Hot! Why I’m Not A Long-Term Traveler

ricepaddy

One of the things that has been difficult for me as a travel blogger is to explain the fact that though I consider myself something of a nomad, I am not really interested in long-term travel, especially in the round-the-world structure that many people partake in. I’m constantly amazed by people like WanderingEarl and Mobile Lawyer who have been on the road for several years at a time, and though I find it fascinating, I also know that it’s not a lifestyle for me. Over the last few years, I’ve kind of honed in on what traveling means to me, and I’ve come to realize that I like to be gone for a few weeks or a few months at a time, but nothing longer, except in special situations. There are a few reasons for this.

Coming home allows me to have perspective.

Oddly, I find that the longer I stay abroad, the less perspective I have of my place in the world. While I’m abroad, so much of my time and energy gets taken up just existing that it’s hard to stop and think. When I come home, I’m much more aware of how my time elsewhere changed me as a person, and what I learned from where I was. While I’m still there, it’s harder for me to be aware of that stuff.

Without a home, I don’t appreciate being on the road as much, and without being on the road, I don’t appreciate home as much.

During the nomadic year I had between college and teaching in South Korea, I didn’t enjoy my freedom as much as I probably should have. Why? Because it was forced nomadism. I didn’t have anywhere to live, so I traveled and couchsurfed out of necessity. When I don’t have somewhere to return to, I start to get stressed and I feel very untethered, and not in a good way. However, my time on the road also makes me really appreciate my time at home. The two work in conjunction with eachother, and when my plans are completely open-ended, it actually makes me uninspired. I like to know that I’m eventually going home, and where I’m going home to.

Though I tend to be a solo traveler, I enjoy sharing my life with someone and it is hard to be away for extended periods of time.

I give Marc mad props for deciding to start dating me even though he knew I was about to leave for South Korea in a few months. Mad. Props. I think that if we hadn’t gotten together, I would still be single and though my life would have taken several different turns, I’m glad that I made the decision to start our relationship. Three and a half years later we’ve been through a lot together, and though I’m a very independent person and admittedly sometimes difficult to live with, I really enjoy the life that we have built together. I wouldn’t want to leave that for more than a year, and really not for more than 6 months, and since Marc works for the government and has limited vacation time, that means taking several shorter trips instead. When we first started dating, I didn’t have as difficult a time being away from Marc, but as our relationship has grown and progressed, I find that traveling gains a slightly bitter edge to it when I’m away for too long.

Ultimately, my goal is to live a full life. Sometimes that means traveling, sometimes that means building a good life at home.

Unlike a lot of the bloggers that I’ve encountered over the years, my desire to travel has nothing to do with feeling like something is missing from my life. In fact, I often feel that my life is too full! Between reenacting, web design, motorcycling, urban exploration, photography, and a very active social life, I’ve got a lot going on in my life. Traveling is, for me, part of living a full life, but it’s not the only part. When other parts of my life start to feel dull, I brighten things up by traveling. When traveling begins to wear on me, I go back home to my other pursuits. Long-term travel would mean giving up many of these other pursuits, and that’s not something I’m willing to do. Travel is part of a bigger picture, but it’s not the picture in itself.

The thing I value most in my life is a sense of freedom, and travel doesn’t always bring that.

Being able to do what I want, when I want to do it is one of the things that is most important to me. Because of the way I’ve structured my home life, it’s pretty easy to achieve this feeling while I’m at home. It’s not hard to achieve this while traveling, but I find that due to the low cost way I travel, I often don’t feel as free while I’m traveling as I do while I’m at home. When I’m traveling, I’m often working (and typically in a job with more hours than I do at home), which limits my freedom. I’m also limited by a lack of personal transportation, by the fact that I have to carry everything with me, and by my low budget. Long-term travel tends to exacerbate these issues, which makes it somewhat unappealing to me.

Really, my travel philosophy is probably closer to that of Traveling Savage. I like to take a few trips a year, some domestic, some international. I like to go away for long enough to get a good feel for the place, but not so long that I lose track of where I’m from. It’s just what works for me.

11 Comments

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  1. Why are you so wise?

    No seriously. I had this conversation in detail with my BFF (and blogged about it on my psych blog), whom I travel with whenever I travel. I have seen the upswing in the popularity of being permanently nomadic but I do not desire that. The way you explained this fits the psyche of many people I know. We do not desire corporate droneship that frowns on a healthy life and time off, nor do we want to be the “cool” kids always on a plane and always on the run. A balanced life is a a beautiful and interesting life.

