5 Practical Lessons I’ve Learned From Long-Term Travel
There’s no right or wrong way to travel. Intrepid travellers in particular are always on their own path, doing things their own way and at their own pace. That’s the charm of jetting off in the first place. But long-termers often find common ground in the practical lessons that have been learnt along the way, the hard way.
Of course there are the obvious long-term travel regrets like over packing. This is almost a redundant argument given that no matter how little you pack you’ll always wish you packed less. And the issue of over vs. under planning. It’s always a debated issue around the hostel dining room: you’ve either left no room in your schedule for unforeseen opportunities or you’ve accidentally missed the best attractions all together.
Packing and planning aside, here are five of the most practical lessons I’ve learned from long-term travel. We’ll definitely remember these for the next big trip, right? Right.
#1 Don’t move too fast. Savour the special moments
In long-term travel, your end date feels like a lifetime away, but instead of moving slower and taking the time to savour each destination, you take the opposite approach. It’s easy to set ourselves over-ambitious schedules – to try and cross off as many places on our bucket list as possible – but remember to take things at your own pace.
If you’re constantly on the move you’ll spend more money, you’ll burn out quicker and you’ll spend more time in squashy vans and sweating it up on trains with no air-con. Your memories will start to blend together in a haze and you’ll struggle to remember where exactly you were when you did that really cool thing with that person in some place somewhere in Eastern Europe.
Think about quality over quantity. Really allow yourself to absorb the culture of each destination you visit. Give yourself time to develop real friendships and to get to know your way around a place. And there’s nothing wrong with finding a relaxing spot where you feel at ease, and taking a sneaky little holiday from your holiday. You deserve it.
#3 Staying connected will provide new opportunities
Taking a break from the virtual world is a good thing, especially when you’re travelling and you have the real world in front of your eyes to scroll through.
But we weary that dropping off the radar completely in search of a digital detox might mean you miss the chance to meet up with a mate who’s travelling nearby, or miss important news from home. Staying relatively connected and contactable gives you the chance to keep up with all the new friends you’ve made along the way. And who knows, they may have hot tips on your next destination or a better still, a spare room to crash in.
#2 Be money conscious and don’t blow the budget
One of the most challenging things about long-term travel is sustaining the budget to match. There’s nothing worse than announcing to the world that you’re off for 12-months through South America, only to return after three.
Consider dividing your entire budget into weekly amounts. Pay yourself the allocated amount each week just like a wage and use it for daily costs like transport, accommodation and food. Put some money into a separate account for bigger expenses like flights, tours and festival tickets. This technique will help you stick to your budget and make sure you can really live out your dream travels without constantly worrying about money.
#4 Don’t fall into the ‘Internet hole’
Don’t fall into the dreaded ‘internet hole’. There’s nothing worse than jumping online to “just book this one thing real quick’ but five hours later you’re still scrolling through endless information. When you get bogged down reading all the nitty-gritties, the sheer abundance of information can make your decision not easier, but harder. Yes, it’s a great thing to do thorough research but sooner or later you’ll have to make a decision, hit ‘book’ and move forward.
Besides, is the really internet your best tool for the decision at hand? Think about other sources of information. On the backpacker trail the value of tips from other travellers, advice from locals or the information pinned on the hostel notice board shouldn’t be underestimated.
#5 Planning for home is a must
Travel has become your new norm and it’s wonderful. What a life, huh? However, as much as it hurts to admit it at some point you’ll need to start thinking about the journey home. You’ve spent countless hours planning the adventure of a lifetime, so it’s equally important you spend some time thinking about what will happen with you land home.
Planning ahead for home while you’re still on the road will make your transition back to normality smoother and easier to deal. It will help keep those post-travel blues at bay – because they’re very real and horrible thing – and, you’ll avoid wasting the last leg of your trip in a panic about your future holds.
But, the best reason to give thought to home is that you’ll be in the best possible position to start planning for your next big trip, taking you one step closer to being the glorious ‘travel-you’ all the time.