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The downsides to backpacking long term

newadventuresinbackpacking

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  • Added on: May 23rd, 2010
In a previous blog I touched upon the fact that I am surrounded by people much younger than me. In turn, this also means I have a lot more backpacking experience than most of my friends. Such is the nature of NZ that the majority of the travellers I meet are on their first ever trip. There is a backpackers code that I hate and that is that every conversation you have with any new person must start along the lines with any of these dreaded questions:

How long are you travelling for? Where have you been? Where are you going next?

When I tell them the answers to those awful questions, they are usually quite impressed. To most people I have travelled a lot and I am very lucky to have been able to have done so much travelling in the last few years, but people only really see one side of things. My life style is certainly not all sex, travel and rock n roll. Travel is the best thing currently in my life, meeting new people, experiencing new cultures are all the plus points but sometimes it can be a tough and quite lonely existence. I have spent the last five years in a constant cycle. Saving up to travel, travelling followed by paying off travel. It presents a number of problems that wear me down from time to time be it on a four month trip or a year or two overseas.

I recently had a situation when it was time to say goodbye to someone whom I spent quite a bit of time with for a few weeks. When it was time for them to leave. I mentioned that I would really miss their company they told me ‘I must do this all the time’, and she was right I do. However, sometimes I am less numb to it than others and it’s hard to show the individual person that they are more to me than just another backpacker to spend a day or two with and it’s quite sad when that’s all they think they were. The best thing about travelling is the variety of people I meet that I would never have been exposed to if I had never left the UK; but despite all your best intentions as well as emails and Facebook you know you will probably never see them again. When I am finished travelling I wonder who I will be left with in the friends department.

All that said, not every backpacker you meet is your cup of tea, in fact some of the biggest twats I have ever met have been backpackers!

It’s near impossible to remain friends with people back home. I’m never there and people move on, and even when I am there I’m always saving to leave again and cannot really commit to anything. I could write a novel on long distance relationships with girls I’ve met on my travels. None of which, so far, have a happy ending. I must admit I have no idea where home will be when I finally finish up travelling and will inevitably have to start from scratch where ever that place maybe.

The same can be said with possessions of which I have nothing other than my backpack. I have seen so much amazing art work and décor that I would love to have in a house one day that I have had to pass by because there is simply no point. At the end of all this I will have nothing to show for my travels other than the memories, my photos and this excellent blog.

Even the actual travel can drive you insane at times. I have now lived out of my backpack without a place to call home for six months. After constantly rolling all my clothes and squashing them into a backpack I now want to burn ever item of clothing I own.

Also forget about having any privacy or peace and quiet. I am sure every traveller has at some point had a breaking point after seeing yet another waterfall, temple or castle. It all looks the same after a while. I didn’t go to Chichan Itza the famous Myan ruin in Mexico upon which most people base an entire trip around because I was simply templed out.

Whilst my lifestyle is fun and a wonderful experience that I wouldn’t have missed for the world, the last thing this is, is easy.

go girl now

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  • Added on: May 24th, 2010
I still remember how people like you held such glamor for me before I got a little experience under my belt. Do them a favor and don't tell them what you just told us--spin a romantic yarn about the time you got away from some pirates off the coast of Tahiti. It's what they want to hear--I know that b/c it's what I wanted to hear. Tell them you got lost in Oz and had to survive by eating witchetty grubs--gross stories are always good. Anyway, it sounds like you are sensitive of peoples' feelings and that's a great quality to have, but I'm sure you know that when you travel long-term you'll be living your life and that includes the negative feelings too--they don't just come in response to job related stress-- maybe you're ready for a change of pace. If you need to keep on the road, why not stay somewhere for awhile and really get to know the area? Go back to your favorite haunt. Reconnect with some people you've met while traveling or just go home and stay for awhile. I agree that traveling gets old if you're just out to see temples and ruins. I believe you Brits have a term for it--The ABC tour--another bloody cathedral. ;)

