Traveling Long-Term: 8 Excuses to Stop Making

It’s okay to admit it. You’re scared to take a long-term, RTW trip. I don’t blame you. It’s a frightening thing to think about. I was extremely worried that I was ruining my life when we ultimately decided to quit our jobs and travel around the world for a year.

“Am I really going to voluntarily quit a good, stable, well paying job to go travel for a year?” I would ask myself in the months leading up to our trip.

Stop making excuses<br /> and start planning
Stop making excuses
and start planning

The answer was obviously yes, and I knew that, but that didn’t help my anxiety at the time. Of course now I look back and have to laugh at the absurdity of it all. When faced with fear, or a challenging situation, or going against societal norms, it’s natural to be scared. We make excuses to help us deal with our fears. We come up with ways to talk ourselves out of taking risks. I know all about it. Every single traveler who has bucked the norm to travel has faced these fears.

When faced with fear, or a challenging situation, or going against societal norms, it’s natural to be scared.

How you respond to them will determine whether or not you make your travel dreams a reality or if you go the way 99% of the rest of society goes – the safe road.

I don’t have enough money

This is the biggest reason people give for not traveling, and while a lack of funds isn’t easy to overcome, if you make travel your priority, the money will be there. The first thing that potential RTW travelers have to realize is that it’s not nearly as expensive as you think. There are plenty of places around the world where you can get by comfortably on $40/day (many more thrifty backpackers have done on it on far less than that).

In many places, that $40 will get you a private room in a hostel, 3 good meals, and some beers with all the new friends you’re sure to meet. If you do the math, if you spend $40/day over the course of a year, that comes out to $14,600. Try living on that in the United States for a year.

>> Read about the costs of RTW travel

Of course you will have to add in the cost of flights and some miscellaneous expenses, and that $40/day won’t get you very far in expensive regions like North America and Western Europe. But if you stick to developing countries that you can visit for cheap, $40 gets you pretty far.

Taking all the costs into consideration, you might need around $20,000 for a year-long RTW trip. While that initial figure looks like a lot, it’s all about perspective and priorities (and there’s no rule saying you have to travel for a year – if you can only afford 3- 6 months, then travel for 3-6 months).

  • If you’re buying a $200,000 house, that’s 10% down, which is a good amount to put down when purchasing a home.
  • You can’t even get many new cars for under $20k these days, and I’m sure there are plenty of us who have at least that much in student loan debt (many even rack up credit card debt that exceeds that number).
  • Look at what people spend on 1 or 2-week vacations – it’s not too hard to rack up $7000 – 10,000 on a short trip over to Europe.

If travel is your priority, you come up with the money, just as you would when making a big life purchase like a home. This is no different except that it’s simply not as common. If you want to travel cheaply, you can, and if travel is your top priority, you get a plan together, start saving, and make it happen.

>> If putting that kind of money away seems daunting, consider working while on your RTW trip. Or find out 28 Ways to Save Money for Traveling.

I don’t have a travel partner

Not all travel-lovers have a significant other, friend, or family member that shares that same passion. While many people see this as an insurmountable hurdle, others embrace the chance to travel solo. Leaving your job and life behind to travel the world is a daunting enough task, so the thought of doing it solo might seem impossible. Traveling alone is a scary thought, yet there are countless solo travelers out there doing it right now and loving it. Some solo travelers love it so much that even when they find a travel-loving partner, they still insist on taking the occasional solo trip.

Traveling alone is a challenge, there’s no doubt about it, but there’s also quite a few benefits that come with it. In Doing it Alone: Top Tips for Solo Travel from Those Who Have Done It, Scott Hartbeck points out, “When you travel solo, you rule your wanderlust dreams. Planning a solo trip is exciting because there is absolutely nothing or no one you need to bounce your destinations off for approval. You have absolute carte blanche to throw a dart at a map and as long as where it lands puts a smile on your face, then it makes the cut.”

