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IS TRAVEL LONG TERM A VERY LONG – NEVER-ENDING HOLIDAY?
What are the main misconceptions about 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 convinced that a long-term trip is like being on a permanent vacation.
I 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. Still, sometimes it 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 bothers me because I can feel their aura of superiority as they said, ” Good for you, just relaxing and enjoying life while we are here, working on REAL jobs, and responsibly earning our honest living.”
Does this sound familiar? I bet it does if you are a digital nomad or a long-term traveler! There is always an “Aunt Sally” out there for each of us, trying to put you down and make you feel like a useless bum. I’m not like that, but these people irritate me nonetheless.
So what is the reality of facts? Let’s see, point by point, what people think about a long-term trip and what it is (based on my experience).
LONG-TERM TRIP: WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?
1 | LONG-TERM TRAVELERS ARE RICH:
One year on the road? Heck, you must be a millionaire! This is one of the main misconceptions about traveling. Where in the hell do people get this completely wrong idea?
Well, if you think about the average cost of a two weeks holiday in the high season in any “vacation place,” you know it will not 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 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 be flexible 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 first 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 on bumpy roads with no air-con and just one stop to the public toilets (a smelly hole in the ground with no flushing water). This is not exactly what you call a “relaxing holiday,” is it?
Don’t get me wrong, the experience is worth it and enriching on many levels, but it is NOT a vacation.
2 | TRAVELERS ARE RELAXING ON THE BEACH THE WHOLE TIME:
Relaxing on a beach and sipping a cocktail is typical for a holiday, not a long-term trip. After all, during your holidays, you only want to take some time off from your stressful life, 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. You may even be brave enough to include some seriously “daring” activities such as kayaking or snorkeling, but you seldom move outside your comfort zone.
You don’t want to stress out on vacation, do you? 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 here. It’s just a choice like any other, and my eyes have no right or wrong.
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.
Years after I wrote this article, I realized how much a trip could change you in ways you would have never imagined. I’m now more conscious of the environment (after seeing a sea of plastic in many Asian Regions, you either change or are without a conscience).
Now I’m living in Europe again, and I decided to drastically reduce the amount of plastic I use:
- I substituted ALL my plastic bottles with glass ones and convinced my family to do the same.
- I seldom buy products that are wrapped in plastic at the grocery store. I take them one by one and use recyclable bags.
- I even tried the organic shampoo and conditioner, but unfortunately, my hair can’t handle those.
I want to say that a holiday wouldn’t go that deep into your skin. A genuine long-term trip certainly does.
3 | TRAVELERS DON’T NEED A HOLIDAY; THEY ARE ALREADY ON HOLIDAY!
Many people assume I don’t need any holiday since I’m traveling. That is not entirely true. Traveling is one of the most rewarding experiences in the world, but sometimes it is tough 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 to those who never tried. Before starting my adventure, it sounded crazy to me too. A few days before 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 was it even possible? If you love traveling, you’ll never get tired of it! How naive of me.
This is spot on, tested by me the hard way after years on the road, and I couldn’t phrase it in a better way. Furthermore, it is even more important for those who work whilst traveling 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 have been 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 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 if I’m the only one who gets frustrated when these people make inappropriate remarks about my lifestyle!