Long-term travel: top tips for a fulfilling trip

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Most of us have fantasised about ditching the daily grind of the office job and domestic duties for a one-way ticket to happiness. Now more people are taking action in striving for a more meaningful existence, and travel is at the top of the list.

The ease of leveraging digital technology is giving rise to a new workforce – digital nomads. It’s now possible to work from any far-flung corner of the world. Couple this with the increase in budget airlines offering low-cost airfares and the dream is fast becoming a reality for a lot of people.

While there’s no doubt long-term travel can be a rich and rewarding experience, it does come with its own set of challenges. These tips will help you maintain your new nomadic lifestyle – and avoid chucking it all in after a few weeks.

suitcases by Phineas H. Creative Commons Attribution Licence Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)suitcases by Phineas H. Creative Commons Attribution Licence Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Pack like a pro

Pack very light. This is an obvious tip but one that can’t be underestimated. Invest in a good lightweight backpack from a reputable store that can fit you for the right size and weight. Don’t stock up on basic toiletries at home, you can buy items like shampoo, soap and toothpaste anywhere and you’ll find a lot of hostels now supply these, so avoid the extra weight and just pack the essentials. Also invest in a set of packing cubes which helps separate your clothing and mean no more dragging everything out of your pack to get that one t-shirt.

Save on accommodation

A long-term traveller’s biggest expense is accommodation and it’s the first place to start making savings. Try Couchsurfing or Airbnb, join the YMCA in destinations you’re visiting for discounts, and ask at hostels if there is any work going where you can swap a shift for a couple of night’s accom. If you plan on being based somewhere for a while, look into short-term rentals or sublets rather than hotels.

Long-term travel = slow travel

While it’s easy enough to travel at a frantic pace for a month or so, this is not sustainable in the long term. If you move too fast, stresses and exhaustion will outweigh the benefits of travel. Slow it down and spend at least one week in each place where possible. Set time aside for relaxing and just taking it easy in between those early starts and late nights.

Two runners using a path in Green Park

A run in the park by garryknight. Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike Licence 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Exercise

It’s difficult to find the time and place for exercise when you’re on the road but it’s essential for maintaining your health and keeping a positive state of mind. If you’re near a park or the beach, go for a run, take a swim or do a spot of yoga. Ask around about gyms or fitness centres that offer facilities for day visitors. As most people travel with laptops these days, it’s easy enough to download your favourite exercise DVDs before you leave home, then all you need is a little bit of floor space – no more excuses!

Log your expenses

Money can take on a ‘Monopoly’ feel when you’re dealing with different currency all the time or swiping your credit card all over the place. Make sure you keep a log of expenses so you know exactly where it’s going. Create a basic spreadsheet on your laptop and update it at the end of each day, each week or whatever works best for you. Otherwise before you know it, you can be back at zero in your account without a flight home.

Back up

Have a good back-up system for all your files and photos. If travelling with a laptop, grab yourself a portable hard drive like the Seagate Go Flex and back up every so often – particularly if you are working on the road. Save your digital photos to your computer and send the original memory cards home for safekeeping. Or open an online storage account like Dropbox. Otherwise you could lose months of memories and important documents.

A couple watching the sun setSunset by raj_nair81. Creative Commons Attribution Licence Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Treat yourself

For most of us, travelling long term means travelling on a budget – cramped hostels, hard beds and cold showers. It’s inevitable that you’ll get fed up and yearn for a bit of indulgence so treat yourself every so often, no matter what it is. Eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant or stay at a boutique hotel for a night or two to break things up.

Know why you are travelling

Before you jump on that plane it’s important to know why you have decided to take this new path. What’s your travel goal? What do you hope to get out of this experience? Once you have established this, have your travel goal or ‘mission statement’ written somewhere. You’ll have hard times on the road and you need to remind yourself why you’re doing it in the first place.