I’ve been to a lot of amazing places and done many wondrous things in the past 14 months, but except for perhaps the first couple of weeks, it certainly hasn’t felt like a holiday.
Some would imagine the life of a long-term traveller as sitting in hostels with the other travellers chatting, going to dinner every night, hanging out and getting drunk in nightclubs, going on nature walks, sitting on beaches, doing tours and generally relaxing. I won’t lie, there’s plenty of that stuff going on, but it’s not all fun. Some pretty stressful stuff can go on too.
Here are some of the not so fun things that can happen while long-term travelling…
One thing to be careful of when travelling is exotic diseases or bugs that your immune system isn’t used to fighting. The most common illness is caused by a bad reaction to food meaning lots of time spent sitting on the toilet. Not pleasant.
Before travelling, a lot of money can be spent on preventative medicines, but while they can help with some of the nasty stuff, they can’t always help food poisoning.
In countries where you don’t speak the language simple things such as buying food, booking bus tickets, getting directions, taking taxis or organising tours can be stressful. While knowing a handful of phrases can make life a little easier, in general getting a point across is frustrating.
Picking up the language or getting good at hand signals is much easier when spending a long time in a group of countries that all speak the same language. But when each country speaks a different dialect, or worse, a different language, it’s difficult just doing the simple things.
Catching flights is expensive so long-term travellers tend to most often travel via buses or boats. If you hate your 30 minute commute twice a day, imagine sitting on a bus for 24 hours. When your laptop, smart phone and tablet all run out of battery there’s not much to do but sleep, and that’s not the easiest thing to do on a cramped bus.
Tours gone wrong
It’s not much fun when your tour arrives 30 minutes early and then leaves without you. There are stresses around getting your money back, booking new tours, losing the day you’d planned etc. There are also plentiful dodgy tour operators out there just waiting to rip off the unwary traveller. So staying on your toes is advised.
Leaving Friendships Behind
When you travel overseas long-term you leave all of your friendships behind, this includes those you have with your family. Contact with the people you are close to becomes fleeting status updates on Facebook or a monthly Skype with your parents. While this is usually fine, making new friends on the road has its share of problems.
Staying in hostels you tend to meet new people and get along well with them only to have them move on after a couple of days. It’s fun for a while constantly meeting new people, but after a several months this can get weary and leave you avoiding new people.
From time to time, seeing yet another amazing set of mountains, a spectacular lake vista or an ocean beach can lose its thrill. You can get a bored seeing all the new and amazing places. This usually means you’re overstimulated and should take a break from travelling for a while. Things can get stressful when you still have six months to go in your plans so it’s necessary to take time off, a holiday from travelling from time to time, to reignite your excitement.
Working While Travelling
Most of us cannot sustain travelling without earnings and since we’ve all thrown in our jobs to travel, we have to find other means to earn money. For some that means working in hostels, but for others it means working over the Internet. While travelling I’ve met programmers, web designers, and translators all working from their laptops in hostels. I’ve also met those whose company have sent them abroad for a week or two.
I write, aiming to produce 3-5 pieces a week on top of daily activities, which amounts to around 4 hours per item. While I currently don’t get paid for writing, which causes is a bit of a stress, I am working towards it.
Lastly, have you ever gone on holiday for two weeks, then return to work and comment about needing another holiday because you did so much? Long term travelling is just like that. The hours are often long: tours start early and can last until early evening, bus trips can take a day or more and hikes can take weeks. Then you try to do something every day and taking a day off to do nothing feels like you are wasting time. Long term travelling is busy and tiring, but it’s very rewarding too.
Until next time,