With remote online businesses taking off and the “lifestyle design” craze in full swing, long-term travelling is becoming a common choice. But, long-term travel is kind of like skydiving, there’s no way to know what it’s really like until you’ve already taken the plunge.
Even though so many people are doing it, there are still some major misconceptions out there about what long-term travel is like, and who can do it.
So what can you do to be prepared before you dive in? Well, first, stop believing these five misconceptions about long-term travel.
Table of Contents
Misconception 1. Long-Term Travel Is One Big Non-Stop Adventure
Heading off on a long-term trip is often seen as an antidote for the dullness of everyday life. And it is – just not all of the time.
Even for travellers who work hard to avoid the backpacker trail and the big tourist sites, not EVERY day on the road is an adventure. After a few months away, travelling becomes the routine, and that means that some days it can be as dull as a 9 to 5 job.
For every day of surfing in Indonesia or mountain biking in Vietnam, there is a day of trip planning, doing laundry, mending socks, and just plain recovering from the road.
Yes, long-term travel is an amazing adventure, but be warned: some days will be so uneventful, travellers start wondering why they ever left home.
Misconception 2. Long-Term Travel is Just One Horrible Discomfort After Another
So many travellers’ tales are filled with bedbugs, bad food and bus crashes, that it’s not surprising when people expect a long trip to be one long string of agonizing moments.
“I could never do it,” they say, picturing themselves dirty, smelly, and hungry day after day.
While it’s true that adventure travel can involve a certain share of discomfort (which totally builds character, by the way), it can also include the kind of comforts you can only dream about at home.
Hot springs, massages, week-long stays on desert islands, fancy cocktails at $2 per glass, sleeping in as much as you want… these luxuries are far easier to come by on a long-term trip than they ever are at home.
Misconception 3. Long-Term Travel Is A Career Killer
The idea of hitting the road right after college or quitting a lucrative job to live a life of adventure is often seen as career suicide. After all, hopping off the career ladder is not a great way to climb higher, is it? Plus, potential employers will never want to hire some slacker who took two years off to travel the globe, will they?
In reality, long-term travel can be the perfect hook to get employers interested. Instead of lulling interviewers to sleep with the challenges they faced in their job as a mailroom clerk, long-term travellers get to talk about how they handled that time in Myanmar when they came face-to-face with a Burmese Python.
Not only that, but extended travel builds all kinds of marketable skills: goal setting, project management, time management, setting and maintaining budgets, and conflict resolution to name a few.
Long-term travellers also become star communicators and creative problem solvers.
Then again, that career ladder you’re so worried about right now might just seem ridiculous after a couple of years on the road.
Misconception 4. Long-Term Travel Is Only For The Young
The “trip of a lifetime” isn’t something you can only take in your 20s. Yes, we met a whole lot of bright young things during the course of our worldwide cycling trip and we sometimes felt positively old because we are in (gasp!) our 40s.
But we also met a lot of over-the-hill folks like us, many of whom were well into their retirement years. Not only had they figured out how to make long-term travel work for them, but they were having the time of their lives.
Long-term travel doesn’t start or end with any age group, skin colour, or gender. Passion, commitment, and a little creativity is all you need to get started.
Misconception 5. Long-Term Travel is Scary
If there’s one phrase we’ve heard on repeat ever since we decided to cycle the world, it is this:
“You’re so brave.”
In one way, this is true. It takes a certain kind of bravery to say “no” to the status quo, leave all your earthly belongings behind, and put yourself out into the world.
But that’s not what most people are thinking when they say long-term travellers are brave. Wherever you go, people see the outside world as an intimidating, frightening place full of people who want to rob you, cheat you, or murder you in your bed for absolutely no reason.
Long-term travellers know that the world, far from being scary, is an awe-inspiring place, full of people who want to speak to you, feed you, and invite you into their homes for absolutely no reason.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get travelling.
20 thoughts on “5 Misconceptions About Long-Term Travel”
Great article, agree with you on all those points ! To be honest I’ve never really travelled for more than say 3 months though I have lived and worked overseas for a number of years and this is where most of my travel comes in – I’ve often joked that all my long-haul trips were paid for by someone else !! Last year we left UK and moved back to Hong Kong (we’d lived there long ago) for the foreseeable future, we are both 60-ish and made the journey on an ocean liner which happened to be going our way – great fun !
