Long term travel can be one of the most enriching experiences you have in your life.
We love long term travel because we know it molded us into the resilient, strong people we are today! In short, long term travel has made us better humans. For that reason alone, we always recommend everyone around us to experience long term travel at least once in their lifetime. But be careful... it's addictive!
Work exchange played a huge rule when we were backpacking long term, and Worldpackers was a major resource for that! In this article, we cover our experience using work exchange to travel long term, and breakdown 10 advantages of long term travel.
But first, what is long term travel and how do you know if you're ready for long term travel?
What is long term travel?
There is no exact definition for long term travel.
Some people say it means traveling for more than 3 or 6 months, others say it's traveling 1 or 2 years. It really depends... For us, long term travel is freedom. Not only physically but especially mentally. It's jumping off a cliff and building a plane on the way down. Well, not literally! Please, don't try this at home. I doubt you have a cliff at home, but you get our point.
Long term travel is buying a one-way ticket and not knowing when or from where you are flying back home. It's not having anything planned. It's ending up staying a month in a place you fell in love with, when originally thought you were only staying overnight. It's changing your itinerary last-minute because you met a friend you connected with, or who knows, the love of your life! It's going against the grain of the typical touristic route. It's having local friends... and so much more.
Long term travel is about more than simply visiting places, it's about experiencing them. Ultimately, it's about doing whatever in the world you want with your "tomorrow." Now that's what we call freedom!
How do you know if you're ready for long term travel?
Well... you don't. But chances are, you are ready!
Allow us to explain. You may have read a ton of long term travel blogs to get inspired. Or gone through a long term pre-travel checklist to feel prepared, but... you are still not feeling ready. The truth is that the moment where you'll realize you are ready for long term travel will never come, because it doesn't exist!
"Jump before you are ready." We use this quote all the time. It works for everything in life. We don't know who created it, but we absolutely love it!
There are only a few basic things regarding your health and documentation you should take care before leaving for long term travel, but other than that, all you need is a big leap of courage and NOTHING else! Well, a Worldpackers account will make your life a lot easier.
We know this is way easier said than done, and it's certainly easier for some than for others. But trust us, if you're considering long term travel, you should go for it. Seriously, if at any point you've dreamt of long term travel, stop dreaming — just go! Long term travel has truly never been easier; now is the time! And if you have never considered or dreamt of it, we challenge you to do it anyway. We guarantee you will benefit from it, love it, and in the end, you'll end up thanking us.
So without further ado, let's dive into the advantages of long term travel.
10 advantages of long term travel
You gain a deeper understanding of foreign cultures and religion
Traveling becomes way cheaper
Bye Materialism. Hello, minimalism!
More flexibility means more spontaneity!
Learn new languages
It's healthier (physically and mentally)
Freedom to chase the best weather/seasons
Stronger relationships that are more likely to last!
You value your country and the people you left behind
Huge (positive) impact on your personal life
1. You gain a deeper understanding of foreign cultures and religions
When you travel long term, you take time out of the equation and enable yourself to stay longer in places. And the longer you stay, the more you get the local experience.
You can listen to thousands of stories about a specific place. Or even study its culture and religion for years! But nothing will make you understand and truly appreciate a place like living in it will.
The same religion can be followed differently in different places. Sometimes, beliefs and traditions may only make sense when you experience them firsthand, when you're able to see and feel them in practice. In this regard, long term travel is a great way to learn how to embrace cultural differences while traveling.
Naturally, when you start absorbing different cultures and religions, you start analyzing and comparing them. As a result you learn and take the best and the worst of each. And as a direct consequence, you grow and become a better person!
2. Traveling becomes way cheaper
Traveling long term is way healthier for your wallet, especially if you travel slowly. In many cases, long term backpacking can even be cheaper than staying in your hometown.
Take accommodation, for example. It's almost always cheaper to rent a place for a few weeks or months instead of for a few days. But that's not all! By staying longer periods of time in places, you'll practically be a local, meaning you'll know which markets to shop at and the best, affordable restaurants to eat at.
If you plan to travel long term, seriously consider joining the Worldpackers community. Worldpackers connects travelers with hosts around the globe. In exchange for a few hours of work each day, travelers receive free accommodation and other benefits.
Traveling long term will change the way you see your material things and the importance you give to them.
The minimalist travel mindset shift begins before before you even take off. Preparing for big trips will make you want to take everything you have with you, but for obvious reasons, that's just not possible. So you'll have to make decisions even before getting on that plane. You'll have to decide what is and what is not important. Spoiler alert: you'll probably take more than you actually need anyways.
Whether you follow a minimalist packing strategy or bring your entire life with you, you'll soon discover that some of the things you are carrying everywhere are not actually being used that often. Consequently, you'll end up leaving things behind! And trust us, this is a good thing.
