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I recently wrote an article called “11 reasons long term travel sucks” but as with everything in life there are two sides to the story.
Well, this right here my friends, is the other side of that coin. The reasons that justify scrapping in your life, escaping the safety net and venturing fourth into the unknown of long term travel.
Without anymore BS here’s my 13 top reasons that long term travel is just better…..
1. You can slow down
One of the main differences between your standard 2 week holiday and long term travel is that you can slow down.
What I mean by slow down is, not every single day has to be jam packed with activities. Unlike your standard 14 night holiday where everything was pre organised 3 months back, you don’t have to do something exciting every single day.
Try being flat out with activities every day. I’ll give you a month before you’re completely burnt out.
Instead, you go slow. You get up whenever you want, you decide what you are going to do on any given day on that very same day.
Plans are for people who don’t have time to live in the moment. When you have nothing but time you can truly live in the moment, and do whatever feels right without thought. Without consequences.
2. Spend longer in one place
Another big one for me has always been having full control how long I stayed in city or on an island.
You travel to somewhere and its crap, you get on your phone, book a ticket on the next train out of that place. Chennai, India springs to mind….
On the flip side of this, if you find a real gem of a place, a perfect beach or perfect people then you can just decide I’m going to stay here until I’ve had enough.
If it’s really that good then you could even do a visa run and spend another month there. You can read as many best places to visit articles as you want but at the end of the day you just never know which destination is going to suit you until you get there.
Some places you’ll go will leave you underwhelmed, while other places you go will grip you in an instant. Leaving you to debate skipping Chang Rai in order squander your last visa days in Pai.
The main thing is that committing to long term travel allows you to do this.
3. Get a better understanding of local culture
Skimming through places at the speed of light on the bog standard tourist trail leaves you with nothing but a taste of tourism.
After a while “on the road” you’ll realise that ploughing through all the tourist attractions is not the best way to understand local culture.
Tourist attractions are manufactured for well, tourists. The Vietnamese locals on Cat Ba island aren’t really that interested in the islands National park (its not the best) but they do love a bit of Karaoke any night of the week soon as the sun goes down.
Having the time to just exist in a place opens your eyes to what really goes on around you. Things that most people don’t see because they spend their “14 nights” rushing around the tourist trail.
4. The confidence to truly explore
Without a doubt, anyone who indulges in a little long term travel will at some point find themselves having a disaster.
Whether that’s missing your bus and being stranded at the side of the road saddled with everything you own and no idea where the nearest cheap bed is.
Or maybe it’s losing your bank card and only having the $100 stashed in your security belt until you get it fixed. No matter what it is, these are the things you will remember.
More importantly, these are the things you WILL overcome. The things that will give you strength and the confidence to break free of the tourist trail and really explore the unknown path.
Everyone sets off travelling a little apprehensive about what they’ll find but within 3 months it’s like you were born travelling. Nothing will phase you.
The attitude of “I’ll wing it, she’ll be rite” will be your mantra.
Walk through the Himalayas for 19 days with out a guide!? Why the hell not!?
5. Gain a better understanding of yourself as a traveller
Now I’m not talking about the cliché of “I went travelling to find myself”.
Somehow I don’t think many travellers find themselves at the bottom cocktail bucket at the full moon party on Koh Phangan…..
What I’m talking about it after a while and a few destinations you’ll start to understand what it is that ticks the boxes as far as good destination goes.
Do you like the relaxed island lifestyle of Langkawi, the madness that is Ho Chi Minh or the wilderness that is the Jaisalmer desert!?
After a while of travelling you’ll know what you like and where to find it.
You’re probably thinking, you don’t have to travel long term to understand what you like. In some ways this is true but in others maybe not.
For example, as we get older our minds change. Today you might be all up for wild parties on Khao San road but you in 5 years may detest drowning yourself in Chang just to crawl back to the dorm to sleep all day to do it all again the next day.
I think by travelling long term you get to know yourself in that given moment and then you are able to make the right choices on what to look for in travel.
