The Downside to Long Term Travel

By Nomadic Matt | Published September 21st, 2009

Solo TravelerWhen I meet people and tell them about what I do or how long I have been traveling, their response is usually something like, “Wow! That is so awesome! You’re so lucky! I wish I could do something like that!” To most people, my job is the best job in the world. Essentially, I get paid to travel. And who wouldn’t want to get paid to travel the world? But people only think of the good side. After a while, I get tired of explaining what I do. Now, I rarely ever mention it when I meet people. My lifestyle is not all glitter and gold and I hate the gushing. The grass is always greener on the other side.

When I started my blog, my goal was to become a travel writer. I wanted my name in guidebooks. But then I interviewed guidebook authors and quickly realized that their jobs were not the idealized professions I had in my head. They work long hours, have to travel quickly, and are under tight deadlines.

The same can be said about long-term travel. There are many great things about traveling forever. But long-term travel presents you with a lonely existence sometimes. Like everything there are many downsides.

I once asked if you could travel for too long. Two or three years of constant, always-on-the-move travel can wear a person down. It’s not that you can only travel for two years and never again – it’s that you can only be on the move for so long before you long for something like roots. Travel offers people the chance to see new places, experience new cultures, make new friends, and learn about themselves. But whether you are on a 6-month, 1-year, 2-year, or open-ended trip, there are also downsides.

For starters, relationships are ephemeral. I have said more goodbyes in three years than anyone should say in their lifetime. I recently traveled with a Canadian girl who said to me, “You must be used to goodbyes by now huh?” The way she said it was very sad but she was right. I do have to say goodbye too much. One of the best things about traveling is all the people you meet. But one of the worst things about traveling is also all the people you meet. After years of hellos and goodbyes, you can become numb to it all. Sometimes, I just don’t want to meet anyone. You develop a sense of detachment. Why should you open yourself up again just to say another goodbye? It makes you more guarded. Not all the time but sometimes too often. Because, despite the best intentions and Facebook, you know that 90% of the people you say goodbye to, you’ll never see again. Your life is filled with 24-hour friends who made that brief time great, but are soon gone. Who wants a life filled with that?

Secondly, it makes having a relationship with the opposite sex extremely hard. It’s hard to find love on the road. It does happen, but relationships tend to last as long as you are both traveling together, or as long as you are both staying in the same city. I haven’t had a girlfriend for longer than three months in years. I’d love to have one for longer, but I’m always on the move. Moreover, most girls don’t want to get into a relationship with you if they know there is no hope of you settling down. It’s hard to make a commitment when you already know there is no future. The reality is, just like with friendships, relationships are hard – and harder when you know you are leaving in just a short time.

Finally, you get tired. Really tired. Of traveling. Of everything. After a while, everything becomes just another “one of.” That 100th church, 100th waterfall, 40th hostel, 800th bus ride, 600th bar… it’s not the same after a while. It loses its charm and luster. Travel becomes unexciting. Ask any traveler – at some point, they hit that point where they are sick of traveling. They just need a few days or weeks to recharge their batteries. After three years, I move a lot slower than I used to. I’m in no rush now. If I want to spend 12 hours out sightseeing, I can, but I tend to be out for a few hours and just relax the rest of the time. After all, I’ll be wherever I am for a while. Slow travel is better travel, and it fights the “just another” syndrome. But even still, travel can become exhausting, and there are times you never want to see anything with the word “historic” in front of it ever again. Some days I just want to spend a week in front of my computer watching movies and TV.

Long-term travel takes a certain type of person to enjoy. You need to be independent, you need to be able to spend lots of time alone, you need to be flexible, and you need to be able to deal with constant change. After all, how many goodbyes can you say? How often can you have 24-hour friends? How long can you go without a steady relationship? How long can you move without having a home? These are questions I wonder about. Eventually, I’ll find the answers. I don’t think people can move forever unless they are trying to escape something.

Me, I’m just trying to see things. I have another two years of travel planned before I become Semi-Nomadic Matt. Two years is a long time away to really know anything.

But I do know that these negatives are like snowballs. They start out small, but get bigger and bigger the longer you travel. And, I think eventually, they roll over us all.

comments 92 Comments

I definitely know what you mean with the 24 hour friends. I just spent 4 months in Australia and New Zealand and there were times where I didn’t want to put the effort in to meet people if I was leaving the next day. I didn’t think 4 months would be a long time but it was enough to start to wear sometimes. That said, I was home and starting to recharge before I was sick of it.

Thanks for the thought-provoking piece, Matt. I know long-term travel isn’t all it’s cut out to be, and yet there is something about it that is very appealing. Thank you for putting it into a more grounded and realistic perspective.

So true. I can feel it even with our little amount of travel (comparing to you). I think it’s in the human nature, we get easily tired of anything. We need varation but also time in between all the sights to melt it all.

Regarding relationship and travel: you need to find a love that shares your love for travel :-) I got it and I’m sooooo grateful. It’s simply wonderful in several aspects. I got someone to share all the things I meet, the good, the bad and the ugly… plus the goodbyes don’t affect you as badly.

Slow travel is definitely the best way. We would love to go RTW for the rest of our lives, staying at one place as long as we feel that we have something to get or give to that place! But, we need some more money to do that, we’re not interested in doing that on the lowest backpacking level…. (We’re too old for that :-)

Maybe it will just stay as a dream. We’re doing some kind of slow travel with our trips now and we’re planning to maybe get away over the winters in the future too, maybe it’s enough – after reading your post….

Wow.

I’m tempted to go travelling, but there is some harsh realities right there. The relationships isn’t a problem (haven’t had a girlfriend in 2 years), but the friendship thing can drag. I felt that on my last trip to Japan whereby I said goodbye to a few good people, but I don’t know. I’ve become good friends with people I travelled with when I was just starting out, though I don’t even automatically add people to facebook when I’m travelling now, even if we spend weeks together. Also, what do you say? “Goodbye?”. Seems very final. I prefer safe travels :).

