I’ve mentioned long term solo travel pretty frequently in many of my posts as a means to gaining experience and thus wisdom, but I want to explain my reasoning a bit. This article’s aim is to convince you to travel, and to do it as soon as you possibly can. Everything in your mind will scream excuses not to do it, to remain in your comfortable but mediocre (if it is) life. If you find yourself unhappy in your field of work or study, take a break from commitments and explore the world! This article will first tell you some useful mental criteria for travel, and then respond to your excuses not to go – read it all if you want the most benefits.
First off let’s have a look at the kind of travel that will most positively affect who you are. There are a few main criteria to getting the most out of your travel experience, and I want to start with some deeper ideas and then move on to the lighter stuff. This section will hopefully show you the internal skills that travel teaches you, but also give you some tips on how to cultivate them best. Here we go!
Why “long term” is such an important factor:
What’s so important about travelling for a long time? What is it about the time limit specifically that will teach you wisdom? The time limit itself isn’t enough, the second requirement for it is this: don’t plan. Especially if you are a planner and control freak. It will take you weeks or months before you get to a point where you stop planning things but the less you plan, the more you realise the benefits of not planning. It might seem crazy at first but hear me out. When you stop planning your life and travel you enter an internal mental space of acceptance so foreign to the modern global citizen it almost feels alien. If you have an extended period of time with little to no commitment you don’t have the pressure to ‘see’ every little thing or ‘do’ all the things that must be done in each country (you don’t have enough time in your life anyway, so why rush something you can’t achieve?). Without this pressure the necessity to plan also dissipates. As planning goes down so does expectation – one of the big causes of suffering. Expectations go down because you don’t need them – they aren’t useful when you have no idea what will happen in the next hour or two, they hold you back and, as a result, you inevitably drop them. As these expectations recede not only do you gain a freedom to do anything you would like to at any moment, but you are forced to accept whatever happens to you – kind of the opposite to freedom. You realise that in life, everything is constantly changing and there are many things you don’t have control over. Everything you expect to happen doesn’t happen, and when your expectations meet the unmoving wall of reality you feel horrible. Lose your expectations by entering a lifestyle that doesn’t require any and begin to inhabit a space that teaches you freedom isn’t actually the ability to do whatever you want – it’s the acceptance that you can’t. People are constantly wishing they had this wisdom, but what they don’t realise is that it’s a skill that you have to cultivate to gain. You learn that the world will constantly be moving around you and the only option you have, if you want to be happy or content, is to let all the things you can’t control happen without argument.
Watch it move curiously, with a smile on your face and a pack on your back. That is why going long term is important, and going independently nearly as much so.
Long term solo travel = opportunity not to plan your life = going with the flow = slowly losing your expectations for the world = acceptance of reality = wisdom and happiness. Pretty simple of you ask me.
If the kind of travel you plan on doing only consists of top quality hotels and party hostels you probably won’t face many difficult challenges. Sure there will be the stress of flights, buses, bookings, tours and hangovers, but these won’t really stretch you. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t experience those types of environments too, but perhaps let them be more concentrated near the start of a travel trip, when you are getting into the groove of things and transitioning from normal life. Don’t think about the trip as a holiday or a tour, think of it as simply an extension of your current life with a whole lot more excitement and adventure to it – a new lifestyle. Challenge yourself by doing things you’ve never done before – hitchhike, freecamp, dumpster dive and more! There are so many awesome ways to live while you travel that will open your eyes to many new possibilities.
On my current world trip I started with a tour and hostels, began to do some volunteering, then did couchsurfing, hitchhiking and finally camping wherever I could. The more your travel the more opportunity you will have to try new ways of travelling and the more people you will meet who will inspire you to try new things. You will become more worldly, more patient and more adventurous. You will gain the ability to meet and adapt to whatever challenges the world throws your way and through each event you will become more wise. Challenge yourself.
This one is closely linked to challenging yourself because you might not have enough money for the particular travel lifestyle you would prefer. That’s perfect! You don’t need money anyway! When you have limited funds the only way to sustain your travels (other than a regular influx of daddy’s money) is to become resourceful and adapt! Find a remote job online, do volunteering, make generous friends, craft bracelets to sell in exchange for food – anything! I personally have enough money saved for a long time, but I want to travel longer than that and I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could live on zero dollars a day. Turns out I can, pretty easily. Limiting yourself by the sustainability of your travel is a great challenge to develop you ability to survive. For example, I only spent about 60USD in one 2 month period (including a 15USD tent) simply doing those things that I mentioned above (comment if you have questions and click here to read my stories).
