ll have to adapt to cope with them along the way. That often means stepping outside your comfort zone and it’s not always as easy as it sounds.
If you are considering travelling long-term, we’d definitely encourage it because it really opens your eyes to different perspectives. We’d do it again in a heartbeat. But, there are a few things you should know before you go.
Long-term travel can be very tiring
Depending on your pace, long-term travel can be very hard on you. Although we travelled much slower than we did when we had just four weeks of annual leave to play with, there were still times when we ended up traveling way too fast.
We’d get up early every day to pack in as much sightseeing as possible, and then move on every two or three days. Trying to run a blog at the same time was exhausting. We often joked that we needed a “holiday” from our holiday! Whenever we reached that stage, we tried to stay a week or more somewhere, to recover and catch up on sleep and on the blog.
Planning the trip becomes so painful
There’s a lot of planning and researching involved in any trip. So think about doing that for a year-long trip! It takes a whole lot of effort.
I used to love planning our holidays overseas. I’ve always been my own travel agent. But after a few months on the road, I was exhausted by the amount of time spent on blogs, Tripadvisor forums and booking.com. Planning just became so exhausting and sometimes, it just made more sense to book an organised tour, saving hours of research.
Forget about a routine
If you’re the type of person who enjoys having a routine, forget about it! We stopped having a routine as soon as we boarded that flight to Delhi. In our thirteen months of travel, the closest we came to having a routine was in Montanita, Ecuador, where we had two weeks of daily Spanish classes.
Aside from that, there was no routine. Every day was a different day. We had to leave our comfort zone, a lot. We learned new things every day. The alarm clock in the morning was never set at the same time. It was impossible to maintain a routine.
Beautiful things don’t impress you as much
Ok, this was the one thing that bothered me the most towards the end of our trip. When you’ve seen so many incredible places in this world, it’s hard to be as impressed with each new thing.
Many places are similar to others and, at times, you can be slightly unimpressed. It’s just another lake, just another city, just another beach. It sucks because I used to be overjoyed with everything I came across while travelling.
When you’re travelling long-term, you don’t get the same excitement you used to, unless it’s something totally different. How many waterfalls did we dismiss because we’d seen too many waterfalls already? How many temples did we pass on in Asia because “it’s just another temple!”?
That being said, we were still blown away by so many places we visited. There are enough awe-inspiring places in the world to keep even the most spoiled traveller impressed.
You’ll miss having a place to call home
Changing room every few days is hard. Not only do you have to travel light but it makes feeling at home impossible. If you’re a homey person then you will struggle big time with this. I didn’t find this too difficult, but Simon missed having a base a lot more. People are different.
You’ll miss your friends and family
In thirteen months on the road, we can count with one hand the number of friends and family we met along the way and you really miss them. There are times you want to talk to someone and it can be very difficult. For thirteen months, it was pretty much just the two of us, every single day. It’s tough and yes, you will miss being able to run to your best friend whenever you feel lonely, or whenever you want to whinge about something that’s been bothering you.
Your bucket list won’t get any shorter
You may think that just because you have more time, you will finally tick off all those items on your bucket list. Unfortunately, it sorts of goes the other way around.
Yes, you will tick off some of them; but along the way, you’ll meet many other travellers who will tell you about places you’ve never thought of visiting or even heard of. Then, of course, you’ll want to go there too because, you know, you are a travelholic after all!
The list gets longer and longer, no matter what style of traveller you are. If you are bitten with the travel bug, it’s unfortunately not curable!
Living out of a suitcase is not much fun
At first, I thought it would be ok. I managed to cram so much into my Osprey Sojourn (they are wonderful bags by the way). But packing your bag day in and day out is a pain in the neck. You get sick of it and you just want to stay put for a while.
You get sick of wearing creased clothes and you get sick of looking like a slob. There was no way we could go to a 5-star restaurant! Just as well, we couldn’t afford them anyway!
One good thing though, we very quickly became experts at packing and unpacking!
You’ll start hating your clothes
After wearing the same clothes for a while, you’ll quickly start resenting everything you own. I threw away a few things along the way to replace them but still, I hated what I was forced to wear.
When traveling long term, you can only bring along a few things to wear. When you’re used to having a wardrobe full of clothes to choose from, it’s quite depressing having to put on the same pair of trousers or the same dress every second day!
