Should You Travel Long-Term?

How to Know if Long-Term Travel is Right for You

Let’s set the record straight.  Long term, RTW travel is different than a vacation.  If you are contemplating a big trip and think it’s going to be the same as a vacation to the beach, then you are sorely mistaken.  Long term travel is not just one long vacation.  It’s a way of life, and while it is awesome, amazing, and incredible, it’s also challenging, difficult, and frustrating.

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For those dreaming of busting out of the cube and hitting the road, there are a plethora of questions to ask yourself.  While I personally think anyone is capable of long term travel if they let go of their preconceived notions and remain completely open-minded, it’s still important to find out if this type of travel is right for you.

If you are thinking of taking the plunge, quitting your job, and taking off on an epic adventure around the world, you may want to ask yourself the following questions before making that final decision.

1.  Are you comfortable taking a year away from your career?

businessman

Money constraints and walking away from your career are the two biggest excuses people give for not being able to take a long trip.  If you have a job right now, leaving it during a still down economy may seem stupid.  Only you can weigh the pros and cons based on your situation.  But many people would be surprised to realize that there are companies are willing to offer leaves of absence.  Especially with the economy still in the state it is in, a lot of companies would be ecstatic to let someone leave of their own volition instead of having to lay someone off.  Your trip could buy your employer a year.

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My wife is an attorney, and her plan was to just quit her job before we left on our RTW.  After discussing it with friends at her firm, they persuaded her to ask for a leave of absence.  What’s the worst that could have happened?  They say no?  She was already planning on quitting anyway, so if they did, she would still be in the same situation.  Even in a field like law where the thought of a career break seems crazy and like career suicide to most, her employers granted her that leave of absence.  You never know until you ask.

>> Find out why it’s not crazy to quit your job to travel

2.  Are you happy/unhappy with your job/career?

If you’re unhappy with your job or career, then taking a year or so off to travel shouldn’t be as bitter a pill to swallow.  Sure, it’s difficult to walk away from a paying job when so many are unemployed, but if you aren’t happy, then why would you want to stay in that situation anyway?  A year off to travel will give you the time and confidence to ponder another opportunity.  You may find a passion you didn’t know you had.  Or you may rediscover a passion that has been lost in your busy life.  If you are unhappy with your current situation, then change it now.  The longer you stay somewhere, the harder it is to leave.  There’s no better time than now, and there’s no better way to re-assess your life than to hit the road.

If you are happy with your job and career, then the decision will be a bit more difficult.  It’s all about weighing pros and cons.  I liked the job and career I had before we left.  I was happy, I got paid well, and I genuinely enjoyed what I did.  While I enjoyed it, I still wasn’t passionate about it.  And that’s what I wanted, to be passionate about what I did on a daily basis.  Our trip allowed me to re-discover my love of writing, which ultimately led me to my job as editor here at BootsnAll.  I honestly wake up every morning looking forward to my day, and you can’t put a price tag on that.

>> Check out five reasons to take a career break or sabbatical

3.    Are there family or personal obligations keeping you home?

baby

Many of us have things at home that seem impossible to leave.  A home.  A sick family member.  Kids.  While some things may be impossible to leave (leaving a sick family member is a personal decision that has to be made based on the situation), most can be overcome.  Owning a home can certainly make the decision to leave more difficult.  But you are not out of options.  Renting your house while gone is an option, particularly if you have any friends or family looking for a better situation.  If you are in a good place in your home, then consider paring your life down considerably, getting rid of most of your stuff, and selling your house.  That money can be a nice nest-egg for your return, and it will give you the freedom to truly do what you want when your trip is over (or you could just keep traveling).

When we first decided to go on a RTW, it was under the guise of doing it before we had kids and couldn’t do it anymore.  We have heard it ad nauseum,  “Once you have kids, you could never do something like that.”  We bought into it.  Then we hit the road and met families doing the same thing.  While it may be more challenging, having kids and a family does not preclude you from traveling long term.  In my opinion, no matter the age of your kids, they will get a better education on the road experiencing new cultures and ways of living that they will in school for a year.  There’s no substitute for an experience like international travel, and your children’s minds and eyes will be opened like never before.

