“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?
5/29/2014 09:51:49 am
Oh, you should do it! Take a year! Go for it. I'd love to. It's on the bucket list for Adri and me.
5/29/2014 11:35:45 am
Thanks, let's hope we all get the chance!
5/29/2014 10:01:21 am
I am ready to go!
5/29/2014 11:36:20 am
Go for it, Duane. And let me know how it goes!
5/29/2014 12:24:21 pm
I love this list, Karen! I traveled twice, both 8 month long stints, almost back-to-back. I learned so many lessons. I'll do it more right next time!
6/2/2014 05:13:39 am
Wow, two 8-monthers, back to back? You must have some great stories to tell, Gina!
5/29/2014 03:33:52 pm
We are selling our house and will leave for France in August. Being retired we will swap our US living expenses for international travel. We don't know how long we'll be gone, or where we'll call home when we return. Let the adventure begin!!
6/2/2014 05:14:23 am
Good luck to you, Jeannie & Chris. Sounds like a grand adventure indeed. Keep me posted!
1/16/2015 11:49:53 pm
We are near the end of our first long travel of 6 months, 4.5 in France and 1.5 in Italy. It has been so fabulous we've planned phase 2 and will travel for 8 months. We plan to continue as long as we have the desire, good health and finances. Thanks for the encouragement and sharing of your adventures.
1/18/2015 07:30:41 am
Jeannie&Chris, congratulations on your long journey! From what I see on your Slow Nomads blog, you're having a great time – and getting some spectacular photos! Good luck, and may your desire, good health and finances let you continue forever. Yesterday, I was at the 90th birthday of a woman I used to travel with, and it's those shared memories that make life so richly rewarding.
5/29/2014 04:22:21 pm
We did it 2005 and although we spent most of our time in Italy, we managed to go to England, Austria, Netherlands, Croatia and Greece. It was a stupendous year; however, the one thing I missed were my girlfriends. Yes, I can speak Italian and we made a lot of friends, but the conversations never got too deep, and I missed that. Fortunately, some of my girlfriends and their husbands came to visit. Without those intermittent visits, I don't think I would have enjoyed myself half as much.
6/5/2014 12:18:43 am
Missing close friends is one of the tough parts of travel. New friends, even good talkers and great philosophers, just don't have the context to get the nuances of your stories or appreciate the latest family drama. How fabulous that your friends could visit, Nancy, and share in your life on the road!
5/29/2014 05:43:31 pm
Please sign me up!
6/5/2014 12:19:25 am
6/5/2014 12:20:21 am
Thanks for the support, NZ Muse, and I am working on it! Not in the next year – I have to finish my new book first – but after that ... look out world!
3/3/2015 11:13:11 am
I'm aching to travel!! But, as a young lady fresh out of American college (which I somehow managed debt-free!!) who makes just under $20,000/year, I often wonder if I could really afford it. I'm just getting by here in a rural town, but I long to be a part of a different culture and live a new way of life. Slow travel (like 6 months--1 year in one place) is especially appealing to me. Do you have any recommendations for a new, particularly inexpensive country to call home?
3/4/2015 12:44:37 am
Laki, the world is full of inexpensive places to live; Asia and Latin America, for instance, have lots of great bargains. I recently wrote a post about an expat poll that covered many factors including cost of living: http://www.enjoylivingabroad.com/my-blog/14000-expats-tell-it-like-it-is.
3/4/2015 09:55:55 am
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TO I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain.
Wanderlust has taken me to more than 60 countries. Every week I provide travel tips and adventure stories to inspire your journeys and let you have more fun — and better food — on the road
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