10 Reasons Long Term Travel isn’t Always like an Instagram Photo

When I tell people how long I’ve been traveling, or how long I intend to travel long term, I usually get very similar responses back.  The phrases I have heard far too much go a little something like:

“WOW, you are so lucky,” progressing to

“I could never do what you’re doing,”

and then there’s always the how. “How on earth can you afford that?”

Firstly, I am fortunate. I was born and grew up in the United States, with a loving and supportive family, and I am educated. However, I believe that luck has nothing to do with long-term travel, and instead, it’s about mindset.

Secondly, most people could do what I am doing, but again, it’s all about mindset and what you want out of life. The question is, do you want to do what I’m doing? Instead of a house and a 3D television, I own postcards and collect currencies. In exchange for a car and shoe collection, I take public transit everywhere and live out of a 70L Backpack.

And thirdly, I can afford this because I work and save.  Work, save, travel, repeat to be exact. I am not an heiress; no my parents do not fund my travels; I am just good at saving money and living below my means.

With all these questions I think it’s important to address that long-term travel is not always perfect.  Travel bloggers regularly post pretty Instagram photos of beautiful far off destinations. Those places are real, they do exist, but behind those photos is a downside to long term traveling that many people don’t realize.

Downsides to Long Term Travel


You know the feeling.  When your last meal slowly starts to wear off, and your stomach is now a giant empty ball letting out embarrassing noises. Eventually, you forget about the emptiness and that you were even hungry at all.  Well, this is almost a daily feeling with long term travel. Your access to a full fridge at your disposal is pretty limited. Chances are if you’re traveling long term and haven’t won the lottery. You are also on a budget, so walking into any restaurant and ordering what you want is a rarity. When you do find food, you better eat up cause you don’t know when or where you’re next meal is going to be!


That leads me to diet. Just because we are traveling does not mean we are eating at fancy steakhouses every night. Our main two meals are usually some form of rice or pasta. Not much variety but they are comfortable, cheap, and good for sharing. With long term travel, we cook for ourselves and eat in most nights, but never skimp on trying the local food at least once.        

{Read More: How to keep fit while traveling!}

Long Term Travel
Spaghetti… again!

Heavy Packs

Everything that keeps me going day to day I carry on my back.  When you add up the electronics, clothing, and toiletries, it comes out to about 50lbs on your back.  I could cut back on some of the clothes, but we travel through all sorts of climates, so it’s hard to pick and choose.  Walking from place to place is always a bit of a workout and travel days can be especially taxing.

Long Term Travel


No, there are no high heels in my backpack.  Nor is there a straightener, peacoat, or nail polish. Most days, I look like I just came from the gym, because spandex and hiking shoes are the lightest and most comfortable thing to wear.  Then there are the days when I run out of clothes, I have been handwashing underwear for two weeks, and I look a little like a mix between Sporty Spice and Bozo the Clown. I never have to pick out my outfits or worry about what to wear, because chances are I will wear the shirt I wore yesterday, and will also wear it tomorrow.  I never feel like the most fashionable, stylish girl in the room, and I am okay with that. There is not much glamor with long term travel.

Long Term Travel


I am a huge fan of wandering and getting lost in an unknown territory, sometimes it brings you down the most charming streets, listening to true locals go on about their days.  However, every time we move locations and/or countries it is another long hike with our 50 lb. packs relying on the preloaded Google Maps app to get us somewhere.

Long Term Travel


When we were sick with food poisoning on Koh Rong all I wanted was to be on my parents couch bundled up watching a movie. Then there are the times when I get on Facebook and see that all my friends back home are hanging out and I can’t help, but feel those friendships dwindling. Sometimes, no matter what beautiful location you may be in long term travel can just make you homesick.


Then there are the days during solo trips when you haven’t spoken to anyone all day.  You start to have conversations with yourself, you fly through books to pass the night, and that selfie stick starts to get plenty of daily use. You truly are your own best friend.  Loneliness happens at different stages of every solo trip.  Of course, it’s inevitable you will eventually meet people! I have met many great people from all sorts of areas in the world, but then there comes the time when you must split up; you have to go your own way. Once again you are alone.

Long Term Travel
My best selfie attempt at the equator


Long term travel makes you a great navigator, a constant adaptor, and completely independent. It also makes you very skilled at saying goodbye. One of my favorite things about traveling is meeting people. It’s true, meeting people while traveling may make you instant best friends.  Suddenly, you are exploring an ancient city with your bunk mate and sharing all kinds of stories and memories;  however, tomorrow you know that you both will leave, and chances are high you will never see that person again. Goodbyes are sad. Goodbyes suck. Goodbyes are a part of traveling.

Long Term Travel


You know that heavenly therapeutic queen size bed you have at home? Yea, you can say bye bye when you leave for a life of long-term travel.  Hostels, Couchsurfing, and work exchanges offer virtually no privacy and bed comfort is always a gamble.  Then you may get to parts of the world with no western toilets and instead of toilet paper is a hose touched by god knows what. And finally, there is the ongoing first world problem of having a stable Wi-Fi connection. With long term travel, your comfort level is minuscule; you quickly adapt, and find out just how high your tolerance can soar.

Long Term Travel
No thanks.


During my first RTW trip, I hopped around a lot.  Every three days was a travel day, a new city, a new country, and a new place to call home.  I packed my days with sites, I saw a lot, but I was tired.  After awhile traveling is just exhausting, meeting people is draining, and you care less and less about going into that church or seeing that statue. Now, I travel a lot slower.  I leave my schedule open so that I can stay somewhere longer if I like, or move on when I want.  I take days to sit and watch movies, I sit down and read in a local cafe.  If I see it then that’s great, but I’m not going to burn myself out anymore.

At the end of the day, I love what I am doing.  I love traveling and I am thankful every day for what I have seen and experienced in my lifetime.  However, long-term travel isn’t for everyone, there is always a little more work behind the scenes than those bright Instagram photos let off.

What do you think? Any downsides that you can relate to when traveling?

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