>> Sign up for our free e-course – Plan Your RTW Trip in 30 Days – Family Edition

4.    Do you feel like all your stuff is weighing you down?

Get rid of your crap

No matter if you own or rent, you probably have a bunch of stuff, especially if you’re an American.  It’s our way of life.  We are taught that the more stuff we have, the more successful we are.  After a while, many realize this is a fallacy.  Stuff weighs us down, and most of the time, a good percentage of the stuff we have goes unused and collects dust.  We all know this, but we turn a blind eye to it because going through it all and throwing a bunch of stuff out is difficult, time consuming, and it just sucks.  Or the stuff (houses and cars in particular) is costing us a ton of money and makes us slaves to our monthly payments.

If you are constantly stressed by all the stuff surrounding your life, consider a change.  Taking a RTW trip will force you to get rid of the stuff that is weighing you down.  It will force you to re-assess your priorities and realize that more stuff does not necessarily equal happiness.  And once you get out on the road with one backpack, you’ll realize even more how unnecessary all that stuff really is.

>>Read What to Do With Your Stuff

5.    Are you okay with missing out on things at home?

If you head away for a year or so, you will miss things.  You will miss weddings, births, sporting events, and concerts, amongst other things.  Are you okay with this?  I am a sports nut, and I was honestly worried about how I’d feel missing major sporting events while gone.  No matter how stupid some may think it is, it was something I thought about often leading up to our departure.

God bless the internet!  Taking off to travel has never been easier than it is now.  Technology makes it possible to keep up with the goings-on at home like never before.  Skype allows you to see your loved ones.  While we would have preferred to celebrate events like holidays and birthdays in person as opposed to on a computer screen, it was still awesome to be able to see our niece and nephew grow in the year we were gone.  To actually see them was something not possible even a decade ago.  Downloading and streaming of sporting events and concerts can help you stay up to date with your obsessions.  While all this technology is a great way to keep in touch, try to have a sensible balance.  If this is all you do, what’s the point of even leaving?

>> See how traveling can help you appreciate home more

6.    Are you ready for life on the road?

Dorm room

Once you get through that initial stage of excitement, when everything is new and awesome, you’ll get to the point where travel is your life.  No longer do you get up and go to work every day.  Now you travel.  It’s an odd transition, but suddenly not everything is great.  Not everything is exciting.  Not every new destination is the best ever.  You will get sick of staying in hostels or hotels.  You will get sick of eating out.  You will get sick of constantly being on the move.

If you are traveling solo, the challenges can be even greater.  Sure, you will meet tons of people on the road, and you may remain friends with some for years to come, but the majority will just be short-term acquaintances.  If you are traveling with someone else, no matter how close you are, you will get sick of that person from time to time, and there’s not much escape.  It will test your relationship like nothing else.  All are things to contemplate and think about before making that final decision.

>> Find out the signs that you are ready to settle down

7.    Are you prepared to not have a home for a year?

Repeat after me: “A RTW trip is not a vacation.”
Again:  “A RTW trip is not a vacation.”

Realize it, know it, accept it, embrace it.  Until you take a big trip yourself, you most likely will not believe the stories, but you will suffer from travel burnout at some point (probably several times).  Life on the road is not always great.  Constantly moving around, packing and unpacking, embarking on long, uncomfortable overland journeys, experiencing new cultures, and not speaking the language can all be difficult and frustrating, especially when you are doing it day in and day out for months at a time.

Having a home and a familiar place to settle down, the very thing you longed to get away from, is going to be something you start to long for again.  You’ll want to have your own kitchen to cook in.  You’ll get sick of sharing refrigerators.  You’ll get tired of getting woken up by loud, drunken idiots in the room next to you.  In short, there will be times you’ll wish you were back home.  Most of the time these thoughts are fleeting, and you can get back into your travel groove quickly.  But these feelings will crop up, and they’ll be something you’ll have to work through at some point in your trip.  Slowing down will help tremendously, and renting an apartment for a month or so gives you a chance to have a home again.

>> Learn lessons from my round the world trip

8.    Do you long for something more?

Contemplating

There are certainly many challenges to traveling long term.  It’s not easy, which is a reason why so few do it.  While I do firmly believe that everyone would benefit from a long trip and some time off from normal life, I do realize it isn’t for everyone.  You need to weigh all the pros and cons before deciding for sure to take a trip of this magnitude and turn your life upside down.

If you’re waiting for every single thing if your life to fall into place, you’ll be waiting forever, and before long, it will be too late.

But if your desire to travel and see the world tops everything else, then it’s time to take that next step.  There will always be a reason not to do it.  There will never be that perfect time.  There will always be an excuse.  If you’re waiting for every single thing if your life to fall into place, you’ll be waiting forever, and before long, it will be too late.

