Ah traveling, unlike the all-expenses-paid holidays most people go on once a year to use up their annual leave, there are people out there who spend months on the road going from country to country. From the outside it looks like a dream, constantly going from one exotic location to another, experiencing new things and meeting new people daily. But actually, long-term travel is hard work.
What the all-expenses-paid people don’t see are the travel delays, the scams, the nonstop packing and unpacking. Though as hard as long-term travel can be, it reaps rewards that are far better than a week of laying on a beach so you learn to love the tough times anyway. Here are 10 things that you stop giving a shit about when you travel long term.
1. Spending more time in one place than planned.
It’s the cardinal rule of travel. Don’t plan a trip so much that you have no opportunity for leeway. The best memories from traveling are usually from experiences that weren’t pre-planned or researched ahead.
As a serial travel planner, I spent hours trawling the Internet and creating my itinerary. I had every day planned down to the last minute, including where I wanted to eat and sleep. However, as soon as I stepped off the plane, my well-organized itinerary flew out the window – and this made my trip way better than I imagined.
2. Having lazy days where you only leave the hostel for food.
Note: Taking a lazy day or two does not make you a bad traveler. In fact, it will probably make you a better one. Long-term travel isn’t all filtered Instagram pictures and cocktails by the beach. Constantly packing and unpacking, sleepless nights in noisy hostels, and sitting for hours on public transport can take a toll on your stamina. With no set structure to your days, traveling can be more tiring than your standard 9-5 job. Don’t feel guilty for giving yourself a time out, because even travelers need days off!
3. Not wearing makeup every single day.
For some people, makeup is a necessary evil that they can’t possible live without. Whether it is skin issues, low self-confidence, or just the love of makeup, some struggle to give up the war paint. I was never a huge makeup wearer, but for the sake of semi-decent photos I would dutifully apply my makeup every morning. Though as my makeup started to run out, so did my cares for having a well-painted face. As a result, I saved money and came to love my makeup free features.
4. Not having the latest clothes, gadgets etc.
Travel has the ability to change your opinions on many things – the need for material objects being one of them. When you have to carry your life on your back for months on end, you suddenly realize what is most important to you and what is unnecessary. Chances are, the people around you will be in the same boat and won’t care if you’re wearing the latest style of clothes or carrying the newest electronics.
5. Not taking photos or videos in places.
In this day and age, where social media rules our lives and being able to share experiences instantly is possible, it’s hard not to have your phone or camera attached to you. However, as you spend longer in one place and get to know somewhere by memory and not by map, you’ll find that the need to share every minute of your day with the world disappears and you start to enjoy life firsthand instead of watching it from behind a camera lens.
6. Not doing all the ‘must-see’ activities.
Yes the Eiffel Tower is amazing and yes, Machu Picchu is a must-do, but when the list of ‘must do/see’ activities is longer than a country mile, it’s downright impossible to see them all. When you start traveling long term, you come to realize that you don’t have to see everything and exhaust yourself, and that’s totally fine – it just means you’ll have to return one day!
7. Not going out every single night and getting wasted.
For most holiday-makers, one of the best parts of a trip is the nightlife that they experience. Long nights, fancy drinks, and foggy memories are expected on short holidays. For those traveling long term, it’s a different story. The idea of spending every night in a busy, tourist-filled bar can be daunting and often your budget doesn’t cover endless cocktails. Sometimes all you want to do is settle in with some noodles and watch Netflix – we are only human after all.
8. Losing items.
As long as it’s not a body part, losing something during your travels is not the end of the world. With long term travel comes a sense of calm and tolerance and you’ll learn how to cope when something goes missing. It’s inevitable that things will disappear during your travels, whether it be your own fault or not, but the majority of the things are replaceable and easily accessible around the world.
9. Dealing with unexpected change of plans in transport
Similar to losing your belongings, your attitude to haphazard plans usually changes the longer you travel. Waiting for buses or trains becomes the norm and delays are always expected. As awful as it may sound, when your plans go without a hitch, you appreciate it a whole lot more.
10. Following the society ‘norm.’
In today’s society, the idea of a 9-5 job, a white picket fence, and 2.5 kids has taken a backseat to the new trend of being a digital nomad. However, while I was in South America, a small voice kept persisting in the back of my head, reminding me that I was wasting my time gallivanting around the globe. While my friends were starting a family, securing a well-paying job and buying their first house, I was living out of a 50-liter backpack and eating street food for less than $5. It bugged to me at the start, though I found the longer I traveled and the more inspiring people I met, the idea of settling into society’s norms sounded awfully mundane. It was an eye-opening lesson discovering that I didn’t have to follow the society ‘norms,’ a lesson I would have never learned in a 40-hour work week.