If you could spend your life experiencing a variety of different cultures, eating all the best foods from around the globe, and meeting new, interesting people every day, would you? Some people would recoil at the idea; they take refuge in repeated comforts. The same coffee shop on the corner, the same route to work every day, the same bed at night … You get the idea.
Others would jump at the chance of constant excitement and newness, and the digital revolution has now made it possible to turn that dream into a reality. When many of us can work online, the whole world is out potential office. However, if it is your dream to travel long-term, do you have what it takes to realize it?
You’ve Got to Be Self-Motivated
There are two kinds of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation focuses on external rewards, whether that’s a trophy or praise from a boss. If you’re completing a task in order to get these sorts of rewards, you’re being motivated by outside factors. Intrinsic motivation, however, is centered around your own internal drive to accomplish a task. This might be because you want to feel competent, to distract yourself, or simply because you are interested in the subject matter. These are internal rewards, and you need to be motivated by them in you’re going to travel long-term.
You’ll never be able to find work or stick to a schedule abroad if you need constant extrinsic motivation. While external motivators can be valuable, intrinsic motivation is vital if you’re in an environment with constant distractions. The desire to see a task accomplished has to outweigh the desire to go sightseeing, spending all your money pub crawling, or talking to hostel friends (at least some of the time). Extrinsic motivation will say that you need money in your bank account to finance your travels, but, more often than not, it’s intrinsic motivation that will make that happen.
You’ve Got to Constantly Plan
If you are always on the move, that means you’ve got a plan that needs a constant updating. While most people have some sort of schedule regarding errands (go grocery shopping weekly, take out the trash every other day, fill up the tank monthly), they also have the luxury of waiting for the reminder. This means that they can wait to run out of groceries, the trash to overflow, or for the gas light to come one. When you’re traveling, this sort of behavior moves from careless to reckless.
No matter if you’re traveling nationally or internationally, you’ve got to take constant care to remain prepared. You have to take care to stay stocked on necessities, though those travel lists will be different if you’re on the road, hopping between hostels, or even backpacking if you’re really hardcore. You’ve got to be continually checking these lists, because while running out for a necessity in your hometown might be easy enough, finding a place that sells sunscreen when you don’t know the area or the language can waste hours. In some cases, like with medication or first aid, it can be the difference between life and death.
Furthermore, traveling itself necessitates a lot of planning. Most people don’t plan out how they’ll get to work the next day; they just use the same means of transportation to travel the same route they did the day before. If you’re constantly traveling, though, a good portion of your day will be double-checking bus tickets, confirming Airbnb reservations, or researching your next destination. If this sounds torturous to you, traveling long-term might not be for you.
You’ve Got to Be Okay Being Alone
Even if you’re going with someone else, there’s a good chance you’ll have to split up at some point. When you’re traveling, you’ve got to be confident relying on yourself. Sometimes, you won’t even have an understanding of the city layout or cultural norms to help guide you! Instead, you’ve got to be resourceful, relying on your own skills to get around. This can be extremely challenging for those who’ve always followed other’s expectations of what they’re “supposed to do.”
Additionally, you’ve got to be okay being alone. Society often overemphasizes the importance of socialization and understates how valuable alone time can be. While video chatting and messaging have made it possible to keep up connections with people from a distance, nothing can really replace being there for the minutia of a loved one’s day. You’ll meet plenty of interesting people, but will probably only form a few meaningful relationships. In the gaps between them, you’ll only have yourself — but that doesn’t have to be depressing! Being alone can give you time for self-reflection and relaxation. However, if you shudder at the thought of being alone for an entire day, then traveling might not be the best lifestyle choice.
Not everyone has what it takes to have a traveling lifestyle, but it’s an invaluable choice for those who can handle it. Picking an alternative lifestyle can be overwhelming, but before you decide whether or not to go for it, consider if you could even handle it. This is a move you should consider very carefully before you set anything in stone. Take some time for some honest self-reflection to see if you have these qualities. Only then should you get serious about planning.