Travel 101: Know the Perks and Pitfalls of Long-term Travel
by Mishana Khot | December, 2013
You know what makes it hard to plan a long-term trip? The fact that you can’t plan it! When you’re thinking of taking a two-week holiday, everyone at work will be dropping by your cubicle to tell you where to go, which hotel to stay, and what to order at the bar.
If you’re evaluating a more serious travel plan however – possibly giving up a home and a job – there’s just no way of knowing where it’ll lead you. A lot of people find the thought terrifying. Some love the thought of being unshackled and free, but this is a serious decision that could impact the rest of your life.
Here’s our list of pros and cons to help you out:
Missing Family + Friends
You’ll be away from everyone you love for a long time. You’ll miss family birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, hanging out with friends and tons of important events.
You won’t always be able to reach out at the right time if you don’t have an internet connection. On those days that your family is driving you crazy (yes, we all have them!), this will sound like a good thing, but when your youngest sibling celebrates a birthday without you and you can’t call him or her, you’ll question the whole point of being away.
Being in new places will leave you feeling isolated and alone on some days, especially if you don’t speak the language. You could get to a beautiful campsite and sit under a dark blue sky speckled with stars only to feel tiny and impossibly far from home.
You probably won’t have a place to call home for longer than a few days at a time, especially if you’re backpacking or camping. Every day, you’ll have to pack up a tent, an entire kitchen, all your personal stuff, and cart it to the next location. It gets tiring after a while.
“Hmm, am I in a zingy apricot shampoo mood or a tropical coconutty shampoo mood?”
You don’t have the luxury of this anymore. No more bathroom shelf lined with ten shampoos to suit your mood, or a fridge stocked with all your regular brands. You won’t have that well-worn armchair, nor will you sleep in that bed which perfectly conforms to your body. Instead, you’ll have a host of new campsites, hostels, motels that change everyday and demand more adjustments than you expected.
Personal Hygiene Is Questionable
Some days there’s a spider occupying the bathroom. Some days, you forget to do your laundry and have to turn your underwear inside out, grin and bear it. Some days it’s just too damn tiring to take off all your clothes and wash your hair. Yes, you won’t always be perfectly clean and neat.
Losing Professional Connections + Opportunities
Your work network will suddenly seem lower on the priority list. They can’t help you find a motel for the night, can they? Then they don’t matter right now.
You might miss out on a job that you were perfect for. You might find that your rival at work has been promoted to that role you were eyeing. That’ll suck, and it’ll give you at least one introspective evening staring into the campfire, wondering if you chose right (if so, check out our reasons why travel is good for your resume).
The thing is, though, even as this list adds up, it’s really not that bad. Or let’s put it this way: it might be difficult but it’s worth everything because of …
Seeing the World
Obviously, this is the biggest perk of all. You’ll see more of a country than even its locals do. As Dr.Seuss says, ‘Oh, the places you’ll go….’ and it’s true. Huge waterfalls leading to ocean lagoons, burning sunsets over vast animal-dotted plains, forests turning from emerald green to the blazing yellow and orange of fall, winter landscapes gleaming with pristine snow – they’re all waiting for you. You’ll visit museums, art galleries, historic landmarks and more, and wander the streets of cities that most people only read about.
Stories to Tell
When you’re old & rocking in your porch chair, you’ll be able to start your stories with, “This one time when I was backpacking through Death Valley…”
When you’re old and rocking in that chair on the porch, you’ll be able to start your stories with, “This one time when I was backpacking through Death Valley…”. You’ll be the cool old guy or girl who did so much.
When you travel, stories seem to pile up and you’d never be able to build such an interesting repertoire if you don’t go out and see the world.
The World Is Your Classroom
When you travel, you learn so much about yourself, about people, about the places you’re visiting and about humankind. It’s not always an easy lesson and sometimes you learn truths about yourself that you’d rather not admit. But you’ll come out knowing more than any self-help book or class could’ve taught you.
Make that plan, buy that ticket – get out there and see the world. You’ll only be richer for it.
You Become Fearless, Stronger + More Confident
Shy? Timid? Afraid of what’ll happen in a foreign country when you’re alone? Travel takes care of all that by forcing you to step outside of your comfort zone.
You’ll be more prepared to handle the unexpected when you’ve made ad hoc adjustments to your plans. You’ll be braver when you’ve camped in the middle of bear country. And you definitely won’t fear talking to strangers when you’ve navigated strange towns with strange languages, armed with nothing but a guide to key phrases and a confident smile. If you want to be leaner, meaner and stronger, travel is the only positive thing that can bring about this metamorphosis.
The Bottom Line
What is our verdict? Focus on the perks. You can always find ways to get around the pitfalls, but there’s hardly anything that can give you the benefits of long-term travel. So make that plan, buy that ticket, and get out there and see the world. You’ll only be richer for it.
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About the Author
Mishana Khot is a freelance writer who is currently travelling for six months and is loving the childlike awe that the world inspires. She likes to people-watch, enjoys camping (with some comforts), and will stick her nose into a book when she feels lost. She has been camping across the United States for the last three months with her boyfriend and is now headed to Australia. Follow her journey at her personal blog www.butwhysixmonths.com.