Another aspect of sustainability is the quantity of stuff you pack. You don’t need much. I have one 40L pack and one day-pack and I still think I brought too much junk. I would not have brought that pair of runners, or my iPad, or half the clothes I did. It depends on how much lugging you are going to be doing and the climate of where you are going but seriously – you can wash and dry clothes nearly every day with you in the shower of you so desire. One guy travels the world with only the clothes he is wearing and a passport and countless people have traveled with nearly as little. Learning how to sustain yourself will give you an appreciation for life – take advantage of the opportunity to learn a new lesson!
Trust and love. Two of the most important and useful emotions I’ve experienced on the way. In order to open yourself to the local people of a country you have to put your trust in them, and they in you. Sometimes they can be difficult or rude, but 99% of the time you learn about the true generosity of people everywhere. Love is the best reaction to both situations: people are nasty or don’t trust you? Show them compassion – something difficult in their lives has made them this way. People are open and giving? Give love back – people can feel the emotions you exude and they reflect them. Positive energy and openness will get you far. Develop your love by feeling love much as possible!
Self explanatory. The more time you are travelling the world the more opportunities you will have to grow. If you can sustain yourself why not go as long as you can before it feels right to go home or before you naturally end up back where you stayed? Seriously, the points that are most rewarding in travel are the moments just after the biggest struggles. Appreciate the fact that you are free in this world and be free. Planned for 3 months? Screw that. Just keep going.
Why you can start now.
Travel over long periods of time, particularly alone, is going to challenge you. Like with every big change, the one million excuses not to do it pop up on your brain before you can even define them. My reaction to those at this point has become just to observe them until they pass (cause everything ends up working out), but I’ll work through a few common and specific travel related ones to convince you to get your butt up and do it.
I’ve got commitments where I am in life right now.
Well of course you do, that’s life – you will always have commitments. You just need to decide if continuing in your current life with your current commitments and being the same person all the time is more valuable to you than learning about yourself and becoming someone new. You can always make new commitments, or come back to the old ones – they will come and go throughout your life and either you will let them control you or you will control them. If you don’t want to be challenged and learn then you’ll stop right here. If you want to travel for one month it’s really not that much time, you can go right back to whatever life you had before with ease if that’s what you want. If you really want to learn then jump on a one way flight and see what happens.
I need a lot of money to travel.
Lies, all lies. I’ve met so many people travelling with no money at all and doing just fine. I worked full time for six months and I’ll be able to continue travelling nearly indefinitely on what I saved because I’m spending next to nothing. Plus, the kind of travelling where you learn the most is the kind of travelling in which you don’t spend anything and have to figure your own way through. Hostels and cities are fine, but there are so many other variations you can try at any point. Hitchhiking, volunteering, couchsurfing, working, camping, busking, crafts, whatever it is, you can travel for cheaper than you think. I repeat the point because it’s so important. Yes, it can be tiring and scary and you will feel as though you have less control than you might like at times, but you aren’t going to learn shit unless you get challenged and unless you get jiggy with some real feelings you have to deal with in real life. Let me reiterate. You don’t need money to travel. On a (low) 35k (about 26k USD) salary in Australia, saving around $270 (200USD) a week (you could save more) you can save nearly 7k in 6 months of working, more than enough for over a year in Asia or South America or Africa or anywhere if you are willing to try new things. This is not an excuse. You don’t need money to travel. You do not need money to travel. Very little funds are required for adventures all over the world. No money – still travel. Do you understand? Sorry to be repetitive but this myth is pervasive. No money? Travel anyway!
It’s not safe
A gamma ray burst could hit the Earth at any time with no warning and instantly kill 50% of life, leaving the rest to get cancer and die horribly over the next 16 days. The World isn’t safe, you’ll never be safe. If people listened to this dumb excuse they would never do anything interesting, come on. Hitchhiking is actually safer than it’s ever been all over the world (chance of danger is very low in most countries – check out HitchWiki for more info). Everywhere I’ve been so far people have told me about all the bad people that exist in the country and I have only ever met really lovely people who have been very generous. Every person has good in they’re hearts, and generally it’s pretty easy to find. Give love and that’s what you will receive, also don’t be dumb and do dumb and not safe things and you’ll be fine, duh. Keep away from dangerous city streets at night is the biggest piece of common sense in this context.
Top three excuses of one million debunked. If you still need convincing, ask Google, there are a tonne of list articles responding to many more excuses. Or check out great big scary world.
You. Should. Travel. Long term. Or do anything that will throw you into a completely different environment. Pay attention to every doubt, every barrier your mind puts up. They all suck. You don’t need me to debunk them. Do you want to be a person who makes excuses about why not to have adventures or do you want to have adventures and gain experience? Yeah. Adventures! Wisdom!
Buy and read Vagabonding here before you do anything else – it will start you on the path more powerfully than this article and make long term solo travel seem like a real possibility.
Lots of love and metta,
P.S Leave comments and tell me where and when you are going on your next trip – Commit!