Why I Decided To Travel Long-Term


Lauren watching the 4 a.m.sunrise in Hawaii
Enjoying a 4am sunrise

When I announced that I was planning on leaving everything behind to travel the world for as long as possible, with no end date in sight, I received mixed reactions. Some of my friends thought it was fantastic that I was following my dreams and doing something that I’ve always wanted to do. Most of them thought I was insane.

Over and over again, I was told that I should be putting my savings towards buying a car or putting a deposit on a house. Friends and family believed I was stupid for not trying to get into employment straight after graduation.

My mum had the worst reaction of them all. Devastated and terrified, she spent weeks telling me how I was going to be raped or killed. She told me that I’d hate being in a hostel, that I’d get sick and have nobody to turn to, that I’d be too lonely, that I wouldn’t like any of the food. She tried everything possible to convince me to stay.

She couldn’t understand why I would want to travel for such a period of time.

Like a lot of people, she just didn’t get it.

Lauren at Tulum
Happy and safe while travelling in Mexico

The vast majority of people in the Western world live their lives in the same way. We go to school or college, graduate and find employment, live the 9-5 lifestyle and spend our working days looking forward to our two week vacation every year. Those two weeks of vacation time are the only chance we’ll have to go wherever we want in the world. Our only chance to relax from the stresses of modern day working life, and do absolutely nothing, if that’s what we want.

I had always assumed that that would be the life that I’d lead — or maybe I was conditioned to believe that it was the only realistic way to live your life. I didn’t know there was another way. I would save up all year, research a new and exciting destination, and blow a ton of money on an expensive hotel, with amazing views and a swimming pool. On an island paradise, I’d spend every night eating out at nice restaurants whilst spending every day lazing by the pool.

I can’t remember at what point exactly in my life I decided that this would never be enough for me. My family, and anyone who I’ve ever traveled with, reach about 2 weeks into their holiday and state that they are ready to return home. Bored with their new destination, and longing for their own bed, they’re happy to head back to their monotonous lifestyle once again until the next year.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been the opposite.

At age 5, we spent a completely miserable family holiday on the coast of England for a week. It rained every day, we spent the whole time inside a caravan arguing, and when the rain eventually stopped we would trudge up and down muddy, wet fields, absolutely miserable. And yet, the night before we were due to leave my parents were woken up by me sobbing in my bedroom.

I didn’t want to go home.

We’d just had a awful experience and yet, I still didn’t want to leave!

sunrise in hawaii
Enjoying a 4am sunrise

This has been the theme for every vacation I’ve taken since. The longest I’ve been away on a single trip is three weeks. Whilst the people I was traveling with claimed that three weeks was enough for them, I could have stayed for another three weeks, easily! I love the escapism of being somewhere completely new and different, and I want to stay and explore for as long as possible.

On my arrival back home I would suffer from extreme post-holiday blues. I longed to return back, longed to leave my home once more, hated the thought that I’d have to wait another year before being able to explore another exciting destination.

I have such a passion for travel, and I could be anywhere in the world and still be excited about it. I’m curious about other countries, their languages, cultures, food and history. I want to learn about them and I want to experience it all for myself rather than reading about it. I want to immerse myself in the culture and fulfill all my fantasies I have about distant lands.

When I discovered backpacking and travel blogs, I suddenly realised that there were hundreds of people out there right now, doing exactly what I wanted to do myself. I was enthralled. Captivated by the thought and possibility of traveling around the world for long periods of time, I instantly started planning and researching with every spare second, and saving up as much money as I could. Here I am now, 100 or so days away from the big departure date, ready to live out my dream.

sunset in Portugal.
Photographing a sunset in Portugal.

Whilst it is true that you can see a large proportion of the World through your vacation time when spaced over a period of 40 or so years, can you really fully immerse yourself in everything that country has to offer in just two weeks? You’re rushing around trying to see every single sight in your guidebook, not wanting to miss a single must-see destination for fear that you may never have the chance to return to do it another time.

What if you had no fixed time through which to explore a country?

