After travelling for such a long time we have collected a few bad habits along the way… Its not the end of the world because after all, we are out in the world learning and exploring every day. Just a few things to consider if you are sticking it out for the long term!
Waiting for friends to come to you
After meeting so many people in so many destinations you can begin to take it for granted that new friends will come to you wherever you go. It is a given when you land in a new destination that you won’t be alone for long until you find a few like-minded travellers who become your inner circle for the time you remain in this place. What we have learned from our first long term travel experience till now is that you have to make an effort to find friends in every place. People are not just going to conveniently arrive on your doorstep. Getting involved is the best way to do this. Take a class in the local language or try a new activity like yoga or water zumba – the more you get involved in local activities, the more people you will meet and the more chance you will have to find someone just like you to share your experiences with. Likewise you cannot spend your days waiting for your friends from back home to join you on the road… everyone leads their own lives and no matter how lonely you are, coming to visit you is not always their first priority. Your friends have their own lives to lead – and sometimes that life doesn’t include following you into the wide blue yonder!
Losing your urge to see everything
When you first start travelling you have an uncanny urge to see as much as you can in the limited time you have but sadly it doesn’t take long for this urge to begin to fade. You have a few big nights out and all of a sudden the idea of staying in bed all day ‘because I can’ sounds much more beneficial than spending your hangover exploring ancient temples in the blazing heat. Before you know it your nights become longer and your days become shorter until eventually you find yourself leaving your destination having seen less in months than most tourists manage to see in a week! Of course you will always have your hazy memories of those crazy nights out, but is that really enough to justify missing so many other experiences that your destination has to offer? On the flip side, you learn very quickly when you spend a long time on the road that seeing everything on the list may not necessarily satisfy you either. The key is finding that healthy balance between a party holiday and creating an experience for yourself that you will remember for a lifetime.
Forgetting to appreciate where you are and how you got there
In our early days of travelling Dave used to stop me while we were exploring and say “it’s Tuesday morning and I’m not taking calls right now”. We were so full of appreciation that we were no longer committed to 9-5 jobs that we weren’t passionate about, that just being where we were was enough to fill us both with happiness. We worked hard to get to where we were and every moment was a gift that we had given to ourselves. We never lost the fact that we have to work hard to be where we are, but somewhere along the way we lost the appreciation of it. Living in a foreign country is normal to us now, expected of us, the wonder and awe that we used to feel has diminished over time into the norm of a new reality. Sometimes it is worth taking a moment to think back on who you used to be, the life you once lead and to reflect on the changes that you have made. We made this happen in our lives and this new reality that we are now living is a direct result of our own determination to live our life the way we wanted to. You should never lose the inspiration that you found to change your world, no matter how long ago it started.
Falling into the trap of television
When you spend a long time on the road one of the first things you learn is that doing nothing is perfectly OK sometimes. Exploring the world can be physically and mentally exhausting and you need to give yourself a break. However the habit of watching movies all day, just staring at the television, is one that is easily formed. Once a TV junkie, always a TV junkie I guess but the fact is that watching movies or television, no matter how inspirational or educational it is, is not living. It is watching other people living! After all, the reason we started this whirlwind adventure was to live differently, not to do the same old thing in a different country. I suppose that this is the trap of long term travel, you live in these destinations and you fool yourself into thinking that the experiences will always be there, so they can wait until you’re finished the latest season of whatever it is you’re watching… The truth is that you are in this place for the experience, so really putting it off for a day of movies is just wasting time that could otherwise be spent living, seeing, experiencing all that this place has to offer. The time to live is now so turn off the fake life on your screen and get out and start living your real life. Does anyone really want to think back on their life and say I watched some great movies in some really cool destinations? I think not.
Thinking about money more than experience
One of the downsides of long term travel is that you have to watch your funds all the time. You learn to budget better than ever before and saving becomes a habit that is hard to break. Sometimes it is difficult to make the call on whether the experience is worth the money, you learn to always look for the cheaper alternative that is more friendly to your bank balance. But sometimes (most certainly not always) the experience is worth the money. If you are going to spend a day with elephants in Thailand, you are far better off paying the extra money to visit a sustainable park that is truly concerned with animal welfare than putting yourself through the pain and disgust of seeing elephants who are trained to do tricks in a pure grab for tourism dollars, when you are crying on the inside for how they are treated the whole time. If you are truly out in the world to experience the best it has to offer, then sometimes it is worth the big spend. Regret should never be a part of travel, sometimes you need to have the sense to see beyond the dollars and cents in exchange for the experience you are having.
This blog was originally published on The Austin Experience