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Whether you’re a frequent business traveler or professional backpacker, long-term travel away from home can be memorable, but it ain’t all jet-setting adventures; certain things can make long-term travel a nightmare for the faint of heart.
Not every trip is as fruitful as we actually expect it to be. If you travel alone, these ill effects could increase as you constantly miss your family and friends due to a lack of familiar company.
A lot of unprepared people who travel for long periods actually face trip blues rather than post-trip blues! So, this article is chock-full of great advice for travelers planning a long-term trip but are new to the idea. Here are several things that every traveler should know about long-term travel.
- Things About Long Term Travel You Need to Know
- 1. The Toil over Toilets.
- 2. Snorers; the Bane of Backpackers.
- 3. Mosquitoes, Bedbugs, Horseflies, Fleas, and other miserable carriers of DISEASE.
- 4. New “Stuff.” Everywhere. All the Time.
- 5. Learn how to Pack Things with the 7 Ps.
- 6. Missing home, friends, and family :'(
- 7. Cashflow Problems Abroad can Risk your Health, Food, Bed, and Board.
- 8. Profuse Sweating on all sides.
- 9. Oh Lord, you are going to be misunderstood.
- 10. Forever saying so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye.
- 11. Sickness is Serious
- 12. Loneliness
- 14. Constantly lugging your life around.
- 15. Making the Same Conversations again, and again, and again…
Things About Long Term Travel You Need to Know
1. The Toil over Toilets.
If you are continuously traveling to different corners of the globe, don’t expect that everywhere you stop, you will find clean, hygienic, and odor-free washrooms – or even ones you recognize as washrooms!
When finding a bathroom for the first time in a foreign country, you must mentally prepare and consider carrying certain toiletries on a long holiday.
Being desperate to spend a penny, only to be met by a dirty, unclean toilet might make you lose your mind, making your trip a bad one for sure – now think of that experience waiting for you at every toilet stop.
It doesn’t bear thinking about. Apart from dirty washrooms, other hassles that people might face in faraway washrooms are broken locks, doorless stalls, lack of clean water and soap to wash hands, and having to use a toilet you’re unfamiliar with.
Did you know most toilets on earth aren’t the sitting ones you’ll find in the US with a seat, lid, and flush handle? Yeah. The most common toilets outside of the Western World (particularly public ones) are those sort of porcelain trenches one squat over.
Sure, they use less water, and you’ll need less paper (depending on where you are, there might not be any provided), but if you were expecting a clean, comfortable seat to make the push, think again.
Psych yourself up for these toilet experiences if you’re a first-timer. Alternatively, you can avoid the issue by staying exclusively in international hotels, but this might get pricey if you’re traveling long-term and you run the risk of having a toilet that’s too much.
In Japan, for example, that hotel toilet might be clean enough to eat off, but it might try and talk to you mid-flow! Either way, if you’re in Southeast Asia, you’ll likely encounter both kinds.
2. Snorers; the Bane of Backpackers.
Snoring can make your nights turn into a waking hell – heck, you might be planning a backpacking trip for a few weeks, a few months, or even a year-long trip to escape from a snoring family member!
Experienced long-term travelers know that part of a backpacking trip is saying goodbye to private rooms and bunking down in hostels – it’s a top way of saving money. Still, it does mean sharing rooms and dramatically increasing the risk of sharing a space with a snorer.
That one person can make your whole trip worse without even trying. When you cannot sleep properly, you will not be able to enjoy your trip because of the exhaustion – not to mention being distracted by the fact you will be compelled to plot a murder and how to get away with it in your hostel.
Those loud noises of screeching and hauling will keep you awake, poorly rested, and eternally grumpy for as long as you share that room.
The best solution to this problem is to pack earplugs. If you have forgotten them/can’t find any abroad, change your room, consider cheap hotels over hostels, find a spot to camp, or take a couple of shots of something strong to knock you out.
See Related: Ways To Make Travel Less Stressful
3. Mosquitoes, Bedbugs, Horseflies, Fleas, and other miserable carriers of DISEASE.
No matter where you travel in the world, South America, North Africa, Western Europe, or Southeast Asia, there is going to be some variety of small, many-legged, occasionally winged b*stard trying to get a chunk out of you or siphon off your blood.
