Updated: 6/1/2018 | June 1st, 2018
Serendipitous adventure, carefree nights with newfound friends in foreign lands, delicious foods for bargain prices, and the luxury of time to enjoy it.
Welcome to the world of long-term travel.
When it comes to travel, I get a lot of emails asking for my “secret.”
How do you travel so much? How did you quit your job and escape the grind? You must have a trust fund to afford all that, right?
I’ve written about how I manage to travel in the past (over and over again), but people still wonder if I am holding something back. What am I leaving out? What, they ask, is my secret to escaping the cubicle and being a nomad? Did I win the lottery? Do my parents pay for everything?
There must be something that makes me so special.
Well, here it is! The big secret to traveling long term is…
There is no special secret.
Vagabonds, nomads, and long-term travelers are nothing special. We have no super powers or secret Swiss bank accounts. We don’t have a money tree or can teleport everywhere. Of course, privilege will inevitably play its part, but we’re not unique or doing anything special.
Long-term travelers are just like you.
When I first discovered long-term travel I was determined to live this romantic notion of travel: globetrotting around the world and having amazing adventures that you only read about.
I thought the backpackers I had met had found some secret to life I didn’t know existed.
But once I got on the road, I saw that there was no secret. Lots of people did this, from all walks of life. Even people with virtually no money were making it work. It wasn’t special. It wasn’t unique. It was just people making the most of their life.
I had left home thinking I was going on an exciting adventure few people go on — then I went to Khao San Road and hung out in Amsterdam during the summer. I met travelers young and old doing exactly the same thing as me and none of them were trust fund babies.
Nope, I wasn’t special. Lots of people did this. Just none of them happened to be my friends from home.
They did what they wanted — a revolutionary idea for me at the time. But after years of travel, I realize that it’s not so revolutionary. If people really want something, they do it. If you want a big screen TV or a DVD, you go buy it. If you really want to eat sushi for dinner, you are going to have sushi for dinner. If you want to travel, you will do that, too. It is that simple. Just like you find a way to pay for that TV or your new car, these travelers simply arranged their life so that they could afford to travel.
As the saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
The only thing these people had that I didn’t have before was the desire to do what they wanted to do free of the expectations of society, just because they enjoyed it.
They simply said “I want to travel” and then worked to make it happen.
It is that simple.
People ask me about whether I worry about bills, retirement, and my future. To be honest, not really.
When you travel long-term, all those things disappear. You have no bills because you have no home. You just spend what you spend from day to day (which is usually less than $50 a day).
My mother told me I should start saving more for my retirement so I could…wait for it…travel more.
Then she stopped herself and said, “Well, I guess you do that already so never mind!”
I’m a big believer in the idea that we shouldn’t work our lives away and that we should take short breaks to pursue our passions. Why should I spend my best years in an office, saving money for an age I may not even see or if I do see it, might be too sick to enjoy? Yeah, we long-term travelers save a bit for a rainy day, but we don’t worry about the future. We enjoy now. Take care of your present and your future works out. When I stop traveling, I’ll figure out what is next.
So when you ask travelers how they do it, they aren’t lying when they say they did nothing special and that there is no secret. We simply made a conscious decision to do it and, after that, just worked toward our goal, saving money and making plans just like what you would do with any other venture in your life.
And that’s our big travel secret.
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day
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