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!

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Beautiful post!
Agreed with everything there. I especially get frustrated when people say to me “yeah you must be rich / yeah your parents are paying everything”…It’s a matter or prioritization. I don’t buy useless stuff, I don’t like shopping and I am a good cook, so I don’t need to eat out everyday 🙂


As a long term traveler I love this post more than I can express 🙂

What a great post ! And it is still true. I guess we all have had these bad experiences. We left “home” 5 years ago and never went back to a “real” job, but we do work incredible hours to get our agency going. But nobody of our friends or family even understands what it means to work on the internet and to get a business going.
But we don’t complain, we have a great life, full of adventures and challenges – and some relaxing holidays when we need them 🙂

Just stop wasting your time /energy thinking about what people have to say about your work and focus on what you are doing .. You are doing an amazing job and honestly i have started my own local blog just after i got inspired from you so keep rocking 🙂

‘Love the post!

Last year, I travelled to 11 countries and that’s with having a corporate job, being married, AND having a tween while being an expat in Germany! Unsurprisingly, people can’t believe that I actually have a “real” job, but I do!

People also think I spend most of my time drinking cocktails and champagne. I mean, I do that a lot yes, but I also spend hours on European trains rushing from here to there!

And I wouldn’t change a single thing!

p.s. I can’t even remember the last time that I actually went to a beach lol!

My mum and dad think we’ve been ” on holiday” for the last 3 years. I’ve just given up. For starters, it’s never a holiday with 2 kids to educate and a living to make as a professional blogger.

This is true! I travel once a year and I mostly work from home now. My friends and my family think that I do nothing at home or when I’m traveling again I can afford because I’m rich. And they often wonder how on earth can I afford to travel again when I am not a full time employee but working for my own in my home office? They don’t understand that we’ve created an online work lifestyle so we can have our freedom and be able to travel whenever we want. I’ve had to explained myself to them several… Read more »

Exactly! I had written a very similar post when people I know started making snarky little comments. Travelling requires a lot of the same things we do at home: doing laundry, buying food at markets and cooking, taking care of all the day-to-day stuff of everyday life. The difference is that you have to do it in a different environment where it can be challenging. So once in a while we’ll stop our slow travels for a vacation; where we can sit around a pool, eat at the hotel’s restaurant, have them do our laundry… So totally agree that long… Read more »

I couldn’t agree more! I’ve been feeling the same lately as I am visiting my “home” town and seeing how big everyone’s misconception of my life is.

Yes it is fun and exciting. I also realize how lucky i am to live this way, but only people that live this way understand the sheer amount of work and sacrifice it takes.

Hi! Klelia. Chill out dear. Go on with things that make you happy. I don’t see any mistakes on traveling. As long as you do not humiliate anyone, you’re in the right side. After all, you share information that can help travelers like me. I like your post. Keep posting!

I have to agree with you Kle… This is why it’s often nice to take a break from long-term travels, stay somewhere and then go on holidays 😉

[…] love my life on the road but many people think it’s a never ending vacation. Wrong. It can be stressful and taking a short break to recharge the batteries always helps. And as […]

Totally agree – after 3 years on the road it’s become my life, not just a holiday…although I disagree with the beach thing – I very rarely travel to cities anymore!hahaha!

I totally agree. A 7 month backpacking trip was the longest I could endure before having to come home to take a break and feel grounded again. I feel like for those who are living expat lives but using that for travel is a completely different thing too. Somehow, the steady job and aptmt living take away the struggles of being on the road some. But they have their own challenges as well.

Awesome post. I admire the long term travelers (I am not one of them, as I’ve always had a home base. Currently I’m an American living in London but have traveled regularly – to 15+ countries over the last year and a half or so).
It’s work to be traveling full-time and takes a lot of sacrifice and I really respect that!

Awesome post. I admire the long term travelers (I am not one of them, as I’ve always had a home base. Currently I’m an American living in London but have traveled to 15+ countries over the last year and a half or so).
It’s work and takes a lot of sacrifice and I really respect that!

