Travelling long-term has a way of teaching you about the world, society and yourself. After being on the road for sixteen months, here are nine things I learned…
1) Travelling Is Cheaper Than You Think
I’ve been asked many times how I afford to travel for such a long time. The thing about travelling long-term is, unless you’re very rich then travelling isn’t all high class hotels, airline flights or eating at top restaurants. While we may do this on a two-week holiday, this cannot be sustained by the average long-term traveller.
It’s a fact that travelling through Asia, South America or Africa is cheaper than through Antarctica, Australia, Europe or North America. Before my travels I lived in Australia and my weekly rent alone (not including utilities) was more than double the cost of staying in a hostel for a week in South America. And some places are even cheaper still.
As food is generally cheaper in South America, it doesn’t cost that much to eat out at everyday restaurants even at ’tourist prices’. But since many hostels offer free use of a kitchen, cooking your own meals brings costs down even more. On top of that most hostels offer free breakfasts and some even offer free dinners.
Bus travel is the cheapest way to get from one destination to another within South America, with the cost weighing in lighter than my weekly public transport and fuel costs in Australia.
But, it’s the tours that tend to have the higher price tag on them. But unlike short holidays, where you are maximizing time, long-term travellers don’t fill every second of every day, which cuts down the overall costs of these activities.
So taking those things into account, it was actually cheaper for me to travel in South America for a year than live in Australia.
2) Travelling Isn’t As Dangerous As You Think
When I first decided to travel through South America many people, my parents included, were worried because of the negative hype that continent had received over the years. And it’s true, there were many past issues in South America for various reasons, most notably poverty. And this is no different for Asia and Africa. But the irony is these continents are safer because we choose to travel to them and there is for one very good reason. Tourism.
When you’re a poor country and a buttload of tourists/travellers arrive regularly wanting to spend money, you do everything you can to ensure they feel safe and have a good time. Why? Because when they go home they’ll tell their friends and more travellers will come. To do this they allocate funding to police or military to protect those places tourists want to go. They may look scary, but they’re there to look out for us.
For the most part because we live in the Western Society we turn a blind eye to how dangerous our own countries can be. But with 900 people dead over the past 7 years in the United States because of mass shootings, it makes you wonder.
3) It’s Not Always Paradise
In my travels I have been to some pretty amazing places, places that I could consider calling paradise. But travelling can be hard, especially if there’s a language barrier to break through. There are adjustments to be made, harassing locals, different foods, illnesses, accidents, thefts, inflated costs and many other variables to work through before it can feel like paradise. Then ironically, when you’ve been on the road for a long time, just lying in your own bed or hanging out with your friends can be seen as paradise.
Sometimes expectations lead our definition of paradise. As an example, wanting to go diving at that island that everyone raves about only to find you’re not that fond of diving, or that amazing pristine island with crystal clear waters can quickly turn boring after a couple of days.
In Part 2 I discuss Travelling Alone, Tourist vs Traveller and Travelling Slowly