The Evolution of a Long Term Traveler

By Nomadic Matt | Published April 29th, 2014

Nomadic Matt reflecting while staring at the ocean in Bermuda
There are downsides to long-term travel: the five-hour friends, the quick relationships, the solitude that leads to loneliness. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns.

But then nothing ever is.

Despite those occasional downsides, I think long-term solo travel is something people should try at least once in their life. Even if you don’t like it, try it—it will teach you a lot about yourself. It’s made me a far better and more awesome person, and I’ll go to the grave preaching its gospel.

But a couple weeks ago, I came home to NYC and created balance in my life. In finding that balance, I’ve come to a stark realization: I am no longer a long-term traveler.

The thought of spending extended time on the road doesn’t fill me with as much excitement anymore.

A month or two of solid travel? Sure.

More than that? No thanks.

I like having a home. I like this website and the work involved with it. I like having a stable set of friends. I like traveling around the country talking about travel and helping others.

Spending extended time on the road makes it hard to accomplish what I want to do with my life now. Everything suffers if I try to cram in too much stuff into the work, life, travel mix.

I still dream about travel all the time…literally.

When I’m asleep and dreaming, it’s usually about travel. I recently had such a vivid dream about losing my passport, I jolted out of bed and ran to where it was to make sure it was still there! (It was.)

Nomadic Matt in AustraliaYears ago, I wondered if it was possible to travel for too long. Back then, I didn’t know. I was four years into my travels, and the sky was the limit.

Four years later, I think the answer is yes, you can.

At least, I can.

I’ll never give up travel, but right now, extended trips are a thing of the past. The road may never end, but now I want an off-ramp and a rest station before I continue on it.

Long-term travel suited my lifestyle for a long time, but while I’m now even more passionate about travel, travel is not the only thing I want from my life.

As I said last week, there has to be balance.

Maybe one day, I’ll meet someone who will say to me, “Let’s spend five months wandering around Africa!” I’ll look at them and say, “Let’s spend six.”

But as I write this today, I look in the mirror and no longer see a long-term traveler, just a backpacking, budget one.

We get used to a certain way of life, and it becomes hard to change. Whether it’s cubicle life or life on the road, we identify with something. It becomes part of who we are.

What happens when I’m not nomadic? What happens to me?

There’s a quote that says, “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” My harbor is the road. It’s my comfort zone.

But as I soon enter my thirty-third year of living, I no longer cling to that. It’s been two years since I wrote about “the end of my travels,” but I’ve finally come to terms with what I wrote there.

And I couldn’t be happier.

comments 75 Comments

I don’t think there’s anything really unusual about your progression. Who, after all, wants to commit to doing one single thing for the rest of their lives? It’s natural to want to mix things up. I know for us, the things that we focused intently on in our twenties gave way to different priorities in our thirties. Now that we’re in our forties we left behind those other interests to travel full time. When we hit our fifties I imagine we’ll be doing something else entirely, but who knows.

We like to think of these changes as new chapters in our lives. Some chapters last longer than others but it’s always good to turn the page every now and then.

Have fun with your new chapter.

I think Brian says this really well!

Life is all about stages and what stage worked for us for a time may not now because of the changes that we go through!

I’m a lot like you, Matt, in that when I am in something and loving it, I feel like it’ll be that way forever — that there is no end in sight, the possibilities are endless. But I think we shift and grow gradually and slowly and eventually come to realize that what suited us doesn’t anymore — at least not in the same way.

But I also think that living in NYC probably helps. If you’re some place you love, it makes it easier to make that your base. I think having a balance of familiarity and newness helps for people with nomadic souls. At least, that’s what I’m discovering for me!

Thanks for writing this and thanks for this great comment, Brian!

Brian/Erika,

You’ve said exactly what I was thinking.

Through time, age and experience we learn and change. What was right for us yesterday may not be the best thing for us tomorrow.

We evolve over time.

