Why I’m Not A Long-Term Traveler
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.