There is no magic behind traveling the world and leaving the cubicle – all you have to do is leave everything behind and do it. The hard part is continuing the journey, and as many backpackers find out when the glamor is gone. Most people aren’t born to travel long term, in fact we have an innate compulsion to stay put, maintain a routine, and be in familiar surroundings.
These conditions are difficult to meet if you’re planning an around the world trip, backpacking indefinitely, or simply want to get away for a long time. In order to keep the trip going and you traveling you need a steady supply of determination and be aware of the signs that you’re returning to normalcy.
It’s easy not to notice your transition from a traveler to a resident or expat since the change is both gradual and swift. Below I’ve listed some of the changes you’ll notice if you’re a backpacker who’s no longer a traveler.
Staying In Once Place
By far the most obvious condition, it’s easy to overlook when you’re not ‘staying in one place’ at home. An American hiking and traveling all over Southeast Asia stops being a traveler after 6-12 months of living in Bangkok. As the novelty of traveling wears off, the comfort of staying in one place sets in – an urge you’ll need to overcome if you want to move on to the next place (or not return home).
No Longer Having Another Destination
Travelers have plans. Although they might be loose ones, like “I think I’ll go to Madrid and see what happens”. When “see what happens” becomes “I’m looking for a job to stay with this cute girl I met”, then you are well on your way to losing your title as traveler. It’s easy to fall in love with a new locale and if you find happiness in a new city. As traveling and being a traveler get older, there are plenty of new things (which may have been old at home) to keep your attention, and ultimately distract you from continuing your travels.
Meeting That Cute Boy or Girl
A fling that goes further than you thought it would could spell the end of your travels – either for a short period, a longer time, or permanently – depending on how things go. Don’t expect your sweetheart to pack up and take off traveling with you, a long shot at best. Being social creatures, even the sole traveler yearns for friends and people to be close to. Use technology to your advantage and keep in touch with those people with some tech for travelers.
Falling in Love with Exchange Rates
Dreams of living in exotic places where “everything is so cheap” can be part of falling in love with exchange rates. The problem is that, eventually, you’re going to run out of euros and start living like a local. You can keep this going though by continuing to work for (or finding) a job back home that pays you in Euros or dollars. A great gig, especially if you’re staying put in Mongolia. Better yet, most of these essential tools for digital nomads are free.
Other Warning Signs
Here are some other things to take note of to keep the trip going.
- You begin selling some of your travel essentials.
- You begin losing touch with your close friends back home.
- The thought of traveling scares you or feels like a hassle.
The best thing about getting out of ‘the routine’ is that it’s quickly curable. Book your next flight, explore the local area you’re in, or even go on a staycation while on the road! While it’s not necessarily a bad thing, if you want to keep the trip going you can’t afford to miss the warning signs, otherwise you’ll be staying in the same place for a long time. Hey, isn’t that what your were doing before you left home?
[photo by: the_moment]
What’s so wrong with staying in one place for a long period of time? 🙂
I guess the key is the timeframe: right now I have trouble staying somewhere longer than a couple weeks…
Absolutely nothing wrong with it! It’s easy to get caught up in a single place and have a hard time moving on, since time seems to creep up on us.
Did you hit the nail on the head or what?
That’s why I liked to travel alone. Because then you meet people who know the angles of a place. When traveling with a friend (good ones) I found that I felt obligated to consider what they wanted. Alone, I always kept moving and maybe spent one month in one particular spot because my brother lived there.
I feel that traveling alone I tend to rely on my gut more – and the road seems to call a bit more loudly. Also, it’s easy to just get up and go, especially if there isn’t some one else with you who may wish to settle down for a bit longer.
People sometimes preach to the Choir, and the Choir agrees. I would say the first readers comment above is an example of the problem here.
“What’s so wrong with staying in one place for a long period of time?”
There is no Choir, you can only sell dreams, 1 in 10,000 people travel indefinitely.
99.99 percent of Travel Bloggers do not even travel, therefore there is no choir to preach too, they have vacation Blogs
I am your Choir, I have traveled indefinitely for over 11 years now.
What you said above is 100 percent correct, you made a list of temptations to stop traveling. Girls, Cheap, Easy, Simple, like the Travelers in India that just live stoned.
To keep the trip going, you have to feel safe to travel.
1. MONEY. MONEY AND MORE MONEY
You must have unlimited cash.
This is the big concern to keep the trip going.
Hobos travel to work…
All your friends will leave you, you need to figure out a way to make friends fast. Skype.com is the windfall to long-term travelers, we can talk now with our friends.
However, bottom line, I can safely say nobody travels indefinitely, in the back of their minds they always are thinking of stopping.
I have traveled for over 11 years, I have a traveler rule, if I stay more than three months in one location I am living there.
