Last week I celebrated my five year nomadiversary of quitting my job to travel the world. While it’s no secret that I didn’t start blogging until about two years ago, I have nonetheless learned more in the last five years than I have in the 24 years prior to that. In fact if you’re brave (or bored) enough you can even find some of my old, drunken rambles (I loathe to call them posts) still online; they date back as far as 2008 and were intended only for friends back home, so don’t expect much.
Regardless of whether you are travel blogging, working as a digital nomad, on a gap year, pursuing a RTW trip or even just living your retirement to the max, long-term travel makes a far greater impact on a person and their beliefs than anything else in the world. It shapes you, molds you, teaches you, humbles you, and yes, even sometimes scares you. But it’s all for the best.
(although full disclosure, long-term travel can also ruin your life)
Travel will ruin you for life. Once it gets into your blood you will never be the same: the feeling of freedom, the stimulus and the strangeness – it all gets under your skin. From the bright colourful saris in a New Delhi marketplace to the grim reality of a Russian prison tour, every new experience forces you to see the world in a different wider way.
Carol Perehudoff Wandering Carol
In The Beginning…
We all start out as wet-behind-the-ears newbies whom know nothing about international travel. Most all of us were shocked when we first saw meat being butchered on a dirty streetcorner or hordes of motorcycles in the streets driving every direction and even on sidewalks — many with both parents and multiple kids aboard. We felt out of our element riding some of the strange and unsafe forms of transportation around the world and downright confused by the abundance of street food until learning that food actually tastes better when sitting on plastic stools intended for kids. We’ve also been humbled by many a foreign festival and diverse religious gatherings in every corner of the globe. However it’s exactly these overwhelming encounters that make travel addicting.
I’m bi-polar, and thought I would be on (very expensive) meds my whole life. But travel changes my brain. When I travel, I don’t have mood swings, and don’t need my meds. It may be the constant new stimuli combined with the constant exercise that keeps me in check, but only when I come back home do I ever feel I need help controlling moods. And even then, it’s only once in a while (like around holidays when I usually get manic-y). Travel is the best thing that ever happened to me. I never thought I could feel normal on a long-term basis without taking medication. I love travelling!
Dani Blanchette Going Nomadic
In order to embrace and grow from travel you have to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and open yourself up to new possibilities. A religious author coined the phrase now popular among travelers “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” and nothing could be closer to the truth. Only there can you truly begin to find yourself — and once that process is underway your whole perspective of the world changes and evolves.
If you were to have asked me five years ago what do I want out of life, well I can guarantee my answer would revolve mostly around physical possessions. In the west we are raised to think that we need a new cellphone every few months and a new car every few years. “The iPhone18 is out now.” “Well I just bought the iPhone17s last week but I need the newest one.” “Can’t afford it? Don’t worry, just put it on credit!”
Travel Wisdom: Spend money on experiences, not possessions. You'll find that you lead a much richer and more enjoyable life. #TTOT
— Derek Freal (@the_HoliDaze) July 16, 2013
Even the mainstream media — especially in the United States — often portrays foreign travel in a scary or unsafe manner. Why? Because once you begin traveling you learn there is much more to life that what you own or how many zeros are in your bank account. You’ll be tempted to quit your job and travel the world or even worse begin to realize some of the things that your home country is doing wrong, both on the national and international levels.
Most Americans grow up believing there is a very limited definition of success, one that involves a steady, well-paying job with a few vacation days that you are meant to use very sparingly. I used to think that way as well. Traveling has allowed me to break free of work-addictions and guilt for taking time away from my job or stereotypical life responsibilities. Exploring other cities and countries has allowed me to be happier, more relaxed, and even achieve a better type of success, both professionally and emotionally, than I ever thought possible.
Rease Kirchner Indecisive Traveler
Discovering Different Cultures
Don’t get me wrong, staying at a posh resort on the beach or perched up on a mountainside with a spectacular view is amazing! But there is no real culture to be experienced there, no matter how much you may think otherwise. The authentic culture can be found wandering the streets and people-watching, or better yet by making friends with the locals. You just have to be willing to put down your Lonely Planet, blindly explore and above all interact with the citizens.
Do not just walk around taking photos and speaking in your native language
I’m not saying that you can’t walk around with a DSLR in hand, just please do not forget to engage the locals. Too many people travel through their camera lens and forget to speak with the locals actually living the lifestyle they are photographing. Learn a few words of their language. Attempt a conversation via pantomime if all else fails.