What if you just bought a one-way plane ticket to a random destination and worked your way around the World at your own pace?

That’s exactly what I want to do, and exactly what this trip is going to be about.

This trip will be the culmination of six years of dreaming. With no finish date in sight when I set off to my first destination, I will no longer have to worry about cramming everything in, I won’t feel depressed and anxious that soon I’ll have to go home. I’ll be able to enjoy every second and soak up every moment. I’ll be able to document my thoughts, feelings, experiences and photos here.

What excites me most is knowing that long-term travel is not just another vacation. It’s a lifestyle choice. It’s not going to be easy. Every single thing is not going to be planned down to the last detail. I won’t know where I’ll be in a few days time and what I’ll be doing or who I’ll be with. It will be new, spontaneous and exciting, whilst also being tough and challenging. It will help me to grow as a person and deal with situations I wouldn’t otherwise be forced into.

clear waters beach hawaii
Complete and utter bliss…

What about you? What are your reasons for traveling for extended periods of time(or not)? Leave a comment and let me know!

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36 Comments

  1. Drew
    April 5, 2011
    Reply

    Good work sticking up for yourself and your goals! Don’t let Karen get in your way!!!! Only you and a few LEGENDS like the great god Zeus have succeeded in such endeavors!

    • Lauren
      April 5, 2011
      Reply

      Hahahaha thanks Drew!! Nobody can stop me achieving what I want to! :D

  2. Sofia - As We Travel
    April 6, 2011
    Reply

    Great post, I can so relate to it.
    I love my friends and family, but when it comes to travel and the way I want to live my life, they just don’t seem to get it.

    And to be honest, I think traveling is the best thing you can do in “this economic climate”!

    People spend all day online looking for jobs that aren’t there, applying for jobs they don’t really want because they need ‘something’, when they can travel instead, and return back home when times are better and there are more jobs to be found.

    • Lauren
      April 6, 2011
      Reply

      Thanks Sofia, and I completely agree.

      I have friends who graduated a year ago and still haven’t been able to find a job yet! Why would I want to wait around doing the same when I can be out there traveling?!

  3. Jo
    April 6, 2011
    Reply

    I agree! I don’t understand why we’re brought up to think that school, 9-5 job, marriage and kids is just the way you’re supposed to live and any other option is madness.

    I’ve had almost a year of a dull 9-5 job and the monotony of it is killing me… hence why I’m breaking free! :)

    • Lauren
      April 6, 2011
      Reply

      Definitely! You must be so excited!

      And you’ll be over in Oz when I’ll be. I plan on arriving sometime in October/November, and I’ll be spending Christmas and New Years in Sydney! :D

  4. Kaylin
    April 6, 2011
    Reply

    I totally understand what you mean. I graduated from college 2 years ago and I’ve been really bored here at home. I can’t do a whole lot with my degree without going back to school so I’ve been working a bunch of jobs I don’t like or want really to scrape together some funds for travel. I managed to get to the UK to backpack and visit some friends for a couple weeks last fall, but I’m planning something bigger soon. I’m not sure I’m really an RTW type of person, but I really want to move abroad. Right now I’m planning to go to Korea to teach English for a year starting in August and after that I want to do a working holiday in either New Zealand or Australia for a year (or maybe a year in each!) If I can finally manage to get out of the US long-term, I’m not coming back for a good long while except to visit. The only thing that might draw me back is if I finally decide what to do in grad school, but even that, I have a university I’m really interested in in London for that as well.

    Good luck on your adventure!!

    • Lauren
      April 8, 2011
      Reply

      Life’s too short to spend it miserable and in jobs you hate. I’m thinking of getting a TEFL qualification whilst I’m out there so I can prolong the travel experience and experience settling down and living somewhere else.

