Long term travel is a very rewarding experience and one you will never regret. Sure, you’ll come back home a bit poorer financially – but you’ll be far richer for having had the experiences you did. Your life will never be the same and your outlook will be forever changed.
But what do you do before you can look back on it all? How do you manage those many months on the road? How do you go about adapting to the conditions thrown at you day after day? There are some special considerations you’ll need to take if you are considering taking off to travel for an extended period of time.
The main thing to keep in mind is that an extended tour is really a lifestyle and it differs from a vacation in many ways. On a two-week or two-month vacation, you can go full-tilt the whole time. You can push yourself on a daily basis until you collapse into bed each night exhausted. You can do that because you know you will be going home – and you will be able to rest and recuperate from vacation once you get home.
Things are different on an extended tour. Just as you’ve found in your regular daily life, you need to find a pace that will work for you. Some of us can work all day, go to the gym after work, and then be involved in various activities at night. Others find that pace too much to handle.
You’ll find the same thing is true as you make long term travel your lifestyle. Some travelers discover they need a day or two off to simply hang about in a hammock every week or so, while others can go two or three weeks before taking that day. The trick is to find what works for you for the long-term. I found a comfortable pace for me as I rode my bicycle through the Americas was forty to fifty mile days and at least two days off each week. When I travel with a backpack, I go to great lengths to avoid back-to-back long bus rides. Your pace will be all your own, and it’s imperative that you find it.
The other major suggestion I can offer for making travel a comfortable lifestyle is comfort. Just as you have your home set up for comfort, so will you need to consider how you can be comfortable on the road. Again, we all have different needs and desires, so our comfort items will vary. We discovered pillows made a huge difference for us so we carried a pillow for each of us on our bikes. Another person may decide that’s folly. We’ve seen cyclists carry lawn chairs, coffee pots, and hammocks. I’ve seen a backpacker lug two surfboards around the world with him. I carried a couple pounds of beads on my bike, which my husband considered sheer foolishness.
Decide what’s important to you and pack accordingly. That being said, you will have to make some tough decisions – you simply will not be able to carry everything you are accustomed to having.
If you look at your new lifestyle as exactly that – a new lifestyle – you’ll be up for tackling the challenges that come your way. It’s really no different from any other major change in lifestyle – complete with many pros and cons.
Nancy Sathre-Vogel is a long-time schoolteacher and world wandering mother of twins. She and her husband taught in international schools in various countries for 12 years, and then – together with their sons – they spent four years traveling on bicycles, including a 17,000-mile jaunt from Alaska to Argentina. She blogs at familyonbikes.org