Why full-time travel is not for me

Why I don't want to quit my job and travel fulltime

“She’s living the dream!”

The person I replaced at my new job – let’s call her B – is doing a similar thing to what we did in 2013. Extended travel, that is (though she outright quit, and their trip is somewhat open ended, so no firm end date). So far it sounds like she’s doing a bang-up job balancing freelance work with travel and working a lot more than I was on the road, so after each update from her, everyone simultaneously sighs wistfully and utters the same phrase.

(“I was living the dream in 2013 too!” I want to squawk.)

But like Amanda of A Dangerous Business, I have done extended travel and confirmed long term travel just doesn’t interest me.

Yeah, I know location independence is trendy. Everyone wants to be a digital nomad – cast off the shackles of a house and steady paycheque and work from some island beach. These are the same people who’ll rail against being a slave to their desk and miserable in the corporate world.

But that has never been me.

We live in climactic paradise (just about)

Location independence usually means spending a fair bit of time in cheaper countries, for obvious reasons. These are often hotter countries.

I am not a fan of heat, and T cannot handle the heat at all. (He struggles during Auckland summers, so that should tell you all you need to know. 20 degrees is HARD for him, and I’m only happy up to the mid/late 20s.) Having grown up in a super mild climate, we are both ill-prepared for real heat. Or real cold, for that matter; he can cope okay when the temperature drops, but I most certainly cannot. UV rays in summer and uninsulated rentals in winter aside, this is about as good as it gets for us.

Six weeks in Asia did us in physically and I can’t imagine spending months on end, in, say, Thailand (Chiang Mai was the expat hotspot for a while, is it still?). As B and her partner make their way around South America, they’re dealing with all sorts of temperature extremes, so while I oooh and ahhh at her blog posts and pictures, I’m inwardly shuddering imagining the conditions and thanking my stars I’m not there.

Yeah … We really can’t handle the jandal on the climate front.

The stress

Not having a home base long term would not sit well with me. It is really freaking draining having to periodically figure out where you go next, where you will stay, figuring out visas, all those logistics. By the end of our trip I was really worn down by that aspect. And I had planned outlines beforehand, so it’s not like I didn’t already have a good guide to work from! Filling in those gaps as we went grew exhausting. I don’t want to have to coordinate such basic life elements regularly.

I don’t want to work for myself

I know others who do, and mostly they struggle (I’m talking about my specific field) particularly in NZ. Realistically, I probably would not be one of the exceptions.

I really like my job – even the meetings! – and the fact I am working on something much bigger than myself. When I think about my career, what I want to do next and how I can best learn and grow, it’s in relation to organisations, not self-employment.The stress and uncertainty of freelancing is not something I would voluntarily choose for myself. And T’s work does not lend itself to nomadism.

I want the traditional stuff

Now that I’ve scratched the itch and ticked off most of the destinations burning a hole in my bucket list, I’m dreaming of a kitchen with a full stove, maybe even a dishwasher, building a pizza oven in the backyard. Dog and kids.

In an ideal world I’d have 2-3 months a year to travel, on top of having all the other things I want (this job, a house in Auckland, etc), but as the saying goes, you can have anything you want – you just can’t have everything you want.

The other day I decided to answer this question on Quora:Β Which one would you prefer: half a year travel or 6 separate one month-long travels?Β And while I started out thinking I would prefer another long trip, by the time I finished writing my response I’d realised that with one long trip under my belt, now I would actually rather take the shorter trips – if money was no object.

Routine can be tedious – doing the dishes, supermarket runs, taking the bins out every Thursday.

It can also be incredibly sublime – coming in to the familiar comfort of coworkers’ faces in the morning, cuddling up to your partner at night, chowing down on your favourite treats at the farmer’s market, familiar beaches with free parking that are never too crowded.

For me, a ‘normal’ life is where it’s at. I love to travel, but home is where the heart is.