      If you do the Working Holiday Visa then I may see you there!! :) What university in London is it? I go to Royal Holloway, UoL at the moment! :)

  5. Benny
    April 7, 2011
    Reply

    Go for it girl! Don’t let anyone stop you. Many people has done it, and so far they are safe and sound

    • Lauren
      April 8, 2011
      Reply

      Thanks Benny!! I’m obviously going to be cautious and use common sense whilst I’m out there, but I also think that a lot of people perceive long-term travel as dangerous, when it’s no less so than visiting somewhere in your home country!

  6. Mike Lenzen
    April 7, 2011
    Reply

    Interesting. I haven’t thought too much about why I want to travel long term. I suppose it’s an exorcise I should sit down and do. Do you mind if I put up a copycat blog post?

    I know for a fact I like travel, and the happiest I’ve been is while traveling with Ashley. Maybe it’s that simple. Hmm…

    Anyways, I’m glad you’ve discovered that you like to travel, and that you’ve put yourself in a position to realize that dream. Too many people live their lives not doing what they want to be doing.

    • Lauren
      April 8, 2011
      Reply

      Hi Mike, of course you can do a copycat post. I’d be interested in hearing what you think about it.

      You should spend life doing what makes you happy, and if travel is what does it for you, then you have to go for it! :D

  7. Dalene - Hecktic Travels
    April 7, 2011
    Reply

    Congrats on only having a handful of days left to go!

    If you’re crazy, then so am I (I’m beginning to be *okay* with that term!) All the reasons you have outlined are exactly mine, and we are not alone.

    I believe it’s a “calling”, as much as other people have it to be a doctor, teacher, or whatever. It’s just something we gots ta do!

    • Lauren
      April 8, 2011
      Reply

      Thanks Dalene!

      I definitely agree with you there! It was only when I started to plan this trip that I remembered all the times I’d gone away and never wanted to return, and it all seemed to fall into place. It just took me a while to realise that this is what I want to do!

  8. Vicky (aka writerchick47)
    April 7, 2011
    Reply

    While I haven’t traveled extensively, I can’t imagine staying in one place for your entire life, yet I know people who’ve done it. I could not die without regrets if I’d never left the small town I grew up in. So much life out there to see. You’re young, healthy and passionate about what you want so I say give it everything you’ve got and soak up every moment. No regrets. No fear. I have a feeling you’ll have a great life. :) I’ll be reading of your adventures so keep us posted. Best wishes for a safe and amazing journey!

    • Lauren
      April 8, 2011
      Reply

      I know a lot of people that are perfectly happy staying at home, going to the same place on holiday every year, and I think it would drive me insane to have to do the same!!

      I can’t wait to get out there now! :D

  9. Bluegreen Kirk
    April 8, 2011
    Reply

    We have to understand that not everyone has the courage to go out and go against the grain. Most of us only doing what we are taught to believe in. So if your parents didnt travel then chances are you wont. For them its school, school more school work all your life and travel when you 68.

    • Lauren
      April 8, 2011
      Reply

      That’s a very good point, and I probably would be doing the same now if I hadn’t realised it was possible to travel for extended periods without needing to be a millionaire!

      Of course, no judgement to anyone who chooses that lifestyle if that’s what makes them happy, I just couldn’t imagine anything worse! :)

      • Vi
        April 12, 2011
        Reply

        Life is changing and people too. World is getting smaller and smaller and it is so much easier to travel now, then it was 20-30 years ago. It was no such thing as working holidays so people just didn’t use for long term travel. I personally probably couldn’t survive with two weeks holidays per year :)

        • Lauren
          April 12, 2011
          Reply

          I know! I haven’t had a holiday in well over a year now and I’m just itching to get away! :)

  10. Ian [EagerExistence]
    April 10, 2011
    Reply

    Can I come? :-p

    • Lauren
      April 10, 2011
      Reply

      Hahahaha, sure! :D

  11. Gaby
    April 12, 2011
    Reply

    Hi,
    This is wonderful!! Good luck making your preparations and getting ready! I can’t wait to continue reading your blog as you begin your adventures.
    -Gaby

    • Lauren
      April 12, 2011
      Reply

      Hi Gabi! :)

      Thank you! It still feels like I have so much to do, but I’m getting there :)

  12. Leyla
    April 16, 2011
    Reply

    “What if you just bought a one-way plane ticket to a random destination and worked your way around the World at your own pace?”

