If you are reading this, odds are you’re one of those people or you’re considering becoming one. There are many advantages to being a long-term traveller, many of which I outlined in a previous article. Unfortunately, choosing a life of airport queues and passport stamps has its downsides – ones you will probably not realise until you have lived it for quite some time.
As you may or may not know, I’ll be moving back to London this September to finish my political science degree. I will stay put for at least ten months, which may not seem like much but is already sending my fragile psyche into panic mode. With all the deadlines and mandatory class attendance, I won’t be able to just take off whenever I please… and what kind of pitiable existence is that?
The more I think about it, the more I am beginning to realise what a blessing in disguise this truly is. I have been moving around the world by myself for over three years now and am finally beginning to fully understand all the undesirable aspects of a nomadic lifestyle. Are you contemplating your next big move? Here are a few questions you should ask yourself before lifting your anchors and setting sail.
Are you running away from something?
Life on the road will allow you to get in touch with your innermost desires, enable a series of “Eat, Pray, Love” style epiphanies and even a hot affair with a Javier Bardem doppelganger.But if you are using travel as an escape, your issues will eventually catch up with you. Personal problems are cunning enemies – if you try to run away from them, they will let you feel victorious for a while just to pounce with their full body strength when you return.
Feel free to take a trip to clear your head, but be realistic about what it can do for you. Got problems back home? Perhaps it’s time you returned to face them head-on. Once you do that, you can set out again – this time running toward something, not away from it.
I am not saying that it’s impossible to have a relationship and travel full time. Far from it. But if you are anything like me, combining the two might require more effort than you’re willing to put in. Slowing down and staying in one place for a longer period of time will give you a chance to actually get to know someone and give your relationship a chance to turn into more than a lukewarm Facebook friendship.
You might feel right at home in your new adoptive land – you might feel like a citizen of the entire world for all I know – but the truth is, no matter how hard you try you will always be “the foreigner” in the eyes of many others.This is not a problem you will face everywhere. I spend most of my time in the UK where I blend in very well, despite my American accent and insufficient appreciation of English tea. London is one of the most cosmopolitan cities on earth and my foreigner status is something I share with half of its population, which means I don’t feel like much of an outsider at all.When I visited China, it was a different story altogether.
People stopped in their tracks to take a selfie with me, pointed at me on the subway and provided me with a steady supply of free liquor in clubs. But there were negative aspects, too – until I started speaking Mandarin to shopkeepers, they often tried to charge me exorbitant prices and taxi drivers rarely stopped for me. No matter how hard I tried, I stuck out like a sore thumb.
Are you fine with your identity being reduced to that of an outsider by passerbys? This is not a problem for everyone and some even welcome it. But after a while, being treated like an exotic animal can get very tiring. When it does, there is nothing wrong with packing up your things and going to the one place where you will always belong – your home.
No matter how long we have been on the road, we all have lives back home somewhere – even if that home does not even feel like a home anymore. There is a family we left behind and friends who chose to settle down whom we miss every step of our way. Travel is beautiful, but sometimes retracing your steps back to familiar horizons is exactly the adventure you need. I for one am extremely excited to move back to London and see all of my amazing friends again!