Long-Term Travel is NOT a Holiday
I’ve been on the road for 3 months now. Even though it should not bother me, sometimes it can get really frustrating when people around me confront me with their misconceptions about my trip.
“Oh, you are so lucky having a year-long holiday, no work, relaxing by the beach and enjoying your time. While the rest of us is having a tough job”.
If you are a long-term traveler or a digital nomad this might sound familiar to you. There are always some people around you that have absolutely no clue what long-term travel really means.
Let me tell you there is a HUGE difference between a two week holiday somewhere and being away for a long period.
Before I started travelling and had a full time job, my holiday would be like this:
I pick a nice destination, plan my itinerary in detail, book a nice accommodation and make sure to have some time to relax in order to escape my daily routine and responsibilities.
I would want my holiday to go smoothly because I only have a limited number of annual leave days, also meaning I am willing to spend a bit more money. Holidays were a precious thing.
Misconceptions About Long-Term Travel (based on my experience)
You must be a millionaire!
No, I am not rich. For every cent I am spending during my year of travel I worked hard and followed a strict savings plan (find out more here).
Currently I have zero income (my travel blog doesn’t generate much money, yet). I don’t only travel from my savings, I also had to put some money aside to pay for my ongoing expenses (pension, insurances and my storage in Dubai).
If you think about what you spend on an average two-week holiday somewhere nice, you know that it’s not going to be cheap.
And that is probably one of the main differences between a holiday and long-term travel.
If you are on the road for a year you have to stretch your budget as much as possible.
Personally I set a daily budget of Euro 60 (excluding transportation) for myself and at the end of every day I write down all my spending in order to keep control of my budget.
This means every single bottle of water I buy and every cent I spent on using public toilets.
You wouldn’t do that on a holiday, would you?
Long-term travel often means sleeping in not so nice places which can be noisy, uncomfortable and very basic.
I have had many days where there was no hot water (or even no water at all), no AC and no heater.
I saw some insects crawling around in the room and experienced electricity outages.
I am a person who needs a good night sleep, however, often I end up being overtired for many days. Doesn’t sound relaxing, right?
I also have to stick to cheap meals, meaning street food and simple local restaurants, which can be nice as you are closer to the locals and their culture, but sometimes I just want a good meal in a nice restaurant.
I treat myself for a nice meal every now and then, but that’s the exception.
Oh, and I love having a glass of wine. But guess what, often I have to skip it because it’s too expensive.
Then there is the thing with transportation… In some cases I have the luxury of taking the plane (when it’s cheaper than ground transportation or when I have no other choice), but most of the time I travel by bus.
Some journeys are very, very long in shabby buses without AC, toilets and leading through bumpy roads.
Yesterday I took a 9 hours bus ride from Santiago to Mendoza and in a couple of days I will be on the next bus for 16 hours going to Buenos Aires.
Trust me, it is stressful and tiring.
In order to be able to stay on the road for so long, I need to compromise a lot and always find ways to save a few bucks here and there.
You are relaxing by the beach and sipping cocktails all day!
Ermm, no. In average I change places every 3 nights. This means I always have to plan the next step, think of where to stay, how to get there and what kind of activities I can do in that destination.
This is time consuming because I have to do a lot of research. Time I could use laying by the beach instead or just enjoining the moment.
And I get it, planning a trip is fun. But becomes tiring if you have to do it every day.
Also, changing places frequently obviously requires to pack and unpack every other day and to find a way to get the laundry done somewhere in between. Something you usually don’t have to think of during your holiday.
Every time I reach a new destination (remember, that’s about every 3 days), I have to adapt to the new environment, find a place where to eat, where to get cash and plan my activities.
There have certainly been times when I went to the beach and relaxed somewhere, but those moments are rather rare and I appreciate them even more than when I am on an actual holiday.
And also, chilling by the beach is not the point of this kind of trip, as long-term traveler we want to get out of our comfort zone, try to live like locals (sometimes we succeed) and see more than just the normal tourist spots.
Your pictures are amazing, you see many beautiful things!
I am really lucky to be able to see so many nice places and to experience so many different cultures. Yes, I see so many beautiful things!
But don’t get fooled by what is up there on social media. I share many nice photos, but mostly only the good ones (same as other travelers and bloggers do).
There is also a side which remains often unseen – as a budget traveler we are closer to the locals than tourists are.
What those pictures don’t show is the poverty we see, the garbage laying in the streets and those situations (buses, accommodation) I mentioned earlier.
The pictures also don’t show the dark circles I have under my eyes or my messy backpack :).
As a long-term traveler you don’t need a holiday!
Oh hell, yes I do! Travelling is amazing and rewarding but hard if you do it for months in a row.
I recently read something about “Travel Burnout”. To be honest I didn’t know such thing exists.
We become tired of constant moving and planning. After a while of continuous travelling, it is just another beach, just another cathedral, just another historic building. We don’t appreciate the beautiful things we see as we used to.
Long-term traveler need a break every now and then, at a place somewhere nice where we don’t have to plan anything or think about our next step. It’s important to recharge the batteries in order to be able to appreciate the new things we are going to see next.
I know, it might sound ridiculous to people who haven’t done such trip, but I know after 4-5 months I will take a 2 week break somewhere. Maybe rent an apartment, cook my own food and do absolutely nothing.
Don’t get me wrong, I love what I am currently doing. And I don’t take it for granted. I know many of my friends would love to do such trip, but cant. For various reasons.
Long-term travel is the most enriching experience you can possibly have – just hardly comfortable.
In addition to all the great new things you see, new cultures you explore and people you meet along the way, it teaches you so many things you will never get to know if you stay in your comfort zone.
I don’t regret a thing and wouldn’t change it for the world. I just want you to see the ‘real’ picture of what long-term travel means.