My jump into a nomadic lifestyle is really just a working holiday in Australia, so I will be in one place for a year. Would that make it harder saying goodbye at the end? Or easier?

So many questions, all I know is I can’t wait to answer them! :)

jan

that is your best article so far.
I can confirm that. It does wear off to be excited to see new places. when i was on the move, that was the reason why i decided not to see some places, but instead “safe them for later”.
on sad thing i found out is that the feeling does not come back. you get used to travel lifestyle. it’s hard to get flashed by an amazing beach after you have seen 100.
the good thing tho is that meeting people will always be exciting and never wears off. if i ever plan another long trip again, i will spend like 3 month in a place and really dive deep into it. it’s not about collecting countries, cities and places in your travel log. It’s more about your feeling, let yourself drift and stay as long as you feel.

So it’s up to you. if you feel you wear off, skip the sights, they don’t matter, try to find more contact to locals. either expat locals or local locals, slow down, plan to see less places and stay longer. it really makes a difference imho.

I see what you mean. There is always a back side to everything. But does this mean you advice against long term traveling?
For us it has been great, it has had life changing qualities and that is why we want to encourage more people to take the opportunity to travel long term on our blog http://www.extendedworldtravel.com . We see so many benefits.
We have traveled as a family and in that sense we haven’t been lonely, we’ve always had each other. And there are also lots of couples who travel together, so I am sure it can work. Maybe you have just been unlucky? And we still have many friends who we’ve met on our journeys. Some we’ve visited again, some we will visit and some have visited us in our home.
But yes we have still had a place that we call home and that we’ve been able to return to. That comfort I think has meant a lot to us.

Hi Matt
This article is a timely read – just as I am contemplating whether I should leave everything behind and go solo travelling next year. I’ve had to ask myself : do I really have what it takes, and what are my motivations? Am I chasing something (to do list) or running away from something (demons past)? I think I’ll stick to travel in small chunks for now, will decide on the big one when I am very sure and well-prepared. Safe travels, A

Love this post Matt. I am heading home in just three days after 11 months on the road and find that the weariness you speak of set in about a month ago. Though I plan to head out again, I do need to recharge the batteries for a while :-) Everything you talk about though is just spot-on :-)

So poignant. People often ask us what the hardest part of long term travel is, and I point to the community aspects. I do miss having a constant rooted community – the group of friends you can call on a whim and have a movie night planned for that evening.

But for now, the different style of spread out community works well for me. We seem to have become more nomadic, as opposed to vagabonds – in that we have several communities in different locations that we rove between. Putting the energy into developing several home bases – places where we pull in, stay a while and have people we consider our community around, has paid off big time. We know when we leave, that we’ll be back at some point. It’s not a good bye, but an ‘until next time’. And we’re driven to return for both the place and the community. Being at a home base, as opposed to visiting different places along the way – definitely has a different feel for me. Love them both, and for now – loving that I can have both.

As far as finding love on the road – it can happen. My partner Chris started out solo, and we met in the course of his travels and my starting to explore a more location independent lifestyle. It became quickly evident that our adventures could be meshed together. Traveling with a partner has been amazing for us, and we’re now entering 2.5 years of travel together.

– Cherie

Hi Cherie, I love this Idea. It is definitely a lifestyle I am working towards. Tell me, do you live between different countries? or different places i the same country?

Hi Emma..

Currently, we’re traveling around our home country of the USA. We’ve found that domestic nomadism has some definite benefits that both feed our wanderlust and give us the community aspects we crave.

In the future, we’ll likely return to including more global travel. For now.. it works for us.

– Cherie

True words, Matt. I wrote a while back about it. Called it travel fatigue. I ended up staying for a couple months in just one place, hanging out with the long-timers in Palolem, India. Sounds like you need to stay somewhere a bit longer. Feeling with you, mate!

Take care,
Boris

Taylor Davidson

You’ve been traveling longer than me, and I know what you’re feeling :)

Yes, you meet a lot of people traveling and most you won’t stay in touch with, but it’s a cool feeling to know you have a global network of travel friends. For example, Facebook updates showed me recently that the friend I traveled with the longest last year (8 weeks) had finally landed in the western US. I immediately invited him to stay with me near Washington DC. Someday I’d hope to visit him in London or wherever he comes to a halt.

And just this morning I received a FB message from a German girl I spent Christmas Eve with 2 years ago in Queenstown. I missed visiting her when I was in Europe, but staying on one and other’s radars has helped make a meeting possible after all, in my hometown of all places.

After 15 months of continuous travel, I needed a break from the typical hostel conversations and shenanigans. And sightseeing. And referencing guidebooks. I found living abroad (in Colombia) was a great compromise – I could establish routines and relationships, but do it all while exploring a new culture.

To travel is great, but do you not appreciate the times when you come back, or do you not experience a particular place as your home ?

Nice post matt.

I remember hitting about 16-18 months on the road… and I worked out that ideally, for me, 4 months would probably be the perfect length of time.

Although I wouldn’t change a thing i had an amazing 22 months! :D

Paul @
TravMonkey.com

Great post – very realistic. Me thinks you’re feeling the squeeze these days??? (smiles)

This is in part why I choose to travel slowly (really slowly at times); if I don’t have anywhere to be for a while, I may as well take my time; I’ll stand a better chance of creating memories on 30 beaches rather than just visiting 100 beaches.

I agree, it adds up over time. Slowing down the rate of traveling helps I think but it comes and goes in waves.

Sometimes I miss not having an address…

Awesome post Matt.

This is one of those “the grass is always greener on the other side moments.” Your life looks exciting and exotic, but constant anything gets boring over time.

Ross Cameron

Hi Matt.

Excellent blog. Im also keen to stress when I go travelling and I meet people or even when I return to tell the tale that not everything about backpacking is peaches and cream.

The worst aspect for me is something you touch upon. Having now spent the best part of 4 years travelling or saving for travelling it has ruined quite a few of my friendships that I had before I started. By no means have people stopped talking to me, but Im either never there, or cant guarantee anything long term or like right now very close to a big trip can never really afford to nip out for the odd big night out with the lads or trip away for the weekend.. It wears on other people not just yourself and in the end becomes a strain on the friendship.