Matt, I like your honesty. Travel is a great thing but you need to move at your own pace. If long term travel is not working for you anymore then a newer pace is more appropriate.

NomadicMatt

Yup! I don’t want to be on the road 365 days a year!

Maureen

We all evolve, thats what life should be about. I started traveling at 17 and haven’t stopped – its in my genes! The ways I traveled and places visited, changed along life’s road. Today I’m on the far side of 60 and these days I manage to drag my husband along with me – its either that or he stays home alone! ( he had been business traveler( But now my mind strays to long stays somewhere with short forays on various adventures. Its also easier on the pocketbook when it comes to airline fares!

Great piece! I guess I was kind of confused at first… but came to understand this in the end. I consider long-term travel more appealing to me, for the same reasons short-term travel appeals to you. I just use “long-term” travel as a place in which I can have a new home base, and make small trips to surrounding areas. I agree – It can get tiring being away from the home base for too long. That’s why I find it more comfortable to be in one place for a longer time, and make the shorter trips in between stays. Good to see you’ve come to terms and found your comfort zone!

I have always been fascinated with ones who go for longterm travel and how some people can live life out of a backpack. But I guess at some point in life we do want to enjoy simple pleasures of life that comes with stability. As Brian has rightly said enjoy this new change in your life.

NomadicMatt

Living out of a backpack isn’t as fun as it used to be. 8 years is a long time to do so!

In my opinion there will always be new places to explore…and new forms of doing so. Sure, a weekend getaway from New York to South Africa might sound weird to some but hey, as long as you love it I don’t see why not :)

NomadicMatt

A week in Africa? Ok, let’s go!

We set off 3 months ago on a long term travel journey, we are in our fifties and wanted to do this before we got too old to really enjoy it. I think we all go through stages in life and what suits us at one stage may not suit us later …enjoy this stage of your life and don’t feel you have to explain to others your choices ????

zenny

Fantastic! To me, travelling is mostly about discovery; and if at any stage we come to a realization that “this” is what we want, than why not!? Matt your blog is an inspiration to me, keep it going!

NomadicMatt

I totally agree with you. It’s time for me to “discover” one place for a bit.

I think this was great to read. I don’t see myself as a long term traveler since I’m an expat, but going home only one month a year is strting to get hard.

Lori

Congratulations on the next stages of your life adventure!
I just stumbled upon your blog today thinking of all the travel tips i would love to record for my kids for when they someday are grown and travel with their families.
It is very different traveling solo vs traveling with kids and teens but I found lots of great beach info on your site and intend to modify your suggestions to work for us. Thanks for all your work exploring and advising!

Congrats on this next stage of your life! I hope you’ll still be blogging though, since I look forward to every new post :)

Sylvia

Many of us come to your site to live vicariously through you. Day by day, post by post you give us a dose of possibility so that we can become resilient enough to do it for ourselves. Thanks for your courage, for doing what you do and letting us in on the real life anxieties as well as the wonder of it all. Looking forward to more posts from “The Road”.

This pretty much describes my current situation where I’d rather settle down at one place for a while instead of rushing from country to country – I also double what you say about the max time you want to be out there on another trip. 2 months is most of the time enough of hosteling, moving and getting into the same talks over and over again.

Nevertheless traveling is awesome…it just changes over time. It changes not only you but the way you want to discover and experience new places. See you soon for a beer!

Cheers from Sofia

Been traveling for three months now, and I must say, it IS exhausting! I totally understand where you’re coming from, even if I’m no where near the nomad that you are! Good luck!

I’m glad you are in an incredibly happy spot, Matt. I’ve been reading your blog for a long time, and you’ve inspired me beyond belief. I’ll be heading out to teach English in Spain this fall. Long-term travel may be something in my future, but it may not be. I’m a homebody and having a home, albeit an expat one, is something I need on my journey into my future as a traveler and expat. I cannot speak for how many you have inspired, but I can say that you have inspired me to try long-term solo travel. Thank you.

I’m excited and happy to follow your next phase in life! Congratulations!

