As I approach seven months on the road, I’ve been thinking a lot about my travel style and how it’s evolved. The truth is, even though long-term travel has been my dream for years, the reality is different than I imagined. Let me explain. Two years ago I took my first vacation to Europe. I spent three and a half weeks touring Italy, Greece, and Turkey with one of my best friends. We drank wine, ate gelato, visited art museums, and laid on the beach. We had meaningful conversations about our lives and shared our hopes and dreams as well as our struggles.
The trip that inspired it all!
Rome, Italy 2011
We met other travelers who had been traveling for months and had no plans of quitting any time soon. I ran into people who were couch surfing and having a blast and I talked to people who were doing work exchange programs in amazing places. I began to envy the freedom and flexibility they had to continue their travels and I decided I wanted this, too.
I felt frustrated by the limitations of short-term travel and I wanted to dig in a little deeper. Even though three weeks was a significant length of time for a vacation, I wasn’t ready to come home and I wanted more time to see the world. My travel style had changed from that of a tourist to that of a seeker. I needed more time to explore.
These are the kinds of alleyways I love to discover!
Aix-en-Provence, France 2013
I returned home inspired and excited, but I still didn’t have the courage to quit my job and travel. I spent two more years soul searching and contemplating my life’s path. I signed up for the GRE, thinking maybe going back to school and pursuing a Master’s Degree was the answer. I began the application process for the Peace Corps, hoping I’d find fulfillment this way. Still, neither of these options were what I really wanted. Even though it seemed crazy, I kept coming back to this desire for long-term travel. So I stopped studying for the GRE and I never finished my application for the Peace Corps. Instead, I broke the lease on my apartment and moved in with my mom, neglecting these more traditional, career advancing opportunities. As I prepared for the journey ahead I wrote these words, “Travel is my catalyst. It is my force field, setting in motion a series of welcome transformations I can only look forward to with anticipation.”
Now that I am living my dream of long-term travel, I’m beginning to realize it has its own challenges. While traveling for an extended period definitely allows more time, I’ve been surprised by how much of this time is spent booking hostels and sending couch requests or looking for a Workaway placement. While I have the freedom to remain flexible and change my plans on a whim, this often means staying at my hostel and looking for last minute cheap flights on Expedia, booking train tickets, or setting up car-sharing rendezvous instead of going to the beach or exploring the town. Add blogging and late night Skype dates on top of it and time starts becoming an elusive idea rather than a concrete measurement.
Sometimes this is my only view!
Not that I’m complaining. I’m blessed beyond measurement to be living my dream of traveling the world, but I’m starting to recognize short-term travel as a valid alternative to living a nomadic lifestyle. Short-term travel may only offer a sneak preview into a culture, but it can often be the catalyst for a future trip. Traveling for a shorter time often allows you to see more because your travel budget only needs to last for a few weeks, not a several months. It can offer a different kind of freedom, the freedom to stay where you want without relying on couch surfers or hosts to accept you. The freedom to spend a little bit extra on that nice tour or fancy restaurant. It can motivate you to see more because you know your time is limited. I hit all of the highlights in Seville because I knew I only had a few days there! La Plaza España. Seville, Spain 2013
Traveling long-term isn’t something I’d take back or change. I’m grateful to have the time to stay with local families, learn the language, and make new friends. I’m grateful for the time and space to continue soul searching and pursuing my dreams. Perhaps my travel style will evolve to include both long-term and short-term trips in the future, and having a home base explore from. I needed a year of traveling to change my life but maybe in the future I’ll be content with a few weeks.
What’s your travel style? Do you prefer long or short-term travel? I’d love to hear from you, so don’t forget to comment below!Google+