I am acutely aware that when I come to the end of this cycle I will be left with very few good friends to count upon on a everyday basis and lots of close friends scattered around the world whom I will never see.

Another excellent post Matt :) (You can see I’m catching up on RSS feeds due to my own travels ;)
This is a realization I also made after my first 2 or 3 years, and I totally understand your plans to later-on become “semi-nomadic” Matt. This is especially true in periods like your current fast change of scenery. That can get extremely tiring.
After plenty of experimentation, I’ve found that 3 months per city is enough to allow me to get into routines, have meaningful friendships, get to know the local culture and city quite well, and yet still feel like a nomad. This new timing has worked out excellent for me and although life in general can throw plenty of problems your way, and is far from the non-stop Indiana Jones adventure people would have you believe it is, I am no longer jaded about travel itself, and could keep this up for quite a while (I plan to continue much longer than 2 years for example).
It can be frustrating that people think you have a perfect life with no problems whatsoever, but that’s typical for any desirable job; Hollywood actors, rockstars and anyone else you would imagine to have the “best job ever” also have their problems I’m sure. I tell people that I am very happy with my life and travels, but be realistic and tell them that nobody in the world is safe from boredom ;)

Totally agree. Good insight. I’m on year 3 and I think the think that bothers me the most is the fact that I have no ‘home’. Even when I go to my home country I have to sleep on friend’s floors; ok in your twenties – but I”m about 40! Regardless – I’m not ready to change anything yet!

Good article, as usual, and an interesting topic. My husband and I spent 3 years traveling when we were in our 30s (20 yrs ago) and used it as a way to change our lives. We were both very happy to settle down after – in a new country and a new way of working (self-employed). After about 5 years we started traveling to Europe again, doing a 2 – 3 month trip most years, and this worked well for us. But after 10 years of that, we too became bored with seeing tourist sites and museums – now we just go back to places we love to hang out and do hiking/walking. Travel changes you and as you travel more, the way you travel changes.

Great post, Matt! I too was on the road for three years… I had a slightly different experience with friends. This was in pre-Facebook days and we still communicated by poste restante, and the occasional email (still a very new thing). I enjoyed the newness of making friends all the time and I can’t say that bothered me.

What DID bother me was the lack of a place to call home. Before I left I packed everything into boxes and stowed my life away. If I were leaving for a lengthy trip again I think I’d chunk down my travels – one year out, three months back in type of thing, and find a way to keep a home base.

I too felt travel burnout at times – most people do – but it passed. The longing for a home base never did.

the novelty surely does wear off after a while but once you stop you’re yearning to travel more – well at least I am!

JJ

I travel solo in my RV and love it! My love of traveling around the country by myself came from years of travel in my job. I love the freedom of it. And having an RV makes it even better, I can just “park it” where I want, and not worry too much about hotels. I have recently started volunteering in my RV, and volunteer opportunities can be from 1 month to 6 months. I prefer one month at a time assignments, but recently completed a 2 month assignment in Kentucky. I currently have a “home base” and find that this arrangemenbt keeps me from getting “travel burnout.” The problem I have is…. I DON’T WANT TO GO HOME!!! I hate going home!

Holy smokes, check out all the comments on this post! Matt you definitely found a wound to poke here, seems everyone here can relate to this numb feeling you receive after lengthy travels. I too can relate.One thing I find is that by trading in the 9 to 5 lifestyle, we as humans need to find something to complain about,. When you’re pullin 10 hour days for a couple months, all you can think is:

-”I hate routines, i need to get out of this, get on the road”, then after being on the road for a while, and routine has kicked in there, we start thinkin
-”ugh, I just want a couch to call my own and catch up on some TV, perhaps score me one of them girlfriends/boyfriends I hear so much about”

It’s the classic winter/summer scenario. People crave winter in summer, and summer in winter. It’s not to say one is better than the other, it’s just a matter of finding out how long you personally want those seasons to last.

Andrew

Traveling is like a serious drug problem for some people. You need it, you want it, and then you hit rock bottom. You go into rehab, get away from it, and then when you feel like you have been cure…WHAM…a relapse.

I am 30 next year and can tell you that my days of traveling for months at a time are long behind me. But that does not mean I care less about travel. If anything, travel is more of a sickness now than it was 10 years ago. But I prefer to hit up a few locales over a week or two then take a break for a month to six weeks. Once it is time again to start packing it is way more exciting for me.

Unfortunately that loneliness is a major setback of traveling solo. One thing I always tell people when they say how cool it is that I travel writer for a living is that it can be a little bit lonely. I mean I go on press trips alone, dine out alone, go back to my hotel alone (although my wife probably prefers it that way), and I experience things on my own. I prefer to travel with someone and share a travel moment. But sadly I am surrounded by people that have not been bit by the travel bug quite like yours truly.

Safe travels Matt and look forward to checking out your updates from abroad.

Andrew

i cant really agree with the ‘tired of everything’ and ‘one of x places’ thingy. i used to get tired of some places as well, but a change in scenery for a few days always helps. if you’re in the city for a while, go out camping for a day. if you’re near the sea go visit some mountains, the woods or parks. if you’re tired of hostels, try couchsurfing for a few days. For hadcore travellers who have seen everything i recommend the Falkland Islands, Mongolia or Kiribati as a getaway destination :)

matt – excellent article. i’ve not been a long-term traveler, really, although i have lived abroad for extended periods of time. i need a place to stay, to make a home. from there, i can branch out and explore the country/area/continent. i need, because of my disabilities, a place i can trust for accessibility.

that said, i completely understand what you mean, about needing constancy and less temporary-ness…

The longer we stay on the road, the more breaks we need. Like Sherry wrote, being a nomad for a long time makes you miss not having a base. That’s something I wish we had write now – a place of our own that we could return occasionally to work and recharge. Staying in hotels or rented apartments helps, but there’s that sense of wanting your own place.