Dan

You should change your name to Domestic Matt

NomadicMatt

Semi-Nomadic sounds better! ;)

Being a part-time traveler myself based in NYC, I’m very excited to hear about this new chapter in your life! Interested to see how your life changes (majorly!) for the better! All good things! :)

Many of us think of extended travel as an adventure we need to go on. And you have lived it and taught many of us how to do it. I love the fact that your new adventure is to set down some roots and stay put, mostly, for a while. I wish you very many good times and adventures in your stay put position.

NomadicMatt

Thank you!

Evolving is not really that bad. We all have to thread our own path in life and whatever it is as long as we find fulfilment in it either it be on the road or in a cubicle then its absolutely just fine.

Besides, just look how far you’ve come. You have experience and seen what many can only aspire for and you have inspired a lot of people. Whatever it is you’ll do, I wish you the best of luck, man.

I think that you have found your happy place, New York, and if you love the place you are living in it makes it easier to ‘settle down’ after travelling for so long. My perfect life would be to live in a place that I love (ideally Vancouver) and travel for 3-6 months of the year as well. Enjoy this new chapter in your life, it sounds like you are already!

NomadicMatt

I do love where I am. Plus, there’s so much to see in NYC that it’s like a mini-world to explore on its own. Plenty to learn about!

Great read and everyone has to do what is right for them. I am setting off for my first long-term travels in two months and although I am beside myself with excitement, I am trying not to form any expectations of what might happen, where I might end up and what I will end up doing…easier said than done!

Rachel

I hope you won’t stop updating this page! I’ve learnt so much from you and you’ve inspired me to travel whenever I lose motivation and desire.

Good luck with the new chapter of your life!

NomadicMatt

Not at all. I’m not stopping traveling. I’m just not going to be on the road 365 days a year. In fact, I’ll still be on the road so much that if I didn’t write this post, none of you would have noticed a difference! :)

So don’t worry! All is right in the world!

Hi and good bye!

Hi – my first time comment
Good bye – your end of long term traveler

You are one of my inspirations for traveling and blogging. Really appreciated!

NomadicMatt

You’re welcome! Thanks for the comment!

Marilynn Smith

For me a long trip IS 2 months. Travel is so individual. My last trip started, I flitted around totally unplanned for 2 months. I could not imagine flying off somewhere without being gone at least 2 months. But, right now I do not want to be gone 2 months. That concept was holding me back from planning my next trip. I am going to Japan for 2 weeks. My hotels are all booked, in advance. The girl who wandered, planned instead. What I learned from this is how individual each trip we take is. It is as individual as each destination, as individual as each person is.
Now the granny will say from her years on this earth. Life changes. Life is not a straight line it is a bump and grind. Life has phases. Embrace change and find joy in each phase. FEAR is our worse enemy, joy is our best friend.

NomadicMatt

We all travel different ways. I’m just glad we all travel.

Anon

If you’re more into staying put, that’s great, but…shouldn’t you change your website’s title?

NomadicMatt

Semi-Nomadic Matt?

Kathleen

At nearly double your age – approaching 61 – I’ve only traveled a bit. 1 month was the longest excursion, in 2004 to the UK, Sri Lanka, Senegal and France. Before and since there have been shorter trips back to France, and Panama and Tanzania, 3-2+/- week trips to St Lucia, and numerous excursions of 4-8 days in the US. I’ve been on the standard track, family and career and now am thinking almost daily about retiring. And Traveling. and mostly about getting a cruising catamaran, selling the house in DC and most of it’s stuff, and sailing the east coast north to Nova Scotia and south, past Florida and into the Caribbean and hopefully to St Lucia and beyond to Grenada. So to each it’s different – the paths may be similar but the timing will never be the same. It’s the ebb and flow each of us chooses in our lives. We choose to change a direction and, hopefully, for most of us, we don’t second guess and worry about what we didn’t do.

