What I Miss Most About Long-Term Travel

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.

What_I_Miss_About_Long_Term_Travel_8

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.

What I Miss About Long-term Travel

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.

What I Miss About Longterm Travel

And making friends from all over the world means you can visit them in their home countries- I’ve done that several times!

 

2. Flexibility.

What_I_Miss_About_Long_Term_Travel_7

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.

 

3. FOOD.

What I miss about longterm travel

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.

What I Miss About Longterm Travel

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.

What_I_Miss_About_Long_Term_Travel_5

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.

What_I_Miss_About_Long_Term_Travel_3

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.

What_I_Miss_About_Long_Term_Travel_6

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.

Have you ever traveled long-term? What do you miss most about it?

Share it!

This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you). Please read my disclosure for more info.
About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

27 thoughts on “What I Miss Most About Long-Term Travel”

  1. Oh Ashley, I really don’t think I should have opened this post! I’m back around five weeks from a large trip and I think the post travel depression has kicked in!

    While I’m happy to be at home and with family and my closest friends, I miss the freedom travelling brought me. I miss the cheap amazing food. I miss hearing the life story of the strange person in the bunk next to me! I seem to be happiest now writing about my experiences (which I haven’t even posted).

    *sigh* Maybe I should just book another flight and deal with the consequences later.

  2. Oh, I totally feel you on this post. For the past two years I have lived in Sweden from August-April. So right about now is when I’m starting to pack up for another year…and now I’m not going back this year, so I totally feel lost!

  3. As I, possibly, near the end of my time living abroad, I’m definitely going to miss all these things. I’m back in the U.S. right now, and while there are things I love in the U.S., there are certainly other things, many of which you have mentioned, that I’ll miss when I do settle down somewhere.

  4. Currently in BKK waiting for my flight home after backpacking Southeast Asia for 3 months. I’m so sad to be leaving but also very excited to be home. Definitely bittersweet! But after this trip I’ve made a promise to myself to devote every second that I can of my 20s to long term travel!

    • I’m so glad you commented! I’m now following your blog and Instagram :). I’m actually super interested in moving to Shanghai am think I’ll start looking for a job there soon. I’d love to be based in Asia and have heard so many things about Shanghai from my friend Edna, (expatedna.com) who was just living there for a year.

  5. It’s the flexibility and freedom for me – the ability to just pick up and take off on a spur of the moment decision or offer. Now I live in isolated New Zealand and never have the required annual leave saved up or enough notice to give my boss when a friend mentions they’re heading wherever and I would give anything to just GO!

  6. I found myself nodding at every paragraph! I can relate to this so much. I love long-term travel and I’m stationed at the moment, but thinking of another long trip next year. By long I mean 3-4 months though… I too wake up at 5.45am these days and being almost thirty staying out till 5am on the regular ain’t my thing anymore haha!

  7. Everything you said totally resonates with me. I feel really lucky that I’ve been able to spend that last year living abroad, but making the transition from long-term travel to actually living and working somewhere was a tough transition for me. I appreciated things like cooking my own meals and sleeping in the same bed every night. But I desperately missed the spontaneity and adventure of my travels. Sometimes I feel like traveling long-term spoiled me a little too much! I am really excited to be moving to Cambodia though. I think it will be a great place to mix travel with normal life. And that picture of Angkor made me remember just how cheap stuff is there. I’ve been back in the States for a day and the prices are kind of freaking me out!

    • That’s amazing, and ideally what I’d like to be doing as well. Cambodia is great! I really think expattery (is that a word?) is the answer- you get to be immersed in a foreign culture while still having a group of friends and some stability.

  8. I can totally relate to this, Ashley. I am not a long-term traveller, but since 2009 I have taken a lot of long-haul travels of 4 to 7 weeks each. I usually headed abroad twice a year; between August and December 2014 I even took three journeys to Dubai, China and Vietnam. Making friends from all over the world is also what I love about it, but mingling with the locals and getting an insight in their life and culture is most important for me. I love to indulge the local cuisine and whenever possible try to take a Cooking class to be able to prepare the dishes myself at home as well.

    • I love cooking classes! Granted I haven’t made too many dishes at home (besides Spanish and French) but I really should. Meeting the locals was one I absolutely should’ve had on the list :)

  9. #5!! so true. man i just can’t do late nights anymore now that i have a full time job. i never traveled long term, but i studied abroad twice in shanghai and paris and man, those were some of the best times of my life!

    Sher
    http://www.shershegoes.com

  10. Ha, it’s funny–I also miss these things about long-term travel even though I’m, err, still traveling! Well, I miss some of them anyway. The way I travel now is so much different from when I was just backpacking. Trying to make a living on the road has completely changed everything. I’m still worried about money, I never have time to read, and I’m not as flexible as I used to be because I prefer to stay in places long enough to both enjoy them AND get some work done. I still love my lifestyle and prefer it to the alternative (for now) but it’s interesting to think how much has changed since I first started.

    • You’re so right- working on the road is entirely different than just traveling- frankly I actually didn’t like being a digital nomad because it made travel more stressful :(. But the benefit is that you get to work from wherever which is a HUGE plus!

  11. I can totally relate to every single one of these! I have just moved home to New Zealand after living abroad in Paris for a year and I miss the freedom and the excitement of everything! Theres always something new and inspiring to do everyday. I miss my friends from there already so much! It’s so hard to leave as you all bond so well for being in the same circumstances and everyone seems to share the love of travel and adventure!

  12. Denver is lovely but that must have been such a culture shock! I travel part time and live in New Orleans so even visiting was weird for me… Where’s the spice? Hehe

    L

Comments are closed.