The lifestyle of travelling long-term is one that’s more attainable than ever nowadays. However, trying to figure out how to get started is somewhat short of overwhelming. There are so many different styles and paths of long-term travel to explore that it’s hard to know what will actually work for you.
If you find that short vacations and trips just leave you wanting more, craving a deeper experience that allows you to soak up a culture, long-term travel is definitely worth a shot.
I’ll be sharing my personal story of how I began travelling long-term, and then share some advice to help you do the same! (If you’d rather skip to the tips, just keep scrolling 🙂 )
How I Got Started Travelling Long-Term
If you’ve read my previous post, Reading My Bucket List From When I Was 13, you’ll know that I’ve dreamed of travelling for as long as I can remember. But when high school graduation rolled around and my gap year was fast approaching, I realized I had no idea as to how to get started.
In all honesty, I was terrified! The only thing scarier to me than not having my big coming of age travelling adventures was that I wouldn’t go anywhere at all. It sure would have been easier to just stay put in my hometown, but despite my fears and struggles to get to this point, I’m so grateful I went for it.
As a Christian, I’d been wanting to participate in missions work long-term. In the past, I’d only done a week at most of missions work, but it only left me wanting to do more. Missions is something that combines my passion for Christ and sharing His love to others, and also having the chance to see more of the world and experience new cultures.
The Perfect Fit
Luckily for me, a few people began recommending to me that I check out Youth With A Mission (AKA, YWAM). They run a very popular 6-month program at their locations all over the world that allows you to spend 3 months in a lecture phase, followed by another 3 months in a new destination doing missions work.
For someone like me, this was a perfect fit! I chose to go to Los Angeles followed by The Philippines. It gave me the chance to experience long-term travel for the very first time, while not needing to worry about too many logistics as it was a campus-style place to live where most things were all sorted out. All I really needed was money, and to make sure visas were sorted out.
From there, since YWAM is international, it opened even more doors for me to visit their other campuses for months at a time and experience new countries. While in their location in Brisbane, Australia, I met the man who is now my husband, and I’ve now begun the process of immigrating here. It’s crazy how different my life would look had I not taken the initial plunge and gone in the first place!
While that was the experience that fit me like a glove and helped me ease into travelling long-term in various locations, I understand it won’t work for everyone.
Everyone will have their own preferences, things they want to experience, and backgrounds that will affect how to proceed.
With that, here are some styles of long-term travel for you to consider for yourself.
Long-Term Travel Types
As I mentioned, now more than ever you have so many opportunities available to you in regards to travelling long-term. But, with that comes a whole lot of options for you to choose from! I’ll list some of the most popular styles of long-term travel below, along with a few words of caution. As you read, ask yourself which sounds like a perfect fit for you.
Of course, I’m not endorsing the need to conform to a label or stereotype, but rather suggesting that you may find a certain style appeals most to you and your travel goals and dreams.
Being a digital nomad means you have work (typically a blog or other freelance online business) that you can take with you wherever you go. In all honesty, if you can make it work it’s a pretty sweet deal – travel as you please and essentially be your own boss.
A word of caution is to not get caught up in the hype. Building an online presence (via blogging or social media) takes a lot of time and patience. I’ve gotten suckered into the, “I made $5,000 in 2 months of blogging” posts, but in all honesty, it doesn’t work like that unless you already have a strong online following.
I suggest starting up your digital business ASAP before you commit to making it your full time travelling income and have patience with the journey. Essentially, don’t quit your day job just yet 😉
As I previously said, participating in short-term missions really gave me the confidence I needed to get started with long-term travel and a safe place to do so.
So, if you have an interest in missions or humanitarian work in exchange for experiencing a whole new place in the world this is a great opportunity! There’s a huge variety of options to explore in the volunteer industry around the world, that there’s bound to be something for you.
Be sure to do your research before signing on with a given organization to avoid being a harmful, not helpful, “voluntourist.” Realize that you’ve committed to helping a given cause and that it’s not going to give you complete control or freedom to explore as you please.
Taking a semester abroad is such a great way to dip your toes into the world of travelling long-term! Especially if you’re someone who’s young and may not have experienced living out of your parent’s place, this is a great way to experience a new culture and some independence while still being in a dorm/campus setting.
