5 Reasons why I am done with long-term travel

I think this is the first time I have written an article about something personal, my emotions, how I feel as a traveler but, what the hell, we are all in quarantine, unable to travel and, after doing a small survey among my blog’s subscribers and Instagram, many of you said you would like to read something more personal while this bloody pandemic is still going on.

So, here we go.

What do you think about traveling indefinitely?

During my last African journey, I realized about something: I am quite done with long-term travel, done with several-month trips, so traveling permanently.

I am done, really, and it’s neither a joke nor a bluff but this is something I have been thinking about for a while.

To put this in context, I have been traveling for almost 4 years non-stop, with little breaks in between, yes, 7 months in Tbilisi for example, but no matter how big the apartment you rent at the end of the day, you are living out of a backpack and you know you will be there just temporarily.

Something you need to know is that traveling permanently doesn’t have much to do with visiting a country during your 2-week holidays, like not at all, as when you travel without a specific deadline, you don’t really plan every day in advance, but just improvise on the way and don’t worry too much.

And I have to admit it.

Waking up in the morning in an exotic country, with no specific plan, knowing that you have all the time in the world is an awesome feeling, pure happiness, peace and serenity.

Throughout these years, I have experienced the most incredible adventures, met extremely awesome travelers and, above all, I realized that the world is filled with kind-hearted, good, hospitable people, many of whom give me goosebumps every time they come back into my memory.

Read: Airbnb in a Palestinian refugee camp

A family of Palestinian refugees we stayed with, one of the best experiences in our lifetime

The experiences I had in the last years are priceless and, from eliminating any sort of prejudice to learning the true meaning of hospitality, these trips have definitely made me a better person.

Concurrently with all these experiences, I have managed to create a travel blog from which I make a full living and, along with it, many readers email me every week telling me their fears, concerns, stories, and experiences, but one of the sentences that pops-up the most in my inbox is:

Joan, I really admire your lifestyle, I also dream of becoming a full-time traveler one day.

Is traveling indefinitely an enviable life?

In the beginning, I thought I could spend half of my life with this lifestyle but over time, while traveling still is my favorite hobby, I came to the conclusion that, at a personal level, it comes at a cost, and the longer you travel, the higher this cost is.

That’s why after thinking a lot about it, I have decided to put an end to my vagabond life.

Here are all my reasons:

 

1 – I need a home

I will be honest here.

Not having a fixed place to come back to has been causing me a lot of anxiety for the last year.

After my trip to Ethiopia, I didn’t have any specific plan, but my initial idea was to hang out in a cool European city, maybe Amsterdam or Tbilisi, and enjoy my time until I figured out what the hell to do with my life.

And yes, it sounded like a plan but after being on the road for a while, having your own house you can come back to after a long trip becomes a primary need – and by your own house, I mean your house, not your family’s, which is where I am spending my quarantine because I don’t have a home precisely.

It is not about a place where you can keep your stuff or the place where can you take a break from traveling, but it is about everything that has to do with the term ”home”:

Feeling a sense of belonging, having a permanent circle of friends, a routine, doing normal things such as going to the theater or, what the hell, maybe starting a family one day as well.

Tbilisi, Kyiv and Mexico City are some of the cities where I have spent a fair amount of time in the last few years, which was awesome, but having to start from 0 in a city every couple of months isn’t something I want to do anymore.

Furthermore, call me materialist if you like, I don’t care but, in the end, having a wall where you can hang your photos, buying kitchen utensils or even having a wardrobe with clothes for each and every season of the year, are all small details you actually miss when you have been living out of a backpack for too long.

For now, finding a base and a place to live in is the top priority.

Kyiv is a great city, one of my favorite cities in Europe

 

2 – You can’t live in a parallel reality forever

One of the greatest advantages of traveling to unusual countries is that you also meet plenty of unusual travelers, meaning well-traveled people with loads of stories to tell.

During my trip to Pakistan, I traveled for a week with an eccentric 65-year old Australian man, who had been traveling non-stop for more than 40 years, and that was his 19th time in Pakistan.

