I was talking to Nicole from More is Better a few days ago about life plans as I was pushing her to travel the world like I push everyone to travel the world. While talking to her I realized that I didn’t know what I would do after I stopped traveling. In fact, I’ve been moving so long that I can’t picture life any other way. Travel has become a lifestyle for me. Always moving, always on the road, always somewhere different.
I still have a bunch of destinations to visit before I become “Semi-Nomadic Matt.” Eventually, though, I’ll slow down. It’s inevitable. But that scares me. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to live in one place for more than 6 months.
All of which makes me wonder — can you travel for too long? When travel becomes a lifestyle, are you really better off? Most travelers who take a long-term trip do it as a career break or take the infamous gap year that lasts for a year to a year and a half. Then it’s back home and to the real world. (Not fully, of course, because most people come back from trips like this with a new set of work/life priorities. But they still go back.) There are the digital nomads out there who work from the road and move from place to place slowly. Then there are the real long-term travelers like myself who have been going for many years, with no end in sight.
That’s when travel becomes a lifestyle. And, like any lifestyle, it’s hard and scary to give up. As much courage as it takes to step away from the cubicle and head out on the road, it takes just as much courage to step away from the road and go back to a more routine lifestyle. Travel eventually becomes all you know. It’s all I know. After about 4-5 months in one spot, I get anxious and antsy and I need to move again. I think of all the destinations worth seeing and think about how I should get there soon. I formulate plans with friends and plan holidays to far-off places. I am constantly changing where I am going and making new plans. This summer, I’m off to Europe, then Australia and New Zealand. I want to see Africa and South America. All of that means I still have years on the road ahead of me, and that I’ll be even more entrenched in this lifestyle of constant motion.
But eventually, we all need a fixed address. We can take multi-month trips to far-flung destinations, but everyone needs a place to call home. You can’t spend your whole life moving from one place to the next — it’s unrealistic. It becomes a lonely lifestyle always saying good bye to friends, never being in one place long enough to form a real relationship, never getting to know a place. Everyone needs roots at some point. Even the long, long term travelers I know eventually get a home base.
So can you travel for too long? Yes, I think you can. When travel becomes a lifestyle, I think it’s a sign you have been on the road too long. At that point, travel is your life — it’s what you do, and there is nothing else. You have no home or fixed location, and friendships are always ephemeral because, in about 5 months, you’ll be gone again. It’s a great way to live but not a great way to live forever.
I sometimes think I’ve been on the road too long. But am I ready to give up this lifestyle yet? No. Not yet. Because, when I think I might be ready, I remember I still haven’t climbed Kilimanjaro, dived in the South Pacific, or sailed down the Amazon yet, and then I realize that I still have a bit more to go with this life I lead right now.