I love “there are times you never want to see anything with the word “historic” ever again.” We just spent close to two weeks in Lima and have yet to see the “historic center” with all the churches and glitz. At first I felt guilty, but what I’m taking away from this place is all our time in markets and in individual restaurants talking with locals about food. That’s much more fulfilling right now than another photo of a beautiful church.

Great post.

:(
I know its all true, but Matt?! Does this mean you will soon stop to travel?!
Everyone needs to settle down here and then. I want you to keep writing!!

Great post, Matt! I can totally identify with everything you said. Just finished a 5-month journey around Southeast Asia, and I was ready to rest. Totally road weary.

My solution has been to slow down. My rule is to spend a minimum of 4 nights in a place, unless I really hate it. Usually I stay at least a week. To recover from an intense trip around Myanmar (Burma), I spent 2 whole weeks in Bangkok, just chilling with friends and going out. No way would I want to travel at full speed, spending a night or two somewhere and zooming on.

Another solution is to live in a place for a while and combine your travel with some purpose, like studying, volunteering, or working. It’s nice to have a bit more of a focus than just sightseeing and partying, and you’ll meet lots of cool people. You might also pick up some valuable contacts, skills, and experience you can use to find a cool job.

I find the combination of living abroad with the occasional extended trip to be a good balance. When you live in a place, you can meet expats who are more semi-permanent and build a group to socialize with.

Even if I’m working, I’m still in a foreign country, so I don’t feel like I’ve “quit” travel for good. It’s a nice feeling to know that for about US$200-300, I can fly to any place in Asia.

Good luck, and hope you overcome your travel fatigue.

I spent 4 years cycling round the world, and the biggest challenge of that adventure was treading the fine line between terrible loneliness and glorious solitude.
So I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with this post.
Thanks,
Al

NomadicMatt

I think that’s a good way to put it!

Long-term travel is not for everyone. Finding someone who shares your passion for travel is a great idea. Independent souls may gravitate to long-term because they’re used to being on their own and enjoy the solitude. It pays to do your research. Speaking with long-term travelers is a great place to start. Travel may or may not be as glamorous as one thinks it to be. It’s a matter of perspective.

You have definitely hit a nerve here Matt. I also felt that subtle tugging of guilt from all the goodbyes. I always felt them after going ‘home’ to see family and childhood friends and then turning around and leaving again. I spent most of my 20′s between slow and fast traveling, and a side effect of all those goodbyes is how I handle friendships. I became attached to people very quickly, and until the last few years didn’t know how to sustain long term friendships at all.
I am now a we (Travelling family) and there is very little solitude ;) and because of this, there are a lot less ‘one week friends’. We are however currently living in Scotland and our friends here are a major part of our lives. For me the Goodbyes are the most difficult.
Thank You for writing about this
-Emma

Being on the road a long time certainly has it’s ups and owns. Even when I traveled long term with my husband we got road-weary.

Thank you for the great post. I’ve noticed on the nomad blogs I’ve followed that many go ‘dead’ after two or three years. I’ve wondered what happened and wish more would write about this side of extended travel.

Appreciate the insight, Matt. Long-term travel isn’t fun at all, but is exciting at times. Thank you for your detailed perspective..

quite insightful. everything u wrote is like a wake up call for all the budding travelers out there to realise that long-term travelling may not be the best thing to do – always! atleast it did for me!

jforestphotos

I totally agree. Even though the longest term travel I ever did was 2 months, after a while, I had seen enough museums. When I was in Florence, I walked in and saw Michelangelo’s David, and just kinda went “meh”, I knew I had to take a break. I was 1 month into my European tour, and burnt out! I decided to take a break, and spend some time just relaxing, far far far away from any museums. I ended up spending 8 days in the Cinque Terre, in Italy.

Slow and steady travel seems to be the right way. I think my goal is to find a nice “home base” and spend a few months a year there, and spend the rest of the time traveling.

Do you get people, friends constantly telling you how jealous they are of what you’re doing? It’s so annoying after a while, can’t stand it even. Just be happy for me (us) !

I really enjoyed this. I can’t believe you have been on the road for 3 years straight. I did 13 months straight and when the holidays came, it got pretty hard for me. You can get so tired of meeting new travelers when you know they aren’t going in the same direction as you so your time together could be a couple hours or so.

How did my travels end? I was in the south of Mexico and drinking a beer and thought, “F*** it! It’s time to go home.” Seven hours later I was back in California.

it’s really true that there are the “not so good things” happening during travel because some people cannot see the other side of it. they only look towards the beautiful side that you’ve been into places and seeing different people and scenery. but the fact is that it’s hard to travel.
glad that you’ve shared some of your thoughts from traveling.
two thumbs up for that.
thanks

Find a cool, neat or quiet little town shut off your computer and relax for a week!

Great post. I have been in Sydney for the past five months studying abroad. It’s been really great and I have met many wonderful people. While I am not constantly on the move, I miss feeling connected to my location. I have met people I want to stay in touch with and hang out with more, but in the end I know I will be leaving and entering a new social circle. I have been contemplating becoming a nomad for a while, but I am longing for friends to share the experiences with. Your post really hit home and it’s good to know others feel the same way. Thanks!

Ana

I can really relate to the article. It’s very true. I haven’t traveled as much as I’d like to but I have moved a lot; I’ve lived in several cities in the US, and it does get old. Right now, I am ready to travel more, but I know from experience that there will come a time that I will want to have a little apartment somewhere and settle down for a bit. I think the most difficult thing to do is to find a balance between the two. As far as relationships go, being a wildland firefighter makes it nearly impossible to have a long-term relationship as well. I think life is all about finding the balance in things, and figuring out what one really wants. Loved this article.

This makes all the sense in the world to me. It’s like the difference between being a sprint runner or a marathon runner. I’m a sprinter. I have long admired the stamina of those of you who travel round the world for months or years at a time, but I am not envious of you. I couldn’t travel like that. I’d miss my home and my circle of friends too much. And as much as I love to get away to new places, there can be something comforting about coming back to my routine, too–sleeping in my own bed, taking a shower in my own bathroom, cooking in my own kitchen, etc.

