Long term travel, traveling for months or years, may seem like an impossible dream. Honestly it is not as unattainable as you might think. I began my journey a few weeks back – and I expect to post again on this topic. In the meantime, here are some things to think about.
The first step to making long-term travel possible it to adjust the way you think of travel. Shift your focus to meeting new people and sharing new experiences, let go of the need for lavish resorts and snapping pictures of every “must-do” tourist destination. Changing what you want from your travel experiences will broaden your options of where and how to go. It will open up new opportunities. If you only stay at the Marriott when you travel, eat at chain restaurants or follow the guidebook of the top 10 things to see and do – you’re missing out. I have a few rules for when I travel – even on the shortest of trips.
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the upmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience” – Eleanor Roosevelt
The big cost saver with long-term travel is the ability to travel slower. Traveling slower means you have new transportation options, you can take the train, the bus or even walk when you have more time. When you try to squeeze everything into a two-week adventure you don’t have the option to take an eight-hour train ride or a 2-hour walk; you find that expensive flights and taxis become a necessity. Trains and buses can double as lodging too – you can get a night’s sleep on a long ride. The walk can be good for your soul – and you just might meet someone on the way.
In 2013, when I was in San Ignacio, Belize I opted to walk to Cahal Pech, the Mayan Ruins nearby. I could have gotten a taxi and arrived in just a few short minutes. Instead I took a walk. It actually took me two days to get there, as I ended up walking in a circle the first time – and stopped at the village market on my way back to my little house. I laughed at my “great adventure” – but I had found a new part of the village and picked up some great treats at the market – with time on my side it had been a good thing. The second day I studied the map a little closer and identified the wrong turn I had made previously and set out with new determination. To my delight I met a sweet old man, Hector. He was walking home, but he and I chatted and he assured me that my planned route was correct. About a half-mile from the ruins, we parted ways, but Hector gave me a couple of landmarks to watch for along the way. The chat with Hector made the walk more enjoyable and gave me confidence to take more walking journeys. Slowing down can give you a chance to meet someone new and see something you didn’t know you wanted to see.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain
Another factor to consider is the daily cost of short-term travel verse long-term travel. Just look at how a five-hundred-dollar round trip flight inflates the daily rate of a 10-day trip, that’s $50 a day. That same round-trip ticket for a 40-day trip, works out to $12.50 a day! Taking a longer trip, makes more of that costly plane ticket.
And finally – do a little work while you’re away. There are number ways to work for food and lodging while you travel. Airfare and lodging are the two largest travel expenses, with food running a good third place. Here are some of the ways you can find free rooms or “earn” your room and board around the world.
Couchsurfing is a wonderful network of travelers that connects travelers with local people who are willing to host a traveler or two in their home for free. Often these are folks who travel themselves and enjoy meeting people from around the world. They open their homes and share a couch, a bed and sometimes a meal or evening out. It can be an easy way to meet new people and to experience a new place from the perspective of a local. This can be for a couple of days or a couple of weeks. This is still on my list to try.
- House Sitting
There are a couple of websites that connect house sitters with home owners. House sitting situations can be for a week or several months. Typically, these are folks who have pets that they would prefer to have cared for in their own homes while they are away. In exchange you stay in their home, care for their pets and do other light home keeping duties like watering the garden, bringing in the mail or sometimes larger responsibilities, like mowing the lawn. With house sitting you are normally just getting the use of their home and sometimes the use of a car. House sitting has the advantage of living like a local, in a home with the conveniences of home, like a full bathroom and full kitchen – and the bonus of a furry creature to keep you company. I will be house sitting in Virginia, later in October. Stay tuned…
I have WWOOFing separate from volunteering, because it is very unique in that you are helping an individual family, you are helping out on a small farm in exchange for room and board. WWOOF.org connects you with farms that have space for workers to sleep, they offer meals and lodging in exchange for 4-5 hours of work each day. This work varies greatly, from mowing, weeding, picking, pruning, building, watering, selling, even cooking and cleaning. You don’t need any special skills or any particular abilities, just a willingness to pull your own weight and contribute. You will most likely be included as part of the family and invited to family dinners, events and sharing in all the bounty of living on a farm. Even if it is not your dream job, it can be refreshing to work outside in the sunshine and get your hands dirty for a few weeks. I spent nearly 3 weeks with Annie and Art in New York and am now in North Carolina WWOOFing at the Fat Radish. Loving it!
Like WWOOFing, there are a number of website that connect volunteers with all kinds of opportunities to earn your room and board by working in different capacities. Below are two that I have been browsing through; both offer a huge variety of opportunities. You might work the reception for a hostel, help on a farm, help build a new school or lodge, help with a tour organization, do conservation work, help a family with their children and teach them English, or even bartend at a local restaurant. I have made few inquires to volunteer in Peru and Chile. Stay tuned on those!
“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” Robert Louis Stevenson
Hope that was helpful for those of you who are looking for how to start long-term travel. Please let me know if you have other suggestions or any questions. I’m happy to share what I’ve learned and tried as well as learn from you and your experiences.