I’ve heard from others that spending a semester or so anywhere in Europe opens up doors for great weekend getaways as everything is so close together, and flights so cheap!
Be prepared for a possibly very expensive semester, however. I would recommend saving as much as you can in advance for the flights and possible higher living expenses to avoid the stress of student debt that can catch up to you.
Backpacker life is never a dull moment from what I’ve noticed!
Carrying little belongings, enjoying the cost-effective backpack hostels, and making international friends as you go is beloved by many young travellers.
Backpacking can either be a solo, trekking through the wilderness sort of experience or simply a method to cheaply travel to various countries and cities with ease.
You’ll notice in many cities that you visit that the backpackers hostels are typically bunched together making its own little community.
I can speak for Australia in particular for being a very backpacker friendly place! Many of the hostels here offer work for stay, meaning if you chip in with cleaning they’ll offer you a free stay which is ideal if you’d like to live in a city centre essentially for free.
There’s also the Working Holiday Visa, which lasts for a year, allows you to work, and is available in most of the commonwealth countries.
If you have any experience babysitting or nannying, the au pair life will be an easy transition for you I’m sure.
Heading to a new country to care for kids is an awesome way to make some money, but also enjoy some days off to explore the area.
Many families offer the chance to live in-house with the family, which is a win or a lose depending on how you look at it. On the one hand, you don’t need to stress over finding a place to stay (which can be difficult as a foreigner) but on the other hand, it may have you feeling as though you’re constantly on the clock.
I’ve never experienced this for myself, but there are tons of great bloggers who write honestly about their own au pair experiences.
This is the category I fit in as I’m living in a foreign country and adjusting to the lifestyle here.
It’s the best way to really soak up the culture of a country by essentially becoming a local.
Being an expat and the overall process of immigration is pretty intense in all honesty, and it’s something I write a lot about on this blog. I wouldn’t suggest starting off your long-term travel experience by jumping into moving to a new country long-term right away, but test out how you do with trips that span over a few months first.
With all of these listed (and many many more I’m sure) there are thousands of travel blogs you can find online that will give you an honest look into what that particular area of long-term travel looks like.
I find reading blogs from fellow expats to be extremely comforting. Travelling long-term can get very lonely at times, so realizing how many others there are out there who have felt as you do now is a great asset.
If any of those options I just listed sound perfect for you, you may be wondering, well, now what?
I recommend these steps to make sure you get to where you want to be:
Do You Research
Based on where you want to go, or the style of travel you’re aiming for, do some serious research!
Do you need a visa? Is there a certain amount of funds you need to raise? Are you able to open a bank account there? Ask those practical questions and give yourself some time to sort it all out. Making sure you answer these questions long before your arrival will make the transition much smoother.
Reading some travel blogs about the specific destination you’re hoping to visit, and/or the style of travel you’re striving for will also be immensely useful! Seek for honest advice and experiences where you can learn from their mistakes.
Set Clear Goals
Once you’ve figured out the answers to those not-so-fun questions, you can start setting some goals.
If money is the biggest hurdle, I’ve written a post, How To Save Money For Travel : A Complete Guide that will help you out!
Setting small, attainable goals as you go will help you stay on track and not get overwhelmed. Celebrate the small victories and keep your eyes on the prize.
This one is the hardest one for me! But, it’s important nonetheless.
Making sure you’re patient and not rushing into your long-term travel journey until you’re fully prepared will make it much more enjoyable in the long run.
While working like a dog and saving up money for months on end may feel frustrating at times, the end goal is so worth it! Pouring time into learning a new language may be tiring, but will definitely be useful upon arrival.
While a lifestyle filled with travel is extremely exciting and rewarding, be prepared for the challenges that will come with it. We all have followed those dreamy and sneakily photoshopped travel gurus on Instagram that makes it look like endless bliss 24/7. Remember that a lifestyle of travel is easily more difficult than “normal” life, but in my opinion extremely worth it.
Just keep an open mind and enjoy the journey! Everyone’s looks a little different, so there’s no use in comparing yourself.
As you can see, once you buckle down and figure out what it is you really want from travelling long-term, it’s not so hard to get started. Setting some clear goals and keeping a practical mind is easier than you’d expect
Have you ever travelled long-term? If so, how did you get started? If not, which style of travelling appeals most to you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!