Your Guide to Long-Term Travel Terms

Are you daydreaming about transforming your travel fantasies into a full-blown lifestyle but find yourself tangled in a web of jargon? Fear not! I’m here to untangle the main long-term travel terms and shed some light on the vocab of full-time travel. Whether you’re itching to explore every corner of the globe or simply seeking a change of scenery, understanding these terms is your first step towards planning your adventure.

solo female traveler on a sabbatical in Southeast Asia

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Originally a concept from academia where professors take a paid leave for research or study, “sabbatical” has morphed into a broader meaning among long-term travel terms. Now, it’s all about taking extended time off work (sometimes paid, if you’re lucky) to pursue personal projects, travel, or simply recharge. Think of it as a hiatus with a purpose, with the intention of returning to your job.

Gap Year

Traditionally taken by students between high school and college or between college and entering the workforce, a gap year is a golden opportunity to explore, volunteer, or work abroad before moving on to the next chapter of your life. But it doesn’t have to be the exclusive domain of students! Most of us don’t have a Bank of Mom and Dad funding an early-in-life adventure like that. More and more adults are taking grown-up gap years to break away from the 9-to-5 grind in favor of adventure and personal growth!

Career Break

A career break is almost identical to a gap year in purpose; it just doesn’t have the student associations or the implied 12-month timeline of a gap year. An intentional pause in your professional life, a career break is a time to explore the world, learn new skills, or take a breather before a pivot in your career. It’s about stepping back to evaluate what you really want from your life. My own career break helped me transition from juggling multiple part-time jobs in service and admin to developing a more stable career in nonprofit marketing. Some of my students inside Round-the-World Roadmap have used their career breaks to pivot from having one home base for their careers to taking on more nomadic contract jobs in speech language therapy or social work.

a digital nomad works from a train during her life-changing adventure

Digital Nomad

The digital nomad lifestyle is a dream for many. Armed with a laptop and a reliable internet connection, digital nomads work remotely while hopping from one destination to another. From co-working spaces in Bali to beachside cafes in Portugal, the world is their office.

Location Independence

Closely related to digital nomad life, this travel term describes the ultimate flexibility—being able to live and work from anywhere. Location independence is about breaking free from geographical constraints to lead a lifestyle that prioritizes freedom, exploration, and personal fulfillment.

an expat relaxes at the end of the day with a glass of wine


Short for expatriate, an expat is someone who lives outside their native country, either temporarily or permanently. While not exclusively linked to long-term travel, becoming an expat can help you immerse yourself in a new culture, learn another language, and build a different life for yourself overseas. One of the most accessible ways to become an expat is by teaching English abroad. South Korea has a particularly good program for Americans!

Working Holiday Visa

A working holiday visa is a golden ticket for young travelers to explore a country and gain incredible experiences. Countries like Australia, New Zealand, and Canada offer these visas, allowing recipients to work and travel for one to two years. While opportunities are typically for adults age 18-30, it’s a fantastic way for those eligible to fund their adventures and gain both travel and work experience.

a young solo female traveler harvests vegetables on a farm as part of a work exchange program

Work Exchange

What if your travels entailed living on an organic farm in Italy or helping out in a hostel in Tokyo? Work exchange programs like Workaway, Worldpackers, and WWOOF connect travelers with hosts worldwide, offering accommodation and sometimes meals in exchange for a few hours of work each day. This can be a great, budget-friendly way to extend your travels and dive deep into local cultures.

Round-The-World Trip

My absolute favorite long-term travel term, a round-the-world trip (RTW trip) involves circumnavigating the globe, visiting multiple countries and continents. It’s a meticulously planned journey that can last anywhere from a few months to a few years, offering a deep dive into the world’s diverse cultures, landscapes, and experiences.

Which of these is best for you? I have a free quiz that will help you take the next step in your long-term travel journey! Start below to figure out what type of long-term travel is right for you:


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