Making the decision to pack up your possessions, quit your job and take up a life of long term travel can be quite daunting. For many people the thought of leaving their comfort zone indefinitely is the one of the most frightening experiences they can imagine. No security, no concrete future, no surety of what the world will deliver in the coming years. We are brought up to value and cherish these things, so abandoning them seems crazy.
But almost without a doubt, everyone who does make that decision to travel the world with no time constraints is greeted with a sense of freedom that is impossible to comprehend when sitting behind a desk back in the ‘real world’.
Unfortunately, as with all worthwhile adventures, there will be times when long-term travellers question whether the path we are on is the correct one. Long term travel has the ability to take us to dizzying heights, and plummet us to unspeakable lows. Despite the Instagram photos, not every day is filled with palm trees, sunshine and cocktails.
The trick with long term travel is to find the ways to push through those moments when you begin to wonder if what you are doing is the right thing or not. Luckily there are ways to survive these moments of doubt. Even after 7+ years on the road, we have to remind ourselves of these secret tips everyday. Long term travel may just be the best lifestyle choices you can make – as long as you don’t let it get the better of you!
1. Travel Slowly
Our absolute best travel tip for surviving long term travel is to travel slowly. Being on the road every other day is exhausting. Bouncing from bus to bus, dealing with touts and taxi drivers, late night trains and long walks between hostels – these things burn you out. If you only have a limited time in each country and you want to see as much as possible, this means you will be dealing with transport and stress every other day.
If you want to be on the road for years at a time, you have to travel slowly. Relax, take a week (or more) to really get to know each town and village you are in. Have entire days where you just walk the streets, with no particular aim and goal. The longer you stay somewhere, the cheaper it will be too as you can negotiate for accommodation, find the best local eateries and cut down on your transport costs.
2. Find A Hobby
Whether it is learning to juggle, writing in your diary, training in martial arts, playing the guitar or simply taking photos, you need to find something to keep your mind active. There is nothing wrong with laying in a hammock for a week if you are on a short holiday from work, but you can’t do this every single day for years at a time*. Maybe you are even wondering how to start a travel blog so you are not only keeping active, but potentially able to stay on the road forever! Keep in mind though that this may take up a lot more time than you anticipate – Trust us (but it’s worth it)!
* Then again, we have met loads of people who have made entire lives out of sitting in a hammock on a beach, smoking joints and digging their toes in the sand. Are they happy? Yes. Are they fulfilled? Perhaps. Are they living a wonderful life? Yes. Actually, maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all…
3. Have Fresh Eyes
This is probably our own biggest issue, and one of our famous “curses of long-term travel“. When you’ve travelled around the world, seen the great wonders, ticked off most of your bucket list and have had ten lifetime’s worth of fascinating experiences in a year, it is easy to become jaded with new places. Remember that every destination has its merit. Just because you have seen something similar elsewhere doesn’t mean that the ‘number 1 attraction’ in your next destination isn’t worth visiting.
“Meh, it’s just another Chinese pagoda.”
“Bagan? No thanks, I’ve already seen Angkor Wat.“
“Scuba diving in Belize? I didn’t bother because I’ve already dove the Great Barrier Reef.”
“If you’ve already been to Tikal, there’s no point seeing Palenque.”
Remember to see the value in each place you visit and don’t become jaded over time. It doesn’t just have to be the big-ticket items either – Sometimes city parks or small temples can provide a lot of merit. Don’t forget, some people dream their entire lives of being able to see the Eiffel Tower or the Forbidden City. Don’t get there and be nonchalant just because you have seen a lot of other cool things.
4. Have One Day Off A Week
Everyone needs a day off to recharge the batteries. A morning to sleep in, an afternoon to sit in a park and read a book, catching the latest movie at the cinema – these things are essential to keep sane when on the road! Not everyday needs to be filled with museums and sightseeing. People back home have weekends to unwind, and you will need the same. At least one day a week, take a break.
5. Stop Completely For A While
Even with your one day off of a week, being on the move all the time will grind you down. After two years crossing Asia we were completely burnt out, despite the incredible things we had done. We wanted to form friendships with people that lasted longer than a couple of days. We wanted to not feel lost all the time when we arrived in a new city. We wanted to unpack our backpacks once and not repack it again the next morning. We even found ourselves craving the thing that we most hate – ‘routine’.
One year into our current trip we settled down in Phong Nha, Vietnam for 2.5 months and took a vacation within a vacation. It did wonders for our soul! By the end of our time there, we were refreshed and ready to tackle the next part of the adventure. Now we’ve slowed down a bit while we’re in Thailand and it has been excellent! We spent 11 nights in one place in Koh Lanta – the longest we had been stationary in 14 months, and damn it felt good!
To survive long term travel, you really need to stop travelling now and then. Find a place you love with a good amount of things to keep you interested, rent a room in a house (or an entire bungalow), and return to a brief life of normality.
6. Get Back To Nature
If you are anything like us, you love being surrounded by nature. It soothes the soul. We love nothing more than going for a hike in a forest, climbing a mountain or sitting by a pristine river. When the hustle and bustle of big cities grinds us down, we make a beeline for the nearest national park. Away from the noise and crowds, filling our lungs with fresh air helps put us back in a positive mindset. To survive long term travel, spend as much time in nature as possible!
7. Get A Taste Of Something Different
You know what we ate a lot of during our 26 months in Asia? Rice and noodles. I mean A LOT of rice and noodles. You know what we get sick of? Rice and noodles. Don’t get us wrong, we love Asian food, but every now and then we crave a pizza or a burger or some burritos or a pasta meal. These kind of foods aren’t usually cheap in Asia, but occasionally we just don’t care.
At some point the idea of eating another tortilla in Central America or one last donair kebab in Turkey is going to make you feel sick. Splash out sometimes and give in to whatever it is you are craving.
8. Keep Fit And Stay Healthy
When you are at home, with a set schedule and normal routine, it is easier to make time to exercise or be careful about what you eat. When you are on the road, this becomes more difficult. You might quit your plan of going for an evening run and instead make a habit of catching happy hour every night! Trust us, we know the feeling!
Don’t forget to keep up your daily exercise. It can be as simple as walking instead of taking a bus or taxi every day, or doing some push ups and sit ups when you wake up. Consider have a detox day every week where you only eat fruit and vegetables, or have a strict rule of only drinking a few nights a week. Try to get a solid night’s sleep and not stay up to late.
That was one reason we returned to Thailand – to detox and get healthy again. We just completed one month off alcohol, and have really changed our diet. And while we admit we haven’t exercised as much as we could have, we still feel great! And most importantly, eating healthy has helped get us ready for our next big travels.
Over 7 years later, we’re still surviving long term travel…
What are your secrets for surviving long term travel? Let us know in the comments below.
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