Most people, if they are lucky, have taken a vacation. Vacations are nice because you have the excuse of, “I’m on vacation” to drink in the morning or the afternoon, to sleep in, to spend as little or as much money that you want, eat how you want, do what you want and usually get to turn the work email alerts off. If you have been on a vacation, you have definitely used the, “I’m on vacation,” excuse – and what a lovely excuse it is.
Vacations can last from as short as a day or weekend trip away from home to a 3-4 week travel experience abroad. You post your best photos online, eat the best food, and live your best life in the short amount of time off that you have before you go back to “reality”. Usually, not much goes wrong except the long line you have to wait for your rental car or a bad meal every once in a while or the worst of them all, having to come home because your vacation is over. It usually goes according to plan even if you miss a bus while you are gone, but heck everything else is going so right, that missing a bus or a flight turns your adventure into an even better story for later – at least if you have any sort of sense of humor.
Vacations are nice and all, but have you had the opportunity to travel long term? I’m talking two, three months to infinity months. Where you quit your job, and sell your home (or give your 30 days notice to move out), buy a one-way ticket, and don’t have any clue where you are going or when you will be home? With no income and only outcome? How free and liberating and amazing that sounds to those who haven’t done it. Even to those that have done it – we get a little spark in us where if we hear of a friend or neighbor that’s about to go out on their journey, it makes us want to do it again because at that moment, we’ve forgotten how hard it actually can also be. Long term travel is amazing, but it’s not at all “easy.”
Believe it or not, the easy part is quitting your job, your home, and leaving town. Because once that’s done, it’s a part of your past and you don’t have to revisit it ever again.
The hard part is the actual travel from one place to another because trust me, it will not always go according to plan, no matter how much you plan (or don’t plan). The hard part (and also fun part) is always on the hunt for a new hotel room or apartment or even a new destination to go to keep your adventurous self excited about what you have just done to your life. The hard part is lonely days and draining temporary relationships with the people you meet while traveling. The hard part is getting stuck in sometimes dangerous situations that you don’t love and have to use some serious common sense to get out of it, or avoid it altogether. The hard part is getting sick without insurance or falling in love and having to leave that person or city because you already booked your next flight without that intention of loving that person or place so much. The hard part is being homesick and wondering about the life you left back home, and if what you just did was all worth it. It’s a mentally draining, yet absolutely soul growing experience, that frankly, I think everyone should experience.
The rewarding part: the doors that are opened when on a trip of long term travel. It all sounds so cliche until you’ve experienced it yourself, but it’s true. The day to day experiences, the locals to be met and learned from, the other travelers to be met that you actually keep in touch with and who someday invite you to their weddings in faraway places; the views to be seen and foods to be eaten and shared, not to mention the stories to be heard as well as shared – it really is, in my opinion, the best way to grow your life that is readily available to almost anyone- but only if you can mentally handle all the “bad” that comes along with all the good.
When I say bad, I can hear you now thinking, “yeah like it’s hard picking a hotel and getting to a new destination on your own. Big Whoop. Sounds fun. I could do it.” Until you do it and for long enough to get yourself lost without GPS, in a dangerous situation, in a car with a stranger, missing a flight, getting fined for this or that, getting your luggage lost or money stolen and oh so much more… you see, you learn a lot from each and every one of these seemingly small scenarios – because they, and more (trust me), all happen eventually. And until they do, you don’t know how you would react; because they probably won’t be happening to you in your daily life of waking up to an alarm at 7 am, taking a warm shower, driving to work in your car, having lunch with your same co-workers and talking about the Karen in the office, then heading home to pour yourself your 7 pm cocktail to lighten the mood from your “stressful” day at the office of sitting at your desk being micromanaged by your boss, flip on a TV show, go to bed by 11 pm to wake up and do it again the next day.
If you are the type* of person where everything bad seems to be happening to you, the bad luck streak type – and you can’t seem to handle a darn thing and everything makes you cry, angry, stressed out or upset – travel long term – you will learn that everything doesn’t always have to be so serious, or negative and you will surrender to your surroundings. Your bad luck streak will come to an end, and you’ll learn to handle things that come your way in a different way and I bet you will toughen up, gain a different perspective, learn how to manifest i.e the bad luck streak will stop, and you’ll come out a different and better version of yourself.
If you are the type* of person who is happy about everything, always positive, nothing goes wrong in your life, the lucky streak type- travel long term – I bet you something happens that really takes you to a dark place, hopefully, it is as simple as loneliness or homesickness and nothing too serious but yet, you come out okay, learn a hell of a lot from it, gain a new perspective and appreciativeness and become a different and better version of yourself.
