And Then Everything Changed: Do I Love Long-Term Travel?

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I got mixed reactions when I told my friends and family that I was going to Europe on my own for 2 months.

Reactions ranged from “You're going to have such an amazing time” to “You're going to die.” I was inclined to agree more with the first group, of course — I had no doubt the trip would be amazing (and it was). But I didn't necessarily have any predictions then about what would happen after the trip.

No one ever thinks about that niggly little “after” part.

Oban, Scotland

I've never traveled for more than a couple of weeks at a time before, so 2 months initially seemed like an eternity to me. Before this trip, I was convinced that I was built for shorter stints abroad; I never looked at long-term, round-the-world travelers with envy or longing because I was convinced that the nomadic lifestyle was not for me. I didn't even know if I was cut out for solo travel, to be honest.

So I assumed that, at the end of 8 weeks alone on the road, I'd be more than ready to return home to my comfy mattress, cable TV, closet full of clothes, and friends and family in northeast Ohio.

But over the course of those 8 weeks, something changed.

Budapest, Hungary
Me on Day 1 of my trip in Budapest.

I'm not sure when or where or how exactly it happened. But, somewhere along the way, my attitudes about long-term solo travel changed. Somehow, I fell in love with it. I fell more in love with travel, if that's possible.

This summer, I did a lot of things I thought I didn't like. I spent many nights in shared hostel and hotel rooms with people I didn't know. I put up with snoring roommates. I got used to going to bed sweaty every night because there was no air conditioning and it was 90 degrees outside. I wore a sunhat. I gave up on wearing make-up. I bought train tickets on my own in a country where I didn't speak the language. I carried an actual backpack. I wore the same (sometimes dirty) clothes for 2 months. I stopped making plans. I got lost, found my way, and got lost again. I quit worrying about what would happen “later.”

I was living in the moment, and loving life. 

Isle of Skye, Scotland
Loving life in Scotland

It was in Scotland, I think, that it finally hit me that something was different. It was past 1 a.m., and I was half-wearing a kilt over my clothes and dancing on a table in a hostel bar near Loch Ness. I hadn't had a drop of alcohol, but instead was drunk on something else — the energy, the people, maybe just the feeling of being alive.

An Australian girl in my tour group looked up at me in between songs and just said, “You're a legend. You're not even drunk but you're having so much fun.” And I was. I was having more fun than I'd had in a long time.

It scared me a bit at first. This wasn't me, I thought. At least, it wasn't the me I recognized or thought I knew. And yet it was a me that I liked. A me that, somewhere between Istanbul and Glasgow, had come alive, become more adventurous, and fallen head over heels for long-term travel.

Parga, Greece
Parga, Greece

When it came time for me to board my flight home a week later, I did so nearly in tears. Yes, there had been some ups and downs throughout the 8 weeks, but I genuinely didn't want the summer to end. I wasn't ready to go home.

As I sat aboard that flight, editing photos and drafting up the beginnings to some new blog posts, I was also subconsciously doing something else — I was already plotting in my head how and when I could get back out on the road. I was scrabbling desperately to hold onto my travel high, not ready to let it slip away.

People say that it's not a place that changes you. And it's true. I could have gone anywhere for 2 months, and probably felt the same way. Instead of the place alone, I think it's a mixture of the place, the people, and the chance to be completely at your own mercy that allows you to change yourself.

Travel Quote

I didn't think I had a lot of changing left to do before this trip; I assumed that I'd gotten all of that out of my system years ago.

And yet, here I am, back in Ohio, feeling different and questioning everything.

There's a Tolkien quote that I think is appropriate here:

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand there is no going back?”

The context of the quote is not quite right (and it's a bit melodramatic), but the sentiment, I think, is spot-on. I may have only been away for 8 weeks, but in some ways it does feel like I'm now trying to return to an “old life.” A life I'm not sure I fit into anymore.

It's both sad and exciting at the same time. It's sad because it means I've had to make some tough decisions and say at least one difficult goodbye. But it's exciting because I know now — for certain — that there are better things to come.

Travel Quote

Before this trip, I knew I wanted to travel. But I don't think I knew just how much I wanted it. Now that I know, though, it's going to be full-steam ahead.

I'm taking the events of this summer as a sign from The Universe. A sign that THIS is what I'm meant to be doing.

And you'd better believe that I'm listening.

Have YOU ever had a life-changing, eye-opening travel experience?

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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104 Comments on “And Then Everything Changed: Do I Love Long-Term Travel?

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  1. Great post and I love your blog! I can so relate to this, cause I know what you mean when you say you used to think it wasn’t for you. I felt the same way until I went backpacking through the south of Spain last summer. One afternoon I was sitting alone at a cafe in some remote village and I just knew; I want to keep doing this for the rest of my life. It changed everything ๐Ÿ™‚ Good luck on your future travels!

