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10 Things No One Tells You About Long-Term Travel

10 Things No One Tells You About Long-Term Travel

Long-term solo travel is sometimes believed to be a lot of things that it is not. It’s true that travelers have a lot of crazy stories to tell when they’re back from that trip across Asia or around the world, but the not-so-glamorous side of travel is a reality that hardly gets spoken about and very few people understand. Here are 10 things on the other side of that perfect travel jump shot.

1. Travel does not let you escape responsibility.

It’s common belief that people who sell all of their possessions, quit their jobs or take a gap year to travel the world are free of responsibilities and can afford to be reckless and carefree. Of course, it looks like that considering that they don’t have a house, job or routine to follow anymore. But the truth is that they are still responsible for a lot of things on a daily basis, such as finding ways to fund their travels, keeping costs to a minimum, making decisions about where to stay, what to do, where to travel next, how to travel and how to make it all work. It’s just that these decisions are of a different kind, but they do have real consequences. Travel needs meticulous planning and this requires assumption of full responsibility. On the road you’re responsible for arranging and organizing everything and your own safety. Living out of a suitcase or backpack requires taking some tough decisions and a whole lot of creativity.

    2. It’s not one big party.

    When you’re staying in hostels and have a limited amount of money to last you the entire trip (and sometimes debt to repay), there’s no way you can afford to party with your new friends every night. Forget about the wild stories you hear about travelers drinking and dancing every night away. While this is true for a certain age group in some countries (like Thailand), the percentage of travelers who can afford to travel for a long time while continuing to do this is very small.


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      3. Travel moments are not always glamorous like the pictures.

      You look like a mess and you are one a lot of the time! Everything does not go perfectly as planned. You miss flights, buses and trains and rush to get to others in time. You get stuck in bad weather at some points. Unexpected things go wrong all the time when you’re travelling and if you can see the humor and enjoy it all, then you’ll get the most out of your experience. An inspiring adventurer once told me, “The disasters are all part of the adventure.”

        4. You don’t always have company.

        Loneliness can often be a real problem faced by long-term travelers, especially if they’re traveling across a country without spending too much time in one place or setting up a base. Unless you’re someone who’s comfortable with being on your own, dining by yourself and not always having someone to share the joy of new discoveries and experiences with, solo travel is not a good idea. Of course you do meet a lot of people from all over the world when you travel and forming meaningful friendships is common, but the possibility of this happening depends on where you’re traveling, if other people are around and how open and social you are as a person. It’s not always the case that you’ll have company, there may be extended periods of time when you’re by yourself.

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          5. Falling sick on the road can be a real pain (no pun intended).

          It’s comforting to have your loved ones and local doctor around when things go wrong with your health. In spite of globalization, the quality of healthcare, services, medicines and the availability of different medicines varies widely among countries. A lot of travelers don’t like to risk going to a doctor or getting any kind of treatment done until they’re back home. It’s not always that the quality of healthcare is bad in other countries; it’s just that some people may be uncomfortable with the unfamiliar methods used. When I developed a nasty blister from hiking in new boots in Vietnam, I decided I would rather wait for a few weeks to get it treated at home, rather than show it to a doctor in Sapa. Also, if you’re traveling solo, it can be difficult to deal with allergic reactions, severe fevers, insect bites, swollen feet, stomach infections, salmonella or food poisoning all by yourself. At times like these, you’d rather curl up and die.

            6. You don’t always love the food.

            The images of local food that you see in travel magazines and on countless travel blogs can make you believe that every meal is an experience in itself. The truth is that not every cuisine appeals to your taste buds and some places are very expensive to eat out in every day. Sometimes when you’re traveling in a region that is culturally very different, you don’t know what to eat and everything you try is either a bad idea or just does not taste good. Sometimes there’s not even the good old McDonald’s to rescue you. Allergies and reactions to local food are a reality that all travelers have to deal with from time to time.

              7. You look at home differently.

              If you travel for a few weeks or more, especially if it’s off the beaten path, you’ll probably come back and look at a lot of things differently. You’ll notice things and have realizations you’ve never had before. If you’ve spent some time trekking in wilderness and fallen in love with nature, you’re more likely to appreciate your local park that you simply walked past before. While you appreciate familiar comforts and luxuries, there are also some things that now annoy you, although you’ve seen them happen all your life. If you’ve spent a month in a village with limited power and access to water, and taken quick cold showers with buckets of water, then you’ve probably learned the importance of conservation of water. Obviously, coming home to siblings who take half-hour-long showers can become annoying.

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                8. You always need travel insurance.

                Even if you’re a traveler of the thrifty kind, one thing you should not be cheap about is travel insurance. Anything can happen when you’re traveling; your phone or camera could be stolen on a bus, you can get into an accident while zip lining in a forest, or you could lose your baggage at a busy airport. It’s reassuring to know that you’re covered for these things rather than have to deal with the disappointment of monetary loss.

                  9. Hardly anyone really wants to hear your stories when you’re back.

                  Sure, you’ve had the most life-changing trip and seen things that you could have never imagined you would see. Maybe they’re even things that none of your friends or family have experienced. But the truth is that very few people really want to hear your stories. Your stories are about unfamiliar things and they make most people uncomfortable after a certain point. If you’ve had an amazing journey, people don’t always want to hear about it because it makes them long for those things. They don’t like this because they believe that they have real responsibilities and just can’t take off carelessly like you did. Sometimes they’re just dismissing you as lost, confused or a hippie type when you’re talking excessively about that month you spent learning to meditate with monks in a remote village in Nepal. So just be content in knowing that you’ve experienced what very few people do in their lifetimes, you don’t have to brag about it to make it count.

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                    10. You can’t travel long term unless you really want to.

                    All the above challenges are a very real part of the adventure. If you only want the good parts; rich cultural experiences, good food, meeting interesting people and acquiring new skills, then you don’t understand what long-term travel is about. Unless you learn to enjoy the challenges, or want to experience them, you don’t really want to travel long term. If all this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then you’re better off getting a pre-arranged tour type holiday where you have almost complete control over what is going to happen.

                    Travel is full of surprises and challenges. It teaches you invaluable lessons that you can’t learn in school or at university. It forces you to get out of your comfort zone and go further than the boundaries you know. If you let it, it can change you forever but mostly in a good way. So even if there are things that nobody told you about, it’s because the positives far exceed the risks and challenges. In the end, you take away much more from the experience than you could have imagined.

                      Featured photo credit: Garry Knight via flickr.com

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                      Last Updated on July 10, 2020

                      How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

                      How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

                      We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

                      We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

                      So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

                      Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

                      What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

                      Boundaries are limits

                      —they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

                      Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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                      Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

                      Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

                      Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

                      How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

                      Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

                      1. Self-Awareness Comes First

                      Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

                      You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

                      To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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                      You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

                      • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
                      • When do you feel disrespected?
                      • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
                      • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
                      • When do you want to be alone?
                      • How much space do you need?

                      You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

                      2. Clear Communication Is Essential

                      Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

                      Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

                      3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

                      Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

                      That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

                      Sample language:

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                      • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
                      • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
                      • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
                      • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
                      • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
                      • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
                      • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

                      Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

                      4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

                      Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

                      Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

                      Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

                      We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

                      It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

                      It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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                      Final Thoughts

                      Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

                      Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

                      Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

                      The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

                      Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

                      Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

                      They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

                      Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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