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Whats Long Term Travel Really Like?

I stepped out of the airport and into the crazy atmosphere of Cairo. On my right stood two army officers, their AK 47’s hung loosely on their sides. I adjusted my 75L backpack, the contents of which, a few outfits, a couple electronics, and some toiletries, were now everything I owned in the world; and although I had a tentative plan, I could (and have) changed that plan at a moment’s notice.

The world was laid before me. I could go anywhere, and the only limits I had were those that I imposed on myself. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. It was the moment I started living my dream. That was four months ago.

Four months are a lifetime when you are traveling. Traveling strips away the everyday distractions that silently eat at the preciousness of your day. When you are backpacking, you have no TV, very few errands, and only minor worries like wondering where is the closest place to get your caffeine fix or how many days you can wear the same pair of underwear before people start to notice. Time moves gloriously slow. It’s only been 4 months, but it fills like a lifetime.

Last week I started reflecting on this life of travel and the previous two years that I worked, dreamed, and sacrificed to get here.

“Was it all worth it?”, I asked.

Even though I knew the answer, it was an important question that had to be asked and thought about.

Yes, I’ve had some tough moments. I’ve been sick, alone, jet lagged, and hostel-less. Traveling isn’t all fun and glory, it is a mental game. Long-term travel isn’t just one amazing moment after another amazing moment, as Tom from active backpacker so accurately wrote in his latest post. Travel is work. Sometimes a lot of work. You have days where everything that can go wrong does, but at many points along your journey, you are rewarded with indescribable, powerful moments.

You feel accomplished and stronger. You visit nature’s most beautiful masterpieces, man’s greatest achievements, history’s past and today’s present. You view the world in a whole new way. The thing about travel moments is that they don’t happen daily, but when they do, it is almost always life altering. But the question remains. Has all those moments been worth the work? The money?

Yes, I saved a lot to travel. Was I rich before I left? Hell no.

I’ve never bought into the lie that you need to be rich to travel. In fact, I’m richer than when I started. At this moment, I feel like Scrooge McDuck diving into his ocean of gold. I may not be rich in money, but I’m utterly rich in moments.

I’ve grown and accomplished things that I didn’t know I could.

I’ve explored the land of pharaohs, and I’ve camped with Berbers, went camping in Big Sur

Sailed the coast of Croatia, and played Indiana Jones in Petra.

I’ve helped pass out toys to kids in forgotten parts of the world, survived the back of a Russian cop car, and spent a day as a Russian celebrity.

I’ve driven 1/3 of this wonderful world in a car your grandmother would deem “Slow as Hell”, and I’ve talked my way out of bribes.

Lived through the running of the bulls, and , seen the endless stars against the mysterious Milky Way.

Stood in the heart of Ancient Rome. and I’ve viewed monuments and sights that I’ve always dreamt of.

When I look back at those memories, it is with great joy and love; these are the moments that define me, my journey, and where I am headed.

As I’m sitting here, staring out into the endless golden fields of Tuscany while the sway of the train slowly rocks me to sleep, I reflect that these moments are just a couple of the riches I’ve gained. There isn’t a question in my mind of its worth. It is the purest, realist thing I’ve ever done. I love traveling more than I ever have. I’m following my dream and I am a richer person every passing second. I am alive.

53 thoughts on “Whats Long Term Travel Really Like?”

  1. Wow, this is beautiful, Stephen. When I started reading, I wondered if you were going to say “no, it wasn’t worth it because of X, Y and Z”, but you really lifted my spirits with your conclusion. It’s absolutely true that long term travel is not just one amazing moment after another, but unfortunately that’s what a lot of people who have never tried it seem to think it is, so it can be hard to get the sympathy you might need from friends and family back home.

    My favourite part of this post, however, may be the part I can most relate to:
    “[you have] only minor worries like wondering where is the closest place to get your caffeine fix or how many days you can wear the same pair of underwear before people start to notice”!

    1. Sam thanks for the kind words! I couldn’t imagine going stopping. It is true that long term travel isn’t all fame and glory, but even in the tough moments, if you truly love what you are doing, you find a certain beauty.

      Ha, I test the wearing the underwater waters to long to often. 🙂

    1. amazingly true dreams are worth following. It is worth every moment good and bad but some just have not the courae to step out and follow through.

