3 downsides that I wouldn’t believe if I hadn’t tried
Imagine you could be a full-time traveler.
Imagine you could be out on the road every day, discover new countries at your own pace, hop around different cities, and live out of a backpack. I am sure many of you would find this a dream come true. I had that dream and I made it come true.
In the Spring of 2018, I put my essentials on a backpack and I booked a one-way ticket from Lisbon to Krakow. I started an adventure that I called “The Incredible Here”.
But guess what… after only two months on the road, I was tired. I couldn’t believe it, but I really was. Traveling full-time was not the dream I had believed it to be. These are the lessons I learned about the not so glamorous side of long term travel.
1. You Miss Deeper Connections
I love the random connections you make while traveling.
I. Love. Them.
They are one of the best things that come out of spending time on the road.
There is something uniquely beautiful about connecting with someone knowing that soon you will not be in each other’s lives anymore. It’s freeing, empowering, and creates the basis for super interesting conversations.
Plus, many of the people you meet on the road are fascinating. Strike up a conversation with someone in your hostel room and you might discover they biked all the way across Europe or volunteered at war zones. Or they are a famous musician in their country trying to get away from the spotlight in a remote village in the Baltics.
These connections are incredible. But they are not enough. After a while, you get tired of always starting a conversation the exact same way.
“Hi, I’m Diana and I’m from Portugal! I started this trip two months ago and my plan is to visit every country in Eastern Europe. I’m also creating videos for Youtube. Yes, you can follow me: The Incredible Here. My favorite place so far? Ah, the Balkans, I love it around there. Have you been to Kotor?…”
Yes, that is all true, but it doesn’t mean I want to repeat those basic facts about myself every time I meet someone new — basically, every day.
When you spend your time around new people, you start missing the old, meaningful connections. You want someone who knows you, to whom you don’t need to repeat the same boring facts because they know them already — and they know so much more. So much, that you feel at home with them.
You crave your old friends, with whom you can skip the basics and go straight to the deeper stuff. You can tell them how you really feel, what’s been troubling you, what you’re afraid of. You can have philosophical conversations about life, and the world. It’s a whole different level of connection and you will miss it if you go without it for too long.
How to fight this:
If you are traveling alone, consider scheduling some stretches of the trip with old friends. For example, I started my 3-month trip in Poland with a friend, then traveled alone for a couple of weeks before I ended up in Berlin to visit a couple of old friends. And my sister joined me there as well! Another few weeks on my own and then two of my friends from Portugal flew to Bulgaria, where we met to explore the country. This allows you to stay open to new friendships while, every now and then, having the comfort of a familiar face.
2. You Get Tired of Discovering Something New Every Day
What if today you could visit the Louvre in Paris, tomorrow the Big Ben in London, then the Manneken Pis in Brussels and the canals in Amsterdam? Moving on to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the Colosseum in Rome, the Parthenon in Greece, and the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul? All in 3 weeks.
And then continue, discovering something new every day, in a different city. It might seem exciting but, after a while, it ceases being amazing. Exploring a new place every day takes away the feeling of specialness. Traveling becomes a routine. But didn’t you go travel exactly to escape a routine?
Sometimes, all we need to do is to let ourselves indulge in our normal, boring existence. This is why, after two months on the road, I made a video explaining why I was spending my time in Tallinn, Estonia, watching cat videos online.
How to fight this:
Well, you can watch cat videos too. Or movies, tv shows, anything. As long as it lets you enter a quiet, relaxed mood. If you can work remotely, mixing some days of work in between the travel time is also a good way to break up the routine.
3. Sometimes you miss the comfort
I don’t need much to feel comfortable, as I am quite minimalist in my daily life. So the idea of living out of a backpack and sleeping in shared dorm rooms for the long run doesn’t put me off.
But then, some night, in a random hostel in a random city, your lousy roommates come back drunk at 3 am. And all you want is your comfortable, quiet, silent bed that is waiting for you in your empty house, thousands of kilometers away.
Most days you like the food on the road.
But then, some day, somewhere in a beach town, you eat some odd foreign food that makes your stomach go crazy. And all you want is the comfort of the food lovingly cooked by your mom.
Most days are good.
But then, one morning, you wake up and feel like singing in the shower. In a hostel, in a shared bathroom.
Sometimes, you just miss the little comforts of your life at home.
How to fight this:
If you are traveling for a long period, you are probably on a budget and choosing shared accommodation. But, every now and then, spend some extra on your comfort. Check in to a hotel, lay in bed all morning, or go for a massage. These days will increase your energy levels and make you more capable of enjoying the rest of the trip.
Before trying long term travel, my mind was set. If someone would have shown this article to me, I would have grinned and said “Ha, not my case… I belong on the road”. I wouldn’t believe it because my traveler personality was so deeply rooted in my idea of who I am. So I had to try it.
If you think long term travel is for you, then I urge you to try it too. Don’t get discouraged, don’t let me or anyone else tell you otherwise.
If there is one thing we learn from traveling is that we are all different. So who’s to say that you will end up feeling like this if you experiment traveling for a long while? You might… but if you really have the travel gene in you, I am sure you feel the absolute need to try it for yourself.
So, get out there on the old beaten road, and prove yourself right. Or wrong. It doesn’t matter, as long as you try.