Andy of HoboTraveler.com in Lima, Peru and soon in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, one of the 1 in 1000 who truly does travel indefinitely.
I agree – traveling indefinitely is not in our nature, not to mention difficult to finance!
I think that many people start traveling ‘long term’ ultimately to find those temptations listed above. A new place to stay put, with a new girl and circle of friends, and living like a king on great exchange rates…but reality has a funny way of being similar in most places.
Hmm, seems you are talking about this strictly from a single & only young person’s point of view, but not all travelers who travel indefinitely are single or young. Some are couples and shock…some are families!!
We are a family into our 3rd year of an open ended world tour and thrive on slow, deliberate travel. Our travel is based on our child’s education needs, so we do not find it hard at all to keep going. As much as we are seen, there is always so much more to see, learn about & wonderful new people to meet.
We purposely planned an open ended world tour that have us immersing deeply in one rural, authentic place for for 4 or 5 months out of the year on each continent & then follow the good weather ( we travel mostly by land & boat/freighter ship) for 7 months out of the year. That combination is a winning one for a family.
With a child, one must take into consideration about keeping a consistency and going back to the same tiny village and connecting deeply with the locals here has been fantastic for her and us.
This is our 3rd winter in “our” village where she immerses deeply in her 2nd language,literature & culture. We share a little bit of an expat lifestyle while here, but not really & we are not locals either, but a special traveler category.
We don’t have lots of things like the expats, not even what you call essential for travel. My husband & I have done just fine with 1 pair of smart wool socks & 2 pairs of underwear for 3 years. We still travel even when we are in our village, getting to know every part of Andalusia & sometimes longer flights like our upcoming one to the middle East this spring.
We also don’t worry about girlfriends or boyfriends, exchange rates ( have a good chunk in Goldmoney that we can pull out to whatever fiat currency is needed), nor do we need or want to look for a job.
The beauty of being a digital nomad & long term travelers today, there really are no rules.If you are going to be an indefinite or permanent traveler, I really think it is only logical to have some reflective and deep immersion time.
I actually feel sad for people who only have a year to go all around the world. We have been to 4 continents, 29 countries & over 75,000 mostly by land since we started in 2006, yet we have been mainly focused on Europe. We try to know one continent well at a time.
We have seen way more of Europe than even most Europeans and way more of Spain than most Spaniards ( or others), yet STILL we have hardly made a dent.We could easily spend 20 years in Europe and barely make a dent.
Traveling isn’t about just taking a quick look at lots of different scenery, when we like a place, we love that our freedom allows us to stay as long as we like. We only meant to stay a few days in Santorini, but we loved it so much we stayed over a month. We ended up staying almost 2 in Croatia when we found we loved it. I would not have minded staying longer to know them even better ( off season).
One of the BEST things about being a long term traveling is being able to immerse much more deeply than most. NOT like an expat, or native, but like a long term traveler.
This is even MORE important for families, but I think it benefits all. I have friends who have been permanent travelers for over 20 years & they regularly stay for several months in countries that they enjoy or new ones they want to know better.
Who made the rule that one must move constantly to be a traveler? The traveler that moves too fast is actually missing much of the joy of travel. The long term traveler who does not take some time to deeply immerse & reflect from time to time is missing the boat entirely!
Looking back on the post, it certainly is written with the single in mind, but not necessarily young! I would argue that you’ve been able to keep up you (wonderful) travels because you *don’t* have to worry about any of the conditions above.
You’re constantly on the move because you set plans, don’t have to worry about boyfriends or girlfriends, or exchange rates.
In some ways it’s easier to keep moving with a family – since you’re moving with the thing and people that matter most in life. Your travels and experiences are inspirational and I’m happy that you shared your perspective.
There is no set rule that one must be constantly moving to be a traveler, but after a year or two the nature of your travels (and each individual traveler) evolves and changes…
1. A mailbox at Mail Boxes etc. I’ve had one for eight years, even though I own a house less than a mile away. Your mail won’t pile up, you can accept packages there, (often not a PO box,) and have important mail forwarded.
2. An online bank where you can mail out checks from the site. I don’t like “electronic debit” – where a company takes money from your checking. It’s an easy way to pay bills, but it’s like giving a company the keys to your house. I use Chase bank, and other banks too let you fill in a payee and have a check sent out to them. You never even see the check and lick a stamp. With money going into your account it’s an easy way to pay and manage the limited payments you should have.
3. Health Insurance. ’nuff said.
Thanks for the tips, didn’t know about Mailboxes Etc.
Also, ING has a great paper check mailing system and also allows for electronic checks to be sent directly to other bank accounts. They also have a similar bill autopay service. The added interest is a nice bonus as well.