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Three Month Travel Rule

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Three Months to Stay in One Place Limit Travel Rule

I call myself a perpetual traveler, this means that I have three months to stay in any one place in the world at one span of time. Any place that seems friendly enough, any place that makes the sweet offer of work, any place where I wake up convinced that I am in paradise — any place whose immigration will allow me to — I have three months to stay. If I stay longer, then I live there — I am no longer traveling. This is the three month rule of world travel put forth by Andy Hobotraveler.com:

THREE MONTH RULE

If I stay more than three months in one location, then I have stopped traveling and have become an expat, I am living in a different country, I am not traveling or a traveler. –Three month travel rule

I honor this rule for one reason: there has to be a cut off point between traveling and livings somewhere. Someone had to draw the line in the sand, and three months seems like a good place to put it.

Rules of Travel

The usage of terms demands definition. Terms only make sense because a group of people in a certain place mutually agree on their meanings. We have words such as “traveler” and “expat” which do not inherently come with very concrete defining characteristics, so this is an attempt at clarity. I am standing with Andy when I say that three months is the cut off point between traveling and living abroad.

I see many travel bloggers/ writers trying to gain regard by saying that they have been “traveling for X amount of years,” when they actually were teaching English in Thailand. A person who lives in Thailand for two years is not traveling, they are living in Thailand — they are an expat, a foreign teacher, not a traveler.

Straighten out your terms.

The three month rule draws a line between one way of living and another, it determines if I call myself an traveler or an expat. The definition of terms is perhaps a fool’s endeavor, I remember my old existentialist and Buddhist trainings: the word killed the thing. But those who seek to communicate need defining variables on the words they use. For many years, Andy Hobotraveler.com has sought to define a traveler, and part of this definition is how long a traveler can stay in any one place and say that they are still traveling.

In my experience, I agree that three months is an adequate amount of time to limit staying anywhere.

The three month rule is not a stone cold code of conduct, but is more of a travel guideline. In reality, an occasional stay of 14 weeks is not much different than 12,  but six months in one location is far over the line — it has broken the barrier of defining travel.  When I say that I have been traveling for 11 years, I mean that I have not stayed in any one location continuously for much over three months. I do not count days, I do not hold myself in strict bondage to any rule, and I know that the three month rule is a guideline to direct the course of traveling, not a hard line regulation. It is a flashing red light saying, “Hey! there is a whole world out there, it is time to go! ”

I am not going to ostracize a traveler if they take a job somewhere for four months, I am not going to call out or strip a traveler of their self professed title. This is not a competition, it is a defining of terms. It is up to travelers to define themselves. If someone tells me they have been traveling for 10 years, I do not ask them to hand over their passport for inspection — to do so would surely violate other codes of travel.

It would also defeat the true impetus of travel if someone were to count the days of their stay and force themselves to abandon a place just to be able to flaunt a title. Leaving a project or work unfinished in order to wear a badge would be a very silly thing to do, and again, would probably violate other codes of travel. Travel is not about following rules, and this travelogue entry is admittedly tinged with contradiction and irony.

The three month rule is to be followed loosely; it is a guideline, not a code. It is something to say that a two year stay in Thailand is not traveling, but acknowledges that the traveler who earns their keep on the road sometimes needs a few months in one place to continue obtaining the resources to travel.

“Even a rolling stone requires an occasional growth of moss,” Harry Franck once wrote.

The three month rule is just an alarm that goes off to warn a traveler when they are becoming a part of a landscape.

Good places to stay for 1 to 3 months chosen by travelers

Rules of travel

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Filed under: Perpetual Travel, Travel Lifestyle, Travel Philosophy, Travel Preparation

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3053 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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