I admire your jump into being a long term traveler and making it work. Now it’s the next step – and making it work, and finding the satisfaction that new endeavors bring.

Cheers to every new tomorrow, and making sure it’s not the same as today!!

Bob Harkins

This website was useless before, but it’s even more useless now that he can’t be considered “nomadic” anymore. Really no value at all.

So why are you here? I’ve seen your comments many times. A lot of people find this website useful in their traveling planning, a lot don’t. I don’t find a lot of value in luxury travel website.

But if the website has no value to you, why keep leaving comments? Isn’t your time better off spent doing something you find valuable?

And I’m not giving up traveling, I’m just not going to be on the road 100% of the time.

Bob Harkins

I come here because I used to like what you wrote. But you’ve really worn out your act, and you haven’t offered any new point of view or useful information in years. Why keep doing it? I know, “because it pays.” But just don’t pretend like you’re actually saying anything of any substance. It’s insulting to any average person’s intelligence.

NomadicMatt

I provide a lot of great useful information…from cheap cruises to how to use the sharing economy to ways to find cheap flights or travel hack or well, a lot of information. It just might not be useful to you but it sure is useful to a lot of people. Don’t be a hater Bob. People grow up. This blog has been around for over 6 years. If you feel like something is missing now that was there in the beginning, I’m always looking for constructive feedback. What do you feel is “worn out”? What was there that isn’t now there? Tell me as I’m always interested.

But if your only feedback is “your blog is useless” then stop reading.

Bob Harkins

The “information” you provide is available anywhere. Why can’t you just call it like it is? You regurgitate old ideas from old articles, and occasionally sprinkle in some tips that anybody with half a brain and little bit of effort could find elsewhere on the Internet in a few minutes. So am I “hating” when I point this out?

I come to your site post my opinions in the hopes that other people will wake up and realize there’s really NOTHING TO SEE HERE!

NomadicMatt

Since you are such an expert on travel, I look forward to your amazing reporting that uncovers all the secrets to travel that no one has ever heard of ever in the history of time but yourself. I’ll wait with anticipation for your blog.

I had hoped you might have something to fair to say like “Matt, I liked when you wrote or did X. I feel your site now lacks that.” That’s constructive feedback. I like that. It helps me improve this website.

But turns out you’re just a troll with a chip on his shoulder. Coming here and flaming the website detracts from the positive spirit that encourages people to travel that goes on here.

In light of that, your future comments will be moderated.

No need to listen to a troll like this. Travel blogging is not all about money. I think most people get into it in order to share what they are passionate about. If this person doesn’t like it, they can move on.

Keep on writing about whatever makes you happy. That is really all that matters. Besides, every good blog or business or hobby in general is bound to have a few haters… that’s how you know people care ;)

Jill

There is MORE to life than travel. YES YES YES!!! I came to this conclusion 20 years ago when I realized I wouldn’t meet someone if I didn’t stay in one place for long enough. Life is a great adventure. Having kids is a great adventure. I got hit on the other day by a very handsome dude waiting for a flight. He made a comment about oh no it’s going to be an annoying flight so he could talk to me. Curious, I said: oh why? cause there are going to be kids on it and he pointed….. Oh been there done that I said. Kids are great you should get some, I said. (As a stay at home mom who was on a rare trip sans kids)Then he proceeded to tell me he is on the road too much and can’t even meet anyone cause he is on the go too much. You look like a handsome guy, Get a LIFE now. It’s a worthwhile endeavor you won’t regret. I’m 39 in 2 weeks and it keeps speeding up.

lee

having read your posts for most of a year I have tried to keep quiet. Glad you understand how we all travel differently and if we don’t CHOOSE to backpack, or live in hostels it does not mean we don’t obtain a deep understanding of the place we travel to.

perhaps as life has cycles or stages so does travel that may be associated with age

Home Base: have been doing a post on this after returning from 2 separate long trips…..the need to have a place for the ‘stuff’ you cant sell, the place to recharge energy and plan the next adventure or just pay bills, change your will, connect with family and stationary friends.

