What it's like to travel long-term

Nov 06, 2014

Long-term traveling is fuckin awesome. That being said, it isn’t always fun-filled days and partying nights. In fact, sometimes it really sucks. Like everything in life there’s good-times and bad-times; but hey, you can’t have sweet without the sour, right? This post will cover both.

So what’s so great about traveling long-term like this? Well as you can imagine you see a lot of really cool places. Nothing’s better than arriving at a destination and being blown away by it; when traveling long-term this seems to happen every week or two. I can’t tell you how many places we’ve been to where we had no idea what to expect and found a place that was simply fantastic. Leon (Nicaragua), Uvita (Costa Rica), Boquete (Panama), Guatape and Casa Elemento (Colombia) to name a few.

The people you meet can make or break a destination. People are arguably the number one reason long-term travel rocks. You meet people from all over the world and most of them are open minded, intelligent, funny, and genuinely good to know and be around. After the awesomeness of a destination fades a little and you feel like you’ve seen and done whatever it was that brought you there in the first place, the people you meet and hangout with often keep you from checking out.

Teagues_Post-3.jpgFood is always fun to try, even if you don’t think you’ll like it. This is a surprising one for me given that my approach to food isn’t as romantic as some but I do appreciate good food. I’m not going to gush over the delicate subtleties of a specific cuisine or even remotely consider myself a “foodie” but I like trying new stuff and am often the first to do so. See that huge pot of boiling liquid with what appears to be lawn trimmings and sticks in it? Hand me a cup right now and in fact, I’ll have it the same way as the last guy did. Got a few things cooking on the grill being served with some sort of starch with a hefty ladle full of chunky interesting-smelling broth poured over it? I’ll have one, and like that guy who did the “Supersize Me” documentary, every time you ask if I want something put on it from one of the various condiment jars, my answer will most likely be yes. In most instances, I like whatever I purchased and if I don’t, I eat it anyway and just constantly remark how awful it is. So far, food has been pretty darn good and cheap.

Another great thing about long-term travel is the freedom to do whatever you feel like doing on just about any given day. Now this isn’t always awesome (more on this later) but most of the time waking up without any real obligations is pretty cool. Want to hike up that hill and then wander around town for a while? Sure do! How about stopping by the store and grabbing some beer or wine and making something for dinner? Sounds like a busy Tuesday to me. Want to walk through the jungle and get soaking wet and covered in mud then watch six episodes of The Walking Dead? A repeat of yesterday huh… well I guess if there’s nothing better to do. You get the point. For the most part, you have everyday to do whatever the hell you want, even if it’s nothing at all.


So this all sounds like the cat’s pajamas right? For the most part it is but there are times when I think to myself “for fucks sake, what the hell am I doing here” or “this sucks, I want to go home now.” This, my friends, is the sour stuff.

Shitty places to stay and some of the worst mattresses ever made make me long for my old apartment with MY furniture and MY awesome mattress. If you’re traveling long-term, chances are you’re on a tight budget, which means you’re out to find the cheapest place possible that has decent amenities and doesn’t smell too bad. Sometimes though, you strike out miserably. When you find yourself sleeping on a bed that kinda smells funny due to sweat and grime it’s absorbed from other grungy travelers over the years and/or on a mattress that is such shit you swear it’s actually filled with wood chips and nails, you really feel like being home in your own bed. Where you rest your head while traveling is often your sanctuary. It’s a place where only you are allowed. You might have limited or zero privacy but for about $10-$15 bucks, this little slice of slumber heaven is all yours. Well, when it smells like old gym shoes soaked in cat urine and feels like you’re sleeping on old pallets covered in an itchy as all hell sheet, your sanctuary is more like a torture device. Morning can’t come soon enough.

Privacy is relative. I’ve lived with little privacy plenty of times and had no real issues with it but, when you wake up to someone scratching their ass three inches from your face or find their dirty clothes draped across your bed, it’s a little frustrating. Traveling long-term means you can expect little in the way of privacy. Matt often remedies this by hanging his sleep sack across his bunk assuming he’s on the bottom. The tried and true “portcullis” as he refers to it is luxury sometimes and makes a world of difference.

Boredom is easy to come by. I know what you’re thinking… “Boredom?! What kind of asshole are you that travels to exotic places most people will never dream of going to and still have the audacity to say you’re bored?” A bored asshole, that’s what kind. Sometimes there just isn’t anything to do. Sure, you could walk around town some more or read a book but to be quite honest, I’ve done both of those for two straight days. Isn’t there something else to do around here? Yes, you will get bored when traveling. If you have unlimited cash-flow you can remedy this by shelling out hefty sums for tours and “adventure excursions” but you’ll rarely meet a long-term traveler in that position.

The nagging feeling of being an unproductive, lazy slouch that is doing nothing of value for the world drives me crazy sometimes. Now this might just be me, in fact I know I feel this more than most given my personality but being an unproductive non-contributing member of the world sucks. Some of the best times I’ve had on this trip have been when I had obligations to fulfill or did something productive with my time. I know, earlier I said it was cool to wake up without obligations but it depends on what those obligations are. If it’s sitting behind a desk answering e-mails and putting out fires that are only imagined, then yes I’m happy not to have those obligations for the most part. On the other hand, you didn’t help anyone but yourself today and maybe you didn’t even do that. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on this trip so far, it’s just how much I enjoy working on something with enthusiastic and intelligent people in an effort to produce some tangible and meaningful result. I miss doing that more than I miss anything from home, with the exception of my family and friends of course.


So there you have it. Traveling is an incredible experience; one where the good and the bad have their place and you draw something from each. Sometimes it’s living life in Technicolor and soaking up the awesomeness humanity has to offer. Other times it’s loafing about on an uncomfortable smelly mattress or in a shitty hostel day dreaming of the old routine you so happily abandoned. Whatever it is, it’s worth it. Given how sweet it’s been, I’ll take whatever sour comes my way because I know there’s something cool just around the corner.




Written by Teague O’Connell
Teague is a Workforce Management / Operational Leadership expert and PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer with a passion for travel, adventure and the magnificent journey that is, life.

Find him on Google | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram





Please add a comment

Leave a Reply

(Your email will not be publicly displayed.)

Captcha Code

Click the image to see another captcha.