If you are the type* of person who is shy, scared, introverted, afraid of everything – travel long term – It will pull you out of your comfort zones and teach you unimaginable things. You will 100% surprise yourself what you are capable of and you will come out a different and better version of yourself. I know, it sounds terrifying, however, you can start small, and still win big.
If you are the type* of person who claims to be a complete extrovert, love meeting people and thinks that hanging with new people and partying and living the good life is definitely for you, maybe you were the popular one in high school – travel long term – lonely days kick in, and the same conversations over and over kick in, and you will feel homesick and not know what is happening to you. Suddenly, you won’t be liked by everyone but you will learn to really like and love yourself, and drop the need to always be accepted by others – this will be life-changing; you will come out a different and better version of yourself.
If you are the type* of person who just “can’t” ever travel long term because of your job, your marriage, or the kids you already spawned? You are the only one in your way – there are endless ways to be able to take a long trip and all these things in your way are just your excuses. I realize there are some illnesses or some handicaps that do prevent someone from long term travel and those are the ones I have the sympathy for. But you, a single mom with your kid, or your family of four with a dog, I do not – I see it on Instagram all the time. It’s possible and if you want to do it, you should and you can. Your job, or better yet a different job, will be there waiting for you when you get back. Too poor to travel? Get a job abroad. Find ways to travel for free. It’s doable. I’ve done it. Do your research. Your whole darn family will come out different and of better versions of themselves. And if this is your dream, why not make it happen, as they say, you only live once. Make it worth it.
Long term travel is also not for everyone, and I get and respect that too – we are all different and some people plain don’t want to go anywhere. But… to me, it’s like not liking mushrooms as a kid. If you are now an adult, and you haven’t tried mushrooms since you were seven years old, how do you really know if you still don’t like them? You have to try things in order to reinforce that you still don’t like them, even if it is uncomfortable.
Someone who is a complete homebody can still like long term travel – maybe they don’t sell their house but they rent it out for 3 months so they can enjoy going to Italy, Spain and Portugal, and they certainly come back a different and better version of themselves.
Maybe they end up hating it, and coming home early, but hey, they tried and I wholeheartedly respect people who try. But better yet, you will respect yourself a little more too, and whether you want to admit it or not, you grew during your time of travel even if it was in small ways that takes you a while to figure out or admit to yourself. The lasting effects can take months or even years to take notice. Eventually, though, you will notice, and you will bring it back to “that one time you traveled solo on a one-way ticket.”
You can’t just travel long term and expect it to change you, you still have to put in the work that everyone else does. But I guarantee, with an open mind, and open heart you will find what is really important to you – and I bet it’s no longer what you thought it once was. You’ll meet someone or do something along the way that just changes the way you think about your life and what is important to you.
There is also something about travel that it puts you in certain situations you wouldn’t be put in while back at home that really takes you out of your comfort zone stretching your mind and capabilities as a person into a new you. You will realize that, yeah, having a stable life at home is important but so is traveling, learning, and engaging. To me, it’s one of the only ways that will help you grow in ways you won’t know you needed until you do it.
I’ve been on at least two different work meetings with my boss who had not traveled much, when the conversation eventually turned to travel, I and the client had so much more in common and so much more to talk about than my boss who has all the credentials, and all the experience of the job, and all the school certificates. People like people who aren’t afraid to experience real life and get out of their small towns and live a little! It makes you interesting, and it comes down to the simple fact that you learn differently while you travel. You learn in ways you simply can’t by staying home.
Going on a vacation for a few weeks a year is definitely such a blessing and I would never diss any type of travel to get yourself away for a bit – but something about traveling long term, on a one way, with not many plans, out of the all-inclusive resorts, and on your own really opens your mind and soul and allows you to become who you want to become and show the world who you are. There is no more expectation of who you should be. Maybe you’ve been showing up to work the same way for the last 5-20 years. Quit your job to travel, and now you can show up and be who you truly are, or who you want to be, because no one knows you or expects you to show up a certain way. It’s like each place you go, and each person you meet, you get a chance to get to know the real you and show it to the world.
The world needs you, not the you that you think the world needs. Or the you that’s been a slave to who you think you should be.
If you’ve been debating a long term travel trip, but were afraid to take the leap because you “weren’t sure if you would like it,” Or “afraid to leave your comfy home behind” or “don’t have the money” or whatever else your excuse is that is stopping you from living a dream that you have, I hope this is the push and the inspiration that gives you that extra oomph to actually make it happen. You deserve to do what you want to do in your life. Don’t let fear hold you back. I promise you, you won’t regret it.