Pros and Cons of Long-Term Traveling (vs. 2-Week Vacations)

One of the reasons we jumped headfirst into this year-long, RTW trip was because we were frustrated by the vacation time work gave us. As Americans, getting two-weeks of vacation for the entire year is pretty standard. I find this pretty absurd.

What’s more, despite having abundant evidence that vacations are very beneficial for both the employee and the employer (see here and here), our country has a stigma against taking time off – so much so that more than half of Americans don’t even take all their paid vacation. Say whaaa?? I think this is lunacy. Many other countries have a much healthier outlook on “holidays,” in my opinion. But I digress.

I wanted to write this article to show that despite my annoyance with our puny vacation time, taking a “normal vacation” (versus traveling for a longer period of time) does have its perks. In fact, I appreciate these vacations much more now that I’ve traveled for over eight months.

My hopes are these: if you aren’t going to long-term travel anytime soon, this will help you have a better appreciation for your vacation time. If you are considering long-term travel, this will give you a better idea of what it will be like.

Pros

Weather doesn’t matter nearly as much

When you’re on a vacation, bad weather can ruin a good chunk of it – or even the whole thing. When you’re traveling for a while, who cares if it’s rainy for a few days, or even weeks?

Rain, rain, every single day on Easter Island

Neither does getting sick

Same thing as the weather. Getting sick can ruin your entire vacation. If you get sick while you’re traveling for a while (likely to happen), you can rest up and won’t feel bad about missing a few days in the sun.

Not as much pressure

I’ve noticed this weird thing about vacation, at least for Americans – we feel the need to do and see so much on vacation that we are exhausted when we get back. Counter-intuitive, hey? When you’re on the road for a while, you have the luxury of kicking back for days (or even weeks!) at a time. Haven’t seen enough of a city? Stay longer!

Travel days aren’t such a big deal

The time you spend traveling from place to place isn’t such a huge proportion of your time spent actually enjoying a place. When you only have two weeks of vacation, if you want to go someplace far away, you’ll need to spend a good portion of that vacation traveling.

You get to see so much more

You get to see some places that are much more remote than you would during a vacation, simply because you wouldn’t have the time it takes to get there.

Places like Palau!

Gives you a new appreciation for your home

Being away for so long really makes you appreciate your home – your friends, your family, your routines you took for granted, etc. – and sort of slaps you in the face with your privilege.

Cons

You can’t “ball out” nearly as often

Sticking to a budget was fairly easy when we were at home, saving money for our travels. It’s a different story when you’re traveling, spending time in new countries. You want to experience everything each new place has to offer, and that often comes with a price tag. Not to mention it’s hard seeing tons of people getting schwasted bottles of wine at expensive water-front restaurants when you’re walking past with grocery bags full of cup noodles. (Okay, that really only happened in Oslo, but still…)

You get lonely

All those people balling out? They were with friends. And guess what? You can’t bring your friends with you on a long-term trip. Sure, you meet tons of awesome people along the way. But we miss true companionship. And while it’s great that we have each other, I’ve started to get jealous when I see big groups of people out at restaurants or bars, laughing and joking around.

You get tired

Traveling is exhausting. Not just the days spent squashed in the backseat of a minibus, but also just the constant stimulation of being in a new place.

So glad I have an excuse to use this picture. Yes, he actually fell asleep like that

You can’t bring souvenirs or gifts for family & friends back

…at least not easily/cheaply. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it’s something I think about at every new place. We’ve been so many places were I say, “Ooo my mom would love this!” or “This would be perfect for my brother!” or “I wish I could buy this massive giraffe statue for my next apartment!” It’d be so fun to collect knick-knacks that would remind us of where we went, but it’s just not feasible when you’re traveling for a year (with only backpacks).

Living out of a suitcase gets tiring, boring and frustrating

I don’t consider myself a super material person. I’ve never needed a big wardrobe, and I hate shopping. However, choosing from a week’s worth of clothes for an entire year makes me want to pull my hair out. When I say, “If I see myself in a picture with that tank top ONE MORE TIME, I’m gonna lose it!”, I know it’s time to toss it and replace it. Never thought I’d say this, but I can’t wait until I have an actual closet with a greater selection of clothes. Variety is the spice of life, people!

Wearing literally everything I own for the year…and yes, I now need two backpacks

You can’t pack the perfect things for each place

Going from Asia to New Zealand was kind of a nightmare. We went from literally-sweating-whenever-we stepped-outside to almost-getting-hypothermia. True story. While layers are a great makeshift solution for traveling to varying climates, it would be nice to be able to pack for a specific type of trip.

Laundry

When you think doing laundry is awful, just think about doing it on the road. It’s not fun. And since you only have about a week’s worth of clothes, you have to do laundry way more often. This means having plenty of oops guess I’ll wear my underwear inside-out or go commando moments, or gosh who stinks oh wait it’s me realizations.

Health decline

Okay, maybe this one’s just me. But it’s really hard to exercise while traveling unless it happens organically, like a watersport or a hike. We eat out at restaurants much more often than we did at home (like, almost every meal) and drink a lot more, too – nothing too crazy (we rarely stay up past 10), but just enough to notice my shorts getting a lot tighter. It’s really hard to eat healthy in places that only offer carbs, carbs, and more carbs at reasonable prices. And it’s really hard to say no to a beer that costs less than $1 (just sayin).

Anticipation

When you’re living in the moment and enjoying every place you visit, you don’t have time to get excited about the next destination. The anticipation for a trip can be half the fun, or even the best part of your vacation.

No Time to Process

Similarly, you don’t have time to sit back and process what just happened – you’re already moving on to the next destination. Blogging has been a really helpful means of recording lots of our experiences, but it’s just not the same as reminiscing on a recent vacation while you’re back at home.

Have I convinced you that vacations actually have their own benefits? Do you have questions about long-term travel?

7 Comment

  1. Trevor says: Reply

    So glad you were able to make this amazing journey happen, but I can’t wait for you to get home either!

    1. Brittany says: Reply

      Me too! 🙂

  2. Janice says: Reply

    OK- all great incites about “specific vacations”. I TOTALLY AGREE on the the need for the breaks: if we were given more time, I think vacations would be less about fitting as much in as possible in the limited amount of time we are given to actually getting the “chill” time we NEED in one place. I bet the list on Pros will grow when you get home and you get back to work…LOL…

    1. Brittany says: Reply

      Thank you! I bet you’re right (unfortunately)…

  3. Janice says: Reply

    I meant insights of course…opps!

  4. Jo says: Reply

    Any vacation anywhere would be awesome!! I’m living through your amazing travels. Can’t wait till you get home, so we can hear more! You make me laugh and smile along the way. Love you!! Aunt Jo

    1. Brittany says: Reply

      Agreed – they’re all great, that’s for sure! Can’t wait to see you – love you too!! xoxo

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