  2. Stoked that you’re still in love with travel Stephen….the best is yet to come! Keep hold of that travel passion though and always grasp an opportunity if it arises!

  3. Great post, so inspiring! It’s been a long journey but so rewarding. Although you spent a lot of money, been sick and lonely you have learnt a lot, met amazing people, seen amazing places so that was worth it!!!!! 🙂

    1. Agness it has been complete rewarding. Your right the hard moments are when you are in the middle on nowhere are sometimes the most rewarding. You learn about yourself. Worth it!

  4. This reminds me SO much of my goodbye post when I finished up my 4 months on the road. How can something that feels so unique, so specific to a certain place, time, and human, be a universal thing?? We didn’t have the same moments but we ended up in the same place.

    1. Oh man Michelle I know your pain. I still have so long to go, but I know from previous experience how hard ti is to go home after only four months. That is a great things about traveling we might have been to some of the same places, but our stories are different.

  5. So eloquently put. I feel like when I started travelling after 4 months, I was glad to spend a few weeks in one place just to chill for a little bit. Sounds like you are still loving every aspect of it. Long may it continue

    1. Thank you darling! I have been chilling in Venice the last 5 days and recharging my batteries after the rally, and catching up on work. I love travel more than ever.

  6. Great post man! Congrats on making it to four months and beyond. I especially appreciated your statement that you don’t need to be rich to travel. Too many people are stuck on the numbers that they often times find themselves crippled with fear. Just take the leap, and find out the water is fine.

  7. Love this post. I am 7 months on my dream trip now and i can totally relate to what you wrote. I had tough moments too, but the good ones have changed me so much that i would do it all again.
    But the best moment (for me) is the day you finally take off. It is SO exciting/dramatic/Intense. I’ll never forget it.
    Thanks for sharing

    1. Hey Kle, I can’t wait to I hit 7 months. It is true that first day, no matter how big or small you trip, is full of so many emotions. I love the high you get from it. I am sure that travel is the most addictive drug 🙂

  8. Rich in moments- i love that. That is definitely the reason I did an RTW trip & the reason I recommend it to everyone I met who has the itch to travel.

  9. This is beautiful, thank you for sharing this. I think budget/long-term travel is more like a roller coaster ride; sometimes you’re down, but when you’re up it’s amazing. It’s definitely more varied than the kind of travelling where all you do is suntan at the resort!

  10. Sounds absolutely amazing. Your journey has already had some utterly incredible moments and you’re just getting started. Wonderful and heart-lifting post, Stephen!

  11. Beautiful post. Travel expands the mind more than you could ever imagine. I don’t think you’re ever the same person once you start really getting out there and traveling around the world, experiencing new cultures/people/places.

    Btw I’d say you’re very much in love with Travel heh.

  12. Great article. I definitely think that traveling is often something that you reflect on and enjoy more than always in the moment. I can recall many times where I was fed up, exhausted, and even wanting to go home, but persisting through it made me realize how awesome being on the road is.

  13. I love the description of travel as a “mental game”. It really is. Everything from planning out routes, transportation, dealing with all inevitable mishaps and so on. Long term travel is so much more than a simple vacation. It takes a lot of work. I love that mental stimulation.

    I cannot wait until I am out there without a return ticket home.

  14. We have 42 days before we set off on our adventure and this is one of the things I have been thinking about what if it isnt what we expect … I am sure there will be challenges but after reading this O realise they are all part of the journey we need to go on Safe travels Ron and Michele

  15. Fantastic roundup of your travels! You’re so fortunate to have the freedom to even attempt something like that – most of us would trade places in a second!

  16. “utterly rich in moment”- I love that! Also, it looks like you got some amazingly beautiful photos on your adventures! I love how you admit that long term travel isn’t fun 24/7. A lot of people like to glamorize it!

  17. This is a beautiful post. You’re living one of your dreams, but you’re also living one of mine, and I love reading about your adventures! Big kudos to you for taking the plunge. I have zero doubt of its rich worth either. You’ve got a lifetime of wealth under your belt now, and the best part is there’s still more to come!

  18. Robin (Masshole Mommy)

    You’ve definitley had quite the journey! Happy for you that you were able to see so many cool places.

  19. That is an incredible journey you are on. I would only be able to live something like this through your eyes.. looking forward to you posts and how you journey is going.

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