The Call of the Not So Wild, the downsides of long term travel

The Call of the Not-So-Wild – Adventures in Domesticity

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 30 Conveniences Missed From Home.

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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Ryan

Author, Writer, and Head Honcho at Desk to Dirtbag
Ryan is an author, adventurer, and wanderer. Originally from Seattle, he headed to Washington D.C. where he spent five years working for Congress before heeding the call of the wild. He set out living in his pickup truck and road tripping across the American West. Since then he backpacked through Colombia, drove across all of Central America, and also wrote a best selling book: Big Travel, Small Budget. Right now you can find him driving his old truck across all of South America -- support the adventures by visiting the D2D Shop. Follow the adventures on social media or read more.

Comments 6

  1. So very, very true. On our 14mth RTW backpacking trip in 2007-2008 we never really missed “home” per se, but we missed some of the comforts of home, a comfortable bed, home cooked meal, etc. Now that we’re getting ready to embark on our next long trip, a drive down the PanAm highway to Patagonia, we knew we wanted to travel slower, rent apartments for months at a time, feel a sense of community, but this time we’re also driving our own truck/ camper so we know, at the very least we’ll be able to cook and have a comfortable place to lay our heads. Even as our excitement to leave mounts, I’m already mentally compiling a blog post of “the things we’ll miss” because we know we will miss consistent hot showers, a couch to laze on, and yes Netflix! Alas, there is no perfect option… when we’re here in the US we long to be elsewhere, but on the road we will, at times, long for a home base. Our goal is to simply find a middle ground that we can be happy with.
    Rhonda recently posted…The Road to San CarlosMy Profile

  2. Ryan, thank you for writing about this! It was a bit of a bummer when I realized my “fantasy life” wasn’t without its own built-in drawbacks. But that’s just another little bump on the road to designing a unique life you love. I’m looking at it this way – vagabonding got me “out there” and out of a life that wasn’t for me. It was the “all in,” “kick in the pants” approach I needed. Now that I’m out here, and I’ve identified key things I want to include in my new lifestyle (i.e. being part of a community, a certain level of comfort, etc.), I’m now that much closer to finding a place I love with the values I’m now certain I don’t want to compromise on.

  3. Is a traveling lifestyle really about the movement from one place to another, or is it more about the commitment to leaving the lifestyle you inherited behind in order to experience whatever the road presents? It seems like the road has brought you to a great place, with opportunities for an extended time of community, romance, and work. Not taking advantage of that because you’re “supposed” to be traveling would seem antithetical to the spirit of adventure and intentional living that first compelled you to leave your desk behind.

    Stay true to yourself and your inner sense of identity. If and when the time comes to move on, you’ll know. It may be harder to embrace the challenges of the nomadic lifestyle after the comforts of sofa snuggling and readily available friends. That seems like a fair price to pay for this time of community that you have arrived at through your wanderings. And who knows, this may become a place that you come to think of as home, even if you aren’t there 100% of the time. Enjoy it!

  4. Thank you for sharing the details of your adventures: the good, the bad and the ugly. Your site is a great read. I admire your outlook and brutal honesty of the experience.

    It’s true, perspective is everything and life’s too short to not make every day count!

    “Not all those who wander are lost.” J.R.R. Tolkien

  5. I totally feel you. We’re at the point now where we’re trying to figure out just *how* to make that transition to somewhere we want to be (SW Colorado isn’t cheap!). For the time being, we’re settling down in Oregon where we (well, mostly my husband) have connections, friends, and family. Even when you travel with a partner the going through meeting new people gets exhausting–the explaining who you are and what you do, looking for some semblance of supportive friend relationships and more.

    It’s exciting to start drawing up lists of things you want to do that don’t have to be accomplished in a week and the missing ones forgotten because you ran out of time. It’s also more than a little disheartening to bid so much freedom goodbye. (I might have had a mini-breakdown the other day because I hated having to say no to something just because, well, work.)

    We’ll workout this reentry somehow or other. It’s not always easy but then again, neither is living on the road.

  6. Great post. I’m right there with you man. I’ve been traveling solo for nearly two years now. It’s been the highlight of my life. But I think I’m getting close to the end of the international traveling. I know it’s time for me to change up my situation in life when life is no longer exciting, and that’s the point that I’m at now. I’ve stopped caring about temples and monkeys, and all I can think about these days is climbing and exploring in the desert. I spent a couple hours today on Mountain Project just looking at routes I want to do. It’s time.

    I think I probably have a few months left in Asia before it’s ready for me to go back to the States. I’ll probably end up somewhere in the desert southwest. There are a lot of things I’m not looking forward to. I won’t be able to afford to eat out for every meal (which I do here and love because I hate cooking). I’m excited at the prospect of having a car and the freedom that goes along with that but am not looking forward to dealing with insurance, car maintenance, gas, etc. I’m bummed that I’ll have to sign a yearlong contract on an apartment, when I’ve just been paying month-to-month for so long now. I’m less than thrilled to be immersed in a familiar culture again.

    Like you said, there are pros and cons, upsides and downsides to every kind of lifestyle, whether that be dirtbagging it in a truck or settling down in Medellin or Bangkok or Moab or Flagstaff or St. George. I think that the key to enjoying life is to be honest enough with yourself to realize when enough is enough, whether that be enough of something good or bad.

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