I’ve often wondered how travel bloggers can stay away from home for so long, not just financially but also emotionally. I love travel and am constantly planning trips buy I also love my home and my close relationships with friends and family, I hope you find a fulfilling balance and keep blogging x

NomadicMatt

It’s all about that balance. I love travel and life on the road but I’m no longer interested in being on it 364 days of the year.

Not a moment goes by when I don’t think about travel and all of the adventures I have had in the past over my 4 years of travel. When I became a part-time traveller 18 months ago it was tough trying to slot back into the life I had before. Then I realised that that life wasn’t for me anymore and have found a new life that has taken me sometime to build but lately I am really starting to be just as happy as I was on the road.

NomadicMatt

Amazing to hear!

Congratulations Matt and thank you for being honest. You’ve done a great job doing what you have always wanted to do in the past and you continue to do what you want to do NOW. Good on yer mate! You’ve been travelling for 8 years and you did this when you were young. Exactly the right time to do so. I can totally relate.

I started travelling just before university and continued for quite a long time. I kept going from country to country looking for “home” and I found it in Berlin. India was what got to me. For the first time in my life, I just wanted to go home and let me tell you that it was so good to be able to go back to Berlin and concentrate on the next steps of my life. After that, I did “exotic” travels every two years and lots of little ones in between, and so I was able to keep travelling and still have some stability at the same time.

I’m an expat now and I also have a very understanding husband and a son who is enormously flexible; surely the best of two worlds!

Your evolution from a nomadic traveler to someone that needs and wants to be more stationary (even if still in love with travelling) is something that I can see coming for myself too, but for now I still enjoy the life on the road. Thanks for your honesty Matt!

NomadicMatt

Life on the road is wonderful. I just want to balance it a bit with life at home. I’ve been enjoying this new chapter.

To each their own Matt. You have been doing it for years, it’s time for you to evolve and change. You do what you want!

Why are their people “hating” on your choice? I don’t get why people follow someone only to bash and put them down! Get off Matt’s page if you don’t like his material. He might not necessarily be nomadic Matt at this time, but he has been for years and still offers great reads, advice, tips…etc.

Anyway, good for you doing what you want and hopefully you will get those six months in Africa with your future love one day when you’re ready to travel long term again!!! :)

NomadicMatt

I don’t know either. Those people need to get off their computers and on the road!

NomadicMatt

Thanks for the comment!

It’s a new chapter and you can make it as exciting as the previous one. How about a week in Poland? :)

I think you have certainly cleared that up that you love travelling. That is the main thing, you like it, you do it and that’s that.

What a great, relevant subject that no one else talks about. Things certainly change on the road – I find myself going through “travel phases” even though I’ve yet to return home and have no plans to go back any time soon. I’ve discovered that I’m not a “new city every week” type traveler. I prefer to hunker down and become part of a community for a few months if not longer. I guess I’m a snail traveler! Then when the travel itch needs to be scratched I move my foreign home to another city that’s waiting to be explored.

Seeking new experiences is what is important. Long term travel changed your life and because of that you will always look at things differently. It’s ok to have a home. I just came off a long road trip and while I love traveling, I found I was making lists of great things to do once I was home. I need that home base as much as I need adventure to new places. It’s about balance. Just don’t ever get stuck in a cubicle! Best wishes to you.

Here I am on a weekend break rather than months away, wondering what to do next and realising that as much as I love my travels, I also love my bed and long to have my own place to live in for more than just a few
months at a time. And maybe I’ll be in the same place long enough to have a relationship.

That to-do-list of countries will never be finished and that’s nice – I’ll always have somewhere to look forward to. It’s growing up I guess. And it feels nice. Thanks for a very timely post, Matt!

Emma

This was a really interesting post for me to read, since Matt and I have taken opposite paths in the last years. My parents moved a few times when I was a kid, and I hated every move. I’m a homebody, I like routines, I like really getting to know a place well.