Traveling solo not only allows you to control exactly what you do and when, but it also gives you the chance to really reflect and look within yourself. You have no one to lean back on, so you have to figure things out for yourself. It instills a confidence that you simply can’t get when traveling with a partner, and you’re sure to come back a stronger person.

>> Learn how to meet people on your trip and check out 19 Indispensable Resources for Solo Travelers.

I am afraid to travel in dangerous, developing countries

For those of us raised in the United States, safety is a big concern as we’ve been told for years how dangerous the rest of the world is. People who have traveled the world know better, and for those who have limited travel experience, it’s time to start listening to those who have been there rather than sensationalized television reports.

Traveling to Mexico? You’re sure to be caught up in the drug war and get kidnapped and possibly killed. Even though Colombia has been largely safe for much of the past decade, when people find out we have been there, the first question we get is about safety. In fact, upon returning from our RTW trip, one of the first question people ask is if we ever got mugged, attacked, or felt in danger at any time.  No questions about Machu Picchu or Iguazu Falls or volunteering at an orphanage in Cambodia or hiking in the Himalayas. People want to know if anything bad happened. Such is our society these days.

It’s important to get your news and information from the right people. News outlets are a business, unfortunately, so they’re going to report on what gets them ratings, plain and simple. And your crazy Uncle Bob who has never left his home state, you probably don’t want to listen to his opinion either. Instead check out social media and blogs and message boards and get in touch with people who have been there and done that. Would you rather get information about traveling in the Middle East from a fellow American who has traveled in the Middle East or Aunt Martha who sits around watching Fox News all day?

>> Straight from the horses mouth: Egypt’s Safe for Tourists…Really! and Why It’s OK to Go to Africa

I don’t want to derail my career

In the United States, the path laid out for most citizens is a common one. After high school we go to college, graduate, get a job, get married, buy a house (preferably in the suburbs), have kids, watch them grow, eventually send them off to college, retire, then enjoy life. Straying from that American Dream is looked down upon and criticized, so being afraid of going against the status quo is perfectly normal. Luckily the career break, sabbatical, and the long term travel movement is gaining steam with events like Meet, Plan, Go!. There are plenty of others out there who are challenging that so called dream, and it’s becoming more and more common to take a break from your career to travel. It’s just a matter of finding and surrounding yourself with like-minded people.

>> Find out why a travel break can be the best career move you’ll ever make and think about if you should quit your job to travel in a down economy.

Realizing that a RTW trip is not going to ruin your career is one of the first hurdles to overcome. Once you start chatting with others who have actually done what it is you want to do, then suddenly it becomes less crazy. That so-called crazy idea is transformed into something that just makes sense. After researching, talking to others, and really weighing the pros and cons, most people find out that not taking a long-term trip is going to be more detrimental to the psyche than taking that plunge. If you aren’t happy in your current career path, then taking a trip is the perfect way to re-asses your life and what you want to do with it.

I’ll miss my friends and family

Missing friends and family is a perfectly acceptable reason to be worried about leaving. We all miss loved ones when we’re away from them, but we also can’t stay tethered to the teat for our entire lives. If you went away for college, you went through this same thing, and while it will never be easy, is this really a valid excuse for not going on the trip of a lifetime?

>> Find out the best ways to stay in touch while you’re traveling RTW.

Long term travel is a completely different animal than going on vacation. No matter how seasoned of a traveler you are, no matter if you are going at it solo, as a couple, or with a friend, at some point you’ll deal with travel burnout. Even though travel burnout is a tough thing to deal with, everyone gets through it, and loneliness is certainly no reason not to go on a RTW trip.

>> If being away from family and friends worries you, find out to beat loneliness on the road.