He was a great traveler who had backpacked all around the world, a real one, not one who just does it for the gram, with loads of inspirational tales that made me realize that I was just a novice with a long way to go,

I admired his philosophy but, after some days, when our conversations began to be more personal and deeper, I realized that he wasn’t a happy person and even he recognized that being a permanent traveler has a price and that price is getting trapped in a parallel reality, without the possibility of going back.

When you are traveling long-term, you are in a bubble that kind of makes everything outside of this bubble stop in time, and by outside of this bubble I mean your circle, your home.

Look, I am lucky to have quite a few circles of friends back home with whom I always try to keep in touch, and we have great parties every time I come back but, no matter how hard you try, distancing is something unavoidable.

And not only because you don’t get to see them – this would happen to any person who lives abroad – but because, when you are in that bubble, your world’s perspective changes, you change as a person and you realize that, every day, you have less and less in common with your friends from childhood.

After spending all his life traveling, this Australian told me he felt he didn’t belong anywhere, not even in his home country, he had been away from actual society for too long.

How long can we all live in that parallel reality?

I believe that like everything in life, you need to find a balance between doing what makes you happy and keeping your roots, because your roots, the place where you come from, Catalonia in my case, is part of your identity and something you should never lose. 

Enjoying my parallel reality, somewhere in Pakistan

 

3 – Traveling long-term is exhausting and unhealthy

Traveling for 8 hours in an overpacked mini-van where you get a 20-centimeter seat, sleeping every night with the fear of getting bed bugs or getting a cold shower out of a bucket.

On the bright side, traveling to these countries made me realize that we are disgustingly privileged and the most fucked up thing here would be not admitting or knowing it.

But on the other side, how long can we live without our comforts from the Western world?

Backpacking in hardcore countries is pretty tough, especially for people like me who walk around with 10kg of gear and electronics on a normal day, apart from a tent, a sleeping bag, a mattress, and all my clothes.

However, food is my biggest struggle.

First of all, because I am a foodie and second of all, because I am a very obsessive person when it comes to nutrition and eating healthily and, in these countries, food options are limited, you eat at random times and it’s very difficult to keep a healthy diet for more than 2 days in a row.

Besides, since you are on permanent vacation, it’s never a bad time for a beer, plus you barely do any sport – walking isn’t a sport – and this can’t be good for your body in the long-term.

I love camping and sleeping in the wild but not for many days in a row

 

4 – Traveling too much makes you lose your interest

This happens to everybody.

During the first few weeks of your trip, you just marvel at all the things you see and do.

You take photos of absolutely everything that’s moving, say good morning to all locals, visit all possible monuments and try to wake up at sunrise so you have time to visit everything.

However, over the days, losing interest in your trip is unavoidable.

Basically, you become lazier.

I mean, one keeps enjoying the trip but, when you have been traveling for weeks, you start prioritizing social life rather than the country itself, you are lazy about taking good pics and tend to skip ”similar” monuments.

I mean, who didn’t feel the desire to committe suicide after checking out their 28th Buddhist temple in South East Asia?

Your enthusiasm and WOW effect can’t last forever.

Enjoying my time in Saudi Arabia with a group of Saudis

 

5 – If you make a living from a travel blog, traveling long-term is exhausting

This is a fucked-up thing which is related to the previous point.

When I get into the lack-of-interest or lazy-stage, instead of lying down under the sun with a beer or two, I feel a tremendous obligation to keep taking photos and visiting places I don’t want to.

And that’s because of the blog.

In the past, this was a situation I could deal with without any problem but, over time, it is becoming very unpleasant.

During the first week of any trip, I feel very motivated because, truth to be told, I absolutely love and enjoy taking photos and notes, looking for specific information, asking for prices, etc., but can you imagine doing this every day for months?

Sometimes, I don’t really want to visit a certain place, but I do visit it because I need the information to write on my blog, as I want all my guides and articles to be complete, excellent and of high quality.

Of all the reasons, this was the one that affected me first, and the only feasible solution I see is focusing on specific, short trips in order to keep my motivation at 100%.

Sometimes, you are more focused on taking the right shot for your blog than enjoying the place itself

 

Conclusion

So, what is going to happen with Against the Compass?

