We all got used to the mainstream rhetoric that promotes long-term traveling. Every day, the leading newspapers and mainstream media argue that leaving everything behind and quitting the job is a great scenario to all who feels tired, burnt out and unhappy with their lives. I have already written a polemic article on Why blaming nine to five office job is a bad idea here. In this article, I will argue that long-term traveling is unsustainable.
Lack of strong social ties
The general idea, favored by numerous bloggers and travel journalists, is that through traveling you make new social relations. While this is true, nobody tells you that the quality of the new ties is far more different than you might think. Sociology defines ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ social ties and everybody needs both to live and prosper.
Strong ties are the ones sustained with our close family members and very close friends, while weak social ties are all others, characterized by low frequency, intensity and with low influence on our behavior.
Long term travels result are twofold: one the one hand the absence at home results in weakening the strong ties with our close family, on the other hand, our lives is full of meaningless weak ties with random people. When you travel a long time and you are a guest at home you become a sort of “Skype family member” who is always far and absent. At the same time, you meet a bunch of new people on everyday basis, who you rarely meet again, if at all!
Long term travels limit our personal development and healthy relationships which are equally important for our lives as the food and sun.
Through long term traveling, we exclude ourselves from the social live of our hometown, family, neighborhood, coworkers, and friends. Not only we are physically absent and we are not updated on what is happening in all groups we felt part of, but also we feel more attached to the universal group of travelers and globetrotters. Rather than a healthy feeling of belonging to a social group we feel part of a virtual and very vague group of people, who cannot efficiently support us, cannot physically be with us when we need them and can go away far, far away with no warning, disappearing from our lives. Also, when we meet non-travelers our conversations tend to be monothematic and thus when we go back home we don’t feel like part of this micro world anymore.
Non-travelers, out of a variety of reasons, tend to exclude us – travelers from their company. We don’t have any common subjects to talk about. And any contact results in frustration on both sides of the fence.
Health and wellbeing
Long-term travelers tend to neglect their health problems. I personally know many of them and it is quite common to postpone regular dentist visits for ages, not to mention other doctors or regular basic blood exams. Even if the major part of them has an insurance for the accidents they do not have an access to the basic healthcare. This is a paradox: while there are thousands if not millions of people around the world who would dream about the basic healthcare, many modern travelers resign of this right they had in their home country, along their full-time employment.
Long-term travelers tend to suffer overweight. As traveling make the establishment of a routine extremely complicated, the first thing you neglect is physical exercises. Many of the travelers I know do not perform any physical exercises on a regular basis using as the main excuse ‘lack of time’. There is more to that! In every place on earth, there are super tasty local specialties that you need to taste, resulting in getting more kilograms every year.
Hardworking instead of a holiday
The beforementioned ‘quitting the job to travel’ usually involves a career switch. Very quickly, everlasting holiday promised by journalists and bloggers turn to be a hard work. After all, the money will run out and will need to deal with it, and you need to find a job. One of the ideas is relying on a job market in a country where you are currently staying. It has its downfalls. It might be illegal as you need time and money to get the working visa, or it is a poorly paid low profile job, like cleaning toilets. Yes, this actually happened to a traveling couple after spending 50,000 USD on traveling they found themselves in a situation when they are literally cleaning toilets for food and shelter.
You might think they are not smart enough. Come on, so many people earn a living out of their travels, right? Yes, it is possible to make this business switch but are you aware what this means? A 12 hours working days in this travel business are considered standard, no weekends off, constant availability to all partners, press, etc. this is what travel business is all about. There is also a constant presence in online media which all results in overworking and burn out.
Wait, but they promised that through the long-term traveling you will beat burn out and you will be happy!
I can only tell you this: if you don’t know how to be happy where you are, traveling around the world will not help you. I am strongly convinced that the healthy, well – balanced personal development does not demand any traveling at all. Obviously, you can travel, do sports, work 9-17, enjoy family life, you can literally do whatever you want but you need to be clear about your lifestyle, your dreams, your habits and your relations. And the happy life asks from you regular effort and engagement on an everyday basis. Don’t neglect your personal development only to impress somebody with your travel around the world.
Be yourself and find your life balance and don’t forget to be happy!
Last, but not least: long-term traveling costs a lot. Psychologically and emotionally. There are a couple of things here. First, the lack of your own place makes you fragile. There is no ‘safe zone’ in your life and, when things turn nasty like it happens, there is no place to escape to, no place to hide. Second, if you travel long-time you tend to save money which often results in sharing an apartment or a room with strangers. It robs you out of your privacy, which, in a long-term perspective, is very important for your well-being and proper balance.
To wrap up: think twice before you quit your job and leave everything behind. Travel is not a toy. Travel will not deal with all your problems. If you consider a journey a pure relax, a therapy or a remedy to all your problems, think again.