Fleas & bedbugs
Catching some form of parasitic passengers, like fleas, is very common amongst seasoned backpackers. Many parts of the world, even “civilized” places, have serious bedbug infestations.
Neither is great to deal with. The best-case scenario for fleas is feeling itchy all over and scratching your sores bloody – the worst-case scenario is that they also give you something potentially fatal, like the bubonic plague.
If you spend the night on a bedbug-infested mattress, congratulations, you are the proud owner of a personal bedbug infestation.
Although they won’t commonly pass on any diseases, the worst part for you (apart from the constant, annoying itching that will traumatize you) is that bedbugs are so common globally that virtually no accommodation is liable if you get bed bugs.
You better get that travel insurance before your next trip… If you get fleas or bedbugs, you must change your accommodation immediately, wash from head to toe with soap and hot water, and thoroughly clean your clothing, kit, luggage, personal belongings, etc.
You will probably have to do it in the nude because, guess what; if you’ve got fleas and bedbugs, so has everything you own.
Wash your stuff on a high-heat laundry cycle with detergent and then put it in the dryer on high heat – that should deal with the little blighters. If you can’t wash items on high heat, you may be able to get by with a long cycle of high heat in the dryer.
If you can’t do either, that stuff has to go. And guess what else; you don’t even have to go to crazy remote backpacking destinations in the farthest corners of the Earth. Oh no, you can find plague-carrying fleas and bedbugs galore in places like Los Angeles.
Mosquitos are nature’s assassins. They are arguably the most dangerous and deadly creatures on Earth and are responsible for millions of deaths yearly.
Mosquito bites can actually make your long-term travel worse than hell, especially if you contract dangerous diseases like malaria, zika, typhus, and dengue. Catch one of these, and your trip will only be remembered for bad reasons – if you live!
So, if you are traveling in a mosquito-prone area (or anywhere where the bugs are known to be b*stards), carry all the essentials that will help prevent you from enduring these poisonous bites, like mosquito repellant sprays and creams, balms, tea tree oil coconut oil, etc. And make sure you’re up to date with your vaccinations.
If sleeping in parts of the world known for high mosquito counts, ensure you use mosquito nets. This applies to places like Minnesota during a summer camping trip up north.
Again, make sure you get travel insurance before you travel long-term on your next big trip, in case one of these murder flies gets the best of you. We recommend SafetyWing if you plan on traveling for a while and are looking for quality travel medical insurance. Otherwise, use TravelInsurance.com to search for a policy that fits exactly to your needs.
PRO TIP: Mosquitos LOVE sugary blood! Checking your eating habits and cutting down on sugary foods means less sugary blood and fewer mosquitos.
If you’re not a bug person, stay away from buggy areas, like rainforests…or all of Australia.
4. New “Stuff.” Everywhere. All the Time.
But what’s “Stuff?” What does that even mean? Newsflash; “Stuff” means everything. If you’re new to this idea of extremely long trips, let me tell you that whenever you go somewhere new, everything will be different from what you’re used to.
- But there are McDonald’s everywhere! Trust me; they’re different. So are the Skittles.
- Everyone has to poop! How different can bathrooms be? Did you not read the first entry?
- But, they speak English in Wales and New Zealand! Unless they only speak Welsh or Te Reo.
- People gotta get places! Booking a rental car or buying bus tickets has to be the same…right?
Does it? ‘Cause it won’t be.
Traveling around a new place will be overwhelming if you’re new to the area or a new long-term traveler. Different places have different atmospheres, different cultures, different languages, different foods, different forms of etiquette, and different laws, which you won’t fully understand until you’ve been immersed in it for a while, no matter how much reading you’ve done.
Every day of your first long-term travel trip in a new city will likely feel like an exam. Searching for and reaching a particular spot can be nothing less than a battle, and the case worsens when nobody understands your language. You have to communicate through clumsy hand gestures and noises feebly.
