Long term travel has always been a dream of mine. A little under two months ago, it became my reality, but it wasn’t easy. I’m not talking about visas or working out where to stay or even skimping on money to be able to buy a plane ticket. I’m talking about leaving home. Leaving home was hard.
My traveling began at a time in my life that made complete sense to me; I’d just graduated from university and moved back in with my mum. I had no financial ties, no real responsibility and I wasn’t in a relationship. What I did have were good friends, a loving family and a hell of a lot of stuff!
When you’re heading off for a long term trip, people will ask you a lot of questions. “You’re going for how long?” Well, three years… ish… maybe. “But you’re coming home in between, right?” Uh, no… or at least that’s the plan. “Won’t you miss your family?” Probably, duh – yes. “How can you afford that?” I’ll budget and you know… I’ve been saving like crazy.
You will start to question yourself and, to be frank, you will start to get fed up of answering the same mundane questions over and over. You just have to remember the reason you planned the trip. Whether that be to see the world, embrace new cultures, discover where you want to live in the world or anything else for that matter. You are doing this trip for you and only you. It may feel selfish, but you have to park the emotional ties and focus on what drove you to travel in the first place.
As a woman travelling solo for most of the trip, people worried more. “Be careful of scams” they’d say, or “Make sure you don’t go out at night”. Come on. The world is a scary place, but I’m a big girl, I can handle it (although I must confess that the thought of starting my travels in India, on my own, was too much for me – my advice to those who may be planning to start somewhere more ‘extreme’ is to book a tour if you’re unsure or if you want to make new friends).
Packing up physically
The first thing you have to realise about packing up for long term travel, is that most of the stuff that you own now, probably isn’t going to be trendy when you arrive back and, if the truth be known, you hardly ever use it anyway and are less likely to use it when you return. This means things like clothes, bedspreads and trinkets. Clearing out before you go, not only feels really satisfying, but it’s also a good way to make extra cash for your trip or give to a charity. I sold my surfboard to a friend, my table and chairs I hiked back down the the charity shop that I’d bought them from 3 years previously and my clothes I let my friends fight over.
If you can’t see yourself wearing an item of clothing on the road, then get rid of it. If it creases easily, get rid of it. If it’s too smart or expensive to spoil, get rid of it. One thing I would say though, is pack one smart-ish outfit. I had to go out and buy [trousers and a top] recently when I wanted to go to a rooftop bar in Bangkok with a strict dress code.
It’s also worth remembering that just because you’re going travelling for three years, doesn’t mean you need to pack anymore clothing and supplies than someone who is going away for three weeks. You can buy toiletries, do laundry and get snacks all across the world. You don’t need to take everything and you shouldn’t over pack.
Ask your friends or parents to store the stuff you’re left with. Unless you’ve got things like furniture, I’m sure you’ll find someone with enough space for a box or two in the loft. I’ve stored a couple of smart/expensive dresses, some work uniform (in case I come back poor and decide to go back into waitressing) and a few sentimental items like my limited edition Minalima Harry Potter print (I’m a bit of a geek) and a photo book made for me, for my 21st birthday.
Packing up emotionally
I cried a lot in my last couple of months at home. Too many goodbyes. What I wish I had realised, is that I actually talk to people more whilst I am travelling, than I did when I was at home. Everyone is always checking up on me – they want to know what I’m up to, where I am in the world and if I’m enjoying myself. Whilst you can’t see your friends and family in person, the wonders of modern technology (things like FaceTime and Skype) mean that if you’re feeling homesick, you can keep in contact.
What you can’t do however, is give them a hug (although I’ve heard they’re working on that). But missing people when you are travelling, is different to missing people when you are at home (because they’re busy working or living in the next county). At home, if you really wanted to you, you could easily hop on a bus and visit them – the problem can be solved. More difficult, however, is hopping on a plane, but because you know that you can’t do anything about it, it actually helps. So you call them and you share stories and smiles. You forget that you’re missing them. You carry on exploring.
You will miss things while you’re away. I’m not talking about cheese or chocolate, or good pizza (although you will miss good pizza). My youngest cousin is two and I don’t think she really knows who I am yet. When I come back, she will probably recognise me from pictures and Facetime calls, but it’s not the same. She won’t really know me, to hug and to play with. And my step-sister is pregnant, so I won’t meet her baby until she’s at least three years’ old.
You will miss weddings, births, 30th birthday parties and school reunions. That might cut deep on the day of the actual event, when all your friends and family are together celebrating in one place, but remember why you left. You’re doing this for you and whilst it’s a cliché, you are living the dream – your dream. I’m not saying you shouldn’t come home for these events, I’m just saying that you should prepare to miss a few because budgets and itineraries will no doubt mean that you can’t attend them all!
For me, long term travel is a pretty new thing and exploring the world so far has been ace. Carrying everything that I own on my back is a lifestyle choice and I’m glad that I made sacrifices to make my dream a reality. Leaving everyone behind and exchanging a 9-5 office job, for a life where you are not sure what you will be doing tomorrow, let alone in a couple of months, is scary. It’ll be different, it’ll be petrifying, but most importantly it’ll be yours.
Hi I’m Hannah and I’m a recent Graphic Design graduate from Southampton, UK. I don’t know where I want to live, so what’s the sensible solution? See it all! I’m on a three year trip across the globe!