Less is more has never held truer than it does in terms of what to pack for long-term travel. Releasing that extra clutter is good not only for your back but also for your mind! You'll discover that things you give importance to are not that important for you, and you'll start to give more value to things that really matter (people, experiences, feelings, etc).
4. More flexibility means more spontaneity!
When you travel for a vacation or short trip, you tend to plan more. And that makes sense — you have a short time period and you want to take maximum advantage of it! Some people even plan to exhaustion with Excel sheets and time stamps. Our first trip was like this and we quickly understood that was not our style for sure.
However, when you travel long term the opposite happens. When you take time out of the equation you become free! You have more flexibility, which can lead to better experiences and connections.
Of course you'll have a rough plan in your head, but the key is that you'll be flexible enough to stay longer in that one place you loved, or stay only a day in a place you thought you were staying longer because you didn't like the energy of it. You'll be able to join the travel itinerary of someone you connected with in a hostel, or even change your route entirely because you fell in love. (It happens more often than you might think!)
5. Learn new languages
The best teacher is necessity.
When you travel to a place for more than a few days, you will naturally feel the need to speak the local language. At the beginning some simple words may work, like "hi", "please", and "thank you", but with time you'll naturally want more and more.
Long term travel is, without a shadow of doubt, an ideal way to learn new languages. If you already have some language skills for the destination you're visiting, traveling long term can help you develop your communication skills or even become fluent! As a bonus, if you look like a tourist and try to speak the local language, locals will give you a huge smile because you are showing an effort to use their language.
Did you know that some people travel just to learn new languages?
6. It's healthier (physically and mentally)
There aren't many people who don't like to travel. In fact, every year there's more and more people who do it! However, although traveling is good for your soul, it's not that healthy for your body.
Traveling short term can be very stressing. You have a limited period of time to explore a place, and you'll want to take maximum advantage of it. This often results in many trips from one place to another, with no stops or breaks or downtime. The place you sleep is always changing, you normally eat on the go and there is no time to get sufficient rest or exercise. You might end up needing a vacation from your vacation.
On the other hand, if you travel long term you get to explore places in a more relaxed way. You spread your trips so you don't cover too much time on the road per week. You often have time to exercise and cook healthy, nourishing meals. In general, traveling long term means you have more time for to take care of your physical and mental health.
7. Freedom to chase the best weather/seasons
This one is pretty obvious.
When your long term travel schedule is flexible, you can manage to visit places during their optimal time and avoid them during their worst time. You can run away from winters and always chase summers (or vice versa) year-round! Essentially, you can do as you please.
If you have that sort of freedom and flexibility, why would you stay in a place during its rainy season, right?
8. Stronger relationships that are more likely to last!
Everyone knows traveling is an excellent way to meet new people from all over the world. However, when you travel short term, you stay less time in places and the relationships you make along on the way are more superficial. It'll most likely be the first and last time you see friends you make, even if you promise to be friends forever!
Long term travel results in more time to share moments and experiences with the people around you. Those moments and experiences naturally build strong bonds, which create honest and genuine relationships that really can last forever. In these cases, it's unlikely that you won't find a way to see each other again at some point in life.
The only downside of this is that when both sides proceed with their travels, the "goodbyes" are way harder and more intense!
9. You value your country and the people you left behind
Living amongst other cultures and traditions is amazing, but it can also be lonely and incredibly hard. It's not easy to spend months away from where you belong.
When you're in a foreign country 24/7, it's inevitable that you'll feel miss home. You'll find yourself missing simple things like food and familiar smells... to deeper and more meaningful things like strong relationships you left behind. However, the distance will make you value those things like you have never before. When you go back, you will make sure to look at things differently, and truly love and appreciate what is important to you.
10. Huge (positive) impact on your personal life
To sum up this entire article in one big advantage: traveling long term will have a huge, positive impact on your personal life.
Traveling is a pure form of education. Constantly living with different people in different places with different cultures, languages, religions and traditions will open your eyes and your mind. Travel will make you more tolerant, more patient and will influence the way you see the world and the way you carry yourself... forever.
Research now shows that travel changes you for the better. And it's true. The more you travel, the more you'll learn, grow, and mature... and a better version of you will arise!
We really believe long term travel made us stronger people, more capable of facing anything in life. And that's why we really want you to experience the magic of traveling long term!
We really hope the 10 advantages of long term travel we've listed in this article inspire you to get out there and start your long term travel journey as soon as possible. Don't overthink it, just go! You'll figure out how to make it work along the way, and when you get back, we'll be here to hear your stories.
We are a couple of Digital Nomads from Portugal. Two years ago we left everything behind to travel the world. Since then we have travelled Asia, Europe and South America, very slowly!
We created a business online to sustain our lifestyle and our main goal is to inspire and help you do the same! :)