Long-term solo travel. I wouldn’t call it easy. Being homeless and living on the road is hard work!
By my sixth month, my travel enthusiasm began fluctuating. I was still thrilled by the unending travel adventure I was living; but also, starting to feel run down from shouldering the constant responsibility of it. Being it was my first attempt at long-term travel however, I didn’t expect things to be 100% smooth sailing. I knew I would hit rough spots and battle demons. But had I planned better, I’ve no doubt my ride would’ve been smoother.
Here are three mistakes I wish I avoided…
1) Budgeting for long-term travel
Some folk plan their budget before they travel. Not me. In Korea, I’d proudly socked away my earnings in a bank, feeling pretty well off. My brilliantly crippled budget plan:
a. Don’t spend extravagantly
b. The cheaper you go, the longer you can hold out.
Duh, right? Immediately when I hit the road, my money turned to liquid. It spilled and leaked into my purchases of small and cheap things. My financial red flag rose when I noticed I was going to the ATM more times than I should. Three ATM withdrawals in under a week in India?! That’s a problem. Call in rehab. I wasn’t luxuriating at the Marriott, nor was I taxiing around town or partying at nightclubs.
On the contrary, I was getting by cheaply. So what was jail-breaking my funds? The culprits: a ‘cheap’ SIM card plan of 500 minutes (way more than I needed), an 8 GB USB stick, a travel mouse for my laptop, some bangles, the list goes on…
Beware of the “little” and “cheap” purchases. They add up! While you can’t really scrimp on hotels and transportation, you can watch yourself on the extras you buy. Also, keep a record of expenses to track your spending and have physical markers to signal, when you’ve passed its limit. Physical markers you can use might be a daily spending allowance or allowing yourself limited ATM withdrawals and money exchanges.
Read my post: How do you Budget for Long-term Travel
2) Not planning for my trip or knowing what I wanted
Bereft was the feeling accompanying me each time I parted ways with a traveler I’d shared time with. Why? It wasn’t the empty chair across the table at dinner time nor the loss of giggles over shared foibles of the day. It’s that two heads in planning are easier (and quicker) than one!
Deep inner freak out is where I landed, on the night before leaving Bali and my new travel buddy, Autum. I’d grown used to sharing the decision-making process and it was a relief not having to shoulder all the responsibility. Returning to Thailand alone, I now felt lost. Wind blowing on the tips of my toes, I was stoned with a look of, ‘I’m here. Where do I go next?‘ My mind was blank. Worse yet, the options were endless and my desire wasn’t speaking up. The idea to go to Ko Tao for scuba diving certification, was a vague and random afterthought I hadn’t taken seriously. Until now…
Going solo can force ‘choice-overload’ and inner freak outs. To admit to yourself, you’ve got no clue what you want in life, at the moment is yeah, stressful. You learn to figure it out, but it’s a bumpy ride. Yes, I was flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants and winging it; screaming my entire way down.
Get out those “buckets” & “lists” and plan a general route of ‘ Countries you want to see’ and simple reasons as to why. Create a goal or project for yourself to inject meaning into your travels. This will help if you ever feel like you’ve lost your direction or traveling feels meaningless. Keep your route flexible for adding-on travel partners or taking trip detours.
3) Dealing with feelings of Homelessness
Living travel hobo for months straight was something I found difficult. Bouncing from country to country, living from day-to-day and making decisions on the spot… all of this gets tiring. After a spending a long time on the road, you just want to unpack your bag!
Feeling fried, harried and stressed, l longed for a firm mattress, a clean room and a bit of pampering. I wanted to commit to a place, connect to it and take my time lazily getting to know it.
I cast my anchor when guesthouses felt comfortable, but I was reluctant doing this as much as it was needed. Unfortunately, there’s a common plight among many travelers (myself included); there’s always undercurrents of “Gotta go, gotta move, gotta see and conquer” mentality.
Unless you can find or create a personal connection with a place, most travelers seek short-term stays, anywhere from 3-5 days, maybe a week tops!
Give yourself a forced break from the road. Create a clean and safe home somewhere for at least 5 days, but definitely shoot for longer. Splurge on a nice hotel, an apartment or spacious timeshare rental if you need to. Apartment rentals or even swaps can occasionally be found on places like craigslist.com. Timeshares can be found for low prices and provide added luxury and amenities to relax and rejuvenate you. Give into yourself and those little comforting crutches, as many times as you feel you need.
What are some mistakes you wished you avoided on a long-term solo trip?