Arguably the biggest challenge one faces is the food. If you cannot understand what to order, you might find yourself hungry or ordering something (potentially medically) inedible. One of the best ways to ruin a long-term travel trip is a bad meal to make you miss home-cooked food.
The worst thing is doing something abroad that in your home is considered fine/NBD/fairly innocuous/yadda, yadda, yadda, but taboo, offensive, or straight-up, downright illegal.
Ask Ozzy Osbourne. Sure, they speak English in Texas, but while it was (admittedly borderline) acceptable to relieve one’s self in a shabby alleyway or building site on a drunk night out in Birmingham, England, during the 60s, 70s, 80s…90s…early 2000s (it’s gotten a lot better), old Ozzy got in a lot of trouble for peeing on the Alamo.
His defense? Through his beer goggles, it looked like a pile of rubble. Don’t pee on the Alamo – or anywhere that isn’t a genuine toilet if you want to play it safe.
The long and short of it is that culture shock is very real; if you plan to travel long term to new places around the world, from taxi drivers and public transport to organizing long haul flights and bucket list day trips, prepare for a lot of new stuff.
Some will be good stuff, some bad, but trust me, there will be more than you expect. It’s hard enough to adapt to one new place, especially if you travel slowly across the county. San Francisco, California, and Elizabethtown, Kentucky are in the US. Still, the history, people, and culture are as different as if your next destination is another country – which is also tough to adapt to!
See Related: Cheapest Places to Visit in the United States
5. Learn how to Pack Things with the 7 Ps.
This one is HUGE. Poor packing is one of the same mistakes we’ve heard from more than a couple of new long-term travel acolytes. This is especially problematic for anyone traveling long-term on a backpacking trip, where you’ll carry your life on your shoulders.
An adage that helps me pack effectively comes from my time in the British Army – the members of which are the world’s backpacking champions (unless any Falklands-era Royal Marines want to object).
The 7 Ps:
Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
In this case, consider replacing the words “planning,” “preparation,” or “performance” with “packing” – or not; it all boils down to the same jam.
If you’re traveling full-time, then packing and unpacking your stuff is a part of your daily life, so it’s important to get it right to save time, save room, save weight, save energy, save your well-being, and potentially even save your life.
We should know. Before planning long-term travel or a round-the-world trip, train yourself to pack and manage your travel bags. Regardless of how many bags you bring (fewer is better), learn how to pack efficiently.
Packing efficiently involves:
- Learning how you can make the most of the space in your luggage
- Having more frequently used/important items closer to hand
- Securing fragile items properly
A good backpacker can manage an RTW trip out of a good-sized bergen or rucksack; a great one can do it with a carry-on backpack – either way, limiting your luggage will save money.
If you must bring more than one bag, consider smart packing solutions such as packing cubes. Now think about when and where you’re going and what you plan to do there.
For example, if you’re packing for Jamaica in the summer, don’t forget your camera, factor 50 sunscreen, and shades. If you’re packing for Amsterdam or London in the fall, bring a warm coat and (any travel blog will agree) enough money (chortle).
There’s certainly no point in camping at Denali National Park without hiking clothes, survival items like first aid and water purifier kits, and a warm coat and the camera. Whatever your travel style, don’t forget to pack any medication you need securely!
See Related: Ways You Can Make Your Next Trip Easier
6. Missing home, friends, and family :'(
Homesickness can genuinely make your trip worse, especially when you are traveling alone – and I haven’t met an immune soul. Although a well-planned and executed (and insured) overseas trip is always enjoyable, one always misses some level of home comforts or family members and friends at some point.
The severity varies in everybody, but what is less obvious is when and how often it will strike, as well as what will trigger homesickness and what you will feel homesick for.
Oddly enough, some people find some zen and life-changing realization and direction from these bouts of blues, but for everyone who feels it (and it is everyone), it is a sickness of sadness.
Getting homesick over temporary homes, new friendships, and chosen families you’ve made on your travels is possible! Your vacation might be making you homesick! Dealing with homesickness is also a personal experience and can only be dealt with by the individual.
One of the more popular ways to avoid homesickness is to keep regular contact with your new and old loved ones through things like Facetime, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, and the like (or get a decent phone plan for international texting).