    Great post. Just great!

    • I have no problem with people who are permanently nomadic, or those who are on 2-3 year trips, but it’s just not for me. Like you said, I prefer a more balanced life. I would consider moving to Europe if Marc found a job there (which is possible, since he’s an EU citizen), but that’s only because I’d be able to live with Marc, and reenacting is a hobby here too (in fact, European reenactors are considered the best).

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  2. Lovely post. I could not agree more, especially the part about how being on the road makes you apreciate home more.
    I’ve done long term travel and loved every minute of it. But now I love my home, my garden, my cats. I take several trips a year and work a full time job so I can do so. Do I wish the trips could sometimes be longer? Yes, but that’s a sacrifice I choose to make, and hope to retire early instead!

    • Yes. I think one of the key difference between me and many other solo travelers is that I have a good life at home. I love my job, and it gives me the freedom to travel, I love my hobbies, and I love spending my time with Marc. Sure, many travelers leave well-paying jobs, but I get a sense that many of them head off to travel because they are dissatisfied with their life at home. I love my life at home, so for me, traveling is something I use to add dimension to my life, rather than to replace it altogether.

  3. It’s as if you wrote down my jumbled thoughts! I’ve always had dreams of becoming a nomad, but after studying abroad and imagining my life without a home to return to, I was scared more than excited. I realized that I’m the type of person who wants nomadic tendencies, but who needs a home base. They always say that too much of anything is a bad thing, so if I keep the time spent on home base equal to the time spent on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd plate, I think I’m all set.

    • Yes. While I lived overseas for a year in South Korea, and I could have seen myself staying for a second year, it would have been hard to imagine doing so without the context of having a come to return to.

      Like you, I have nomadic tendencies, but I like to have a base to return to. I wouldn’t mind living overseas as an expat, but only if I had Marc with me, as then I’d still have a base, just on a different continent.

  4. Bravo! This is something a lot of people should read. I absolutely loved my 9 months of traveling. It was life changing and the best season of my life, but I’m by no means a long-term traveler. I had to settle down afterward and probably wouldn’t do it again unless it was with someone. I plan on doing more trips, but for less time. A few days here, a couple weeks there, and maybe a month every now and again. I think it gives me the absolute most freedom while having some semblance of home and community, while also doing what I absolutely love. Great post.

    • Yes. I loved my year in South Korea, but it took me a full year of being at home to feel the urge to travel again. I think that it’s good to have some sort of balance in your life. Like you, I prefer to take shorter trips (though still travel more than the average American by a long shot!), while still having a home and community to return to.

  5. I obviously missed this post when it first went up but I probably couldn’t have related as much then anyway. After 2 months of my round the world trip, I knew that type of travel definitely isn’t for me. A big part of it is not wanting to be away from my husband for so long. Our relationship started as long distance so it sucks having to deal with that again. I like having a home base. I like the idea of 1-4 week trips or working location independent so we can rent an apartment for awhile, but still have home to come back to. Long term, indefinite travel is not appealing. I admire those who can do it but I’m glad I now know it’s not for me.

    • Marc and I’s relationship started as long distance as well. I think that people like you and me, who have done the long-distance thing at the beginning of a relationship, are loathe to do it again. I would consider, say, doing a 6 month work contract somewhere for the purposes of making/saving money, but just to travel? Not anymore.

      Instead, like you, I like to take shorter trips – 1-2 months. I prefer to stick to one country at a time, which allows me to get to know a place better. Does that mean that I’m unlikely to see everywhere I want to see before I die? Of course. However, I’d rather know 30 places really well than barely be able to recall 100.

      Also like you, I enjoy having a home base. When I’m overseas without somewhere to come back to, I feel very ungrounded, and not in a good way. I have always felt that without the context of a home to come back to, travel loses much of its meaning.

      Thanks for your comments, and I hope to see more of you around here!

  6. Wow – what an amazing post… Shawna actually feels very similar to this, and to be fair there are many days that I feel very much like this as well. Currently being 9 months into a 15-ish month RTW journey, we are having an incredible time and have done so much…. but, for us, home is still home, and at the end of the day we are both looking forward to that when the time comes. It doesn’t mean we won’t travel again…we are both still very passionate about it, but our priorities are a little different then they were a year ago. We are in have a kid and a garden mode now, and I am pretty sure that will provide us with a whole new set of adventures. A great read – thanks for the perspective!