The Secret to Long-Term Traveling
There are many reasons to travel--adventure, personal growth, or even just a change in scenery. We've often advocated for taking time off from life at home to explore the world throughout this site. We believe it can open up one's eyes to new ways of seeing the world and understanding life. For us, we've had the opportunity to become more open people with the ability and courage to pick up and move anywhere. It's taught us to adjust to, say, new ways of working or making friends. We've had to learn to do simple things like set up a new phone service or pay our electricity bill in a new country or foreign language, which are things we often take for granted when home. Traveling challenges a person in ways that lend themselves to building confidence. But we've long argued that the duration of time one spends abroad doesn't really matter in the end. While there are many things to be learned from spending significant time away, any experience can be a useful one.
When we began our most recent adventure we dropped everything to move to Australia. It was an experience I certainly don't regret, and I think I've found myself in a happier state than I've ever been before. I do realize, however, that this isn't particularly practical for everyone. Many have different priorities including building a career at home, so we wanted to compare our experiences with those of two travelers doing things differently. Our friends Brooke and Shannon over at A World of BS come from a similar background to us: Americans who recently graduated from university and have a passion for travel. But while there are many long-term travel blogs, the two of them write about how they manage to fit their travel around living and working in the US. We spoke with them about some of the tips they'd give for planning a short-term travel stint. We compare all four of our thoughts on short-term vs. long-term travel below in four key areas: budgeting, packing, accommodation, and working.
How important is budgeting when traveling short term vs. long-term?
A World of BS: Even for short-term trips, budgeting is super important. Only going away for a few days, it is easy to be loose with your money and splurge on your trip. But setting a budget for yourself and sticking to it will allow you to afford more weekend trips in the future. At the same time, shorter trips mean you do have the opportunity to selectively spoil yourself. ;)
The Travel Gays: If you’re planning a more extensive trip, budgeting is key to staying afloat. If you’re still in the early stages of mapping out your trip, determine how long you plan to be gone and whether or not you’ll have the opportunity to work. This will allow you to create a budget. Another consideration is the country or region of travel, as this will drastically affect spending. In Southeast Asia, for example, a budget of $4,000 may last four or five months, while in Western Europe or Australia you’d be lucky to make it two months. Of course this entirely depends on your style of travel and which experiences you choose. Many long-term travelers opt to cook for themselves when possible and stay in hostels to save on accommodation. Remember, long-term travel becomes less of a vacation and more of a way of life. Be realistic when planning. If your money runs out and you don't have a way to earn more, your trip is over.
What are your go-to packing tips?
A World of BS: Packing for short term trips can be a little daunting, because I often feel like I need to remember every single thing I need to survive. Forgetting something like a portable charger, a speaker, or other expensive tchotchke can be frustrating, because it isn’t worth buying a new one when you have one at home. I recently visited Wisconsin for four days and forgot to pack my headphones on the trip. I ended up having to buy a pair at the airport for like $30 which was more frustrating than convenient.
The Travel Gays: Forget about packing everything you’ll need for an extensive trip. You’re sure to forget things that you won’t be back soon enough to retrieve and, more importantly, every single item will be carried on your back for months if not years. Believe me, becoming a minimalist is a lot easier when you’re responsible for lugging your life from place to place as often as every few days.
When packing, start with the basics. Which climates will you be passing through? Will you experience winter and summer or just one? Pick one or two versatile items per category. Remember, your country isn’t the only place with stores. Lay out everything you think you’ll need, cut it in half, and then scrutinize every last object before putting it in your bag. Seriously. I almost cried when I had to get rid of 75% of my worldly possessions after realizing at 4am that they wouldn’t fit in the new backpack I bought for a trip the next day. If you don’t use it on a weekly basis, leave it. Anything else can be purchased on the road. I can tell you’re not taking me seriously, but you’ll see...
What are your housing preferences when traveling?
A World of BS: Housing is something that can vary greatly depending on the style of your trip. For us, we almost always stay with friends who live locally or at hostels. Airbnb and Couchsurfing are also both viable options for short trips. However, great options like work exchange programs, house-sitting, and renting apartments involve a little too much commitment for short trips.
The Travel Gays: We always book a hostel for a couple days when landing in a new city. This gives us a little peace of mind and ensures we won’t be homeless. The ultimate goal is to have the courage to land somewhere and decide on the spot, but we’re not quite there yet.
If you’re planning on moving somewhere long-term, research the optimal neighborhoods in the city and choose a place you think you’ll want to base yourself. Then find a hostel, hotel, or whatever desired short-term accommodation you’d like in that area. This gives you a crash pad as you look for something more permanent. Once you feel comfortable and you’re sure it’s the actual area for you (it’s hard to get the feel for a place on Google Maps), figure out how people find housing in the city. Talk to people at the hostel, research online, and meet some locals. Make sure you familiarize yourself with local customs so you don’t get ripped off. In some places it’s normal to sign a contract and give a few weeks’ rent upfront to reserve a place, and in others it’s not. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get everything in writing.
So what about money--how do you balance work with travel?
A World of BS: Finding time to travel while holding a full time job can be tricky, but don’t be discouraged! Some of our favorite travel memories have been close to home on weekend trips. Sure, maybe you won’t be able to jet off to Paris or Rome on your limited time off, but there are so many hidden treasures closer to home. Living in the Northeast, we have taken weekend trips to Montreal, Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and DC just to name a few. It’s important to keep an open mind when remaining close to home. Your weekend destinations may not seem exciting but you never know what you might discover.
We also love to save up our vacation days for a bigger trip each year. Planning a bigger trip depends on your job and how much time off you can get. Because the time frame is more limited, we believe cruises are an excellent way to see multiple locations and maximize our vacation time!
The Travel Gays: When traveling long-term, you’ll probably need to find a way to make some cash unless you’re a killer saver. We are not (sad face), so we plan our travel around where we can work. We started off our current trip in Australia and are working here while we explore the South Pacific. Working Holiday visas are like gold--they’ll allow you to obtain working rights to a country for a limited amount of time, typically at least 6 months to a year. That way you can land, settle, and look for a job like a local would. Take into account that you’ll likely need to speak the local language for this to work out.
If you’re traveling more nomadically or aren’t going to a country with a visa like this, there are still plenty of ways to earn money. Teaching English (or your local language) is huge. You’ll usually be sorted out with a place to stay, an income, and a great way to make friends. Keep in mind that in many countries, especially poor ones, this isn’t a way to get rich. You’ll make enough for light travel and get to experience the local culture. You may also want to look into freelance work, join a sailboat or cruise ship crew, sell your photographs, or establish yourself as a digital nomad by making money from a blog or YouTube channel. This is the ultimate freedom. Money while traveling is a hustle--the more you’re open to trying different jobs in different places, the better. We try to make money any way we can, which has opened us up to incredible experiences we never would’ve had at home. This is the reason you’re traveling anyway, isn’t it?
There are a lot of considerations to take into account when deciding to travel short or long-term. These mostly revolve around what will actually work for your lifestyle. Take a realistic look at what you hope to achieve from travel and see what will get you there. If your priorities involve your career at home, you’ll need to work around this. If travel is your career or your priority is seeing the world above all else, long-term may be for you. Either way, go out and try. Whether it’s halfway around the world or a two hour plane ride away, go see something. And as usual, shoot us any questions you may have!
Check out A World of BS for more helpful tips on short-term travel. They're heading off on an epic Euro trip soon that you won't want to miss!