And for a long time, I thought travel was just that – a quick week here or there. And now, I’m literally in my 2nd week of life as a nomad. There’s a lot about it that’s fun, but I also based myself for 6 weeks in one place.

And although I’m loving being in a new country and a new place, I also miss some of the things that come with a “stable” lifestyle. It’s interesting to see how you started out on the road, and have “come home,” and I have done just the opposite. Wonder if my “nomad” phase will last as long as yours . . . :)

Very interesting to hear of the changes in your life. I am due to start my journey, Nomadic life is the way I wish to live at the moment but I imagine that will change even if only slightly when I am older. I admit while reading this I felt as if my favorite tv series was coming to an end…I just want you to carry on! All the best. (SG)

Really glad to have found your blog, you speak my language Matt! I had been a serial traveler for nearly 4 years until I decided to “settle down” and get on with life and work.

It has been 10 months since, and I am now making new one-way-ticket travel plans. My settling down failed miserably, I just could not be happy in one place for too long. I became grumpy and cynical and started dreaming about places on the other side of the globe.

So I decided to change tack and re-design my work in a way that integrates with travel. I hope it will work out! For you as well! Settling down is difficult. Make sure you surround yourself with people who inspire and challenge you because that is the key ingredient!

Sincerely,
Anastasia

There’s nothing wrong with exploring cities on a more cellular level by living in them. Who knows what inspiration may hit and guide you from New York back onto the long-term road. I’m just a little surprised you chose a Western Megapolis like NYC. I’d have thought something like Singapore or Tokyo might have been more fitting lol

I have those thoughts of settling down someday, but I have too much of the world left to see for that to happen anytime soon.

Also, I have had the passport nightmare on more than one occasion … stupid paranoia! :P

I think a lot of people can definitely relate to this. I have met numerous travelers along my journey thus far who really missed the stability of home. I have only been traveling for short period thus far so I cannot really say for sure, but, at this point, I could never see settling back down into a stable life again.

Everybody has their own views and perspectives on what makes them happy. This is why we have such a wonderful a diverse world to live in. I can definitely see the argument for stability but it just does not resonate the same within me at this point.

Maybe one day in the future, may a decade from now, maybe a year from now, or maybe even a few months, my viewpoint could change. As of now though, I can see nothing better than spending the rest of my days on the open road. That is just my personal opinion though.

I am glad you found a good balance for your life and understand what makes you happy. That is what it is all about in the end and I wish you the best of luck!

I can understand in some way..sometimes you just have to follow your heart an o hat feels right..I love your travel stories and often check up to see what you’re up to, and how I can improve my travel blog just learning from you..:-)

Btw: I really lost my passport in Malaysia, it was a harrowing experience as I had to go back to Singapore to get a flight to Amsterdam..happily, I had just dropped it in the bus and recovered it a week later..

Congrats on the next stage of your life! I hope you’ll continue blogging though,
since I look forward to every new post :)

Interesting Post!

I think if we try solo travelling it will be very exciting experience in our life. Every tine we have chance to learn something new, meeting with new strange friends.
It’s a great experience.

Shaun – http://www.thislifeintrips.com

Good luck Matt with your future plans. I can understand how you must want to change things up a little to keep the excitement there. As one door closes, another opens. So good luck to having a “home base” to plan journeys around :)

Cory Lynn

Dear Matt,
I’m 70 years young & have been traveling all jy life. I commend you on your great blog & all the encouragement & valuable advice you dispel. I completely understand your decision to throttle back a bit & change your course. It is a smart move to try to get some balance in your life. I have recently begun increasing my traveling experiences and am really enjoying it. Yes, it can be a bit lonely, but you do meet some wonderful people along the way. As far as the naysayer who has been criticizing your blog I can just feel sorry for such a wretched soul who has nothing better to do than bad mouth & complain. I wouldn’t even bother to respond or waste you time with this unhappy person. Good luck in your new direction & I will continue to follow your great site! Regards…

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