When I gleefully skipped out of work in November, ready to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, it felt like ultimate freedom. In fact, it’s only writing this that has made me realise how quickly you forget what normal day-to-day life is. Feeling the pain of the 7am alarm or wondering where the hell your free time went on Sunday nights. Urgh.
After five months of new places, new experiences and new sights, I’ve definitely learned a lot! Small things like how you can love a town instinctively just from your first glance and how you eventually accept that you’ll always feel a little bit dishevelled. But there are big ones too and I’d like to share some of these today.
5 Things I’ve Learned About Long Term Travel
You’ll miss the strangest things
In the last five months I’ve had every food craving under the sun, from my dad’s roast dinner to my everyday breakfast. Sometimes they’re easily forgotten in the face of an array of exotic restaurants. But sometimes you just have to suck it up and head to the nearest burger place, feeling like an uncultured Westerner all the way. Food aside, there’s a ton of weird things that I’ve wished were around – even just for an hour. I’ve missed the convenience of the NHS, my skincare collection and even a tape measure (don’t ask).
Arriving in a new place becomes normal
When you head off on a city break or a week-long holiday, travelling somewhere is hugely exciting. After a few months though, it’ll be just another journey. I even catch myself being especially grouchy on travelling days now. But even as the process becomes mundane, watching the landscape change through a bus window is something pretty special.
You’ll both relish and curse your backpack
You really don’t need that much stuff. When this realisation hit me, it felt wonderful. You feel less bogged down, less burdened and so much more free. I’ve already resolved to have a massive clear out when I get home! But at the same time, when you’ve been wearing the same clothes for months on end, the novelty can somewhat wear off. There have been days where I’ve wanted to have a good old pamper to make myself feel confident again – spending days sweating profusely with my hair thrown up isn’t necessarily great for my fragile self esteem. Yes, it’s materialistic but with so many markets around, who can blame me?
You’ll learn how to really budget
For the first time in my life, I’ve realised that I’m terrible at budgeting. While I have never spent recklessly, I just find it hard to say no to that day out when I know the next payday is coming. However, once you notice your bank balance dropping like a stone, it becomes a lot easier to plan your spending. While it’s definitely one of the most boring parts of long term travel, it’s also an essential one and a useful skill that I’ll take home with me. For some tips, check out my Guide to Saving Money while you Travel.
Not every day will be a grand adventure
Travelling slowly has allowed Jamie and I to make the most out of our money. At times, it’s also left us worried that we weren’t ‘doing it right’. The reality is that when you have longer to spend in places, your activities are more spaced out. It’s not always glamorous and on the go. The rest of your days are filled in with wandering the streets, relaxing in cafes and spending time doing our own thing – for me, that’s writing and catching up on trashy TV shows.
Why is this great? Firstly, going at full speed leaves you burned out pretty quickly: I learned that on my three week European Contiki. And secondly, by sticking around in places longer, you really get a feel for the differences of each town. Rather than whizzing around the main attractions and heading off, we can relish soaking up the atmosphere and, of course, finding more great places to eat! And you all know how much I love that…
It’s been a whirlwind trip so far and I’m more determined than ever to enjoy every single day!