On the Road: Lessons in Long-Term Travel
Extended travel is not a vacation. Some people think of long-term travel as an escape from everyday reality or a pleasant jaunt into a world of leisure and relaxation. These people know nothing. Long-term travel is hard work; the planning, budgeting and personal fortitude required for such an adventure is not for the faint of heart or the weak of will.
Yes, the many online travel agents and right-on 2014 holiday companies can offer everything from cabanas on beaches to mountain view ski chalets, but long-term travel typically means working with a strict budget and indulging some underlying desire to search inside oneself. The lessons learned on the road are practical, profound, sometimes surprising and assuredly not the stuff of package holiday getaways.
One of the most important lessons learned on the road is logistical in nature – a heavy bag is a serious hindrance. Many travel tips will include this helpful tidbit but until you’re on the road yourself, running for a train and missing it because of the excessive weight on your back, you won’t fully understand this one. Heavy bags break, they’re a pain to carry around, and they increase frustration exponentially. If there are things that can be taken out, take them out. Be ruthless. A lighter pack means you can wander the streets with ease instead of waiting in a bus station for hours because you can’t be bothered to lug it around.
Another significant lesson is less tactical and far more personal – volunteering is an incredible way to experience a place. Travel is fantastic and it undoubtedly broadens the mind, but truly immersing yourself in a culture is a challenge. Language barriers can be cumbersome, locals can be standoffish and the truly authentic pockets of the world can be near impossible to access on your own. Wwoofing is a fantastic way to save money (most room and board is free in exchange for labour), see incredible parts of the world and truly understand a culture. Volunteering is symbiotic in its most wonderful sense, you are helping others and by doing so, gaining authentic and memorable experiences which make you feel fantastic.
The last lesson is slightly more abstract – manage your expectations.
There are some places in the world that are so ubiquitous as a result of films, movies, history classes and cultural lore that it’s impossible not to have an idea about them before you arrive. In some cases these expectations can be met and even exceeded, but in many cases, they can lead to frustration and disappointment. Travel can become focused on how a place doesn’t match an idea rather than the immediate experience of being there in the moment. Travel teaches time and again that the most remarkable things are the ones we least expect. Shedding expectations and embracing the unknown will lead to an experiential immediacy that will allow you to be present in the moment, to soak in a place, to observe the local people and to consider something for what it actually is rather than what you thought it would be.
This post was written by travler Jasmine Williams who has been on the road as long as she can remember (well, about three years anyway). She carries a lightweight back and is amazed by something new every day.