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Feel stuck in the same day in day out routine? Thinking of scrapping it all in for a life less ordinary? Believe me you’re not alone. Each year, literally thousands of people just like you, just like me, flog everything but the most prized possessions, swop friends and family for passport and backpack all to hit the lonely road of long term travel.
But is long term travel the answer!? If you would have asked me that a year ago I would have given you a resounding yes, justified a thousand different ways…
Ask me that today, as much as I would love to agree with myself from 12 months ago, I’m afraid I’d be lying to you and I’d be lying to myself.
Yes, long term travel on paper, is a notion of unrivalled freedom, adventure and exploration of yourself, as well as the environment around you. But in reality, for most of us, this image of long term bliss only exists in our rose tinted imagination.
Don’t get me wrong, without a doubt there’s a percentage of people who could travel constantly until their last breath and enjoy every second but that just isn’t me.
After my most recent trip to Asia here’s some of my main reasons that long term travel can suck…
1. Its just too easy
Yeh, strange I know but stay with me. In all honesty when I first set off on my latest trip to Asia, the easy life is what I craved. For the first 3 or so months it was perfect, bumbling round without a care in the world. Perfect!
However, by 5-6 months in, the lack of purpose started eating away at me. Days just merge into each other, drowning in laziness. I started to feel more lost than before I set off.
Should I move on or should I waste another few days here? That was the most pressing question on my mind. One thing I learned is that humans NEED purpose!
Travelling through Asia, where for £100 you can survive for a week, travel around and still have a few beers in the bars just completely dissolves all urgency in life. Nothing matters, you just exist in the moment and life stands still.
Bottom line I need a sense of purpose.
2. I don’t want a fucking tuk tuk!!!
Tuk tuk my friend? Cheap price! No thanks. Tuk tuk yes? No Thanks. Tuk tuk OK!? NO! Tuk tuk tomorrow!? Fuck off!!!!
Yes it may sound trivial and you may think I’m just bitching over nothing but after months of the same crap it just makes you dread going anywhere there could be tuk tuk drivers.
They are relentless. There can be a line of them and you’ve had the above conversation with 5 of them already and then the 6th one says the same sentence, “tuk tuk my friend?”
I know that they’re all just trying to make money and they’ve got kids to feed but come on, you’ve just seen me tell your 5 friends that I don’t need a bloody tuk tuk. What makes you think I’ve changed my mind in the last 3 seconds??
Does your fare meter work? NO! Has yours got air con? NO! Is yours as smooth as a Rolls Royce? NO! Then why the fuck would I all of a sudden decide I need to take a tuk tuk???????
A bit of a rant yes, but the amount of times tuk tuk drivers have tried to rip me off is unreal. Sorry to say I just don’t have time for them anymore.
3. Someone is always trying to scam you/sell something
As mentioned above, tuk tuk (not all) drivers are terrible for trying to get one over on you. Any way they can extract money out of you they will.
For example, the day I flew into Asia for the first time, Bangkok to be exact, I found myself with a few hours to burn before I could check into my hostel so went for a walk around Khoasan road. Before I knew it I had been talked into being driven around the city to look at temples and a suit factory. 2 hour tour for 40TBH/£1, bargain!!
Little did I know that the suit factory was a suit shop, of which I near enough had to fight my way out of. The travel agency the tuk tuk driver took me to tried to charge me 3x the price to go to Chiang Mai and Pai.
Obviously I didn’t buy anything so no commission earned out of me there. Why didn’t he just charge me £5 for the tour? Instead trying to con me.
That scam is so prolific it has its own wikipedia page….
6 months later, I’d just arrived in India, Chennai. Needed to change $60 worth of Vietnamese Dong into Indian Rupees. You guessed it, a tuk tuk man knows a good place to do this. I was taken to a shady office where I was offered $18 worth of Indian Rupees.
One of the common questions you will get from the locals is “where are you from?”
They ask this, not because they are interested in you but as a gauge of how much money they may be able to extract from you. As bad as it sounds, I was told this was their tactic by honest locals.
After months of this same crap every single day, it wears you down and takes the shine off the fact that you’re “living the dream”.
4. It can turn you into an asshole.
Ok Tony, how does long term travel turn you into an asshole??
Believe it or not it can!! Ok, maybe not a complete asshole but into a more self-centred, ignorant person, yes certainly.
I mean this in the way that at the beginning of a long term trip to Asia you’ll have time for everyone and everything. Six months in and you’ll be quite the opposite, in many ways you have to be.
As I have explained about the tuk tuks above. First day of the trip I’m being driven around Bangkok in the back of a tuk tuk to meet lots of scam artists. 6 months later they constantly enrage me and I have to try my best not to meet their offer of transport with despicable profanities.
You’ll soon learn that the only way to deal with the constant harassment is to develop the “face of stone”. “Hello my friend”, your face won’t even flinch. Eyes down, zero change in expression. All because, you my friend, you’re a veteran and you know for a fact that if make eye contact, your fucked!!
This is all well and good until the person shouting “hello my friend” is actually someone you would call a friend/acquaintance, maybe someone you met a couple of cites, even countries back. Someone you would love to catch up with over a bottle of Chang and you’ve just blanked them….
This really did happen to me a few times and each time I felt mortified.
What had I become?
5. Lack of routine
Another strange one.
In all honesty, the monotony of routine was one of the biggest driving factors that made me sell everything and hit the open road.
Again, for the first few months life without routine is complete and utter bliss. Fast forward 6 months and everything changes.
I remember looking forward to the weekends, I hated it! But without the constant routine that is the 9-5 job you’ll find yourself struggling to look forward to anything.
