5 Things longterm travel is NOT

November 21, 2013 in Inspiration

mom & Dad

I awoke, this morning, thinking about our journey and the excitement of being home for a few months. I opened my eyes to messages of love and daily life from people around the world, fellow travelers, as well as those who never leave home and I realized, again, just how thankful I am for the diversity in our circles. There are so many beautiful lives I get to live vicariously through the people we connect with. Long term travel is just one of an endless number of choices we could have made for this lifetime. Truth be told, it’s really only one tiny chapter of the greater book of our lives. There was a time when we lived other sorts of lives, and there will be a time in the future when we do something else entirely.

Long term travel is a lot of things, but this morning I awoke thinking about a few of the things it is not. 

A contest

It doesn’t matter who’s been on the road the longest. It doesn’t matter how many countries you’ve been to. It doesn’t matter what your blog following is. It doesn’t matter how many kids you’ve had in weird corners of the world. It doesn’t matter if your kid is tri-lingual. It’s not a race to check World Heritage sites off the list. It’s not about bigger, better, or faster. International is not better than domestic. No one cares how many Four Seasons hotels you’ve stayed at. There are no extra points for maintaining the smallest (or the largest) budget for years on end. Anytime it becomes about who does what bigger, better or faster, I’m opting out of the conversation and I hope you will too.

Extending that concept to the blogosphere: it’s not a contest. Some of the best writers have tiny blogs. Some of the worst have huge numbers. What you see is not always what you get. Would you believe some bloggers even buy their followers on FB, Twitter, or wherever, to amp their numbers and inflate their egos as well as their advertising potential? They game the system in a myriad of ways to make themselves look like they’re more than they really are. Why would someone do that? That’s fraud in my book.

We don’t travel to “be somebody” or to prove something. We travel because we enjoy it, because we’re trying to get some kids educated, and because it is our dream. I’m not interested in being the biggest, the best, or the most brilliant. I’m not interested in winning bloggy contests or being the focus of a documentary or TV show. I’m not interested in being recognized as an expert or having my kids put on a pedestal they’re sure to fall hard from. I’m interested in living a quiet life, traveling a bit, enjoying each day and making the most of what I have. Travel is not a contest; it’s an enrichment activity.

An extended vacation

For the record, we have not been on vacation for the past five and a half years. In some ways, traveling full time is a lot harder than living in one place. It’s not a long string of beach postcards and holiday style outings. We’re juggling kids and laundry, sicknesses and work schedules, schooling and dentist appointments, just like everyone else. It’s worth it to us. We love living this way for this phase of life. Longterm travel isn’t an extended vacation, it’s a lifestyle choice.

Inherently better

Occasionally people have felt the need to justify their lifestyle choice to me, “Well, it’s not like what you are doing, we’re just…” fill in the blank. Folks, there is no “just”. What we’re doing, traveling for years on end, is not inherently better than life in the suburbs. In fact, I’ve gotten my share of hate mail from people who would argue that it’s much worse. One of the things I love most about life is the many ways that there are to live it. My way need not be your way. Your dream is beautiful because it’s your dream. We all get to do our thing and together we make the world go round.

It bugs me, more than just a little, when I hear travelers smugly slapping one another on the back and quietly (or not so quietly) deriding all of “those people” who aren’t as “cool as we are” because they happen to hold stationary jobs, live in the ‘burbs, send their kids to school, or in some other way conform to the “norm.” Ladies and gentlemen who travel, hear this: you are not special, you are not fabulous, you’re just doing your thing. I celebrate that: do your thing. I love travelers, they are my people; but so are moms of ten kids neck deep in diapers and sippy cups for decades, and so are farmers whose dreams are dug deep in local soil, and so are folks who’ve hung up their wanderlust to do other worthwhile things for a while. Longterm travel is just one way to live a life, not the best way.

The domain of the independently wealthy

I know it must seem that way sometimes, to people who don’t understand how to travel. When an annual 2 week vacation racks up a bill in excess of $5,000, it’s hard to imagine how that would be sustainable over the long haul. Remember that part about longterm travel not being an extended vacation? 🙂

There are lots, and lots, and lots of ways to make money and travel at the same time. We know single parents, as well as a wide range of dual parent families that support themselves in a variety of creative ways. The main ingredients seem to be creativity and determination. Our friend set is proof positive that age, gender, family size, education level, physical ability (or disability) nationality, and income level are non-factors in the ability to travel longterm. Like most things in life, travel is a choice, and you don’t have to be independently wealthy to do it.

Age dependent

We met an 80 year old man cycling for three months in Germany, all on his own. We traded him dinner for story telling. We met Phil when he was just 17, trekking all over Central America with a few friends, self supported and learning all the way. We’ve met new babies, born abroad to adventurous parents. Retirees are almost as common as the ubiquitous 20-something boots and a backpack crowd. Families of all sizes, shapes and ages cross our path on the road. Travel isn’t age dependent. You’re never too young to start and it’s never too late to have one more adventure. Of course, how you travel at various ages may change; sometimes you might need a helper. We continue to meet people from tiny babies to ancient adventurers all over the planet. The world tends to meet a traveler where she’s at, in both age and experience, and there’s always more to learn. For us, our healthy middle years while our kids are in the prime of their childhood has made a good decade to hit the road. We traveled before; we’ll travel later. Travel has less to do with age than sense of adventure.

What have I missed? What else is longterm travel NOT?