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