People ask us: What does a long term travel lifestyle look like? After being on the road for 3 years now, I can answer that question.
In general, our days are very fluid. They also vary country to country depending on the customs, accommodations, and activities. But here is an overview of what our life looks like each day.
Let’s start with the good stuff. Each day we try do something fun. It could be something as small as taking a walk, or it could be a big event like an all-day SCUBA dive. And on some days, “fun” is staying inside and playing video games (me) or watching a TV series (Alicia).
We tend to stay in places where fun things are easily accessible. It sucks to travel a hour each way: that’s basically a commute. So we switch locations often because that cuts down on overall travel time.
Learning how to live
We have to relearn how to live every time we change locations. From simple things like buying food, to transportation, and even how to work the shower. Imagine everything in your day as being completely different, every few weeks. And I mean everything: different bed, different meals, different home, different language, etc.
Sometimes, we even have to relearn pooping.
It can be very mentally draining, so we travel slower than a person would on vacation.
Some cultures have different sleep schedules that basically force us to get in sync. “Siesta” (napping) cultures like Argentina and Spain have schedules that look like this:
- 9 AM: wake up
- 10 AM-2 PM: work
- 2 PM: Lunch
- 4-5 PM: Nap
- 5-9 PM: Work
- 10 PM: Dinner
- 1 AM: Bedtime
Trying to get lunch at noon or dinner at 6 in these cultures will severely disappoint. Shops and stores close for siesta during the day. Trying to fight against an entire culture is a losing battle, so we take the naps and eat dinner at 10 PM like everyone else.
Gyms don’t really want people who stay for one or two weeks at a time, so we mostly do bodyweight movements and running. Alicia does Jillian Michaels workouts on her Kindle device with a yoga mat found at a random store. I buy a pull-up bar when I can find it in local stores. Between pull-ups, push-ups, and running, that fulfills most basic exercises. It might seem wasteful to use a pull-up bar for a week and then throw it away, consider it an at-home gym for $20.
The best part about travel is the constant walking. It keeps us naturally fit and healthy without even thinking too much about exercise.
We eat what the locals eat. Trying to find an American style breakfast in other countries will generally lead to disappointment. Besides, the local foods are interesting and wonderful.
Eggs and coffee are staples of our diet because they are found everywhere. In some countries (typically South East Asia), getting enough protein can be challenging. But eggs solve that problem and are plentiful and cheap everywhere in the world.
As wonderful as other culture’s food can be, I admit there are times where I crave American food. I binge on the worst fast food when back in the US because it’s impossible to get anywhere else. Even the burgers at McDonald’s are different when traveling because they are from locally sourced beef. Hamburger in the US is typically 20-30% fat, but in other countries it’s 4-10%.
My wife and I travel with backpacks only. When we went around the world in a one year (top 10 and bottom 10 experiences), we stayed in 33 different locations. That’s an average of moving every 5 days! We’re quite experienced at moving around.
And I can say this about Travel Days: they pretty much ruin the entire day. Between checking out, getting to the station/airport, traveling, checking in, getting settled, and finding food, the day is nearly gone. Yes, even for short trips such as moving across town.
While typical vacationers can muster the energy to go sight-seeing (because vacations are less than 2 weeks long), it’s generally better for long term travel not to over-exert yourself like that. Your brain works overtime when you get to a new location because it’s taking in all the new sights, sounds, and smells. It’s mentally taxing to find your way around in the new location. It’s better to get situated and plan a bigger day for the next morning.
Remember, we aren’t on vacation: this is our life. We can’t go at vacation pace every day because we’d drop dead from exhaustion.
Our work life ranges from very little to frantic. In 2016, we took on more work and there were a few months where we locked ourselves to our computers. That killed the south island of New Zealand for us, so we pulled back on the work front. We typically cram work into 1-2 days per week and enjoy a 5 or 6 day weekend. How can we do that? Tip: meetings are a gigantic waste of time and you should do everything in your power to avoid them.
The few meetings we have are typically at odd times because of the time differences. In South East Asia, our meetings are typically after midnight. In Europe, our calls are after 8 PM. The upside to the time differences are that we look amazing because we send emails while everyone back in the US is sleeping! It makes us look very productive. 😉
Would you like long term travel?
I’m not sure most people would like our lifestyle. While it works very well for us, most people enjoy traditional things such as a home and local community. We have to relearn how to live our life every time we change locations, from food to shopping to transportation.
For us, it’s perfect. We just got into Italy yesterday, and now we are going to walk around Rome. It’s not a vacation, it’s our life.