The negatives aren’t what comes to peoples minds when you hear about long term travel. For the most part, the uninitiated think that long term travel is one big ol’ super-duper fun holiday.
For sure, those amongst us who can even consider long term travel are the lucky ones. But unless you’re a secret millionaire, it’s not all sunshine and restaurants and sipping brewskies on the beach.
If long term travel is something that you’ve been considering, make sure that you’re aware of the negatives associated with it, and that you’re ready.
You Don’t Have A Home
One of the most unsettling negatives of long term travel is that you no longer have a home. Sure, you may spend a few months based in one place, but you know you’ll be moving on soon, so you can’t get too attached. And if everything goes belly-up, you’re screwed. Many of us are lucky enough to have friends or family’s couches to crash on if shit hits the fan, but you don’t have your own abode to fall back on any more.
It Gets Lonely
Unless you’re lucky enough to be shacked up with a significant other, most long term travellers tend to do it solo. Finding a mate who wants to go to all the same places you do for the same amount of time is pretty slim. So you tend to jump from place to place, making friends as you go. To date, I’ve been relatively lucky on the loneliness front, even though I’ve been solo travelling for more than a year. In Thailand & San Fran I made a lot of genuinely excellent friends quickly, because of being part of a diving course & then working at a hostel. In the US I travelled with an old friend from Australia. And in Canada, I already knew a lot of people in the town we were moving to. But there are moments when you long for a particular friend from back home, or to not have to hang out with the people at the hostel you’re not feeling a connection with. And it can start to get you down if you don’t manage it.
Romance Can Be Risky
When you’re not long term travelling, meeting someone with whom you feel that spark is challenging, but a great thing when it happens. But travelling tends to throw a big old romantic spanner in the works. Before I left Australia, I chose to break up with my boyfriend, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to sustain a long-distance relationship. And since then I’ve come to terms with the fact that if you meet someone while you’re travelling, you’re probably in a bit of strife. If by some miracle you’re both willing to combine your wants and needs and long term travel together, then you’ve found what so many of us travellers cannot. But if that’s not the case, then you’re in for a harsh reality check (and possible heartbreak). So be prepared to try to be genuinely happy being alone.
No Stable Group Of Friends Back Home
While you’re off gallivanting around the world, your friendship group back home is changing. They’re finding partners, buying houses, having kids. And the people that you thought you’d be best friends with for the rest of your life are all of a sudden living in a different world. When you go back to visit them, it can be quite confronting. Sure, the conversation still flows, but they’re talking about the cost of nappies and mortgages, while you’re gushing over a secret waterfall you found or a sweet new dive spot. It can be a brutal realisation that these people are now ‘old friends’, and not necessarily the close-knit circle they once were.
There Are No Plans
I used to be a sucker for planning my life out. I knew my movements for the week, how much money I’d have to spend, and found comfort knowing I had stability in my life. Long term travel can throw all that out the window. Plans can change in an instant, regardless of how significant they are. And you have to be okay with that. In fact, you have to embrace that. It’s something I’ve grown to love, but if you insist on order, this will be one of the negatives of long term travel that could get you down. Because there are some things you can’t control, and you’re going to have to learn to go with the flow to find your travel happiness.
Medical Care Gets Dicey
I have low standards when it comes to my medical care, and I’m pretty gung-ho about activities. Which often leads to cuts, scrapes, breaks and other miscellaneous whoopsiedoos. But some of the medical care I’ve accepted during my travels are worrisome – even by my standards. If you want to get better and not have to go home to get help, then you have to accept the care offered and cop it on the chin. It’s a nice reminder to appreciate how lucky some of us are to come from a country where if you’re sick, you can go to the doctors for free. So when travelling through less-developed nations, be prepared to possibly not receive the standards of medical care you’d get back home, and to have to pay a pretty penny for it. And you sometimes need to be ready not to receive it at all, as we found was the case in the USA. But always, ALWAYS have travel insurance. It’s just not worth the risk not to have it.
Being A Digital Nomad Can Be Shit
Being a freelancer or digital nomad while travelling the world can seem like a dream job. And a lot of the time it is! But more often than not you’ll find yourself madly driving around a small town to find ANYWHERE that has even a skerrick of WiFi for you to steal. Or you’ll be holed up at a backwater Dennys till 2 am trying to make a deadline. The most common one is, for me at least, having to pass up on endless opportunities to do fun things because you have to work while everyone else is on actual holidays. Digital nomadicy is one of many of the negatives of long term travel, but a necessary one for many to sustain this lifestyle choice.
Travel Fatigue Is Real
One of the most significant negatives of long term travel is the exhaustion. All the airports, bus depots, train stations and ferry ports. Hellos, goodbyes, and telling your life story over and over again. Moving houses and hostels and countries. It wears you down, and it’s a type of exhaustion that I’d never experienced before. And when you’ve been doing that for years, you start becoming a robot to get through it. It loses its lustre and travelling becomes a lot less exciting, so sometimes you need to know when to call it quits and head home – at least for a little while.
You Have To Say Goodbye – A Lot
Saying goodbye to people sucks. What surprises most new long term travellers is that although saying goodbye becomes more natural, it never stops being painful. And the more you say it, the more you close yourself off to meaningful relations for just that reason – you’ll have to say goodbye eventually. And that does chip away at your soul. Knowing that you’ll probably never see most of your great new friends again hurts, but it’s the way of the world. Enjoy the time you have with them, and make the most of it.
Overall, travelling long term is incredible. The above may seem like it must outweigh the positives of long term travel, but for me, and many others, that’s not the case. Sure, it has its ups and downs, but once you get into the swing of things, it’s life-changing. You need to be prepared for the negatives of long term travel – and that it totally blows sometimes.