I have pets

Owning a pet makes long term travel extremely difficult, and you will most definitely have to make some important decisions about what to do with your pets should you decide to take a RTW trip. Dog and cats are high maintenance animals, so finding someone to watch them for months or even a year is no small task. The first thing to do is start asking friends and family members. It’s a massive favor to ask, and if someone does agree to watch your pets, you will owe them big time. We had a dog before we left on our RTW, and we were fortunate enough to have parents who love dogs, our dog in particular. My in-laws ended up watching our pet while we were away, and we had the good fortune of knowing he was in really good hands with someone he knew and someone who would take great care of him. Plus we even got to see him when we would Skype with them, which was awesome.

If you don’t have anyone to watch your pet while you’re away, then you have a tough decision to make. Do you not go because of your pet, do you consider giving up your best friend who is no doubt an important member of your family, or do you go an even more unconventional route of traveling with your pet? That decision can only be made by each individual person, and while giving up a pet would be extremely difficult, giving up your travel dreams would be no walk in the park either.

While it’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, you can always look into bringing your pet with you. It would certainly change your trip, but you could do things like rent an apartment in a few different cities for a couple months at a time and explore the surrounding areas from your new home base. It will give you the opportunity to experience another culture while still keeping your furry friend with you.

>> Read about Akila and Patrick, who traveled around the world with their two dogs, and check out these tips for safe pet air travel.

I have too much stuff

The vast majority of us can admit to this problem, but letting your piles of crap rule your life needs to come to an end. If this is a legitimate reason for not traveling the world, then it’s time to re-evaluate.

If you are crippled by having too much stuff, it’s time to start downsizing. Just because you want to travel the world doesn’t mean you need to become a minimalist, but it’s not a bad idea to start getting rid of all that stuff in your basement and attic and garage and storage area that you haven’t used in years. If you have something that have been able to get by without for longer than a year, then you probably don’t need it anymore. I assure you when you return from your trip you’ll be ready to get rid of most of your crap. That’s another aspect of long term travel that is beneficial in daily life. Once you’ve lived with nothing but the stuff on your back, you come to realize how worthless so much of your crap is.

>> Read What to Do With Your Stuff When You’re Gone, and about Adam at Man vs. Debt, who has made a career out of his newfound lifestyle devoid of stuff.

I’m too old for hostels

I’m not sure where all the myths came from, but after a year of staying primarily in hostels around the world, I can safely say that there is no age limit, and that anyone, and I mean anyone, can and does stay in hostels while traveling.

>> Check out our hostel tips, etiquette, FAQ’s, and more.

The movie franchise is about as dumb as it gets when portraying hostels in a completely untrue light, and now an entire generation of Americans seem to think that you’ll get hacked to death if you dare stay at a hostel. And while there are certainly plenty of party hostels around the world, the vast majority are not. Plus most hostels these days offer private rooms with private baths, so they ultimately amount to a cheap hotel room. By staying in hostels, you also get the benefits that come with them – a free breakfast, great common rooms and social events, wifi and computer stations, and any other myriad of amenities that each individual hostels offer.

During our travels, we averaged about $25/night on accommodations (total, for two), over 95% of those being hostels and cheap guesthouses. The good stories far outweigh the bad, and we saw everyone from college students to 30-somethings to retirees to families with kids staying at hostels all over the world.

>> Find out why married couples should stay in hostels and how you can go about hosteling with kids.

People can come up with thousands of reasons not to do something that goes against societal norms. Any time we challenge the status quo, there’s sure to be some negativity surrounding it; it’s just natural. Not accepting the status quo as truth is the first step to realizing that you can do whatever you want with your own life. If traveling around the world is one of your life goals, then it’s time to make that happen. Put the naysayers in their places and start planning your trip of a lifetime.

Did you struggle with any of these reasons before taking off on your RTW trip? Are you hung up on any of these challenges? Are they preventing you from realizing what it is you truly want to do with your life? Comment below to share you thoughts.

Manifesto - replace broad expectations with nuanced realities

Photo credits: 1, 4, 7, 8; all other pictures belong to the author.

Leave a Comment