Excellent, thought provoking piece, Matt. I’ve been reading you since I got back from my recent three months abroad, but have yet to comment. I know exactly what you mean about the endless hellos and goodbyes. It started to wear on me after a while and when I started traveling with someone and saw them for more than just a few days, I realized how nice that was. My last week, I wound up in Paris where I had a few friends, both from home and from my travels, and I loved that. I’ve always thought about doing an even longer trip like what you’re doing, but I’m not sure how I could handle all the goodbyes. All the new faces. Telling your story over and over and over again…

carla moreno

Matt-
I loooove to travel, but I looooove to come home. and I don’t mean the home in the materialistic sense, but home to my roots, my place of rest, my place of true reflection, my place of true relationships. And I’ve been in relationships with people who love to travel, but there’s something different. I’ve met plenty of people, plenty, who are as you say, “trying to escape something.” And they’re too stubborn to face it and DEAL with it. They just run away. For me, it’s always about relationships. Whether romantically or in friendships. It does get lonely and it does get tiring to meet such wonderful people only to never, ever, hear or see from them again, except through the pages of my travel journal. This is a great article. Thanks for being real and confronting the issue as is…

The solution is pretty simple… slow down! :)

Thierry Gapp

Hi Matt,
I have been traveling around the world for 21 years without going back to the place I was born, ever. I lived in South America (equador, Bolivia, galapagos is.), The Pacific islands(New Caledonia, Vanuatu) and Indonesia, I am living in Bali since 2004. I have traveled solo, with my a girlfriend ( for 2 years) and over the past ten years with my wife and my boy. (RTW: 5 continents). I have enjoyed all the 3 ways, but I have to admit that having company is always nicer,because there is some one to share with, to talk with, to love and to be loved. We have been in Bali for almost 7 years now and still do a lot of traveling abroad and domestic. I always try to maintain the magic that traveling creates, I try to remain inquisitive, and marveled by the beauty of the world, just like a first time traveler is. Being semi- nomadic is an interesting option and it’s very enjoyable because when you are out there now and then, you fully vibrate and when you are “home” (and home can be abroad like me, in one of your favorite city or country) then you keep enjoying. It’s a matter of balance. And personally I found my own balance in traveling that way.

Dave

Matt,

Another fantastic article. I know you wrote it quite awhile ago, but I just read it for the first time.

We met once in a party in Bangkok, and I will always remember you from that night as a kind of boy-wonder who has it all. I have gotten the same from others, but you did travel and social events a lot better than I ever did or could.

Anyway, I feel realy comforted to know that you go though the same syndromes as I have in long term travel. I am in Argentina at the moment, and feel quite uninspired.

What I´ve realized in my period of discontent is that I long for something more stable and long-term. I think part of the reason we both feel the way we do, at least from time to time, is that we are nearing 30 years old. After 25 or so, the mind starts to look for permanence. Its a mental event caused by a less-dynamic, but more stable mind looking for something to invest itself in fully.

I wish you all the best and hope you find what you are looking for. Perhaps you already have.

Dave

NomadicMatt

Dave,

We met in Bangkok? Really? What party!? Refresh my memory so I can put a face to your name!

Matt

Ashley M

Hey Semi-Nomadic Matt; Come back to Boston!!

NomadicMatt

I’m back on April 5th!!!

I love this blog post and enjoyed reading it. Come visit Australia some time..

NomadicMatt

I’ve been three times!

bruin

your perception will change when you travel with a significant other (not the kind you meet on the road but the kind where you meet after you have settled and then the both of you unsettling together to go abroad). rinse, repeat. you can never repeat the same water twice

I couldn’t have said it better myself, though you were saying it back when we were just getting started! 24 hours friends. Not wanting to tell people what we do. Having the same conversations again and again and again. The ‘one-of’ phenomenon.

Thankfully, I do have someone to share it all with. We were on the road for about a year and a half before we decided to settle for a bit for the same reasons above. We were finally tired of traveling and all the stresses that come with it. We took 6 months and spent them in one place (Roatan, Honduras), then went to Mexico for a few months and then back to Roatan when we realized what a gem we’d found. We really slowed down our pace, stayed put, and enjoyed the friends and familiarity we built up.

After almost 9 months in Honduras in a space of 14 months we felt rejuvenated and were ready to head back out on the road with a fresh outlook. Sometimes you need a vacation from the permanent vacation. :)

NomadicMatt

Lately, I take frequent vacations from my vacation!

Short term travel is basically residency. You get so accustomed to the culture that it is no longer travel.

Ryan

Hey Matt,
Its funny because several years ago I would have said the same thing. My travels weren’t quite as long as yours (2-3 months every 2-3months) but now I am settled down. I have a great wife and son but I still long for those travel days. Just last night I had a conversation with my wife about it. She supports me selling my biz and everything else to take the family on the road. I am seriously considering it. I cringe every time I see a minivan, I can name 25 strollers off the top of my head, none of my neighbors have ever had a passport, I am dying a slow death in the suburbs! I guess all I am saying is that you can take the traveler out of a chicken bus but you can’t take the chicken bus out of the traveler. Enjoy your journeys while you can.

NomadicMatt

I’ll never be a suburb guy. I’m city all the way.

Kat

I think another important point to remember is what you are sacrificing at home to travel. I spent 14 months traveling new zealand and SE Asia. While I was away I missed the birth of my friends baby, My best friends wedding, my brothers graduation, and the death of my Nana. I never go to see or talk to her before she passed away and that will always be difficult for me to cope with. While I was dealing with her loss on the other side of the world with no family for support I wondered if it was worth it. Sometimes I’m still not sure.

NomadicMatt

Why didn’t go home? There’s always that option.

