Why Long Term Travel is NOT a Holiday!

Clelia Mattana BLOG, INSPIRATION 70 Comments




What are the main misconceptions on this particular type of travel? I’d like to address this article  to two groups of people:

  • The ones who genuinely don’t know the difference between a Long-Term trip and a Vacation / Holiday
  • The ones who are really convinced that a Long-Term trip is like being on a permanent vacation.



This is me relaxing at the Seychelles. Do you think my trips are all like this? I wish (or maybe not?!)


I have to admit it: I’ve been a bit angry and frustrated lately. I know I shouldn’t care much about what people say about my trip, but sometimes it really gets on my nerves when yet another friend or relative hints that all I’m doing these months is laying on a beach, sipping one cocktail after another and doing absolutely nothing.

It  really bothers me because I can totally feel their aura of superiority as they were actually saying  ” Good for you,  just relaxing and enjoying life while we are here, working on REAL jobs, and earning our honest living in a responsible way”.

Does this sound familiar? If you are a digital nomad or simply a long-term traveler I bet it does! There is always an “Aunt Sally” out there for each one of us, trying to put you down and let you feel a lot like a useless bum. I obviously know that I’m not like that, but these people irritate me none the less.

So what is the reality of facts? Let’s see, point by point, what people think about a long-term trip and what it actually is (based on my experience).




long term travel is not a vacation: night train sleepers from bangkok to surat thani Thailand

This is one of the most luxurious ways I can afford to travel for 14 hours straight…

One year on the road? Heck, you must be a millionaire! This is one of the main misconceptions about traveling.  Where in hell people get this  – totally wrong-  idea?

Well, if you think about  the average cost of a 2 weeks holiday in high season, in any “vacation place”, you know that it’s NOT going to be cheap.This is probably the main difference between a holiday and a trip: Holidays are relatively MUCH more expensive than a long-term trip.

To be able to stay on the road for a long time, travelers sometimes compromise a lot in terms of comforts and are always trying to find original ways to save money on food, accommodation and transportation. On more than one occasion I had to lower my head and say yes to quite unpleasant beds, get used to weird  insects crawling on my legs at night (hello scorpions, cockroaches and huge spiders) and eat street food every single day  to avoid running back to mommy within the fist month of my “epic” trip.

When I took the bus from Phnom Phen to Siem Reap, I had to sit for more than 8 hours of bumpy roads with no air-con and just one stop to the public toilets (a smelly hole in the ground with no flushing water). Now, this is not exactly what you would call a “relaxing holiday”, is it?

Don’t get me wrong, the experience itself  is totally worth it and enriching on so many levels, but is definitely NOT a vacation.



Leaving Bangkok by train, passing through some local Thai houses and people working close to the railway Thailand

This is the scene taken from the window of a third-class 12 hrs train ride in Thailand. Culturally enriching but hardly comfortable.

This is a typical scenario for a holiday, not a long-term trip. After all, during your holidays, all you want is take some time off from your stressful life, your job and responsibilities.

You want to relax and enjoy every single second of your time off. Your biggest effort is choosing what to have for lunch and you may even be brave enough to include some seriously “daring” activities such as kayaking or snorkeling, but you seldom move outside of your comfort zone.

You don’t want to stress out on vacation do you? Totally understandable. I get it.

On the other hand, long-term travelers are not escaping from anything. Travel is their  lifestyle, their “routine”, every single day. Some of us work as digital nomads from the road and stay put for months to earn money online and be able to hit the road again.

You usually won’t see a real traveler in a resort or any other fancy accommodation. We usually prefer to push ourselves out of our comfort zone, we try (and sometimes succeed) to live like locals, or at least to see not only beautiful places but also the tough ones. It’s not that we are “better” than a normal tourist. This is not the point I’m trying to make in here. It’s just a choice like any other and there is no right or wrong in my eyes.

Sometimes these hazardous choices can be scary, unpleasant or difficult, but this is what traveling is all about. We didn’t leave our houses to just rest on a beach. It might happen of course, and we will cherish those times more than you can imagine, but it is not the main purpose of a trip.



Relax on the beach travel is not a holiday


Many people assume that since I’m traveling, I don’t need any holiday. Not entirely true. Traveling is one of the most rewarding experiences in the world but sometimes it is very hard if you do it for months in a row (ask any seasoned traveler out there and you will seldom find one who is not tired after a few months).

I know, it  might sound ridiculous for those who never tried. Before starting my adventure, it sounded crazy to me too. A few days prior to my departure, I stumbled upon an interesting article called Travel burnout.

“Travel is all fun and new and great at the beginning, but after a while, those buses become uncomfortable instead of a cool new mode of transport. That tuk-tuk driver’s constant talk of great tours at “special price for you” becomes annoying instead of funny. After being on the road for a while, things tend to start getting on your nerves.”


I was puzzled. How is was even possible? If you love traveling you’ll never get tired of it! How naive of me…

This is actually spot on, tested by me the hard way, after years on the road and I couldn’t phrase it in a better way. Furthermore, for those who work whilst traveling, is even more important to “take a break” from all the mayhem. Travel can be daunting and we need to stop and “take a vacation” from our trips from time to time.

A few weeks in a fancy hotel or resort, or even renting a flat, eating western food and doing something familiar is necessary for our sanity.

The last point is pivotal for the “Travel Vs Holiday” debate. I am living in a remote village in Thailand since May, so it’s now been three months living and working with the locals, and I also have three more months on the road already on my back.

Honestly? for how amazing this experience might have been so far, I am looking forward to taking a “break”.

That’s why I booked a ticket back to Italy and London, where I will stay for at least one month. Ironically, my own idea of “vacation” is going back home, to a routine I wanted to escape when I decided to leave.

Because traveling also taught me to appreciate the small things I’ve taken for granted: A nice hot shower, a western toilet, a huge delicious Pizza, or even a simple piece of bread.

Traveling is amazing and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world, but a holiday from it is necessary to appreciate the experience even more!

Did you meet people who think you were on a permanent holiday? I’m curious to know if I’m the only one getting frustrated when these people make inappropriate remarks on my lifestyle!

Read in: Inglese Tedesco

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