Around this time last year, I returned home from a year of backpacking. And although it’s so nice to be settled, sometimes I’m nostalgic for my nomadic lifestyle.
There are so many wonderful things about long-term travel. Long-term travel lets you live your life to the fullest every day. Your entire universe is dedicated to your personal pleasure and growth, and you’re infinitely flexible to do as you please.
Obviously there are downsides to traveling full-time, particularly when you’re working on the road. I struggled most with the emotional fallout– meeting people, coming to care for them and saying goodbye a few days later.
But obviously there’s a lot to love about long-term travel- why do you think I did it for so long? Here are the things about long-term travel I miss most.
1. Making friends from all over the world.
I miss meeting people from every corner of the globe. In Denver I so rarely hear an accent I forget that there are other dialects of English. (Only half-joking. But not really.)
There’s nothing better than walking into a hostel common room and meeting people from Australia, England, France and China. By meeting people from other countries, you learn about so many things you otherwise would never know: German drinking games, Australian trap music, what Christmas in Sweden is like.
And making friends from all over the world means you can visit them in their home countries- I’ve done that several times!
These are several requests I’ve said yes to while traveling:
“Hey, you want to motorcycle across Vietnam with me?”
“Want to road trip to my parents’ house in Wales?”
“Want to drive with us to meet our durian dealer?” (Probably shouldn’t said no on that one.)
When you’re traveling, your flexibility allows you to make decisions on a whim.
For example, when I was backpacking Southeast Asia, I rarely booked rooms- I just asked other westerners on the bus where they were staying that night.
Now I can’t imagine leaving my precious vacation days up to chance.
Clockwise from upper left: a banh mi in Vietnam, a bacon sandwich in London, baklava in Istanbul, popiah in Singapore.
Constant travel is a dream for foodies. You get to try the best food in the world in its country of origin- what’s better than sashimi in Japan or cassoulet in Southeastern France?
And try as you might, the Thai green curry you make at home just won’t measure up to the curry you had in Bangkok. Trust me, I’ve tried.
4. How easy it is to keep up foreign languages.
When I traveled, I kept up my Spanish and French effortlessly– I didn’t study, I simply talked to fellow travelers. At home I have to make a effort by watching foreign films or TV shows, skyping native speaker friends or going to language classes.
I know this isn’t a concern everyone shares, but it’s so much easier (and fun!) to keep up foreign languages simply by interacting with native speakers.
5. The late-night partying culture.
In my opinion, partying in the U.S. just isn’t as fun as it is abroad. First of all, the bars shut at one or two AM here, which is right when things get interesting.
Secondly, alcohol is crazy expensive. ($8 for a glass of Yellowtail? No thanks.)
And post-college, most of us don’t have the energy to stay out until six. Which I totally understand- waking up at 5:50 AM during the week has turned me into a grandma.
6. More time to read.
As a total bookworm, when I traveled full-time I read constantly. In India, I often read four to five hours A DAY (Game of Thrones– what else).
Now I’m lucky if I have time to read for four to five hours a week, much less a day. Sigh.
7. The cheap cost of living.
I’ve traveled in many incredibly affordable countries: Cambodia, Thailand, Ecuador, I’m looking at you.
India was the cheapest of all– I remember paying $3 a person for a three-couse meal with fresh-squeezed mango juice, tea and dessert.
In cheap countries you can afford to buy a round of drinks, a new dress or a day of scuba-diving without worrying. Living or traveling in a cheap country is freeing because you don’t have to worry about money the way you do at home.
Confession- when I was in Cambodia I would sometimes get two massages a day. When they cost $4 an hour, how can you resist?
8. Trying new things all the time.
Long-term travel is undeniably addictive as you can cram so many life experiences into such a short period of time. In one year traveling I scuba-dived with sharks in Indonesia, motorcycled across Vietnam, skied in Switzerland, completed my Yoga Teacher Training in India and hiked the Himalayas for ten days.
For those of us who thrive on constant stimulation, long-term travel is the best.