21 thoughts on “Why full-time travel is not for me

  • Reply E.M. July 17, 2014 at 23:18

    I like your perspective on this. As someone who hasn’t even been overseas, or on anything longer than a week vacation, I often think it would be nice to get away for a while. But I am most comfortable in my own bed, and I can’t just adapt overnight. I would also rather choose the 6 separate one-month long travels for that reason. I think some of us (myself included) get a little carried away because our vacation time is so restricted, so it seems like long-term travel would be the ultimate dream.

  • Reply Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life July 18, 2014 at 01:10

    After traveling long term for work- 3-6 months at a time (I lost 15 pounds during my time in Asia, my stomach can’t handle it!), I agree. I’d like to travel often, but I love having a home base. I want enough money and freedom to afford both.

  • Reply leaf (the indolent cook) July 18, 2014 at 02:18

    I grew up in Asia, so being there long-term would be a breeze. I’m in kind of an interesting position where many Asian countries, as well as Australia, all have a homely feel to me. So long-term travel in Asia I think would be easy; I’m not sure about other continents. Following on that, I’m used to tropical climates, Australian climate is fine as well, but I definitely wouldn’t want cold, wintry weather for months on end, so I totally get how temperatures can be a deal breaker. I don’t know yet what I consider to be my dream ratio of home and travel but your ideal scenario sounds pretty good, and even achievable, if you’re willing to become a teacher. πŸ˜‰

    • Reply eemusings July 18, 2014 at 08:39

      I am not, and the pay wouldn’t really lend itself to funding that kind of lifestyle. Also, I’m married, so have to take him into account too! He was considering going down that path actually but changed his mind. I think he could be a good teacher, but obviously teaching is about a lot more than just teaching (and I sense that’s the part that he might have struggled with). Contracting or freelancing would be more likely, but at this stage that’s not the way I want to go either.

  • Reply Joshua @ CNA Finance July 18, 2014 at 05:33

    I’m with you! I couldn’t travel every day of my life. I need a home base. I want a family. I just couldn’t accomplish my goals on the road. Thanks for the great read, see ya around!

  • Reply Katie @ Second-Hand Hedgehog July 18, 2014 at 05:35

    I love this post. The main reason I started blogging seriously was so that it would force me to keep travel as a big part of my life once I started working full time (and then some!). It’s done this – I’ve already been on a couple of short breaks that I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise. And I’m hugely enjoying it.

    But when I first started, I did feel that I wasn’t ‘doing it properly’. At least, not compared to all the digital nomads!

    Yours is one of a number of posts I’ve read lately that’s helped convince me that that just isn’t true. You don’t have to uproot and travel for ever in order to blog about it, or even to be considered a ‘traveller’. It’s fine to fit it around the other things that matter in life, like stability and family and work. After all, everyone’s different – and I still haven’t ruled out a longer trip sometime in the future! So thank you for the inspirational post. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Michelle July 18, 2014 at 07:54

    Full-time travel is not for me either. I like traveling and vacations, but I really care about having a home base and being at home as well. I am a homebody!

  • Reply Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) July 18, 2014 at 08:27

    It’s no secret that I reveled in long-term travel and even after 2 years, I didn’t want to go home! But, I totally get that it’s not for everyone and it’s definitely more stressful/demanding than your average vacation. There’s just no way to plan extensively for a long-term trip and, you’re right, constantly having to figure out the minutia of making it through each day and to and from each new destination is definitely tiring. I think this is why most long-term travelers wind up being “by the seat of your pants” travelers since it’s the only realistic way to cope!

  • Reply Newlyweds on a Budget July 18, 2014 at 08:42

    we are cut from the same cloth. as much as i dream of traveling teh world, i just don’t know if it would ever work for me since I am such a routine focused person. That being said, I think we DEFINITELY need more vacation time. I only get 2 weeks now, which is nothing. It helps that I have every other Friday off, since that gives me a 4-day weekend every now and then when we have a monday off. I’ll get 3 weeks when I hit 5 years, and 4 weeks at 10 years. I can’t wait!! Eric and I are looking forward to retirement. He can retire at 50 and me at 55, so we have big plans for the second phase of our life. But we’re still enjoying our journey now : )

  • Reply Addison @ Cashville Skyline July 19, 2014 at 07:13

    I completely agree with you. At one time the life of a digital nomad appealed to me, but now I’m more attracted to working towards a balanced life – a normal sleep schedule, a reasonable amount of work each week, a safe and clean home to come home to, exercise, and proper diet. I’ve seriously struggled with these things when I’ve spend long periods of time traveling for work. It was fun, but not right for me anymore.