Another popular method is to carry around little mementos of home or souvenirs from your travels. You’ve seen backpackers with souvenir patches festooning every part of their gear and clothing. They’re the most homesick of the lot.
Another great travel tip from the army is to laminate a small-ish photo of whom or whatever you hold most dear and keep it on top of the insole of your shoe. It will be safe from rips and the elements and kept warm by your heel. Or, if you’re not on a rigorous camping trip, put it in your wallet like an adult.
7. Cashflow Problems Abroad can Risk your Health, Food, Bed, and Board.
Sorted out your travel budget? Will your bank account allow you to withdraw and use your card abroad? Are you packing enough of the right currency? Do you have a source of income while you’re traveling long-term?
Budget and money issues are all part of the travel experience, particularly if you’re planning long-term or traveling full-time. As well as paying for transportation to your destinations, you’ll need to worry about food and accommodation, as well as cash for activities and excursions as well as some padding for emergencies.
Things happen, accidents occur, flights are delayed, people get injured, and being out of pocket when the specter of extra cost raises its head can stop your adventure dead in its tracks. Build a budget before you leave, ensure you have enough funds built in for emergencies, and STICK TO IT!
If you build and adhere to a good budget, bringing cash rather than relying entirely on your bank account is still a good idea.
Most banks will let you use your cards and withdraw cash abroad, but it is always advisable to inform your bank people about your trip plan so your card isn’t locked. Luckily, many banking apps will let you tell your bank you’re traveling with the tap of a button.
That said, speaking from experience, letting your bank know you’ll be abroad is no guarantee that your card will work. Wise is a resource you can use in a pinch, but it relies on physical access as well as people back home who can send money to you. Also, it is a painful process, and I’d rather go home than ever use Western Union again.
Many long-term travelers supplement their budget (or execute their entire adventure) with funds earned from jobs they get at their destinations or from being able to work remotely. More than a few ViaTravelers contributed and have done (and still) do these on their long-term travels.
Working at a remote online job for travel blogs is one of the most common ways to manage long-term responsible travel. A good budget and a constant source of income are all well and good, but they still might not be enough to help you out in the direst circumstances.
You could be on the hook for thousands of dollars if your travels are interrupted by war, natural disasters, or unforeseen medical emergencies. In the US, for example, tackling medical expenses without insurance could easily bankrupt you.
Wherever you plan to go, don’t leave without comprehensive travel insurance – you’re entire future may depend on it. If you plan on long-term travel, we recommend using SafetyWing or VisitorsCoverage to ensure you are properly covered for health and travel expenses.
8. Profuse Sweating on all sides.
Traveling is sweaty. Sorry, it just is.
- It doesn’t matter where you travel; you will get sweaty.
- It doesn’t matter when you travel; you will get sweaty.
- It doesn’t matter how you travel; you will get sweaty.
- It shouldn’t matter why you travel, but, you will still get sweaty.
What’s more, it doesn’t matter how long you travel or what kind of clothes you wear; the sweat will still come for you – if not from you, then from those around you.
If you are traveling for extended periods, you are definitely going to come into contact with other travelers who are also sweaty – especially on planes, public transport, rideshares, or touristy bars.
Invest in cotton t-shirts to wear while actively traveling, as well as travel pocket wash kits (some of them are amazing), antiperspirant deodorant, spray, and soap, and try to stay in places where you can shower and do your laundry.
You can even go the extra mile and adjust your eating habits so your food doesn’t lend its aroma to your cassolette. Don’t believe me? Try it out! Your armpit sweat will smell way different the morning after a dinner of Chicken Tikka Masala vs a plate of Bayerische Semmelklösse and Sauerkraut.
See Related: SafetyWing Travel Insurance Review
9. Oh Lord, you are going to be misunderstood.
As hard as it may be for you to understand and adjust to the locals, they are liable to have just as hard a time understanding and adjusting to you!
Lack of understanding due to a language difference can create a big problem for your long-term travel. If you are traveling in a country where your mother tongue is not that widely spoken, communicating with the locals can be a big challenge.
To overcome this problem, learn the lingo before you go – getting yourself a free Babbel account is an excellent way of getting down to the basics.
