Travelers come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. They also have different goals and motives fueling their desire to travel. I can still remember the overwhelming sense of uncertainty that I experienced the first time I ever considered heading abroad.
Where should I go? How long should I stay? What should I do while I’m there? For every answer I settled upon, I created two more questions.
Since I know that there are other indecisive people out there struggling with these same issues, I’ve compiled a guide to help you during the decision-making process.
See more in less time:
Most people can’t abandon their everyday lives to go globetrotting, so shorter trips are a great way to make the most of your time. It’s easier to plan your budget and set your itinerary.
There are few things more satisfying than filling up a page of your passport with stamps. They’re like tiny badges of honor, and each one has a story to tell. Who doesn’t like talking about that one time they went to that country for a few days and did that awesome thing with those fun backpackers they met at a bar? Just reading that aloud sounds like the start of a crazy story, doesn’t it?
One advantage of short-term travel is the freedom to stay or leave as you choose. I’ve always hated feeling trapped someplace I no longer wanted to be, so for me, the flexibility of short-term travel can be a Godsend in certain scenarios.
When you’re constantly on the go, you’re always taking on a new adventure. You’ll also likely be taking part in hitting the main tourist points in every place you visit. Imagine setting out on a thrilling wildlife safari in Kenya for a weekend, experiencing the mesmerizing northern lights during a brief stop in Iceland, or embarking on Tamarindo Costa Rica fishing charters, battling against the marlin or sailfish as the sun sets on the horizon. Such short-term trips allow for a collection of diverse experiences, from walking the bustling streets of Tokyo’s Shibuya crossing to participating in traditional dances at a local festival in India, ensuring every moment is packed with excitement and novelty.
Meeting new people:
When you travel, you usually meet like-minded people. Short-term trips are a great way to meet adventurous souls and make some great memories. Remember that one time in…? So many epic stories start that way.
See a lot; see a little:
One positive of short-term travel is that you pack a lot of adventure into a small window, but that’s also one of the main negatives. When you’re steadily on the move, you don’t have the opportunity to let it all soak in and fully embrace your surroundings.
From personal experience, I can tell you that short trips can be brutal. There’s nothing worse than needing a vacation from your vacation. When you go on an all-inclusive trip or buy one of the action-packed tour packages from your hotel/hostel, it always seems like a good idea at first. You start out thinking you’re going to pound the pavement all day and still have enough energy to take on the town that night. Unless you’re the energizer rabbit, it usually doesn’t go as planned.
It can expensive:
Travel can be expensive, but the constant upheaval of short-term travel can quickly compound any monetary issues that arise. When you’re following the type of itinerary that typically accompanies a shorter trip, you don’t have much room for happenstance. One mistake turns into a missed train or flight. That turns into extra money spent on lodging for the night while you sort yourself out, and then you probably have to purchase new tickets. It can be quite costly.
One of my favorite things to do when I travel to a country is to mix with the locals. If I don’t get a chance to hang out with them at some point, I don’t consider it a real visit to that particular country. You usually don’t have the time or opportunity to venture off the beaten path when you’re on a short vacation, so long-term travel is much better in this regard.
More time to discover hidden gems:
There’s nothing like finding a place that isn’t plastered all over every “Top 10 Things to Do in” travel blog post. You usually find these hidden gems by spending an extended amount of time in a place or having a friend who is native to the area. When you’re traveling long-term, you’ve got plenty of time to explore and discover.
Make life-long friends:
Whether you’re traveling short-term or long-term, you’re going to meet people on vacation. But how well can you get to know those people who are only on a brief trip across the pond? When you travel long-term, you get to see more than just the carefree side that most people put on display during shorter trips. You have the opportunity to build lasting friendships.
Dispel your preconceived notions:
When you spend a prolonged amount of time in one place, you tend to “go native” and adopt the mentality of those around you. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all have our own set of prejudices and biases, and long-term travel is a great way to eliminate them.
For those nomadic types like myself, you eventually get the urge to settle down and establish roots. Long-term travel is a great way to sample the milk before you buy the cow. You gain first-hand knowledge of a country’s customs, mentality, and daily life while simultaneously engaging your inner-explorer. A great way to fund your long-term travel is teaching abroad.
Even the most seasoned traveler battles loneliness at some point. Taking long trips often means going extended periods without seeing the people closest to you. It can be tough to balance your desire to travel with your need to stay close to family and friends.
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came. And sometimes, you just want a burger from your favorite spot back home. Homesickness is real, and if left unchecked, it can be vicious.
When you’re traveling long-term via commitment such as teaching English, you don’t always feel as free as you would if you were on a short-term trip. If you’re traveling through a teach away or a study abroad program, you may feel trapped if you don’t like your surroundings.
Regardless of your motivation to travel, you want to have the best experience possible. Most importantly, be honest with yourself as you decide what type of traveler you are.