After traveling abroad for six months now, I’ve learned an plethora of information about different cultures, cuisines, histories and arts (to say the least). But, what I really didn’t expect to learn was how it would actually be along the way. Here are some things people DON’T tell you about long-term travel.
You miss routine
I will be the first to admit I missed having a weekly routine soon after hitting the road. Our problem was, we had a lot of obstacles commitments (to weddings, flights, sightseeing, seeing friends and family – which were all awesome tbh) making it difficult to feel any sort of normalcy in our day to day wanderings. Things like having consistent sleep, meal times, the times and days we exercised.
You gain weight
Okay, this is probably subjective to certain people and if there is a person who can travel in Italy for two months and not gain weight – we probably shouldn’t exchange holiday diets – but we gained a healthy amount of weight. The culprit (as I saw it) was too many meals dining out, not enough cooking at home, and opting for rich foods. The novelty of newness lasted for months before we started to notice anything had gone awry.
It can be exhausting
Traveling too fast, or attempting to travel afar meant it would take days for us to recover. While I’m an avid slow traveler and while we stayed in some places for weeks, there were moments where we’d need to spend one night here and there for the sake of getting to where we needed to be. The constant need to re-pack our bags combined with frequent motion made us feel really displaced. Since Italy, we’ve enforced a three night minimum to every place we travel, to ensure we don’t over do it. It’s been our biggest lesson for the first half of our trip.
It can be lonely
You know you’ll be spending a lot of time with your partner when you embark on a trip like ours, but nothing at home can prepare you for what it’s like to be in the presence of another person 24/7. My boyfriend and I are different in the sense that I like occasional alone time and he prefers to be surrounded by others. It can often be hard to find a balance of this while you’re on the road moving from place to place. Also, given stay mostly in Airbnbs and guest houses (not hotels), we don’t have frequent interactions with other travelers, homeowners, or expats.
You miss a decent kitchen
I’m lucky in the sense that my boyfriend is a phenomenal cook, he takes great pleasure in finding flavors that work together. But when the Airbnb ad says they have a fully equipped kitchen and you arrive to find it’s the size of an airplane stowage tray, cooking can become stressful. Traveling long-term has reinforced our desire to own a decent kitchen, with decent knives. Missing cooking is one major thing people don’t tell you about long-term travel!
You realize how easy it is to define yourself by your career
Lucrative career or not, as soon as you begin traveling you bring with you an air of self worth. No matter your quantity of possessions back home, while you’re travelling you’re no longer defined by any of the ‘stuff’ you own back home nor the airs and graces your career may offer you. You’re stripped bare of it in a way, leaving behind the real you. That can be confronting as sh*t. That and when you feel like you’re no longer contributing to the world, it can stir a bigger question within: What is my purpose?
You feel guilty about resting (instead of exploring)
When you know you’re only going to be somewhere for a short amount of time, you immediately feel guilty for not soaking up as much as possible. While we appreciate down time as much as anyone, if we did feel like reading or watching a movie, we would often feel guilty for not being out and about – another reason for the imposed three night minimum.
You test your relationship with your travel companion
For sure, long term travel is the ultimate test for any relationship, it pushes you more than you could ever imagine in your normal day to day life. It really is a pressure cooker, and a great way to see – after a short while – how compatible you are as travel buddies. We’ve learned to compromise a lot with each other. My boyfriend has learned that I need coffee everyday – No Matter What. I’ve learned that he needs ample time to arrive at airports (I prefer to arrive minutes before boarding).
What other things have you unexpectedly learned while traveling? What are some other things people don’t tell you about long-term travel?
Lexi Connors is your ultimate wanderlust enthusiast with an incurable case of curiosity and a deep passion for action on climate change. I’m currently on a round the world trip with just carry-on luggage!