Russ Mease

It sounds like most people commenting here about “travel-fatigue” are visiting the big cities in the regular backpacking travel circuits, staying in hostels and meeting “exotic” fellow travelers (probably australians and Britains for the most part!) over drinks of the national beer of the country in the hostel’s common room.

Of course this would be fatiguing and tiresome because you are basically going to the the same experience just in a different country each time you travel to a new place. I’m not saying this isn’t a good time (I did just this for 4 months around Europe back in 2004) but it has it’s limits.

Why not go to a place where there are no other travelers like yourself, where you’re forced to meet the locals, where the culture is unknown and locals do not immediately think of you as money on two legs, where perhaps you are the only white man they have seen.

I think if more people put down their lost planet travel guides and took a chance on these types of places, they would have no time for fatigue. Of course I can see how this type of traveler would have a fatigue of new experiences and desire something familiar for a while. In this case, head out to nature for a few months (go hike a national trail…). Nature is the perfect rejuvenation for a weary traveler. =)

Happy traveling and thanks for the great site
Russ

Interesting post.

I’ve not started my vagabonding mission yet and intend on carrying on my relationship on the road. My girlfriend Kerry is really great and seems to want much of the same things. We are both committed fully to the altered lifestyle but I guess only time will tell as to whether long term travel will encroach on our relationship.

I think we both understand that the stresses and strains of travel in general, let alone open ended travel, can put on a couple. I hope to combat that by having a semi-permanent home on a wwoof or similar scheme every few months. This time will allow some sort of routine and time spent ‘out of each others hair’ which I feel is important in a ‘normal’ relationship as well as one conducted on the road.

Thanks for the brilliant site.

VagabondingAdam

Billy-Joe-Bob

Thanks for this post,

I’ve been traveling around Australia, New Zealand, and Asia over the past 7 months. It is interesting to hear people’s comments about when their traveller’s fatigue started to set in. For me it was at about 6 months. Here I am in Japan (over a month later) and my mentality hasn’t improved very much. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do, you can just hit a slump. My waves of fatigue seem to come when I make mistakes/I am praying that a little japanese baby doesn’t come out of left field when I’m least expecting it. Damn you love hotels!

Anyways, I initially planned to go to Europe for the summer but I don’t know if I’m up for it. Then I say to myself, “how the hell can you not be up for going to europe in the summer time?”… Traveller’s fatigue has started to make me feel like a crazy person.

It is comforting to know that other people go through similar slumps (on even longer trips). I think I will go to Europe, try to slow things down and mix it up a bit/get out into nature, try to learn more spanish.

Thanks for the post and thanks for all of the comments! I think this blog gave me a much needed boost.

Billy-Joe-Bob

Charlie

I did 8 months around South America and have been in Oz one month now (from UK). I don’t think I ever felt like this in SA. It was the time of my life. Towards the end I was getting a little sick of the, “where are you from, how long are you here” etc etc and also I know what you mean about the relationships.

However although I’m still not in my home country I am working, so it’s not really like I’m travelling any more. I’m saving up money to do Asia, then I’ll come back here to work again then back to finish off South America.

I think this way will be good, because it gives me a thirst for travel again whilst I’m working and vice versa.

Dirk Austin

Wow, so many posts! I found your article by googling the down side of long term travel. For the reasons you mentioned, I am writing now as I lay on a couch in the apartment I rented for a month here in Argentina. I’m loving doing nothing!

Travel can spoil you…after you spend a month in New Zealand…Yosemite National Park isn’t that exciting. And many of the travelers I meet just want to party. Really? You can stay home and do that. I think the best remedy for tiredness is renting an apartment and doing nothing. I haven’t been site seeing in a week and I’m loving it. Fortunately I’m in a country that is relatively inexpensive…contrary to popular belief, staying in hostels is not cheap. Sometimes the road that isn’t traveled is the best one…mostly because life is about community, that’s the way God made us. And, even in the most beautiful place, without people to share it with, that beauty can become meaningless.

Zia

Thank you, Matt!

This is an excellent site and I’m glad I came across it when I did. I leave for a seven-month trip next week and will be using your site as my main source of information. I have not planned anything yet except the flights. I’m leaving behind my wife, family, friends, job and two cats to do this….and yes, NO ONE wants me to do this.

The last time I traveled this long was in March 2003 when I was 27 years old. I wonder how my body will hold up now that it’s 10 years later. But I’m carrying with me a yoga mat (although I don’t do yoga) to stretch and remain flexible, and some exercise bands to stay in shape.

A lot of people think I will run back home after a month. Let’s see.

Zia
Washington, DC

Ian Murdoch

A few years ago I met a Auzie girl in a cafe in Cairns. She was a local, and was working – I was in the middle of a year travelling through China / Australia / New Zealand. We got talking and one thing led to another and… well… saying “Goodbye” to her was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. She cried. I cried. We cried together, and held each other for what seemed like hours until I had to run for my train.

She almost derailed my plans there and then. I was so close to just saying “Stuff it! I’m staying, and to hell with the consequences!” I often wonder what life would be like if we had settled down in Australia together. We said we would keep in touch (and we did for a while) but later on she got herself another bloke, and I had moved on to another country. Those few weeks in Cairns though – what memories!

Thanks for the post Matt. Some things to think about. I think that the stress of travel increases exponentially with how different the culture of he country is from your own. You also have a very valid point about becoming exhausted. Long term travel definitely drains you – no question!

No matter how many trips I take, there’s nothing quite like coming home, touching down at Glasgow International and stepping out into the freezing grey drizzle of another Scottish Summer :-)

Lukasz

Hi,
Thanks for setting up a well defined structure for the topic. I thought I am being too demanding from live, but see that other people do feel the same. I found here today some answers I have been wondering about for many years since my first 3 month travel 7 years ago in Australia. Then after seeing just 5 wonderful cliffs, 10 beaches, 20 hostels, meeting lots of 24h friends I remember saying to myself: “One more cliff or a nice beach and I will.. feel sick”. Feeling all the things You described. Next day change my flights and went home.

