What is long term travel? Just for the record: No, we are not on a vacation. No, we are not doing sightseeing every day and no, we don’t sip cocktails in a beach resort all day long. Long term travelling is not a holiday. Long term travelling is a way of life and here are some of the basics that make up our conversations in everyday life.
VISAS for LONG TERM TRAVEL
‘How long are you staying in India? – Well, until my visa expires…’
Visas are a pain in the a…! Because they define how long we can stay in a place. So we tend to talk about them a lot and wonder about the best places to renew them, extend them or find the smartest way to cross borders, get a new stamp, just to get back in. In general we wish for any visa to last for at least 6 months with multiple entry (because 1, 2 or 3 month visa just aren’t suited for long term travellers).
‘Once you reach Pai, don’t go in the tourist street, but cross the bamboo bridge, then turn right… then walk for another ten minutes, there is like this super cheap bungalow I stayed in for three weeks’
Rooms are a very important topic for long term travellers and we will always ask around who knows where we can find that one super cheap, but yet not totally disgusting room, that we can stay in for weeks and that becomes our home. When there is more furniture than just a bed, with an actual place to put stuff and if it’s bigger than a shoebox with a functioning shower; we scream BINGO! Total luxury would be a hammock, balcony or terrace that come with it or a common space with cushions and coffee tables to meet fellow travellers.
‘How many hours to get from Java to Lombok by boat & bus?’
Our goal is to find the cheapest way to get from A to B no matter how long it’s gonna take. Because we have time but want to save money. That’s always the primary goal, because the less we spend, the longer we can travel. So Instead of a straight but costly flight, we get on a bus for ten hours, on a boat for five, then on a train for 25 and maybe on an Airasia flight for about 50 euros.
‘We met like five minutes ago and we already talk about our bowel movements…’
Yes, we love western food, because most of us grew up with it. But we soon realise that bread, cheese, pizza or pasta is 1. not available, 2. if it’s available it’s expensive. 3. doesn’t taste as good as home anyway and so: yes, we eat local and street food mainly, the cheaper the better and we don’t think about belly or stomach problems because after a while we get used to them.
‘How much is the beer here? “- Oh well… I’ll have some tap water then.’
We drink water, a lot of water. So we are very happy when there is a refill station in a guesthouse or restaurant. Apart from fresh juices or tea and coffee, alcohol becomes a rare luxury. And if we drink we will probably drink local beer if it tastes good or not, as long as it’s cold enough. A good glass of wine, whiskey or a gin tonic are 1. not available, 2. expensive, 3. you get the picture.
WORK during LONG TERM TRAVEL
‘Yayahhh I just got payed for the translation work I did a week ago.’
Most of us do work on the road, as we have to make a living here and there. So we teach yoga classes, play concerts, write, do massages, do tattoos, make jewellery, translate texts, do online work of any kind, are journalists or bloggers or filmmakers and photographers, or we teach English or some other language. Ok, we don’t work from nine to five every day, but we do work…
‘What day is today? – I have no idea.’
We have plenty of it and we are aware of that, so we use it. We use it to relax, to write, to read, to discuss, to learn, to sleep, to move, to walk, to run, to meditate, to swim, to trek, to cut our hair, to watch sunsets, to dream, basically to LIVE just as we feel like living in that moment.
‘This was like 400 rupees, I got it for 170!’
No, most of us are not rich, it’s more of the opposite. We might be very rich in experience and in thoughts but most of us just make it happen. We sacrifice a lot everyday in order to live this lifestyle. We live on a budget every single day. This is what most people don’t understand. They think that we live the same lives as them just while travelling. So no, we don’t go for shopping on the weekends. Buying a new phone is a very big deal to us. We wear the same clothes for months or even years, we have one or two pair of shoes and we think in local prices and don’t compare to the euro or dollar anymore. Our main goal in life is not to earn more, but to spend less!
‘My backpack is 15 kg and yours?’
Every THING we own fits in a backpack (or two) and maybe a guitar and a tent for some. We carry all we possess with us all the time. And the longer we travel the less stuff we actually carry in that backpack. We learn to let go of stuff even more, because we have to actually carry that backpack, sometimes for hours. Since we don’t book rooms we have to wander around to find one… Of course some of us have stuff back home, in boxes, at our mom’s place or at friends’ places. But we realise after some time that we actually don’t need those boxes and by the time we go back we won’t even remember why we put those things in a box in the first place. The things that we cherish the most are in our head anyway. They are memories, adventures, encounters, moments, love, friendship… and no one can ever take them from us. We can lose all our material stuff but we will always have the riches of all the things we’ve been through and all the magic moments that happened to us.
‘How is the wifi there and where can I top up my prepaid Sim card?’
Most of us are ultra connected. We know all about whatsapp, facebook, skype, viber… we look for the best wifi in town because even if we we are wandering , we still want to stay connected to the world in some way or the other. We exchange emails or FB contacts but rarely phone numbers because we have different phone numbers in every place we are. We get a sim card at the airport when we arrive to a new destination and most of us chooses a data plan rather than local phone calls. On one day we talk to people in every different continent, because the more we travel the more we connect to people in more and more countries. We keep track of our fellow traveller friends too, as we might end up in the same city at the same moment and meet up for a coffee, for lunch and dinner or even for a whole week before we part again physically but stay connected in the digital world.
‘Where are you from? Almost every conversation amongst travellers starts like that…’
We have a lot of friends, everywhere in the world. Because most of us travel alone, and when you are alone you inevitably meet other people that travel alone as well and for a lot of them you connect instantly. They become your closest friends in hours or days and we share everything, even our deepest emotions. Why? Because we are human beings and we are used to live in social structures with friendship, love and affection. So the more we travel, the more we let people in our hearts very quickly, but at the same time we learn how to let go. The first goodbyes are the worst, but after some time we know what we might meet again somewhere, and even if we never meet again we know that for that moment in time when we were together, we were really together. But everyone has his own way and we know that we will leave at some point and that life will go on and we will meet new people and they will too.
LOVE during Long Term Travel
‘I love you… for now.’
We all need love and we find it on the road. But instead of building a future together or thinking about settling down, we share intense moments and intense emotions. Sometimes we even move in together after one day and share weeks or months together until a visa ends, a passport ends, someone has to go back home, or we just don’t want to travel together anymore. It’s not easy and we all think that maybe one day we will find “The one”, that we will travel together forever and maybe settle down somewhere between San Jose and Nairobi when we are old… But it’s very difficult because we are on a journey and we want to stay free. Freedom is one of the best feelings and we are aware of the fact that some awesome feelings come with a high price. Compromising freedom is very hard for long term travellers, and at the same time, compromise is one of the fundamentals to make a couple work over time. Of course there are long term travelling couples out there, but most of them were together before they started travelling or are just really lucky 🙂
Wow, this is a great article and we totally agree. Our first experience of long term travel, which were 3 months in Costa Rica, thought us exactly these facts! Eat local products, skip the western stuff and so on… Having a bottle of cheap red wine was THE highlight of the month and we even saved a bit for the next day! Living as minimalistic as possible in a tiny wooden barn and got woken up each day by howler monkeys at 5 in the morning. Some might say, this would be horrible…we say, these were the best 3 months in our lives, so far and we learned so much. Well, let’s continue to be long term travelers, having the best “job” in the world and the time of our life 😉 Pura Vida!
well done Sarah, Nice how you break it all down ..
Where will you go after India ? What is up in Auroville these days for you ?
Namaste Laxman, Frans Versteijnen