Kyle and I set off for Beijing on September 23, 2013, with the intent on being away for six months in total. As I write this (sitting outside my bungalow in Koh Chang, Thailand), it’s been three months since we boarded the plane in Vancouver with no exact idea of what we were in for. I’d be lying to say travelling for this length of time has been a breeze. Don’t get me wrong, most of the time we are thoroughly enjoying ourselves, consuming endless amounts of cheap beer and seeing more sights in a day than I ever saw over the course of a month while working in an office. However, being away for six months is far different than taking a two-week holiday. For one keeping a budget is essential. Even though most things are cheap in Southeast Asia, it’s still vital to keep track of expenses and continually opt for that 80 baht dish over the 200 one. More importantly, I’m slowly accepting that not every day is going to be amazing. Down days do happen, and usually they come in full force, causing (in Kyle’s case) one to question their entire existence as a backpacker and whether or not they will ever again become a functional human being of society. When that does happen the comforts of home become all too tempting and it’s surprisingly difficult to remember just how incredible it was to stand on the Great Wall of China, or swim in the Gulf of Thailand. Try being puked on by a three-year-old on a 17-hour train journey. The only wall I could think about then was the clean one enclosing our bathroom shower in Vancouver. So to celebrate our three-month travel anniversary, we’ve decided to compile a list of the pros and cons of being on-the-road long-term.
Never knowing what the day will bring and avoiding any sort of routine.
Appreciating the fact that I’m seeing sights that most people will not ever get to see in their lifetime.
Realizing Kyle and I will not have this type of time to spend with each other when we get back.
Checking multiple countries to see off my bucket list in one six-month swoop.
Knowing I could be sitting in an office right now and instead going to the beach.
Never knowing what day of the week it is because weekends hold little importance when traveling.
Meeting people from various backgrounds and countries on a daily basis.
Running out of pages in my passport.
Having people ask “where are you from?” rather than “what do you do?”
Getting a tan in December.
Knowing I won’t look back on my life and think “what if?” when it comes to travelling.
Having time to think about what I actually want to do with my life.
Saying I’ve tried ____ once (chicken feet, crickets, snake vodka).
Ordering beer for less than two dollars.
Enjoying moments like this as I sit here and watch the sunset over the ocean.
Realizing that it may take anywhere up to an hour for you food to be delivered in a restaurant.
Constantly receiving the wrong order when eating out.
Lack of good pasta.
Lack of good pizza.
Lack of a proper breakfast.
Lack of a good, juicy, delicious burger.
…basically just lack of good Western food and proper service.
Knowing if your bed sheets are dirty, it’s a mystery whether or not they came that way or you made them as such.
Praying constantly that the next place you stay at will have better Internet.
Washing your hair only once a week because a big bottle of shampoo is too heavy for your backpack.
Wearing basically the same outfit daily because it’s the closest thing to the top of your backpack.
Lack of privacy in dorms.
Watching your bank account go down without any hope of it going up anytime soon.
Meeting new friends only to say goodbye a week later.
Missing old friends and family.
Entering a bathroom knowing that if you forgot to bring your own toilet paper, you’re shit out of luck.
Squat toilets. Enough said.
Knowing it will still be months before tasting a good, home cooked meal.
Sleeping in a different bed almost every night.
Getting out there and “doing” as opposed to looking back and regretting “not doing.”
Experiencing all of this with my girlfriend in 6 months, as opposed to each of us taking short, stinted trips to these countries on our own.
Without a return flight booked, our plans are completely flexible.
We’ve got plenty of time on buses, trains, tuk-tuks, and boats to carefully think about what we actually want to do when we get back to Vancouver.
Learning how cultures on the other side of the world operate, and why.
Meeting other travelers that you will almost undoubtedly meet up with down the road (in Southeast Asia or elsewhere).
Traveling long term saves money in the long run… returning to a region of the world, far from home, multiple times would be a huge barn burner.
Visiting less fortunate areas of the world makes you realize the importance of giving back, especially when confronted with their lifestyle for an extended period of time.
You have the opportunity to learn how to cook a myriad of different cuisines if you take the time.
Traveling for lengthy periods of time allows you to slow down and appreciate the simple moments, as well as the grand ones.
Spending a lot of time in dirty and/or less fortunate countries, you very quickly learn to appreciate what we have at home in Canada.
Only 1% or so of the world’s population ever travels beyond their own country’s borders. In three months, we’ve visited five countries.
Traveling allows you not only to see how things are done in different places, but to recognize how certain practices could reasonably be improved in the place you’re visiting or at home.
Traveling long term allows you to develop a global network of contacts.
Long term travel with your significant other brings any and all issues to the forefront. If you can get through six months traveling together, you’re golden.
You really have to budget, especially if you’re not going back home to steady income.
Those moments when it seems so painfully obvious that the people in the place you’re visiting should do things differently, for their own benefit.
The lack of permanence.
Constantly saying goodbye to friends you’ve met, with the daunting task of making an entirely new set for the next leg of your trip.
Likely missing the majority of the Olympics coverage (especially the winter Olympics if you’re in sun soaked destinations).
Missing an entire season of the NHL.
Missing an entire season of my own lowly hockey league.
Lack of exercise.
All of those nights when you know that the bar you’re sitting in would just be a million times better if you had all of your friends from home with you.
Every day wasted to a hangover seems to be an injustice to your months of painful budgeting and planning for the trip of a lifetime.