Buying a one-way ticket to Indonesia in 2009 was not something I had planned on doing. In fact, never in all my twenty-something years did I ever think I would be checking out of the rat-race, squeezing my entire existence into a 30lb backpack, and exploring landscapes I had only ever seen in photographs.
However, in 2008 when the economy went bust and I lost my recruiting job, my options were limited; there was no better time to hit the road to travel full and here’s why I would recommend it to everyone:
1. Life is Never Boring
If there is one thing traveling full-time cures, it’s monotony. Living in a city working as a recruiter may have had its moments of excitement, but the landscape was always the same. Being on the road full time means you’re constantly on the move, exploring new cities, learning new languages, overcoming new challenges and most importantly, never doing the same thing twice.
2. New Cultures Open the Door to Acceptance
One of my absolute favorite things about traveling full time, is constantly being immersed in new cultures. Being from North America, you learn about your own cultural biases when you’re on the road. You also learn there is no one right way to think about things, and being open to cultural diversity allows you to explore more about your own capacity for acceptance.
3. Gain Travel Expert Skills
Forget travel school, as a full-time traveler, you quickly learn that getting from point A to point B in the cheapest way possible becomes a way of life! You quickly learn the how to scour travel sites, snag those last-minute deals, and become a guru in travel planning. When I came home from my round-the-world trip, I converted all those amazing tips and tricks into a successful travel agent career.
4. Stuff Your Face Without the Guilt
Who thinks about dieting when they’re on a semi-permanent vacation? Not me! Food is life, and life is food and if you don’t believe me, just try ordering a Dark Chocolate Cherry gelato cone from Come il Latte, the top ice cream parlor in Rome. I swear, you’ll ask yourself why you ever deprived yourself of food again. Traveling is supposed to awaken all the senses, and with all those exquisite culinary delights out there, try it all and live without regret.
5. Full-Time Travel is Cheaper Than Being at Home
Now, unless you’re idea of travel is living like some overpaid Hollywood celebrity, you can easily keep your travel budget well below your at-home costs. When I was backpacking through Southeast Asia, I was able to live quite comfortably on $35 a day including my accommodation, meals and transport. Your daily budget, will of course vary depending on your geography, but think about how much you’ll save on internet, cable, Starbucks, car insurance, gas and rent!
6. You Can Work as You Go
There are plenty of ways to work while you travel full time, and while it might be tough to snag a work permit in certain parts of the world, you can easily get around that by working freelance as a blogger or social media manager. Even better, there are hundreds of blogs that can show you how to get paid to travel. I partially funded my trip to Indonesia by working as a research assistant for The Lonely Planet, which allowed me to extend my trip by several months.
7. Tap Into Interesting New Networks
Traveling full time not only means you get to rub shoulders with interesting people, but you also gain access to networks you might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience. While I was in China, I met a ton of nurses, who were volunteering their skills in exchange for room and board. This cohort of women later developed a website and because of our time traversing the Great Wall together, they ended up hiring me to do their social media and content management.
8. You Have the Opportunity to Make a Difference
Some travelers spend their lives seeking out those cheap vacation packages for that once-a-year dose of sun, and sand. But because full-time travelers often spend weeks or even months of their time in one locale, they’re able to get a sense of a community and there is a desire to want to give back. Volunteering is one of the most rewarding ways to experience a local culture, and there are hundreds of thousands of grassroots volunteer projects around the world just waiting for an eager traveler like yourself.
9. Learning a Language Makes You Smarter
It’s true, learning a new language makes you smarter, improves your problem-solving skills, and of course, opens your mind to new ideas about different cultures. We take our mother tongues for granted but remember, language is as much tied to one’s identity as a currency to one’s economy. Learning a language abroad can be the difference between paying the tourist price and paying the local price – Trust me, my broken Arabic knocked 60% off a beautiful traditional silver tea set while I was shopping in a Moroccan Souk.
10. You Turn into the Best Version of Yourself
I know it sounds cliché, but traveling for extended periods of time transforms you into the best version of yourself. I know for me, I was more open to new experiences, I was less judgmental of other humans I met along the road, and I laughed more. For those of you who travel alone, you know this is a time when you start to learn things about yourself, and it’s the perfect time to do some self-reflecting and soul-searching.
11. You Learn The World Is Not So Scary
The media would have you believe that the entire world is falling to pieces, that there’s danger lurking in every corner and you’re better off tucking away that passport and staying home. That’s ridiculous and all you have to do is visit an airport, hang out in the arrivals hall and you’ll quickly see that all those people who went abroad made it back unscathed. Never let fear prevent you from stepping out into the world and experiencing it for yourself, it’s not nearly as scary as you might think.
12. You Learn to Be Flexible
Full disclosure; traveling full time is not for Type A personalities, you have to be flexible. Planes don’t always arrive on time, luggage gets lost (or worse, stolen), buses break down, Mother Nature steps in and causes chaos, you just never know what’s around the corner. Travel requires you to have multiple contingency plans, it forces you to go with the flow, and reminds you that you have to wait on the world, not the other way around.
13. Things Don’t Mean a Thing
Any full-time traveler will tell you that you need far less than you think. There is something incredibly liberating about not having to worry about having the latest and greatest. It is just not important. Make sure to pack the absolute basics, and keep your pack light (you’ll thank me later!) The Western world has an unhealthy obsession with things, and at the end of the day, all they do is weigh you down and cost money, so why not be free of them?
14. You Might Fall in Love
Remember when I said that being on the road brings out the best version of yourself? Well imagine what your amazing self-looks like to another wandering soul – Call me old fashioned, but there is something poetic about meeting the love of your life under some waterfall in Lombok or trying to sort out a road sign in northern Japan. My advice to you is to leave yourself open for love in all its forms be it a new friend or fiery new flame.
15. The Gifts You Bring Back Are Priceless
I’m not talking souvenirs, although, if you’ve left family and friends behind for a significant amount of time, you should definitely bring them something back from your adventures. But I’m talking about all those memories you’ve collected, those humbling experiences, those myriad faces you encountered, invaluable skills and life-lasting friendships – You can’t buy any of that, and the greatest gift to yourself is to use all that you’ve learned to live a fuller life and be a better human for those around you.
It’s time. Pack your bags (travel light) and hit the road. You won’t regret it.