While in the country, carry along a phrasebook, use an app like Babbel, get a translation app, and buy Travel Bananagrams. It’s a hilarious way to bond with new friends and for folks from different places to learn each other’s languages – plus, the bag is shaped like a banana, which is dope.
10. Forever saying so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye.
You will say goodbye to someone or something whenever you move on to the next leg of your journey. This is partially what I meant about getting homesick from your vacation.
It cuts differently, too. Travel slowly through Europe, hitting up every hotspot from London to Turin or Stockholm to Vienna, and you’ll be saying goodbye to locals and travelers you meet on the way, as well as fascinating, unique cultures and cities all the time.
Alternatively, if you’re spending six months working on a ranch in New Zealand, you’re gonna be saying farewell to friends you’ll remember for the rest of your life in one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful countries on Earth.
Both are hard. Saying goodbye to things and figures that have had a profound, positive impact is hard. It’s part of what makes traveling long-term hard.
Take pictures of your travels, stay in touch with the friends you meet on your adventures, be kind to yourself, and be wary of post-vacation blues.
11. Sickness is Serious
If you’re uninsured, getting sick on your long travels can be a huge risk for the trip, your health, and your finances. Anything from suffering a serious injury while rock climbing or getting a bowl of bad chowder can land you in the hospital and with a hefty bill to deal with afterward.
If it’s not the cost of healthcare that could ruin your trip (y’know aside from the reason you need the healthcare above), the access to it could make things difficult.
Exploring stunning natural wildernesses can be dangerous because wildernesses, by nature, are remote, making it harder to get to hospitals, even in emergencies. Healthcare quality varies from place to place, even within national borders.
Treat every sniffle, headache, sour tummy, scratch or scrape with extra care and listen to your body. Treat illnesses and clean wounds quickly. This all rings especially true if traveling solo or in remote locations. That and getting travel insurance. Seriously.
See Related: Useful Tips for Long Distance Train Travel
Traveling alone can sometimes be quite boring An adventure? Boring? Well, yeah, especially if you don’t have anyone to talk to or share it with.
Most solo travelers will feel lonely and crave company from time to time. If you are a social person, your trip might be hard on the heart…and the mind.
Humans are social creatures – even introverts. Studies have proved that prolonged solitude can actually drive people crazy – not that we needed studies for that, thanks to centuries’ worth of incarcerated people driven mad in solitary confinement.
You may not be completely isolated from all human contact for weeks or months on end, but being unable to bond and connect with others for extended periods can harm your mental health.
Cities can be just as lonely as savannahs. To avoid those lonely feelings, stay in touch with friends and family, and try to make new friends.
14. Constantly lugging your life around.
Whether you are a business traveler or a backpacker, you will be lugging around a bag or two for as long as you travel. This. Will. Get. Old.
If you’re backpacking through Europe or South America, humping a bergen all the way can get exhausting, and if you’ve got a bad bag, it could cause you injury.
If you have to travel for business, you might need to make sure all your suits and shirts are crisp and wrinkle-free every time you pack your case, folding them expertly every single time – it gets a little soul-crushing after a while.
Plus, there’s the issue of reducing your life to the contents of a bag – it’s restrictive and even humbling. Whatever the bag you bring, make sure it’s well made, fit for purpose, and something you’re comfortable carrying around for a while.
Do yourself a favor and pack efficiently, and if you can save any weight, do it. Heavy luggage means exhausted travelers, which means a less fun trip.
15. Making the Same Conversations again, and again, and again…
…and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and a few more times after that. When you go on long-term travels, you meet different types of people, but frequently the conversation is the same.
Locals view you as a new tourist who’ll likely have to face the same questions asked each time in each new destination.
- Where are you from?
- How long have you been traveling?
- Which is your favorite place?
- Do you like it here?
It can get a bit much, and at some point, you will be tempted to say, “None of your $#@*ing business!” And if you aren’t hanging out with locals, you’ll likely be chatting with other travelers as you share your experiences of solo long-term travel and swap notes. It can get boring, especially if it devolves into some test of oneupmanship.
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.