Everyday is the same as the last. All that changes is the location, the way that you live day to day is exactly the same.
You can’t look forward to the weekend if you’re stuck in the weekend. You can’t look forward to a holiday if you’ve been on 20 in the last 6 months….
Pretty soon you’ll find yourself moving location just for the sake of it. Trying to find something different, trying to find more adventure, trying to fill the void. The void that you have no idea how to fill.
6. Taj Mahal – average at best….
According to the Express, one of the 7 wonders of the world and as the heading suggests I thought it was average at best!
People travel from all over the world with the sole purpose to visit the Taj Mahal. I’m so glad I didn’t!
Getting up a 5am, queuing up for 90 minutes, paying 30 dollars to watch everyone battle each other for the one prime position directly in front of the Taj Mahal all in aid of recreating the famous photo. Anything to keep their Instagram followers happy.
I’d rather be shot!
I wouldn’t mind but with the river being right behind it, the rising fog you couldn’t see much of it anyway. But that didn’t stop them!
Ok this section is not only just about the Taj Mahal being over rated, many places are the same or have I just stopped appreciating them!?
Phu Quoc Island – Look online and it looks like the most amazing island paradise imaginable. I spent 5 days there and all I can remember is a crappy beach full of plastic and the most horrific market known to man where all the locals do their shopping on the back of their Honda Waves.
Beaches in general – So many times I arrived at what most would consider a beautiful beach but to me it was nothing special. After visiting Ko Rong and Kapas islands the rest just weren’t up to much at all.
To put it bluntly, once you’ve experienced so many amazing things nothing really appeals to you anymore. The odds are you experienced better and again you’re there just passing time.
The amount of times that I was surrounded by holidaymakers that were ecstatic with what they were experiencing but to me it was just average. I found myself becoming more and more jealous of the fact that they were just on a 2 week holiday.
Once you loose appreciation for experiences then long term travel is kind of pointless.
7. Home comforts
Another big one for me is the home comforts. so many things that in an ordinary life we take for granted but once you loose them long term you begin to notice how much they matter to you.
Eating out – Eating out every night, never cooking and never washing the pots, surely you’re living the dream, right!?
Again, all good for a while but soon it wears thin. Waking up in the morning, naturally you’ll want some breakfast. What you don’t want is a 20 minute walk to find a café only to find out that the food is terrible!
Every time you move city/island it will take you a day or two to find a decent eating establishment and then you leave and have to start all over again. It’s so frustrating.
Your own bed – Surely its scientifically proven that there is no other bed on the face of the earth quite like your own.
Travelling Vietnam, one thing you’ll quickly notice about the Vietnamese is that they like a mattress made out of what can only be described as bags of concrete after moisture has gotten to them. Couple that concrete mattress with a 12 inch thick pillow and yes, you’ll miss your own bed.
Having a car – Could well be the home comfort I missed most while travelling Asia.
Get on a 12 hour night bus that somehow only takes you 300km, all the while basically laid in bed with some “randomer” and you too will wish you had that car you sold to travel.
Getting around Asia on the cheap is far from comfortable or quick. For me sometimes the only way to get through it was to take a couple of Vallium and sleep it out.
Oh and being too scared to drink water when you’re thirsty because you don’t know when the next toilet break is ain’t fun either.
8. living out of a backpack
Carrying everything you own on your back could well be the bain of your life. Not to mention the fact that there are so many things you wish you had but just can’t carry them with you.
Yes you could buy the mother of all backpacks and have the room to carry more but unless you want to be forking out for tuk tuks/taxi’s everywhere you go then that extra weight is on your back. Believe me, you will walk some miles with your backpack on. Don’t overload yourself!
In many ways life would be much easier with a suitcase but you try and cross the road in Ho Chi Minh while dragging a suitcase behind…..
9. Saying goodbye….
This is completely shitty….. Well most of the time!
Unless you are a complete introvert, its physically impossible not to meet new people on the road. Sometimes for a brief 20 minute chat over the free breakfast in your hostel or sometimes you’ll meet, hit it off and travel for weeks together.
At the end of the day though there is always one thing looming at the back of your mind, the day will come when you’ll have to say goodbye.
Handshakes, hugs a smattering of tears here and there, one thing that is always present is the promise that one day you’ll see each other again. Deep down you both know the odds are slim to none but the promise is made anyway.
At the end of the day everyone has their own life to lead and different directions to head in. I guess you just learn to take everyone at face value, enjoy and appreciate the brief moment that your paths cross.
Or on the other hand, adopt the face of stone from day one and never meet anyone to say goodbye to….
10. The same conversations
- What’s your name?
- Where are you from?
- How long have you been travelling?
- Where have you been?
- Where are you going next?
- What do you do back home?
Maybe save some time and get the answers to these six questions tattooed somewhere visible…..
I too am guilty of asking these questions far too much. In all fairness this is what you all have in common. You left your life behind to discover something new and it’s meeting new people that will play a massive role in this.
So yeah, get used to it this is what you will spend 10% of your life talking about as a long term traveller.
I’ve left this until the last not because its not important but well, its kind of obvious. You know what you’ll miss about your friends and family.
I don’t need to tell you!
But this is a travel blog…..
Yes, I’ve pretty much just massacred everything that long term travel stands for, what now!?
Don’t get me wrong, although I have just explained what is bad about long term travel this does not meant I’m hanging up my backpack just yet. It just means that there will be quite a variation in the way that I travel.
I still love to travel, but I also need purpose. From now on it is all about finding the right balance/a way of long term travel that addresses some of the above problems.
Are you thinking about hitting the road long term?