It’s good that you also de-romanticise things too, yes, even we fab travellers have to wash and darn socks from time to time – boo !
Happy travels always !!
Very good points! Although it is one big adventure when you look back, there are always so many just-waiting-for-a-bus-days. “You’re so brave” always confuses me too!
Haha, yep. Those ‘waiting for a bus’ or ‘sitting in a train station for 10 hours’ or ’36 hour layovers in an airport with no transit visa’ days definitely suck. But it is always worth it in the end. Thanks for reading Katie 🙂
Also being travelers, we have had people confront us about our travels and these exact misconceptions. We have also had people make comments to us once they find out we are travelers at how glamorous our life must be. Like we are Samantha Brown straight out the the Travel Channel! Like the only days we experience are on top of Machu Picchu or bathing in volcanic hot springs. Most people don’t realize that like you mentioned above traveling becomes the routine and some days are just boring or you get sick or you sleep all day etc! Great article!
We get that all the time: “Oh you’re a full-time traveller, your life must be awesome!” Of course it is, otherwise we wouldn’t do it. But it’s not easy by any means. Thanks for reading Kinsey.
Oh god this post is so true!!!!
We’re currently getting stressed out about leaving our lovely little villa in Thailand to actually travel because we know it will disrupt our work. WHAT!?
Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we came to travel too, not just work, and finding balance is tough.
Lots of good info in there for nomad wannabes! 🙂
It can definitely be tough trying to mix work and play when travelling. We have the same problem sometimes. Need to remind ourselves to close the laptop and go out exploring. It’s a different situation when travel is your life though, and we’re not just on a holiday 🙂
This is great! So many people look at me like a I have a third eye when I tell them I travel full time.
It’s not always easy to buck traditional “adulthood”, great to know there are others out there that think the same way I do!
So true. People just didn’t get it when we said we didn’t know when our trip would end or how long we’d be on the road. I love the pictures of NZ on your site. Makes me want to get there right now.
I think mindsets are changing more and more to accept people who travel full time. At least that’s what we hope! Thanks for reading Caitlin!
I think that the carrer one is the most common out there. And I really don’t like it. You do learn a lot, plus it is possible to work on the road.
We’ve actually scored jobs from employers who are fascinated with our travelling lives. I (Jazza) got a mining job in Australia because of our time spent sailing the Caribbean. The interviewer asked me how do I cope under stressful situations. When I told her about how we thought our boat was sinking 150km off of the coast of Honduras, but we still managed to maintain control, she was very impressed 🙂
We hear a lot that we are “so lucky” to have the “luxury” of traveling long term. Yes, its true in a way, certain factors aligned very well for us and we certainly are well aware that many out there will never be able to afford to take the time off because of health concerns or other commitments. But most of the people who comment on luck and luxury live a very similar lifestyle and have about the same circumstances as we do. So myth #4 – only lucky few will ever have the luxury. 🙂
Oh yes, this one is so true! We never hear “you’re so lucky” from people who actually could not do it themselves. It’s always the people who would easily be able to do it if they put their minds to it who pretend to be envious, when really, I think they don’t actually want to leave the comfort of their homes.
The one I get a lot is “I wish I could do that.” which after my confusion settles I respond with “Why not?”. Nobody has ever answered that one. I see the fear in their eyes though. There’s a lot of things people need to let go of to do long-term travel, the scariest of which are the things you let define who you are (job, house, etc).
Ah yes, we get that comment a lot. We’ve found if people make excuses about why they can’t go travelling, they probably don’t really want to do it anyway. I wish people would realise that it is ok to travel, and it is also ok not to travel. Everyone is on different paths 🙂
All very true indeed. The “you’re so brave” one, in particular, I can relate to 🙂
I didn’t realize “you’re so brave” was so universal. Well, here’s to being one of the brave few, then. 🙂
Thanks Franca. On one hand, I wish everybody would let go of their fears and travel, but then I imagine how crowded all our favourite spots would be, and I’m kind of glad they stay home!
I couldn’t have said it any better Jane, I totally agree with you and I often have people telling all the above especially how brave me and Dale were to go travel, which it’s true in a way, but everyone that really wants to travel can do it. It’s all a matter of priorities and what really matters to you 🙂