A friend once asked me (trying her hardest to hide the challenge in her voice) “What do you do all day?” It was easy to answer. I’d spent 6 hours that day getting lost in Ho Chi Ming City looking for contact lens solution. It helped her realise life isn’t always smooth when you travel long term. I’ve been on the road since 2010 but haven’t had a holiday/vacation since 2009. I can only dream of lying on a beach all day with no accommodation, food and transport worries! Nice post.

Quite right Klelia it’s amazing how many people seem to think that “their way” of life is the only possible one! People do say the most amazing things to me sometimes.But I think that once you have chosen your way and it is maybe the more unusual or different it is hard to care what others say any more.

Wonderful post and it is all true.But there are also other aspects to it that when I come back to my permanent country of residence I feel kind of detached and at the same time overburdened with stupid mundane tasks that need doing (renewing passports,dealing with taxes,upkeep of house etc) we also pay 3 lots of health insurance and pay random stuff on our house even though we are not in it for most of the year. The money thing is definitely true.Some of my friends pay a ton of money on house renovation etc which they could easily use… Read more »

Kle, let me tell you that this post is one of the best I have ever read and you have ever written. I agree with all you say here. The holiday is relatively MUCH more expensive than a long-term trip – so true!! My friends go on all-inclusive holidays every year spending a week more money than I ever did for two months in China for example. Moreover, you can’t really experience the real local life when you stay at expensive hotel and all you can see is the swimming pool and all you can talk to is the hostel… Read more »

Great Post! Luckily I haven’t traveled enough to have this type of attitude towards me but I can sort of relate to many of the points you made. Traveling is tiring. There’s just no way to get around it. There are some trips that aren’t so bad, but eventually it’ll catch up to you. I’ve traveled more in the last six months than about the last three years and it was really tiring. All I wanted to do was go home and go about my normal routine, however pedestrian that may seem compared to visiting so many countries. I can… Read more »


Cracking read here. There is an element of protention in the way address you when you say I’m spending the year backpacking. It is as if they think you are going to sit in a field smoking hemp and discussing films. They don’t understand there can be moments of real frustration as well. Destinations are glamourous but travelling definitely isn’t.

That being said in between travelling when I am trying to save I do look back on my trips as if they were a holiday. Anywhere exotic is going to feel that way when you’re sat at a desk.


Well said! i’m sick and tired of people thinking that my lifestyle is a never ending holiday. People need to understand what this is all about instead of pointing envious fingers at us.

Useful info. Fortunate me I found your site unintentionally, and I am stunned why this accident didn’t happened earlier! I bookmarked it.

[…] travel counts as going on a vacation or holiday? Check out this blogger’s thoughts on why it’s not – […]

Interesting article. I can relate. When we took our kids on a four year sailing/backpacking adventure through the Caribbean and South America, we encountered the same things, sometimes from immigration officers. As we checked into immigration in the BVI, the immigration officer asked me if we were there for vacation or work. I said neither, we were long term travelers. They didn’t have a spot for that on the form and she wanted me to put vacation. I told her homeschooling, cooking and cleaning were not a vacation for me. She told me vacation, or nothing. I wrote down vacation.… Read more »

Yep… everyone thinks it’s beaches and pina coladas for us perpetual travelers. I really like the people that think they can compare their 1 week vacation to our lifestyles too! Just like we can’t understand them they can’t really understand us either. The longer we are away from a “normal” life I am not sure if it gets harder to reconnect/identify with it, or it’s just indifference on my part. I simply don’t care about anyone’s thoughts or ideas about our lifestyle design… I’m on an information diet and if you aren’t adding to my experience then my brain has… Read more »

AMEN! Thank you thank you thank you!! I really think almost everyone from back ”home” really believes we are just laying on a beach all day long! When we were in Mexico for a month I posted that we needed a vacation and we got a lot of snarky remarks. We were working upwards of 100 hours a week (gearing up to be internet-less for the whole month of July), barely leaving the apartment and we legitimately needed a change of scenery to get away from the computers. Though we may not be living conventional lives, we are still working… Read more »

Ugh, naysayers! Dealing with naysayers was one of the hardest things I had to do in the lead up to my trip. People refuse to consider that building a career this way is hard!

YES! Very interesting read. Good point! I can’t blame you for getting a little annoyed or angry about it!