Exploring ancient ruins, walking paths that have existed for centuries, tasting your way through a modern metropolis. Meeting people that have had the same way of life for generations on end, then meeting those on the edge of the digital revolution. I’ve done all those things in one day, and each experience has left an imprint on my soul. Each interaction has irreversibly changed who I am and my outlook on the world. I’ve learned compassion, understanding, and acceptance of things one can’t change. Each day on the road subtly changes a different part of you until you look back on your past and don’t recognize who you were. That’s what’s travel has done for me. It’s rebooted my life and helped me find my soul.
Kenin Bassart The Constant Rambler
Discovering How The World Works
An optimist might say the world runs on faith and good intentions…a pessimist might say every government on earth in corrupt. While both statements are, to some degree, accurate, one cannot actually comprehend this without traveling first. It is one thing to recite something you saw on the news but a completely different conversation to say, “well, yes this and that were correct but they have this wrong and here’s why…”
The biggest thing I have learned from traveling the world?
No one country does everything right.
We all have something to learn from each other and ways we can improve our own country by following the examples of other nations; We just have to leave race, religion and politics out of the discussion.
Some of my friends back home are confused as to why I love Indonesia so much that I am now speaking, tweeting and yes even blogging in the native language. “Dude, isn’t that a Muslim country? So what, are you friends with terrorists now?”
That kind of biased, ignorant thinking is part of the reason why I decided to give up my posh life in the States.
I’ve been skipping ’round the globe solo now for more than 30 years (including 20 as an int’l tour operator), and there’s no denying it: travel is who.I.am. It’s addictive. It’s exhilarating. It’s often a miserable, bewildering, pain-in-the-butt. But I absolutely THRIVE on the challenge of perpetually testing my mettle each and every day, as I try to find my way around a strange new foreign land. Traveling is my passion. Traveling is my glue. Traveling surely ain’t everybody’s cup of tea. But traveling – especially as a solo lass – will most certainly change both you (from the inside-out!) and your view of the world. It will humble you, it will sometimes bring you (whimpering) to your knees. But it will also make you soar – to magical moments of self-discovery, electrifying euphoria, and sheer joy.
Dyanne Kruger TravelnLass
Discovering What You Need In Life
Above all travel is humbling. Meeting families who live in a one-room “house” and off $2/day yet are still eager to bring you in, to welcome you, to share dinner with you… That never ceases to grow old. It also makes you realize how much we take for granted growing up. In some countries having a personal computer, a television, hell even drinkable tap water are things that are unheard of in local life.
It’s not just level of income or social status that dictates the size of your home. In rich countries like Japan and Singapore where space is often limited people live in very small houses and flats. However for some reason the notion of having a large house in the United States is not just normal stage but practically a life requirement. It’s not just something for the upper class but rather a staple of middle class suburban life.
In reality no one really needs that much space, we rather just want it. In the States success is determined — at least in part — by whether or not you own your house, whereas in Asia success is measured by whether or not you have a large family.
Travel has changed me in ways I can’t even begin to describe. It’s made me a better listener, more open-minded, and dare I say a better man? I met my wife and got to know her through traveling… It’s requires a more analytical way of thinking to get where we’re trying to go, and offers a chance to express myself to tens of thousands of readers a month. When we went back to the US, it felt… foreign… It didn’t fit anymore – like trying to put your right shoe on your left foot. Getting back to Asia meant getting back a place where I knew how things worked…
Chris Backe One Weird Globe
Discovering What You Want Out Of Life
The answer to this question will be different for every person reading this article. However one big thing I’ve learned from extensive travel is that you only desire certain things when that way of life is all you know. After traveling and seeing how the rest of the world lives, what you want out of life shifts dramatically. More than you can even comprehend!
It is extremely difficult to put into words just how great of an impact foreign travel makes to a person’s character, much less try and convey this message to someone who has never left their home country or has only stayed at all-inclusive resorts while abroad. In fact several blogging buddies tried to deter me from “wasting your time trying to explain travel to non-travelers.”
That only further encouraged me to write this post, regardless of the outcome or how many people actually heed our advice. As you’ve no doubt notice I’ve included numerous quotes from fellow world friends of mine. The purpose of this was to help illustrate how many people feel this way, while also illuminating the variety of ways in which foreign travel, especially long-term travel, impacts everything you thought you knew about life.
We’ve been on the road almost 11 years now and still loving it. I think my biggest change has been letting go of a planned/organized life with every step I set thinking of what the consequences will be for the future. Going from a 9-5 job with a big company to becoming a freelance writer is something I had never dreamed doing, but it happened. Life in the road is a life of freedom, a freedom I didn’t know exist. It makes me responsible – at least at a deeper, more aware level – for every single step I take, and I love that responsibility.
Karin-Marijke Vis Landcruising Adventure
Brave Enough To Try Long-Term Travel? Share your comments below. But be warned! Long-term travel ALSO ruins your life.
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