If you read this article in detail, I hope you understood that it is not that I am done with traveling but it is a matter of changing my lifestyle.

Traveling and learning from other cultures is and will still be my ultimate hobby but, instead of making long trips, I feel like doing 1 or 2-month trips to 1 specific destination every X months.

In any case, I don’t want to have a specific plan but the point is doing whatever the f*** I want, whenever the f*** I please.

This is how I feel right now, but also be aware that I can be quite an unpredictable person, so don’t dismiss the possibility that I could also get the travel bug again out of the blue, and get the hell out with no clear direction.

For example, I have always wanted to travel from Barcelona to South Africa through the Western part of Africa, but this is a trip I don’t really want to do backpacking but with a van and accompanied, plus I am not in a rush.

Who knows, but right now my top priority is to find a base, a place to live and take things easier but just to tell you that so far, you will have Against the Compass for a while. Big hug.

30 comments

  1. Hi, I am a 65yr old Australian – but not the one you refer to! I admire your honesty on this. I have spent a lot of time travelling overseas and have spent a good proportion of the last few years (since retirement) mostly in the Andes, Himalayas and US Rockies. (I like mountains!) But the concerns you raise ring sooooo true with me. Being single, childless and retired means I can pretty much go anywhere anytime. (Lucky me.) However, travelling alone can be a pain in the arse – it can have some positives but for me the negatives are bigger (plus finding another older ‘adventurer’ is really hard). There is also the desire to avoid just ‘ticking the boxes’ on all the tourist places. And, the idea of a ‘Home’ is also critical. I have a nice small apartment and in 2019 for the first time I rented it while I went away for a year. But despite the welcome rental income I was paranoid that no matter how good the tenant was ‘my home’ would be at least a bit damaged when I got back. Then I had to return several months early due to some mystery illness (no big deal in the end). That meant nowhere to stay so the money spent on cheap motels was way more than any gains from the overall rental income. When I did get the apartment back it was – miraculously – in almost perfect condition. However, all up I thought that even though I got rental income giving up ‘my home’ was not worth it. It is that important, mentally, to me.
    I feel there is a bit of an edge to your rant and maybe you are not feeling so great stuck with your parents in these crazy times. Whenever we step outside the box there is always seems to be a price to be paid. A price you may be acutely aware of right now! 🙂
    International travel is going to be off the menu for a while it seems and it has seriously stuffed up my high altitude trekking plans. And at 65 I know my trekking days are limited.
    Anyway, hang in there. I think it is simply a time for reflection. No one says you have to be do this blog for the rest of your life. It has been an experience and it might be time to move on. It was good while it lasted!
    One last thing, I can also vouch for the fact that it critical to keep a circle of friends … somewhere. Of course it makes sense that it is where you grew up or lived for a long time but (as you note) your lives have gone different directions. They can’t appreciate the ‘bigness’ of your adventure and you can’t understand the ‘smallness’ of theirs. That is a real dilemma. One to which I have no answer!
    Good luck, and thanks for the blog.
    Regards
    Grahame

    1. Thank you Grahame for your very fruitful comment and reflection, and liked very much when you said that giving up your home wasn’t worth it. I don’t have a home but I totally feel you 🙂
      And by the way, this year will definitely not be your trekking year but at 65, most people still have a long way to go, and the mountains will still be there next year, and you will enjoy them more than never.
      And yes, it is time of big reflections now. To be honest, leaving my blog behind hasn’t crossed my mind yet but on the contrary, as I have in mind a few side-related-projects, which work on now that we aren’t on the road anymore.

  2. SUZANNE DRAGAN

    Hi Joan,
    “There is no place like home.” As much as traveling to off-beat & exotic places, I love coming home to my own bed, my own bathroom & most importantly, my cherished my animals. (I am blessed to have found a very loving and responsible pet-sitter who is willing to care for my menagerie of rescued and special-needs animals.) Extensive traveling is like trying to eat an entire chocolate cake– after the first slice or maybe the second, it tastes too rich and sweet and you can’t really appreciate it. Better to have small pieces that you can savor.
    I wish you well on your New Adventure of settling down to a spot where make a home, have friends and enjoy the simple things. Be happy & healthy.