      Thanks, Michelle! I’m glad you can relate to this. Good luck to you on your future travels, too!

    LOVED this. stumbleupon brought me here. I’m preparing to go to europe solo in the spring, and i was so inspired by this :]

      That is so awesome to hear, Caitlin! I hope you have as incredible an experience as I did!

    I completely agree with this whole post. I’m 2 months into my 7 month trip in South America and I can’t imagine going back to a 9-5 job. Travelling inspires you to do everything in your power to change your life around and really make the most of every day. I’m glad you had such a great time in Europe. I can feel myself changing but I haven’t been dancing on any tables wearing a kilt yet!

      Haha, oh you just wait… the kilt-wearing table dancing will come! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      But yes, travel certainly can inspire you to live every day to the fullest – I think that’s part of the reason why it’s so easy to get addicted to!

    You go girl, I wish I was able to let go of things and not be worried about what is happening next!

    It was good meeting you in London on your trip ๐Ÿ™‚ And that’s the thing about travel, it does hook you quite badly. The more you do it, the more you want to do it. That’s what I’ve noticed. I did my year long RTW last year, but now I want to do another one, hopefully a longer one ๐Ÿ™‚ And you are right, you get such a great experiences when you are travelling, how can you live without that ๐Ÿ™‚

      It was good meeting you, too, Jarmo, even if just briefly! And yes, once you realize how great traveling it, it’s definitely tough to imagine life without it…

    Right on, Amanda!

    I remember when I first got to your blog and read your introduction with the “I’ve a regular job and only want to travel occasionally” bit and I wondered how you can do it.

    In the sense that ever since I started travelling solo for longer periods of time, being “home” has somehow been just an in between, gearing up before a new adventure shimmers on the horizon, and I didn’t know how you managed to stay in one place and kill that wanderlust, which I assumed was getting you or about to do so. But now I’ve got my answer! haha

    What can I say – best of luck in discovering what it is you want to do next!
    And enjoy every step of this new road that you’ve already had the chance to catch a glimpse of… ๐Ÿ™‚

      Haha. Well, I’m still all about fitting travel into a more “normal” lifestyle. But I may indeed want to take a break from that “normal” lifestyle sometime soon and travel a bit more long-term!

    It is great to see how much traveling has touched you and inspired you! Welcome to the ‘addicted to travel’ club!

      Thanks, Candice! It’s something that I’m not ashamed to be addicted to.

    Ah great! I feel that working holiday coming on sometime soon that we talked about while you were over here. Glad you had such a good time and learned more about yourself. Curious to read more about your plans as you decide where you’re heading next ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Yeah, that working holiday is definitely in the 5-year plan! It’s really the only thing I’m sure about. Haha.

    I felt many of the same things you did after my trip to Ireland. I had a LOT of ups and downs on that trip. I had a lot of fun and I also handled some tough things better than I normally do. However, I don’t think I want to do long term travel.

    Honestly, I was nuts at times. I wasn’t me. I was having fun and on cloud 9. It’s an awesome feeling but I still enjoy a place to call home. I may not always be ready to go home but I am always glad to have a place to call home.

      Yeah, I can understand wanting to still have a place to call home. But I also definitely understand the appeal of long-term travel better now.

    Great post lovely good to see you have truly been bitten by the travel bug. It’s exhilarating.

      It certainly IS exhilarating. Thanks so much for reading!

    Amazing post. I felt that way after this summer when I traveled Europe alone for a while. I was working in France as a nanny and desperately wanted to go to Greece but had no travel buddy. I wanted to go so badly I decided I would just go alone, even if it wasn’t ideal.

    It turns out I honestly prefer solo travel, even though I never guessed I would like it at all. What was most different about it to me was how many more people I met- strangers tend to take you under their wing once they realize you’re alone. I actually just wrote a post about it if you’d like to read it!

      Good for you for just going! More people need to realize that that’s an option.

      I’m glad to hear you had a good trip, and even more glad to hear that you can relate to my post. With so many people sharing their own similar stories, I’m really glad I published it now. It’s always nice to know you’re not alone. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I love all the enthusiasm in your writing, and if you want to make travel a larger part of your life, go for it! (I was bit by the travel bug when my family lived in Europe, and now, I try to alternate longer stays with shorter trips b/c that’s what works for me.) See where that sign from the universe leads you!

      Thank you, Margaret! I have no doubt that the Universe has big plans for me.

    That Lewis quote is one of my favorites!!!! And I’ve experienced this exact same thing. Can’t wait to see where *your* realization takes *you* ๐Ÿ™‚

      It’s such a fantastic quote, and definitely one I can relate to a lot more recently!

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