“I just need three more days!” Rich used to protest at the end of every two-week vacation from corporate life. We once managed a month in Asia, and the final week, sitting in café overlooking a bus station in India, he said, “I could definitely keep on going.” And after last year’s three-month train trip through Central and Eastern Europe, he turned to me and said, “What about a year on the road?”
It was a huge idea. Scary. Exciting. Dizzying.
Lots of us have fantasized, in an idle sort of way, about taking off around the world. But what would it be like, really? What advice would long-term travelers give to those of us who might someday follow in their road-worn shoes? I found they had some surprising insights, especially concerning popular myths and misconceptions about life on the move.
Myth #1: The world is a scary place.
“Most places are as safe (or safer) than home,” says Clayton B. Cornell, the Spartan Traveler, who has been on the road since 2011. “The only place I’ve ever been violently mugged was in my home city of San Francisco.” He has a point; here in Seville, I feel safe walking by myself at night, something I would never do in an American city. Of course, every place has its ruffians and scoundrels, ready to exploit true idiocy – like a priest I knew who insisted on wearing flashy gold jewelry on Mexican buses until (surprise!) he was robbed. The key is to use a little common sense – and those security gadgets Rich loves.
Myth #2: It costs a ton of money to travel.
Sure, you can splurge on glitzy hotels and champagne that costs more than your car, but you don’t have to. “How to Travel the World for $1.94 per Day” reveals the thrifty habits that have enabled Wandering Earl to stay on the road since 1999. Michelle and Tim of The Travel Year, who spent $26,382 (19,409€ or £15,794) during their 16-month journey, published their itemized budget so we can see how it’s done. Forbes lays out more details in How I Saved Enough to Travel the World for Five Years.
Myth #3: Planning, preparation, packing ... I’ll never get out the door.
Sure you will. The key is doing less: less packing, less research, and no advance reservations; they make it impossible to linger in places you love and expensive to leave those you don’t. ”I read enough to give myself ideas but not so much that I give myself answers,” says Vagabonding’s Rolf Potts. “Pack everything you think you need . . . Then take out half of it!” advise Hannah and Adam of Getting Stamped, who have logged more than 330 travel days together. Easier said than done, I know, but last year I lived for three months out of a suitcase that was just 54 x 34 x 19 cm (21 x 13 x 7.5 inches) and weighed just 10.3 kilos (22.7 pounds). So it is possible!
Myth #4. I have to see everything or the trip’s a failure.
“We tend to vacation the same way we live: at warp speed with emphasis on performance and ‘box checking,’” says Jennifer Miller of BootsnAll. “Travel should not be about filling in that world map tattoo on your shoulder.”
Myth #5. A year on the road will be enough.
“It has been an amazing year – the best year of our lives – and we’ve learnt so much about each other, ourselves and the world that I don’t think we’ll ever go back to the lives we were living before,” say Dave and Carmen of Double-Barrelled Travel. Or as the Spartan Traveler puts it, “Traveling doesn’t get ‘traveling’ out of your system.” I’m sure he’s right. If Rich and I ever do decide to spend and entire year on the road, I know that at the end of it, Rich will turn to me, and say, “Out there is another adventure. Let’s go.”
But enough about us. Would you ever consider spending a year traveling the world?
I'm an American travel writer based in Spain and currently living in California.
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