  3. Very true, home and friends are essential. We travel 6-7 months and then back home during European summer.
    Everybody will loose interest after seeing temple number 50 in Asia, or market places in Africa.

    Kind regards,

    Arend de Roo

    1. oh, markets! True that people are different in every market, but visiting a traditional market is like a must-do activity from each and every village/city, from each and every country I have been for the last 4 years 😀

  4. Reading your words, I can hear your tiredness.
    Your honesty has always come through in your writing, it’s what keeps me following you. I travelled for 2 years and so much of what you share are feelings I too felt. I was lucky enough to afford to keep my apartment in Greece while I travelled and returning every few months, or even knowing I had a home if I needed it mattered. In short I get it.
    You have a gift, in how you communicate. I’m lucky to have found against the compass, can you believe I’d had to cancel trips to Jazan in Saudi and Somaliland just as the virus took hold. You were so helpful to me to plan these trips.
    Take care of yourself, find the wall for your photos. I will miss your travels x

  5. I kind of understand you.

    I traveled a lot in my life and I lived in 8 countries. I loved my life this way. Hence, I thought long-term traveling would be the best thing for me for the rest of my life. So, I left Germany to travel. But after every 2 or 2,5 months, I actually had enough and I wanted to be home. After 2 months I always lost interest in traveling and I wasn’t impressed anymore from a lot of things that others might get impressed. And I just kept pushing myself because I wanted to make sure that I have nice photos and a lot of information for my blog. When I forgot something or didn’t have the best photos, I felt frustrated. Also I actually never had enough time to write all my blogs because I was just non-stop on the road. I’m trying to do them now. But it’s so much at the same time.

    I was also thinking about settling down somewhere and only travel like 3-4 weeks every 2-3 months or something like that. But I was wondering about travel bloggers who can actually afford to stay in hotels all the time. Of course, we get tired of staying in hostels and doing Couchsurfing all the time. But would we feel differently if we could afford to be on the road permanently using comfortable hotels all the time?

    1. Hello Diana!
      To be very honest, I haven’t done Couchsurfing for a long time now – since the last time I was in Oman I think – and I think the last time I stayed in a hostel was more than 1 year ago. On the last trip, and also in Eastern Europe, except for when I was camping or in fucked up rural parts of Ethiopia and Eritrea, I have been mostly staying in nice hotels – for backpacking standards – or renting full apartments, but I got more tired than ever. Traveling with a certain comfort surely helps, but it is just one factor from many.

      Good luck in your blogging journey and settling down somewhere, it’s definitely the best choice 😉

  6. I agree with every point you made. I’ve been traveling non stop for almost 5 years and I am EXHAUSTED. I resonate with this post so much, but I am still not sure if I’m ready to settle because that’s also scary. I know I need a change, and I’m thankful of the stay at home order now because it is finally allowing me to slow down a bit

  7. Hi Joan, I’m an Australian female in my 60s and I’ve been living out of a backpack for the last 10 years. I couldn’t do it without:
    Home base – this is in Pushkar, Rajasthan, where I have lots of friends. I stay there for a couple of months every year, and I can store a small bag to swap around my clothing options. I also return to the same 3-4 countries or places a year, often living in the same room, in the same guesthouse, and eat at the same places as on previous visits, because ‘travel burnout’ is a very real thing!
    Family – meeting up here and there in the world with my daughter, her husband, and my grandson are very important to sustaining my life on the road. We were together in Bali (me from Penang, them from Ibiza) when the pressure came for us all to fly to south-west Australia to wait out this pandemic together.
    Health – food is often a decisive factor in where I go these days. I returned to Ethiopia and stayed for nearly three months in Addis Ababa just to eat at the wonderful vegan buffet of Taitu Hotel every day! India suits me best for vegetarian food but I’ve also enjoyed months in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt and other Muslim countries where eating meat is standard. A daily 1-hour yoga practice helps me stay strong, flexible and balanced.
    No ‘must dos’ – I no longer visit many tourist attractions and I take very few photos, but I will ride in local transport for 24hrs to stay in a place which has a unique culture, such as Siwa Oasis, Egypt or Lake Turkana, Kenya.
    Income – this is from my rental properties in Australia. Whilst it’s a blessing to have my retirement income taken care of, it does confine me to budget travel so it’s lucky that I prefer to live in the style of a ‘pilgrim’.
    Internet connection – I’m very interested in politics and social change and it would drive me crazy to have to rely on locals for ‘news’ so some internet is a MUST.
    I wish you all the best for your future travel plans, Joan, and support your plans for creating your own home base and family… and thank you so much for the interesting cover of your most recent East Africa trip!!! I’m planning my visit to Eritrea when the pandemic ends.