6. Stop being a rookie
Ah well this one is obvious!
You travel to Thailand for a week and you’ll just about learn the difference between pad thai and khao pad or which is better Chang or Leo.
You travel there for a month and you’ll know which destinations are best, how the trains work, a rough rate for tuk tuks per km.
You’ll know that the best website for booking transport is 12go, you’ll also know that its cheaper if you go and book it in person.
There’s thousands of ways that long term travel stops you being a rookie. Not being a rookie means that you’ll get more out of your trip and be less stressed out.
7. Learn how to travel for peanuts
Now travel isn’t always about travelling for peanuts but unless you’re a rich kid with a fat trust fund it certainly helps if you want to travel long term.
I always find I spend more money on crap the first few days of any trip normally because I don’t know where to eat cheap, I don’t know how to get around or sleep cheap.
Within a week or two you’ll be well and truly in the swing of it and know what you should be paying for thing like transport, accommodation and food.
There’s many little thing that can help you travel cheap/longer and you can read about some of the main points here in my guide of how to travel Asia on the cheap.
8. Time to help others
This is an important one for me.
Maybe in some ways its slightly selfish that helping other people gives me such a sense of satisfaction but having the time to help others has definitely been one of the driving factors to travel long term.
Living a “standard life” of 21 days holiday a year just means that having the time to help others is very limited. I’m not being funny but spending my one week off in every 3 months planting banana trees in India just isn’t going to fly.
Give me 6 months off work and yeah I’ll spend a few weeks planting some trees…
At the end of the day its nice to help others when you have the chance and extended travel can give you that chance.
9. Experience complete freedom
Without a doubt, saving up a load of cash, renewing your passport, packing your bag and deciding where you are going to start an extended trip is one of the most liberating feelings you can have.
Either sat in my campervan in Australia staring at the map, full tank of gas, food in the fridge or laid on 4k beach Koh Rong wondering how long I’ll stay there for.
2 instances of ultimate freedom.
Everything you own on your back and a fist full of cash. What else can you really need!?
Landing at your only destination thinking I’ve got a week and I’m going to do this, this and this isn’t quite the same…
To feel real freedom through travel you need to set off without knowing when you shall return.
10. Visit more places for less money
Again, pretty self explanatory.
Say you want to visit Hanoi and would also love to see Malaysia but can only get one week at a time off work, it’s two separate trips. That’s two return flights/ lots of £££.
On the other hand if you are travelling long term then you can do them both in the same trip and save hundreds if not thousands of pounds to see them both.
As well as that you could slowly make your way there and see everything in between.
For anyone who wants to see as much of the world as possible, extended travel just makes financial sense.
11. Get to grips with local cuisine
Now I’m a fussy eater and landing in any new country it takes me at least week to figure out what on the menu I like.
Many of the places I’ve visited, if I’d only been there for 1 week I would have missed out on so many pieces culinary perfection.
India for example has a massively diverse range of food. IT changes a lot from North to South, East to West. Even from province to province.
If you land in India for just 1 week not only will you see the tiniest bit of Indian culture you won’t even be aware of a fraction of Indian cuisine.
If you are a major foodie then long term travel is just better!!
12. Time try out peoples recommendations
Another difference between the holiday maker and the long term traveller is the amount of time they have to interact with other tourists.
What I mean by this is that the holiday maker will be on a strict schedule of activities every day and have little spare/downtime. Where as, on the other hand the long term traveller has nothing but time.
Speaking to other travellers and just generally networking is where you hear about hidden gems and great destinations not in the guide books.
The chance to get inside information form other likeminded travellers and have the time to decide whether you act upon their recommendations or not is priceless.
13. Less bound by societies rules
To be less in tune with the media is an amazing thing.
To not know what the latest fashion accessory is.
To not feel pressure to look/act a certain way because everyone else does.
To have a life so exciting and fulfilling that you don’t even feel like glancing at social media.
To not know what misery is going on in the world through the news channel.
To just live in the moment is perfect and that is what long term travel offers. To exist in complete freedom.