    I did, to Cape Town. I spent a year traveling back up the spine of Africa, and a couple of years exploring Asia. It was the best three years of my life, all because I dated. So, congratulations! And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! :-)

    • Lauren
      April 17, 2011
      Reply

      Hey Leyla!

      Wow, that sounds absolutely amazing and three years? I’m impressed and jealous! I love hearing about people’s success stories! :)

  13. Katie @ Domestiphobia.net
    May 19, 2011
    Reply

    I love this! I wish I had known this was an option back when I was in college. Instead, I got married, bought the house, adopted a couple of puppies, and THEN realized this wasn’t cutting it for me. I went to Costa Rica for 2 months last year and worked on a chile farm, but like you – I still wasn’t ready to go home. I did because I love my family, but I envy that you’re creating this chance for yourself before you have other things tying you down.

    Good luck with your amazing trip and keep your head high, despite the understandable worry from your friends and family. They might never “get it,” but I can tell you from experience if you don’t feed the drive now, it’s never going to go away. :)

    • Lauren
      May 27, 2011
      Reply

      Thank you for your wonderful comment Katie! That’s exactly what I was worried about – that if I didn’t do it now, I would never do it!

  14. Beverley | Pack Your Passport
    March 14, 2012
    Reply

    Lauren I love this! I’m so tempted to just print it out and show it to everyone who thinks Mark and I are insane for not wanting to be back in England working full-time. Ok, we’ve worked a lot since we’ve been in Australia but I still know that my life is so much more flexible now than it was at home and if I’m not happy with something I can change it almost immediately :-)

    • Gregory
      May 11, 2012
      Reply

      Hey, the big Step One toward my own life of indefinite travel is now finished … my business has sold! Next, I have two more months committed to training the new staff. After that, I will summarily dispose of my home and belongings and then … yikes! All advice will be appreciated :-)

      Lauren, I notice everyone who replies to your blog has a photo avatar. How do I do that? Is there a profile somewhere I’m supposed to set up?

  15. Ms Hathaway
    June 13, 2014
    Reply

    Hi,

    I’m soon going abroad to Spain and although I originally planned to go for a year, I’m getting worried about my residency status in the UK. I don’t plan to work (at least not full time or ‘officially’) so I’m not worried about becoming tax resident but I am worried about the possibility of invalidating my various insurance policies if I’m not classed as UK resident.

    Have you come across something similar and if so, how do you intend to deal with it?

    Great blog by the way!

    • Lauren
      June 15, 2014
      Reply

      Are you a UK citizen? If so, then you won’t lose your residency status unless you want to.

  16. Paige
    June 21, 2014
    Reply

    I can’t remember at what point exactly in my life I decided that this would never be enough for me. My family, and anyone else who I’ve ever traveled with, reach about 2 weeks into their holiday and state that they are ready to return home. Bored with their new destination, and longing for their own bed, they are happy to head back to their monotonous lifestyle once again until the next year.

    Reading that is so strange because that’s exactly how I feel!!! I went away with my friends for 2 weeks and whilst they were home sick and ready to come home I could have easily stayed another 2 weeks!!! My mum is exactly the same as yours the amount of rape and murder stories I get about travellers being in hostels is ridiculous, I know she’s only worrying about me but it makes me feel worse!!! Did you find that your mum got better at dealing with her anxiety over you leaving at all? X

    • Lauren
      June 24, 2014
      Reply

      Thanks for the lovely comment, Paige! It’s good to know that I’m not alone :-). My mum is so much better now that I’ve been travelling for a while. She rarely panics now unless, say, I’m heading to the Middle East alone! As long as I keep in touch, she’s pretty calm :-)

  17. Luella
    March 22, 2017
    Reply

    How could any of this be better stated? It conuld’t.

    • Lauren
      March 30, 2017
      Reply

      Thanks! :-)

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