  8. Very interesting article. I can definitely relate to what you’re saying. I started off in 2002 and traveled full time for 2 years. I loved it, but as you say, over 700 nights in hotel rooms gets old. As does eating out all the time.

    I still travel about 6 months out of the year, but have a full time base here in Thailand. I just do 2-3 month trips, then head home. Been doing this for over 10 years now. It’s nice to be able to go back to your own house, your own bed and your own pillow! And all your stuff….LOL

  9. Hi Joan, I have always loved to travel and would take my holidays every year or two and go away for 3 or 4 weeks overseas. At the end of 2009, age 50 I lost my job. I have a house and grown up kids and a husband. My husband married me knowing how much I love to travel and accepted that I would go away and leave him ( he doesn’t like to travel overseas). 2010 I took off to Argentina with plans for a 12 month trip. 9 Months in I went home as I was home sick but 3 months later I was on the plane again to take up where I left off and headed for Colombia. Had 3 months there and was happy to go home at the end of that time. Since then I have continued to travel, sometimes twice a year but always once a year for sure. Sometimes it is for a month, sometimes 3 or 4 months. All depending on where I am going and only going to a place that I am interested in, never just to tick a box. This has worked for me as I get inspired, book a ticket and go. I retired went I left work in 2009 so the only one I needed to consider was my husband. The shorter times away work for me so I hope it works out for you as well. As for now, I should have been in Central Asia but my husband developed a hernia about 2 weeks after I booked my flights. Blessing in disguise as otherwise I would have been caught up in trying to get home to Australia re corona virus. As for my husband and holidays, we travel together in Australia so he is not neglected either! I find though that I get itchy feet and long to get away if I stay at home for more than 6 months. Content until then but start to get irritated and a longing to get back on the road. A life on the road is hard, you have to do everything yourself but I know that I have ”home” to come back to. Thankyou for your blogs and wishing you all the best for the future.

  10. Hi Joan, congrats on your honesty. I know it can be difficult to address personal issues, especially on a blog.
    I’ve followed you for a while and admire your courage as a traveler and as a person.
    I totally hear you when you raise your concerns with long-term traveling. I’m not that kind of traveler myself (just occasionally), but I’ve been an expat for more than 7 years now. That means I relate to some of the reasons you mentioned. And yes, starting from scratch in a country can be daunting, yet extremely rewarding.
    I agree with what other people commented around here. This current time is a period of self-reflection. Take your time, think it through, find a home and keep going at your own pace. Slower travel doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy as much.

    ¡Mucha suerte y un abrazo desde Bolivia!

    1. Thank you! Yes, expat life can relate to long-term travel, so we are in a similar boat. Before leaving my job to travel, I was also an expat for 3 years. It was a comfortable life, but I also was in a place that I could never consider home.

      Have a great time in Bolivia. It is on my post-Corona plans, as my Catalan family, including my grandmother, exiled to Cochabamba during Spain’s dictatorship, and they lived there for 2 decades. Would like to discover those family roots.