Jeanie99

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  • Added on: May 24th, 2010
I read your comments on long term backpacking with interest. comparing your experiences with my own. The reality of travelling is somewhat different to the picture new travellers have before starting off. Relationships are stretched to the limits at times when the travelling gets difficult.
I do think though if you do meet someone special that you should grab the bull by the horns and tell them, what's the worst that can happen, they could say the're not interested, no ones going to die and at the best you've met "the one". Some individuals aren't worth the time of day, are full of themselves but other you'll remember for the rest of your life for there kindness and willingness to share what little they have with you.
Life has it's challengers wherever you are or whoever you are with but always try and take time out for maintence days and giving yourself some TLC.
Keep safe
Jean

Skylab

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  • Added on: May 24th, 2010
Well... It certainly beats the downsides of a cubicle box for 9hrs a day.
DJSkylab.com: My blog :)
ArtOfBackpacking.com: Backpacking Independent International Traveler
"They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself." -Andy Warhol

pepdrug

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  • Added on: May 24th, 2010
backpackers are just like everybody else, but it can be a tad more glamorous as you are meeting and doing things outside of the everyday routine! Your comments, it would be interesting to know, do you still feel the same way about them today because I find your emotions are more raw and open when traveling..when you're at "home", you sleep in the same bed and get out on the "right" side every day and you know basically what the day will bring, within boundaries, but NOW..all you really know is that the sun will rise every morning, and you will always look to the east for it at sunrise and to the west for it at sunset, but otherwise, it's all a brand new story for YOU...You might want to open up your mind to how to have a relationship on the go: what does keeping in contact mean for you.is it just a flash memory of some girl when you see yet another temple, or is it remembering to write that special person when you are lingering over your cup of latte, or is it - yee gawds, maybe even changing your "planned" plans to go another direction to chase after somebody you like!!!

IloveAfrica

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  • Added on: May 25th, 2010
I totally get what you are saying and I honestly think it is time for you to reconsider the way you are going about things. I used to do the same coming and going from the UK saving up and going on long trips in distance and time also meeting some of those twats you are talking about. I used to enjoy meeting the locals and learning about their culture much more than meeting other backpackers so ended up spending more and more time in one place rather than a couple of days then move on. When I went to Thailand for three months I spent one week in Bangkok and then three months in Ko Chang. So I met some local fishermen and went fishing with them five days a week. I came to realise that this was far more rewarding than sight seeing. I then decided to get a job abroad and ended up in Botswana teaching in a government school as a physics teacher. I mixed with the local Batswana and had the time of my life. I then met a local lady and we got married, we now have two fantastic kids and my solo travelling days are over. Now I travel with my family. I have now lived here for 13 years and still love every minute. My occassional trips to visit friends and relatives in the UK only serve to reasure me that I made the right decision. I love every single day and there are still nuances about the people that surprise me every day. I have made very good friends including a couple of like minded expats and I also have numerous inlaws. Have you thought about working abroad instead of continuing this cycle, I think maybe this would be the solution you are searching for it was for me. Hope this helps and you find the right way that suits yourself and try to remember that you can lose your possessions but nobody can take away your memories. Jason

KathrynD

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  • Added on: May 25th, 2010
I think the reason it seems so glamorous to others is that they think it's a giant vacation. When I returned from my African trip of 6 months, my friends asked "how was your vacation?" As if one could sum of 6 months with some pithy comments. There were peaks and there were valleys, I was well then I was sick.

Once you are traveling long term, you are no longer "on vacation", the travel is your life and traveling is your lifestyle. It's hard for people to relate unless they've done it themselves. I think that's why so many of us hang out here, so that we can talk with like-minded folks who understand.

Felix the Hat

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  • Added on: May 28th, 2010
The downside to long-term travel while young is that it lessens your prospects for long-term travel later in life. Unless you are independently wealthy, or extremely lucky, taking two years off in your twenties will likely cost you four or six years you could take off later in life.

I don't regret having spent the entirety of my twenties maximizing my travel at the expense of my career (which I didn't begin until age 32), but I am much more aware now of the consequences.

