I stumble upon lists of wonderful insights and growth nomads have experienced while on the road. I’ve experienced some of these things too. I’ve also learned lessons (some hard) and had some challenges along my nomadic journey.
- It is best to travel when you have a family you can fall back on. This is something people who put off traveling don’t think about, and it was a factor in my choosing to travel now instead of later. It’s good to have parents, aunts and uncles who are still alive so when you run out of money you’ll have some family to call on to take you in after you return from your journey to find yourself. You will get on your feet and eventually pay them back and/or dedicate your travel memoir to them.
- Solo travel can be lonely. Ninety-five percent of the time this is okay. Solo travelers are solo for a reason. I spent many days alone. I like that. I love that. But if you don’t like that or just want a day with a buddy, then you’ve got to make friends on the road. Some of these friends will be annoying, and you’ll join them on excursions for the sake of not being solo. Fortunately, there are times when you’ll come across gems who will be your friends for life.
- Money runs out. No matter how convinced I was that I would earn money on the road by becoming a freelance writer, getting some under the table or legit English teaching job, monetizing my blog or something else glamorous, doing so wasn’t as easy as I thought. First, it’s incredibly exhausting to travel long-term, so who wants to pursue work. Second, who really wants to work? I quit my job for a reason.
- It is hard to fall in love on the road. Travelers read books and watch movies like Eat, Pray, Love or Under the Tuscan Sun and we expect to set out and find the loves of our lives. Bullshit. What ends up happening, from observing many, many people, is a racking up of lovers and a few short-lived relationships both parties knew wouldn’t last anyway. What’s more, when travelers visit home, it’s not always wise to start something with someone. It’s just really hard to make a nomadic love connection if both parties aren’t down for long-distance or if one party is staying home. This is especially more difficult for travelers over a certain age. My observation is that younger travelers and expats seem to do a better job of making love connections even if they don’t last forever.
- DO NOT BUY THAT NEW CAR! If it is your dream to quit your job and travel long-term, don’t purchase a new car. I had a car that ran perfectly, but then I got a shiny new sales job and thought a shiny new car would go nicely with it. Big mistake. It was very painful to use my travel funds to pay my car note every month. If you have an old car and it breaks down, just buy another used car that doesn’t put you into debt. While I love my car, I spent $25,000 (principal and interest) over several years on a car I didn’t need. That’s a few years of travel budget.
- Cell phone companies will let you put your contract on hold. I didn’t learn this nugget of travel gold until four months into my five months of travel. I called AT&T to discuss my options for using my iPhone abroad, and I was given details about an international roaming package. It wasn’t until I ran into some fellow Americans that I learned that for $10 a month, AT&T will place contracts on hold. I also didn’t know I could use my phone in wifi mode if the 3G was disabled. So, I hope I can spare anyone from being this unknowledgable about something so basic. I spent $125 a month for 4 months. That’s $600 or 2-4 weeks of travel depending on where and how you travel.
- Sometimes I am ethnocentric. Ethnocentric is a euphemism for racist. Yikes. It’s so hard to admit that, but it’s true. Travel is supposed to make us less racist, but sometimes it can enhance it. However, I am fully aware when something ignorant crosses my mind. Then I stop to think that’s not how I should feel and I get to the root of where my true issues lie. It’s usually in my ethnocentricity: the belief in the inherent superiority of one’s own ethnic group or culture OR a tendency to view alien groups or cultures from the perspective of one’s own. Either dictionary.com definition will do.
- Blogging is very difficult to do when on the road. I took off for Europe two years ago fully expecting to blog and vlog constantly. It is very cumbersome to blog. It also takes away from the moment. Taking pictures is one thing, but writing a meaningful blog about an experience and uploading photos is another thing. Sites like Facebook make it sort of easy to share thoughts and photos while long-term traveling when blogging has to wait. What’s also wonderful about waiting to blog is getting to relive some experiences when I’m back home. For example, I recently got to relive the frightening night I was followed in Paris which took place in 2010.
- Travel is more private than I thought. When I hit the road, I thought I’d want to share everything with everyone. I’d tell all my tales. What I learned about myself is travel is incredibly private. I returned home in December 2010, and barely discussed my time abroad. For every story I share, there are three I don’t. I think some things are hard to explain.