Today I have just ended my 1 month journey to around China. I have traveled with my girlfriend, I have traveled slowly, I have been meeting a lot of people for a litlle longer than 24 h. And still I can’t wait to be on the plane back home. Same feelings again.. this time just after 1 month, why?
My anwer is: I am addicted “novelty sicker” and travelling cannot provide me with enough of it. After 1 month in China I run out of ideas what to do next. And every day I tried to make it different. I climbed the beautiful mountain, row on a nice lake, seen a temple, seen modern art galleries, etc etc, but just once. Seeing another temple, climbing another mountain would not be enough of a novelty. Experimenting with geat asian food, meeting great people, still not enough. Why?

I guess there are couple of things that are much better than traveling back home.
1. My great, tough and demanding job that I am doing for 7 years now, advancing in positions an I always dreamed of. Everyday is different and everyday is amazingly FUN!
Everyday it is much bigger source of self reflection than any view or adventure.
I also get to meet much more people that I can while traveling.
..but first of all there is an amazing feeling of pride at the end of the day connected with doing something constructive. This is the feeling I miss the most when I travel! Selfrealisation some people call it.
2. I miss my sports: I love snowboarding, tennis, climbing, badmington or just playing board games. Breaking my own limits in sports cannot be compared to any other feeling. Every time I learn something new.
3. Reading books or nice deep movies
There is million of galaxies and universes to be discovered. Those explorations tend to be more interesting than any trip as they show live, not stones and can also move you in time. And are lying under tips of your fingers whenever you need them.
Other benefits are what other has mentioned:
4. Old good friends – the more time passes the more they mean to me. They are special because of all the time we spend together meassured in years.
5. My sweet appartment that feels like a SPA with it’s fridge full of my favorite things.

To conclude. Traveling is fun from time to time, but there are much bigger “funs” at your home base.. if you can find them. I become anoyed with travelling, because for me the cost of tavelling is too high compared to the cost of the life I loose not being at home. This live I have created for myself with a lot of efford. It took also {or maybe first of all} time and efford for me to understand what makes it work for me.
Live is enjoyable, but we just need to learn to enjoy it (borrowed from chinesse postcard :-) ). At home it is the same as anywhere else.

Good luck in your own voyage.

Lukasz

Ron

I appreciate the opinion and to understand the “other side of the fence” isn’t always greener. Being a budding photographer, I suppose climbing a mountain, seeing a temple, etc. would offer new vistas, colors, sounds, smells, people, culture, etc at each one. The challenge is to find the unique experience and capture it on film, recording, or writing that gives a deeper meaning and understanding to the experience. This world is populated by only two genders (although some may question that statement) and from the outside may appear dull. What makes a person unique, beautiful, and exciting? It is their thoughts, clothing, self-expression, smile, etc, that make each person unique and interesting. The same could be said for destinations.

I apologize for mentally verbalizing, but your comment provoked thought and response. I appreciate the opportunity your point of view has offered me. Ciao

I am hoping to start traveling real soon (Brazil being my first destination), I am looking to stay in different places abroad and domestic for a few months. Traveling is all rather new to me, so I am in research mode. One question I do have is, if I need anything else besides my passport (a travel permit) to stay in a country for an extended period of time?

Thanks for this nice article, Matt. It was reminding me of what Ishai Golan said in Nat Geo Adventure channel, the host of Street Food Around the World. When he met two Spanish girl and feel comfortable with them, and then he knew his time was limited so he said “It’s hard to leave but I have to go.” And goodbye. Impermanence.

nicky woo

Just found this post and I really enjoyed reading it.

I was about to resign from my job to spend a year out travelling when my boss offered me a years sabbatical/career break. It couldn’t have worked out better as I will have a home (and a job) to come back to should I want to. If life throws something else up on the way then great.

I lived abroad for years but didn’t really travel. 10 years later and thoroughly fed up with my job and doing the same thing day in, day out I knew I just wanted to take some time out. I’m quite an independent, solitary person anyway so I don’t think loneliness will be much of an issue.

If anything, I think getting sick would be my main concern. On my last 5 week trip to s.e.Asia I got sick half way through and remember lying in a hammock on the balcony of my bungalow for days on a stunningly gorgeous beach and crying just wanting to go home. I managed to drag myself back to Bangkok and spent a further week doped up on tramadol unable to barely eat or drink. A week later I flew home. It was only tonsillitis in the end but one of my main concerns is getting ill on the road because it affects the way you see and feel about everything.

Ron

This has been a concern of mine as well, Nicky. As I continue my research, I hope many other travelers share their thoughts on how to stay well during a nomadic adventure. I hope that experience didn’t stop you for your next adventure. :)

Thank you for this post. I rocked up in Budapest 3 days ago and for somewhere I have always wanted to travel to, I just wouldn’t be bothered to get out. In the past 5 months, this has happened for the first time and I got alarmingly worried so I googled. Thus this post. It made sense. Thank you again. x

Can totally relate. Just said goodbye to another traveler I’ve lived with for just over 6 months, watching him pack his things, move and saying goodbye felt kind of numb to me, almost ‘normal’.

NomadicMatt

Too many friends, too many goodbyes.

Kevin

Awesome site you have Matt… and true insights. I traveled for nearly two years from late 2009 through mid-2011 and though I had long stretches, up to 4 months, of constant forward movement, the bulk of my time was spending 1, 2, even 5 months in one place before moving on and I think this is the balance that is necessary. Also, I began traveling to places where people I already knew were living or traveling and this made all the difference. The feelings you mention in this article were still present to some degree, but as you’ve also mention, slow travel is best especially for extended periods. You can be semi-nomadic and perfectly happy as long as you also have a semi-home base somewhere that you return to at least for a couple months every once in a while and even if there are several ‘homes’ on your path. ‘Home’ is a very personal thing, and having someone with you, if you’re lucky enough to find it, that genuinely is ‘home’ in some way can also make all the difference. At the end of my ‘travels’ (I’ve been back in Seattle for a little over two years now) the one thing I longed for was being truly at ‘home’ with a person.