Kate and Dan

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  • Added on: May 28th, 2010
Perhaps it's my natural pessimism, but it seems that an awfully large part of travel these days is to see things while you still can. — Bill Bryson


While losing a year's (or two or three) earnings while younger can affect you later in life — there's no guarantee that those things will be around when you're ready to retire. :shock:
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Felix the Hat

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  • Added on: May 28th, 2010
Kate and Dan wrote:
Perhaps it's my natural pessimism, but it seems that an awfully large part of travel these days is to see things while you still can. — Bill Bryson


While losing a year's (or two or three) earnings while younger can affect you later in life — there's no guarantee that those things will be around when you're ready to retire. :shock:


That's why I don't regret it.

JR_TheDriftersBlog

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  • Added on: May 28th, 2010
IloveAfrica wrote:I totally get what you are saying and I honestly think it is time for you to reconsider the way you are going about things. I used to do the same coming and going from the UK saving up and going on long trips in distance and time also meeting some of those twats you are talking about. I used to enjoy meeting the locals and learning about their culture much more than meeting other backpackers so ended up spending more and more time in one place rather than a couple of days then move on. When I went to Thailand for three months I spent one week in Bangkok and then three months in Ko Chang. So I met some local fishermen and went fishing with them five days a week. I came to realise that this was far more rewarding than sight seeing. I then decided to get a job abroad and ended up in Botswana teaching in a government school as a physics teacher. I mixed with the local Batswana and had the time of my life. I then met a local lady and we got married, we now have two fantastic kids and my solo travelling days are over. Now I travel with my family. I have now lived here for 13 years and still love every minute. My occassional trips to visit friends and relatives in the UK only serve to reasure me that I made the right decision. I love every single day and there are still nuances about the people that surprise me every day. I have made very good friends including a couple of like minded expats and I also have numerous inlaws. Have you thought about working abroad instead of continuing this cycle, I think maybe this would be the solution you are searching for it was for me. Hope this helps and you find the right way that suits yourself and try to remember that you can lose your possessions but nobody can take away your memories. Jason


i really, really loved this comment! i know that you were writing to the original poster, but i just had to say thanks so much for the inspiration and encouragement you've given to me also. what you've described here is what i want to attain. i'm at that point in my life, where you were at before, where i am no longer satisfied with the hopping out for expeditions and back home slaving for money. i hope to one day be able to look back and smile at my life in retrospect. its a been a great ride so far, i'm going to take your advice and go even further!
JR@ DriftersBlog.com "The Drifters Blog" has tips, thoughts & inspiration for your next trip!

busman7

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  • Added on: May 29th, 2010
While I don't consider it a downside, after 6 months in SE Asia I realized I could never live happily in Canada again which means when my RTW returns me there it will be to sell my remaining possessions before returning to Thailand in the fall to get some teaching experience on my TEFL certificate & start a new life somewhere in the area, possibly Indonesia.
http://blogs.bootsnall.com/busman7 | http://wwwlasbrisasplayasandiego.blogspot.com
"I started out alone to seek adventures. You don't really have to seek them - that is nothing but a phrase - they come to you." Mark Twain

Elis

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  • Added on: May 30th, 2010
I think Jason really hit it on the head. I've spent quite a bit of time moving around. Not necesarilly backpacking, but moving away for school, doing study abroad, emigrating, etc. I always felt like I had to get out there and see the world, it wasn't a choice or a holiday but something I needed to do to live. But at some point I also realized that I needed a home and I decided to pick a place where I thought I could live long term and then built my home. With this I don't mean a building, but relationships. I still move around as much as possible. I just did another semester abroad in Berlin (I'm 34 and went back to uni after working for years) and it was amazing. There are times when I work full time for years and save up my vacation time for 5 weeks of backpacking once a year, and it feels like litte. But now, I also like where I live. I have a romantic relationship that is solid. And I have friends, the kind that know me well enough to know my psych baggage, the kind I don't have to explain things to all the time. We've gone to funerals together. They are part of my family. I need those relationships and that love. And it is possible to combine that with traveling in its many, many forms.



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