With all the questions you ask yourself and all the things you consider, it really only comes down to one big question.  It’s something I wrote in the very first article for this RTW Wednesday column:  If you decide to bypass the trip and go on the path that you are on, would you regret your decision 5, 10, 20 years down the road?

>> Read 11 Reasons to Stop Dreaming and Start Planning Your Round the World Trip

Ready to get started? Read about saving money for your adventure:

Photos by:   Lee_Sanford, SlapixSteph L. Thomas Van Ardenne , Canadian Veggie





Leave a Comment

  • Jennifer Kolbuc said at 2014-05-08T16:58:30+0000: Great article - it is so important to point out to people that long term travel is not a vacation. There are certainly great moments and yes, sometimes you will find yourself lying at the beach, but it's not the sole purpose of the trip. My tips and advice for taking a year off to travel (from which I have just returned): http://girlgonegallivanting.com/5-secrets-on-how-to-take-a-year-off-to-travel/
  • Jan Nicholson said at 2014-02-17T23:20:09+0000: If you’re waiting for every single thing if your life to fall into place, you’ll be waiting forever, and before long, it will be too late.
  • Jeska Blogs said at 2013-10-25T21:56:01+0000: Love this!-Jeska ( The Hopeless Wanderer)
  • Adventures With Pedro said at 2013-07-07T02:59:37+0000: Even answering the above won't tell you what you really need to know. Traveling the world will change your life in ways you can't even begin to imagine if you haven't yet set out. Even if something in this article gives you pause, go anyway!You might be really happy to come home at the end, but you'll still be happy you took the chance.
  • Kim Rosa said at 2013-07-03T17:26:43+0000: I had some experience with travel burnout after living abroad for a year and then travelling continuously for 3 months after. But I think the key is to have flexibility in your travel plans enough where you can rent a house someplace you like for a couple weeks to have a "home-base" and recoup until you feel ready to move on again. Constantly being on the go, packing and unpacking, is hard and gets really tiring. It sure beats the burnout though of regular life though! working, cleaning, bills, monotony.. I would take travel burnout any day!
  • Melanie Collopy said at 2013-07-04T00:21:27+0000: Yeah, but if you're going to repeat 'it's not a vacation' then you should also repeat 'it's so much better than a vacation!'
  • Mandy Moore said at 2011-06-15T15:43:37+0000: When my friends talk about my lifestyle - I travel full-time - they make it sound very romantic. I have to remind them that while it's great, there are downfalls and it's definitely not for everyone. My biggest issue is not having a home. I get sick of packing and repacking so I'm less of a traveler now and more of an expat, moving every few months with the weather. However, in 2013 I will be buying a boat so I will have the best of both worlds. I will be able to travel all over the place and still have a home so I don't have to unpack every few days.
  • Chasing Leads said at 2011-06-17T17:06:49+0000: It's something I have always wanted to do but don't think I ever could. I actually know for a fact I would never be able to and I'm okay with that. In reading blogs and articles it seems like there are a lot more downfalls than upfalls (is that even a word).. Great article and it's great that you gave us an insight to the life a RTW trip.D http://getawaygateway.com/
  • Explore for a year said at 2011-06-15T14:43:13+0000: Great article! Taking a round-the-world trip sounds very romantic, but there's so much more to it than turning a typical 2 week trip (the kind you take when you only have 3 weeks of vacation time, total) into a 1 year trip. I think one good way to test drive your readiness for long-term trip is to take a one or two month trip first to find your sustainable pace and to see how you feel about being on the road for an extended period of time, without making the leap to a year (yet).- Lily (Explore for a Year).
  • PromptGuides said at 2011-06-15T14:38:23+0000: Before it's too late...Yes, too many times we're waiting for everything to be just right. I had a colleague some years ago. She always told me how happy she was that she had traveled so much when she had been young and hadn't waited until she would retire. She had a serious accident in her late 40s and became disabled. It is now very challenging for her to travel.We like to forget about it but sometimes things does get too late...
  • Robert Radcliff said at 2011-06-17T00:21:23+0000: Every question that you have asked here? All are basically deals with our happiness that let us enjoy the trips.
  • Sean E Keener said at 2011-06-16T15:39:27+0000: I've taken a few of these sorts of RTW trips in my life. The more I keep reading this stuff, I want to go again. Thanks Adam.
  • Moving Taxi said at 2011-06-15T15:25:00+0000: lets do it baby!