Reality of Extended Travel

The Reality of Extended Travel

Tazara Train Boarding - Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

Tazara Train Boarding – Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

Long or extended travel is anything over eight weeks. The reason for this definition is that after eight weeks you begin to live life on the road – one must purchase new toiletries, get a haircut, replace clothes and the like. Before that time, you can rely on everything brought from home – but not so after.  This is when you start to fully understand the meaning of living on the road or living out of a suitcase. The feeling of extended travel changes again once you reach the three-month mark – it is a crucial time for those who travel for extended periods. I have seen many people abandon the extended travel plan at this time (I’m unsure the reason why), and if you do pass this point, you will know you are well suited to extended travel.

I have had numerous periods of long term travel. The first was from October 1991 – October 1992, and this was followed by other periods of extended travel, but not for as long, such as two trips of 7+ weeks to India and Bangladesh in 2004 and 2006, 10 weeks in Western Europe, Middle East and East Africa in 2008. Also, another similar period of travel in the Middle East and Africa again in 2010, plus a period of 7 weeks in Northern and South-East Asia in 2011.

However, I have now been on the road constantly since December 2012. I have not returned to Australia (the only place in the world where I do have residence) since that time. This does not mean I have travelled continuously – far from it.  But it does mean (and due to visa issues) that I do not and have not had a secure home base for more than 6 years.

It has been an incredible journey, albeit a tiring one at times. This extended travel has taught me many things about living life on the road. Is it easy – no; is it enjoyable – mostly yes; is it recommended – definitely yes, but not for too long.

If you wish to take on the challenge of extended travel, you will need to know of a few tips from my experience of having done this many, many times.

Don’t Have A Detailed Itinerary

Planning for a three or four-week holiday takes a lot of time, so imagine how long it will take to plan for three or four months on the road. The best way to plan for your long term travel is this – think of where you need to be in the world at certain periods of time (usually due to weather considerations). Look at the first region in your itinerary and only plan for that region. Once you have reached the first region, then you can start planning for the second region and so on. When going for an extended period where you know that you have flexibility with an itinerary, I almost always only book the first night or the first few nights in a country and work the rest of my itinerary out after I arrive.  Be aware that if you are taking an around the world ticket, you will need to book your flights before you depart on the first one. In that case, you will need an overall idea of where you want to be and when. However, even if this applies to you, don’t get too detailed about what you want to do anywhere except for the first place your plane arrives.

Slow Travel

If travelling for an extended period at the same pace as on a shorter holiday, you will quickly become exhausted.  If you have the time, use it. Instead of trying to see five cities in two weeks, why not stay in the one place for a week or even longer. Not only is this a cheaper way of travel, but it allows one to gain a deeper understanding of the places visited. This is such an important area that is included on a separate page, and this is reached by following the link below:

Read more: The Benefits of Slow Travel

Taking A Break From Travel

Even if travelling slowly, you will eventually reach a point where you no longer want to unpack and repack your bags. Your only desire is to stay in one place and do nothing. If you feel this way, then listen to what your mind and body are saying and stop. Find a decent place in a location to relax and be pampered if that is your desire. Don’t keep pushing along the travel road if you are getting so weary that the experience is no longer enjoyable. If you hit travel burnout, it will take you a very long time to recover, so don’t push yourself to that point. How long you stay in one place will depend on the circumstance. During a 6-7 weeks period on the road, I usually had a period of 3 or 4 nights, where I stopped to recharge. If you are travelling for longer or if your travel is particularly tiring, then you may need to stay a week or more. Listen to what your body and mind are telling you – when the time is right to start moving again, you will know.

Establish A Base or Two

You don’t want to carry heavy winter clothes to a hot destination, and likewise, bring your summer clothes to a cold one. You will accumulate a lot of possessions during extended travel because you need to cater for a range of different environments and situations. It is not possible to carry it all. Try to have a base (or two) where you can leave some of your belongings.

My previous base was in Dubai due to its central location to Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East and the fact that most of the work occurred in the city. I rented a storage shed where all my belongings not currently needed were kept. It obviously costs money to maintain this storage facility, but it is preferable to carting it around the globe and incurring numerous and more costly excess baggage charges. Now, my base is in Kenya, and it does make life much easier to carry a few items if I am heading to a destination for a few days, instead of having to take everything with me everywhere I go. This sort of travel can tire you very quickly.

Dealing With Mail Matters

Another thing to consider is where to get important mail delivered. For example, receiving a replacement credit/debit card is going to require a physical address and if you are continually moving this is going to be difficult, and you are at risk of losing access to your money. If you are staying in one place for long, see if you can use their address for such vital correspondence. Write to the hotel in advance and ask if this is possible (it usually is) – they will then provide you with an address for correspondence. Make sure you let the hotel know what they should expect to receive so they can log in for you if it arrives before your arrival.

Dealing With Medical Matters

This is an issue with anyone who requires regular medication. If you travel for extended periods, your medication is going to run out or expire. You may find the same medication, but it is likely to be offered with a different name or not at all. Talk to your usual doctor before you leave to find the alternative names for your medications. Another option is to talk with an overseas doctor or pharmacist, and they can suggest an alternative. Of course, you must have excellent travel insurance (see below) to cover you in case something does happen that requires attention.

Establish A Non-Travel Life

This becomes important after a very long period of travel (one year or more). Remember the small things that made your life at home comfortable? Try to replicate this on the road.  For example, board games make me relax. It’s not possible to carry large games, but I can carry smaller, lighter ones. If you love music, then purchase an MP3 with a substantial memory so that you have a vast range of music to listen to during your travels.  Have you thought about bringing your favourite incense? What about a collection of your favourite recipes for those times you have access to a kitchen?  When travelling for long periods, you want some semblance of normality after a while – and these small items can help. The people who travel for the longest tend to be the people who master this ability to create a non-travel life the best temporarily. Think of yourself as being an expatriate for a while, who live what many would consider a normal domestic life but in a place far away from their home.

People are reading this and wonder about the lifestyle of a digital nomad – someone who can work from anywhere in the world as long as they have a computer and an Internet connection. This is the ultimate form of prolonged travel, and with the ability to earn an income on the way. However, there are many incorrect perceptions, and I’ll soon be publishing a page ‘The Fallacies of Being a Digital Nomad’.

Read more: Travel Packing List