Some of your accommodation will be subpar
When we both worked and traveled a few times a year, we always made sure we stayed in places that were nice, clean and close to everything; sometimes, even luxurious.
It’s nice to treat yourself once in a while and when you’re earning money on a monthly basis, things just appear more affordable. But with long-term travel, this is not really possible.
When you have a limited budget, it can be hard to find decent accommodation, for example, much of Europe. Sometimes you get what you pay for. There were some places that totally grossed us out but thankfully we never stayed in them for long.
The weight issue
Yes, traveling long-term is not the best thing to do if you’re worried about gaining weight. At least, not if you’re like me. Although I started off by losing weight in Asia, traveling through Africa, Europe and South America quickly put an end to that good start.
I refused to hop on a scale (to avoid the inevitable depression) but I knew things weren’t good. When half your clothes don’t fit you anymore, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s happened!
The problem was that while we were traveling, we ate out way too much. Although we often skipped meals to save money, I still ended up putting on weight.
Even though we stayed in Airbnb apartments a lot and many of them had kitchens, having to buy groceries when you can’t easily take them with you seemed more trouble than it was worth. Plus, sometimes shopping in supermarkets was more expensive than eating out, especially in cheaper countries.
Experiencing local food is also a great part of traveling. We had a kitchen in Italy but it’s hard to make yourself a salad in your Airbnb when you’ve got restaurants serving amazing Italian food just around the corner!
We didn’t exercise like we did back home, we walked a lot and hiked on any occasion we could. But at home, I used to run or go on the cross trainer several times a week. We couldn’t exactly sign up to a gym in every city we visited. In fact, towards the end, we tried to stay in Airbnbs that offered a gym. Still, even with that, I managed to put on so much weight.
However, Simon lost weight while travelling (but is now quickly putting it back on again), so maybe it depends on the person! He’s lucky to have a very fast metabolism!
It’s not always social-media worthy
Yes, everything you see on Instagram and Facebook make you dream about travelling and living the high life too. But traveling long-term is not always as fun as it sounds on Instagram. Things go wrong, places turn out to be not at all what you imagined and, of course, you can get sick!
Of course, I don’t write about that time I had major food poisoning in the middle of the Amazon, when I couldn’t drag myself off the toilet bowl all night. That wouldn’t sound glamorous right?
Some places we visited barely impressed us, after seeing them in all their glory on Instagram. Sometimes the weather sucks, sometimes they’re jammed packed with other tourists, sometimes you’re just not in the mood for them. So, don’t set your expectations too high and don’t trust everything you see or read on social media.
It’s hard on your relationship
If like us, you’re traveling as a couple, it can be hard on your relationship. Unlike at home when you get a break from each other, on the road you see each other practically 24/7. There’s barely any breaks and it’s hard! You may love your partner but you do get sick of each other and you’ll long to talk to someone else (that’s when you’ll miss your friends the most).
If you think that you won’t argue about laundry, cooking and cleaning anymore, think again. You’ll find plenty to argue about. There is no escaping! You’ll need to take time off from each other, every so often. We didn’t take enough time off and, although we are still happily married, there were a lot of times when we wanted to kill each other. Although, I suppose that it still happens now 🙂
Should you do it?
If long-term travel is your dream, then you should go for it. It doesn’t have to be for 5 years, even 3 months would be an amazing experience for anyone. You just need to know the truth about it. If you are well prepared about the parts of it that are less glamorous, you are more likely to enjoy your time on the road and to be able to adapt to whatever comes your way.
Would we do long-term travel again?
Absolutely! We loved traveling so much and if it wasn’t for my stupid leg, we’d be in Brazil right now. We were not quite ready to finish up and still had at least another five months planned on the road. So we’d absolutely love to do it again, even with all those inconveniences. Because at the end of the day, for us, it was 100% worth it.
Now that we’ve been home for over a month, I find it super hard getting back into a normal routine. It’s depressing and all I think about is the places I’d rather be. I would so love to go back in time and be in that safari jeep in Botswana photographing the lions; or at the top of the Salkantay Pass in Peru, exhausted but proud of our achievement.
But it’s life, all good things come to an end and who knows, maybe we’ll be back on the road again someday. Either way, there is still a lot of travelling ahead of us, and now I actually love planning holidays again!