Why I Left to Travel for a Year
Things you read on every travel blog:
“Oh, travel is all about the people! Everyone is so wonderful and nice and friendly and you can’t ever believe the terrible things that get said on the news about foreign countries. People are the only reason to travel.”
Things travel blogs don’t tell you:
“Not every person is worth meeting. And not every person will think it is worthwhile meeting you.”
I’m a lucky traveler. My friends and family are unilaterally supportive of my RTW trip. (As an introvert, I take a lot of care in choosing my relationships, so once you’re in, you’re in.) So when I meet new people on the road, I’m always a little surprised when they make snap judgments about my travels. Particularly when we’re meeting through a hostel stay or a bus ride. Um, you’re traveling too. Why don’t you understand how this works?
By far the harshest judgment I got was from a super snobby Russian girl on a bus from Ljubljana to Zagreb. Croatia, despite having joined the EU recently, is still quite stringent with its border crossings. Our entire bus had to de-board, have our passports individually examined by an EU agent, cross the border on foot, and have our passport checked again by a second Croatian agent.
Being in the front of the bus, I, the Russian girl, and a talkative Italian man had some time to wait, especially when someone further back in line had a problem with their passport. We stood out in the chill as the sun set for about an hour, and the Italian guy was eager for conversation.
It started the way most conversations on the road do: “Where are you from?” When it was the Russian girl’s turn, she simply said Russia, with an odd expression on her face. When we asked where in Russia, she rolled her eyes and sneered “Not Moscow or St. Petersburg.” I think I literally took a step back at that. She went on, disdain dripping from her tongue, “Russia is a big place. It has more than two cities.”
I pretty much checked out at that point. I was tired to begin with. I wasn’t interested in forcing conversation. She and the Italian continued and I could hear snippets of her insulting Italy’s education system and all manner of other snotty comments. Eventually, they tried to draw me back in, asking about my travels.
I explained I was on a year-long RTW trip, and the Russian girl promptly declared she would never travel for so long. After a few weeks, you have to go back home. That way, you can appreciate the travel. She flitted her eyes up and down my person. “But I guess some people are different,” she sneered.
I was speechless and simply walked away. Haters gonna hate and after an hour in the cooling evening air, there was no way I was going to subject myself to continued abuse.
But the episode did get me thinking: Why did I leave for an entire year? I’d be lying if I said I never questioned embarking on a trip for so long.
We travel for all manner of reasons. This is why I travel long-term.
Table of Contents
It’s a commitment.
Had I traveled for only a summer, I think it would have still felt like an extended vacation. Taking a year away from home means fully committing myself to travel as a lifestyle. A nearer “deadline” for my return home would seem too definite and I would be more inclined to treat this journey as something temporary.
Living in a college town, most leases start in July or August. By leaving for a full year – July to July – I ensured that I didn’t have to break my lease to leave and I further ensure that I can easily find a new place to live upon my return.
When people ask questions about when I’ll return to the U.S. or what I’ll do when my trip is over, I can genuinely say I don’t really know. (Before we go any further on this point: Mom, I am definitely coming back next summer! Even if I have the means to continue traveling, I will want to have a good long visit in Charlottesville.)
When one’s return is only a few months away, the need to create concrete plans arises. What will I do for work? Where will I live – both in terms of city and specific dwelling?
With a full year, I can spend more time enjoying my travels before the time comes for big decisions.
It’s slower paced
In addition to having more time to “cool down” at the end of my trip, traveling for a full year gave me more time to “warm up” at its start.
Most of my two weeks in Barcelona were filled with homesickness and anxiety. If my plans had ended with the summer, that time would have been nearly 20% of my total travel time. As is, two weeks in the course of a year is barely a blip on the radar.
Having so much time ahead of me gave me the pacing and freedom to adjust to full-time travel completely.
When people first hear about RTW and long-term travel, they assume that the cost of a year-long trip must be the price of a two-week vacation extrapolated to a 52-week period.
This is not the case at all.
By traveling continuously, I cut down on many of the expenses I would incur by traveling in bite-sized increments over several years.
Case in point: next month, when I fly to Nepal I’ll be paying a little over $100 to get there from New Delhi. Airfare from the U.S. to Kathmandu, however, is more like $1,000.
I may be spending a large chunk of money at once on travel this year. But over time, I’d spend far more in total on vacations.
It’s not too much of a commitment
When I first started thinking about long-term travel, I toyed with the idea of a two-year trip. That would have taken much longer to achieve. One year is just enough distance to make all the aforementioned freedom and pacing possible, while still being a little on the temporary side. I did not leave forever (I promise Mom/Boyfriend/Other Friends and Family).
In short, a year is a perfect balance for making a change.
Hi Danielle! Loved all of your reasons for choosing to travel for a year’s time–all completely valid, and something you should never have to justify to anyone, much less that snotty Russian girl. I hope you are enjoying this journey of learning and self-discovery!
Quite right about justification. I definitely waited a few weeks to actually write this so I wouldn’t be composing it in a knee jerk reaction to that girl!
Indeed, each on their own. I admire your courage for traveling, and you should not stop! I do enjoy the occasional travel as I tend to miss home but then again, who am I really to say what you’re doing is not rational because I am also working hard. Therefore, I can live the life of travel. Unfortunately, despite the boom of the travel industry and the fact that more and more people opt for a lifestyle that you have, there are still people who frown upon such practice. But girl, travel on!
Bingo. I would never tell someone who prefers to travel in shorter bursts that they’re not a ‘real’ traveler. We all do what works best for ourselves.
I like that you’re down to earth and realistic about your goals. I’m so tired of reading “Fuck my life, I’ll just leave”. Hope you will enjoy your trip and I’ll be looking forward to reading more about your adventures ????
Wow! Goodness I hope that that girl on the bus is just having a bad day, and she’s not like that all the time! She must live a lonely life if that’s how she normally is. This is inspiring, and is a good checkpoint of asking WHY people should travel. It’s not something to do just to tick off of a bucket list. It’s something you really have to have a reason for. Sadly, for me to travel for a year, I’ll have to save up for YEARS, since our Philippine peso is low compared to Western currencies. So for now I’m visiting countries in my region, as well as local sights! Thanks for this post!
This is so true – travel is not for everyone, and if it’s not that’s okay! Best of luck in your own travels. I had to plan and save for 3 years myself to make my RTW trip a reality, so don’t be too intimidated. In the meantime, travelling locally is still travel and totally enjoyable in its own right! I gave myself lots of mini-breaks to go hiking or road tripping for a weekend, or visit something touristy in my hometown to help keep myself motivated for the Big Trip instead of getting impatient and blowing my savings on an international vacation.
I can imagine how the Russian girl was talking to you both. Lol. I admire people who can travel for longer periods of time, I myself can’t really do it. Mainly because of the restricted passport that I hold but on top of that, I’d get burnt out easily.
I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to travel – it really depends on your personality and travel style. While I don’t think I’d be able to do what you’re doing, I do agree with mostly what you wrote as reasons.
Thanks Noemi. And you bring up a really good point re: passports. ‘Because I can’ is definitely a reason I travel so much. I’m keenly aware of my privilege as an American citizen (even more so now that I’ve had to go through an advance visa process to come to India), and I definitely have no intention of wasting that huge opportunity!