The negatives of long term travel aren’t what comes to peoples minds when they find out I’ve been travelling for close to 2 years. The standard reaction generally received is something along the lines of:
It must be nice to always be on holiday.
Oh boy. They couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Yes, I travel. And yes, I see some fantastic and astounding things in my adventures. But it’s my day-to-day now. Yet I do understand how people could think that. In reality, the lifestyle I’ve chosen is anything but a holiday. There are many negatives of long term travel, and going into it unprepared can have severe consequences.
If long term travel is something that you’ve been considering, make sure that you’re aware, 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, 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
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 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 I long for a particular friend from back home, or to not have to hang out with the people at the hostel I’m not feeling a connection with. And it can 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 a great thing. But travelling throws a 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 in trouble mate. 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 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’s a brutal realisation that these people are now ‘old friends’, and not 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 that ALL out the window. Plans can change in an instant, regardless of how big 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 really get you down.
Medical Care Gets Dicey
I have low standards when it comes to looking after myself, but some of the medical care I’ve accepted during my travels are worrisome – even to me.
Though I must remind myself I’m lucky enough 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 not to receive the standards of medical care you get back home. Really, you sometimes need to be ready not to receive it at all, as we found was the case in the USA.
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 shit because you have to work while everyone else is on 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 biggest 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 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.
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.
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 just need to be prepared for the negatives of long term travel – and that it totally blows sometimes.