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I’ve had numerous friends or readers of this blog reach out to me and say, “Wow! What you’re doing is so amazing, I wish I could leave it all behind and do something like that!” And while I firmly believe that many in the Western World have the ability, resources, and opportunity to do so (despite their protestations that they don’t), what we don’t hear about so much is the other side of the nomadic lifestyle–the less glamorous side.
Let’s face it, it is a little hard to consciously choose to cut back on the lifestyle choices we make in order to save up to travel and hit the road. Cutting back on eating out, going out and partying with friends, going to the movies, buying new things, maybe moving into a smaller apartment or house, all in order to save up money to be able to travel at some point in the future.
All of those things are nice, they are comfortable, they are enjoyable. And they are hard to give up or cut back on.
So let’s say you do it. You make the sacrifices, save the money, and you hit the road. And it *IS* really awesome, for the most part.
The Downsides of Long Term Travel
But let’s also talk about the flip side of the coin. Not everything is always awesome, all the time.
Sometimes it’s boring, lonely, tiresome, and grinds you down.
Katie Boué over at The Morning Fresh talked about her time dirtbagging around North America in a van, and how the grass is always greener on the other side. How nice it is to sometimes have a couch, kitchen, and shower…
“For heaven’s sake, don’t complain to dirtbags about how horrible your air-conditioned, financially-secure life is. Adventure is always out there, so make it your own. And if you really want to “live the dream” like me, quit your job already! Just remember what I warned you about when you’re broke, dirty, and longing for a couch.”
I can certainly relate to Katie’s sentiments. Getting sick in the Owens Valley, unable to escape the 100+ degree heat while living out of my truck, just wishing there was a couch and a Netflix account to zone out in front of. Or driving hour upon hour on end and settling for some terrible gas station dinner because you’re feeling too lazy to break out the stove and cook on your tailgate. Not knowing where you’re going to sleep that night… Not knowing if you’re going to get hassled by security or some random person.
I’m not complaining. I feel lucky. Traveling, having nothing that really ties me down, and being adventurous are all things I truly enjoy. I never really felt like I had to cut back my former lifestyle drastically in order to embark on this journey, though I always actively fought against lifestyle inflation.
But now that I’ve been a wandering vagabond, never spending more than a few months in any given place, for the better part of 17 months… Living in the mountains of Colorado, living in my truck in the desert, and most recently bouncing from hostel to hostel in Colombia. I can now feel, just like the previous call to leave the 9-5 and hit the road, the call of the not-so-wild. The niceties of domesticity, of access to running water, a real kitchen, and my own bedroom.
Sleeping in a hostel dorm with a group of 8-10 people, having the same conversations over and over again (Where are you from? How long you been here? Where you going next?) can get a little old, and so does packing up your backpack and schlepping over to the bus station and a new town every couple days. My friend Ashley has been bouncing around in Central America for the past six months and recently put together a humorous write up of all the things she missed back home (but which has since been removed from the internet).
The long time travel blogger, Nomadic Matt, lamented the beginning of the end and whether one could travel for too long… Especially as a solo traveler.
“How many times can you reinvent the wheel? How often can you start from scratch? It’s one thing to be traveling with friends, a girlfriend, or a spouse, but it’s another to be constantly surrounded by strangers every day of your life.”
Over the past month or so, I have kind of “settled down” in Medellin, Colombia. It is a nice, mostly modern city, and one that sees many Gringos fall for it. I’ve made friends here, I’m searching for an apartment here, I’ve become a regular at a number of local establishments, I’ve got a girlfriend here, and I even recently applied and interviewed for a part time job (!!!).
I’m not saying that I’m done traveling. Not at all. I’m just saying that I am now also feeling the lure of domesticity, and the need for familiarity along with my adventure… At least temporarily.
Justin over at the blog the Stone Mind recently addressed the siren call of a life on the road, and whether we are missing something by daydreaming about the “if only’s” in life…
“I suggest that what really makes the adventure, on the road or off, isn’t what happens to us, but how we experience what happens. A beautiful sunset over strange lands is good medicine, sure, but it’s no panacea. To put it another way, there’s probably nothing wrong with where you are, just with your perspective.”
It’s hard to have it all. I only suggest that you find out what is right for you in any given moment and strive for that. Cut out the fat–whatever is extraneous and unimportant–and make every day count. It doesn’t really matter if you are behind the wheel or behind a desk.
What do you think? Do you struggle with the competing calls of domesticity and travel? How do you cope with the lure of travel while you’re working and living a domestic life? And how do you cope with the calls for familiarity and domesticity while you’re traveling long-term?
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