Ron

Well said, Kevin. Thank you!

Ron

I’m preparing for a year long world trip myself and this post put things in perspective. I’ve never been afraid of saying goodbye to people as I realize the power a few moments of sharing life can have on a person. Your thoughts and insights are extremely helpful. Thank you.

Andy Watt

I understand completely what you’re on about here. 2 years plus bouncing around Australasia in hostels (because their social hubs) and meeting so many people from everywhere and I’ve said goodbye to so so many now. I don’t think there is any worse feeling than when staying in hostel for a time period longer than a few weeks and becoming part of a group, then a bunch of people leave. It’s like losing part of your family. You genuinely feel the atmosphere change in the group, room etc. It becomes a little quieter, people are down for about a week. It always picks up again but it hurts. But I think you do grow to accept it. You learn that this person may never cross your path again but that shouldn’t matter. Also meeting people gives you the best reason ever to visit people in their homeland.

Traveling can be a lonely business. I often think writers are the perfect travelers, they know or need to be alone and have their alone time to write and think. I have had these same experiences for many years traveling and living in China. Even if you stay in one place, say Beijing, people are coming and going. Your good buddies and girlfriend that are there today and are your support group all go home after a year or so, they can’t take the pollution, contracts end, semesters finish up and they go back, and your the only long term one left standing. After a few rounds of departure it becomes tricky and your friends are limited. But yeah, get to meet new people everyday.

H

Paris was one of the last places I went after I’d been travelling non-stop for a year. I was so tired I remember dragging myself out the hostel door thinking, “Oh well, I suppose I have to go and see the stupid Eiffel Tower, since I’m here.” That’s when I knew I was sick of travelling!

At some points in my travels I actively avoided other backpackers. There are only so many, “Hi, where are you from?” conversations you can have before you feel like you’ve met them all before. Plus, getting to know somebody new just means saying goodbye to somebody new, and if you’re feeling jaded it’s just easier not to start. Yet some of those 24-hour friendships have been some of the most intense and memorable of my life.

I got lonely at times. I love to be alone, but doing absolutely everything on your own can be hard. Traipsing up an Indian main road trying to find a decent hotel after being on a bus all night is one of those times you wish someone else was there to share the burden. Yet, travelling alone is an incredible and singular experience which brought me a greater understanding of myself and others, and I don’t think I could have learned the things I learned if I had had company.

Illness is the most difficult thing to do alone. I remember sitting in a doctor’s surgery trying to explain myself, and the doctor couldn’t understand me and I couldn’t understand him, and I just wanted a place where I could give up, lay down, spread out, and get better. It was at this point that I bought a ticket home, which I kind of regret, now.

I enjoyed reading this article, yet I don’t completely agree with it. All of these things can certainly be true for you and probably a couple of other travelers, but I’m a firm believer that life is all about how you perceive it. Life is not about things that happen to you, but how you react to them. I can turn each of your negative aspects into positives. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to negate your experiences. You have every right to feel these things.

Maybe it will take longer for me to grow weary of travel? I still look at meeting random strangers as an amazing thing. Goodbye’s are hard, but I’ve accepted this reality. And even though I’ll most likely never see these people again, it still doesn’t make me sad. I feel blessed and happy to have met those people, and even happier knowing that I still have so many new people to meet.

As far as relationships go, well that’s a personal thing. I don’t mind being single. Have been for over 5 years and counting. I am not frightened by the idea of dying ‘alone’ (pshh just because I don’t have a spouse, doesn’t mean I’m going to be ‘alone.’) I don’t want to sacrifice my lifestyle that I really enjoy to find love. I will grow weary and restless and will end up leaving that love anyway, or stay put being miserable. I don’t want to settle or be grateful for what I have just so I can love another person (although I already love plenty of people !) People put too much stock in finding that significant other. But who knows, like I said, I might be too young and inexperienced to already decide that this life is the best blablabla.

I’m also not tired yet of seeing the ’100th church’ or whatever because I’m not traveling the ‘traditional’ way. I am going slow, and frequently take days or weeks off. I have no problem staying in the hostel for the day, or skipping that important landmark that I ‘absolutely have to see.’ I’ve been to Vancouver over 5 times, Seattle twice, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve visited Banff, AB or France. Every day that I am home, I long to be somewhere else. I can not wait to visit Vancouver again, even though I’ve seen everything there. I really want to go back to Seattle and holiday in France. I don’t look at travel as a checklist. Long term travel for me is a lifestyle, which is what the name implies. Maybe people speak of long term just because it’s longer than two years? Long term to me has little to do with years, but more with my perception of life. When I am someplace new, it’s about not being in the daily grind, not waking up hating life and not wanting to go to work. It’s about being glad to be alive and being excited to live your life. Not counting down the hours until your shift ends. People make those sacrifices because they want to live a life in security and have babies and houses, yet I don’t want any of those things so why should I conform to this life? So I travel. Because even though goodbye’s suck and you can’t have a relationship, it still beats that daily grind in my home country. And oh what a wonderful life it is. It has taught me so much and make me appreciate life and people so much more.

Mer

Hey Matt,
I know this post is way old now but I’m wondering if you ever found a “cure” for that over-it feeling? Or anything that can make it a bit more bearable? I’m in month 8 right now and will be on the road for another 3 months before I head back to the states (Boston, FTW!). Right now I’m feeling over-it. I want some routine and schedule and in my life. And real friends and deeper conversation. I’ve been feeling like this for about a month now and I’m not sure what to do.

I am a semi-slow traveler. I tend to spend a week in almost every new city I go to. Sometimes longer if I really enjoy it. I spent 2 weeks in my last hostel, and still, I’m not feeling better. What I really want is to go home. But I have plans to meet up with friends here in 2 weeks. Then just 7 weeks after that my whole family is coming over for vacation. So going home isn’t really the best option. I could for two weeks, but I don’t think it would solve my over-it problem. Maybe? Anyway, I’m just wondering what your thoughts are.

Thanks,
Mer

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