  11. I hear you! I have been working as cruise director/tourleader for the past… 20 years or so. I have a room in my Mom’s house, but cannot remember when I spent more than 2 weeks in Germany the last time. When I was not working I was travelling on my own to contrast the tours I was accompanying. Last year I worked 10 months and was seriously debating taking a year off to recharge my own batteries… That desicion has now been taken away from me now … There will not be any work in the foreseeable future for me … I made it home a day before lock down which is a good thing, so my Mom is not all alone and does not have to worry about me.
    But do I want to settle completely? No! I want to travel more. But this time off will certainly help to recharge and enjoy travelling again after this is over. But for now I sure enjoy being home – could do without the restrictions, though…

  12. Super interesting to hear your perspective!

    I’m trying to better understand why I travel?… and I still don’t have a well thought out answer… but I know for sure that it is not so much about crossing borders… but rather experiencing the feeling of freedom enabled by travel… to do what I want, when I want, how I want, etc…

    I work a 9-5 with limited freedom… many of those hours are spent dreaming of discovering people, cultures, landscapes… the long waits make the adventures tastier.
    I suppose when free time is a scarce resource (and we know there is an endpoint to the experience) we end up having to value it more…

    In my case, I work a 9-5 with 22 days of leave. It’s simply not enough to quench my thirst for travel… I’m 28 and I want to squeeze in as many travel experiences as possible before I end up married with kids (which will make certain locations and travel styles less viable)…

    In a perfect world, I would like to travel for 4 months of the year… enough time to travel slowly and stay extra time in the places I particularly enjoy. The remainder of the year I would like to work on other projects… and have time to digest all my travel experiences.

    Anyway, you’ve created an awesome blog, platform and following. If you were ever to pivot the blog in a different direction… one that doesn’t require quite as much Vagabonding and allows for a more balanced life I’m certain it would be great!

  13. Hi Joan

    Thank you for your amazing and honest post. I just wanted to say that I could not really be more opposite to you. I am 53, married to my first love for 30 years, own my own house, have 2 great grown-up kids and I have not really been anywhere other than a few business trips.

    I say this not to be smart or to imply my life is better than yours or yours is better than mine but just to say that I have now found peace with not travelling. Don’t get me wrong as a kid I wanted to travel, as a young man I wanted to travel but now I just see it as chasing rainbows, chasing a life that is without real meaning, without purpose.

    Why do people travel? is it to see amazing places? yes, it is to experience other people? yes, is it to find a sense of purpose though? I am not convinced it can actually offer that. I believe purpose comes from the love of a family and friends and the love that they offer us. Solo travelling must be such an insular, inward-looking experience with regards to them?

    We all enjoy seeing your travels, seeing the people you meet but we are like hungry animals waiting for the next morsel of “travelling story” and while I am confident you have true friends in your followers, should you be selling your soul and your precious time to keep them (us) fed with stories of lives that they also feel they are missing out on?

    There is no way that constant travel can be enough because it is so fleeting and transitory. Have some time off and reconnect with your family and friends and feel their love.

    I hope you find this positive because it was certainly written in that way.

    1. Thanks for sharing your perspective, Gary!
      Everybody should just be doing what makes them happy and traveling has made very happy all these years, but now I need a break but still, I will be traveling, that’s guaranteed,
      On the other hand, to answer your question, I travel because I have always been a curious person, interested in other cultures, and for me, learning about them and becoming wiser is a hobby. Then, when you travel you also get the sense of adventure, adrenaline rush, etc., and that’s a feeling many travelers like as well.

  14. I admire your honesty… and you’re always an interesting read!
    I’ve done a fair number of longer trips. However, I now have a permanent work contract for 8 months a year – when I take off each year to be negotiated… it has worked well so far – and given me at least some balance!

  15. Joan,
    Uno de los mejores artículos que he leído al día de hoy.
    Nos has compartido quizás la mejor lección de vida.
    Gracias.
    Rodrigo.

  16. Joan,

    First of all, I have to thank you for all the valuable information you have posted online,I have used many of your tips during my trips. Also, you’re one of the few travelers that goes into very rural places of the world, which is the type of traveling that I love to do. you have inspired me to travel solo and explore the world without fear. I went to Myanmar, Loikaw to visit the Padaung woman in 2017, I was not sure about taking this trip until I came across an article that you wrote back then, I could not find any info online about this place until I found your page. I normally travel once a year for a month and have found great satisfaction by doing so. Every time I leave the country(USA) I get exited and come back full of positive vibes and re-energized. I hope you keep up with your blog over the years, can’t wait to hear about your great future adventures, you’re awesome man.

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