Americans get an average of 25 days of vacation each year, so when they think of travel, they often assume it must fit into this time frame. Week-long trips can be wonderful, but often feel like a whirlwind — especially when you’re traveling internationally. By the time you get over jet-lag, it can feel like you are heading back home. This is one of the reasons my husband and I started looking into long-term travel.
Nearly six months ago we packed up our apartment in Cape Town, South Africa and hit the road. While long-term travel may not be for everyone, here are a few reasons it works for us.
Long-Term Travel is Cost-Effective
South America is at the top of our bucket list. Often the most expensive part of travel is getting there so when we go to South America, we’ll go once for 6 weeks — rather than making 6 one-week trips — to save money. Plus, the trip will be more eco-friendly because we’ll only have to fly there and back once.
We also don’t have a home or a car in America. Because we don’t have to maintain a home here, we’re able to allocate our money to our lives on the road. There are many areas of the world that are cheaper than the United States, so it can actually be money-saving to be on the road somewhere else.
We are Flexible
I think long-term travel has worked for us because we are both pretty flexible. We spent a few weeks after our honeymoon without water in South Africa because the pipes froze (we got to know each other really fast…). Whether we’re running up against frustrating border officials or locking ourselves out of a safe that contains all of our cash and our passports, we are able to roll with the punches and make it work.
Long-term travel also means that our timeline is flexible. We know roughly where we will be when for the next few months, but are able to adjust our schedule as needed. It can also help to mentally prepare for extended travel before you go on your trip.
There is Time to Invest in Relationships
My husband and I are both relational people and we enjoy getting to know people and investing in their lives. Long-term travel gives us the opportunity to build long-lasting relationships. Having the time to get to know people depends on how quickly you travel; by working slowing through countries, we have been able to build life-long friendships.
We also experienced aspects of other cultures that we never could have on shorter trips. One of the most interesting cultural experiences I’ve had was going to a Zulu funeral. When a good friend’s father died, we were thankful to be able to support her and honored that she would want to include us in such a important family function. In fact, the family considered us such honored guests that my husband ended up speaking at the funeral. We could not have had the same experience if we were just traveling short-term.
We Can Work Remotely
Most Americans get a few weeks off from work a year so the idea of long-term travel can feel overwhelming. In our case, I am a writer and my husband is a web developer. So whether we are in a coffee shop in Rwanda or Starbucks in Detroit, we can work on projects and meet deadlines. Even though we’re traveling, we are still working 40 hours a week — our scenery is just changing.
We are currently in the United States. Last month we were in Iowa, this month Michigan, and we’ll be spending April in Florida. Working remotely provides us with the flexibility we need to take care of our expenses and travel at the same time.
Long-term travel gives us the flexibility we love, saves money, and gives us time to invest in relationships. That’s why it works for us.
Have you considered long-term travel? Do you think it would work for you?