  • Reply Michelle July 20, 2014 at 03:47

    I could do either choice. I think once you get into the groove it’s fairly easy to travel for long periods of time. But, I’ve lived abroad several times and usually everyone seems to have a breakdown around the sixth month. I’m gearing up for a month off and I can’t wait! I’m very aware that I’m very fortunate to have so much vacation time. I will enjoy every minute away (even though I love home) I just love, love, love travel.

  • Reply Jini July 20, 2014 at 04:25

    This is a great post!

    I love to travel but after purchasing my house, I have realized that I have become more of a home body. It is nice to have a little piece of the planet to call your very own (well almost my own, the bank still owns some of it!).

    I would definitely choose 6 separate one month-long travels if given the choice. Six months feels like a long time to me and I would probably become homesick.

  • Reply Agness July 22, 2014 at 02:08

    Travelling full-time is not for everyone. You are so right with settling down in hot countries to save some money. I did it many times, but I really enjoyed the heat! πŸ™‚ Now I’m back in Germany and it’s been raining all day long :).

  • Reply Emily @ Urban Departures July 22, 2014 at 02:23

    Everyone’s dream is different. For some, it may be the nomadic life, but for me, I want a home- in the traditional sense- to return to after travelling. In my dream, I’d be on the road for 4-6 months in a year (every year), during the winter (because I do not live in paradise :p). One of the biggest reasons I can’t travel long term is my attachment to my family; I have a huge extended family at home and they are my community and people. That, and I like having things that are CHOSEN by me, like, the dishware in my home, the warm cozy duvet on my bed, my awesome coffee brewer etc. Travelling long term would mean having to sleep in someone else’s bed and drinking from someone else’s mug all the time. Great post; I agree with your reason’s for not being a long term traveler.

  • Reply Athena July 22, 2014 at 15:18

    Loved this post! I am slowly coming to the conclusion myself that full time travel is not for me either. I love, love, LOVE, traveling but after a month of non stop traveling, I really like being at home. It’s nice to lay in your own bed and really appreciate everything that you have and usually take for granted.

  • Reply save. spend. splurge. July 23, 2014 at 04:27

    I am with you on this. I did that yearlong traveling thing and after 2 months I was exhausted. Traveling is almost like a job unless you plan on living there for a few months and taking in the sights slowly over the days.

    Otherwise, it’s 16+ hour days trekking to see things, getting food, trying to make sandwiches in the hotel room… etc

  • Reply Marissa @ Chic Darling July 24, 2014 at 11:22

    It’s weird. I’ve always wanted to be a traveller, who works from anywhere, but having done that for 3 months I realized that it’s is really really lonely. I just like my stuff.

  • Reply Manda | musicalpoem July 24, 2014 at 13:00

    I’d LOVE to do a year long trip around the world. Till then, I will always be interested in full time travel. If I get the chance to do that trip and go on it, I will have a better idea of whether or not it is for me πŸ˜›

  • Reply Daisy @ Add Vodka July 25, 2014 at 01:04

    I wish I could say I was one of those people who was able to travel the world like that, but my biggest thing is that I LOVE home. Home to me is my comfort spot. I would love to live somewhere for a few months but I need something to come home to!

  • Reply Ashley August 7, 2014 at 23:05

    Great post! I always feel a pang of jealousy whenever I read about someone travelling their way through life, but I don’t think I could do it. Changing cities in Spain three years in a row was hard enough for me! Meeting people and experiencing new things all the time can be awesome in the short term, but in the longterm you really crave the familiarity and comfort of old friends, family and just being able to relax.

  • Reply Pauline September 2, 2014 at 22:13

    I’m totally with you on this! What others don’t see is that travelling for long periods of time is kinda lonely, too. And tiring! Nothing beats curling up in you own bed at the end of the day. πŸ™‚

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