Long Term Travelers Make Homes Around the World SUCHITOTO, El Salvador- It is my impression that it is the goal of the long term traveler to make almost every place they go into a home. My home is the world, I can go anywhere and provision myself with the amenities and comforts of a home [...]
Long Term Travelers Make Homes Around the World
SUCHITOTO, El Salvador- It is my impression that it is the goal of the long term traveler to make almost every place they go into a home. My home is the world, I can go anywhere and provision myself with the amenities and comforts of a home within a week — or at least the amenities and comforts that I wish to have.
My life is regular, it is the landscape, the people, the environment that changes — the structure of my days often remain the same. I have found a balance between being away and being at home:
I just make everywhere I go into a home.
I have found myself traveling in starts and stops. I have found myself looking for hubs: little surrogate homes that I can stay for a month or two before moving on. I then travel quick for a month or so, often over vast distances, through multiple countries, searching for another hub, when I find one, I make another temporary home for a month or two and then travel on.
Traveling each day, as in changing your location every few days, is real fun for a while — it is a way to experience true flux and freedom to go wherever you want when you want to — though it is my impression that traveling like this is to miss many of the fruits of the traveling life. It is true, the traveler who does not make stops will go to more places, they will chalk up more countries, but they will ultimately experience less.
At least this has been my experience.
Who can make friends in a day or two? Who can really get a feel for a place in a week? How can you get into the places through which you travel if your bags are always packed? What are you really experiencing if you are just viewing places from the train window as you pass by?
There is something lacking in just drifting through the world, the human animal often craves more.
To travel fast is to take away a very surface level view of the planet — which is fun — part of the thrill of traveling is perpetual motion. I suppose this is why this type of travel is called “backpacking,” as you never have time to unpack your bag — you are walking around with it all the time. Backpacking makes one long hiking trail out of the world.
I am sure that the quintessential idea of travel is backpacking, the moving between places is the hallmark of the profession. Though I fear that if this was all that I did when traveling — if I just took buses, trains, planes, looked for rooms, searched for food all the time — then I would more than likely get a little worn with the routine. Lots of people get worn out of this routine — and they go home.
I just heard of a story the other day of a traveler on a ten month trip through Latin America. He went from Mexico to Patagonia. By the time he reached the Southern Cone he was so worn out of moving, that he realized that travel like this lacks substance. He said that he was looking at amazing scenes and thought nothing of them. He had enough of traveling, he became bored.
He went home.
I also once got worn with this routine. I thought that this was what traveling was about, I thought that I would just move about the world as a leaf in the wind, that I would just have adventures for a living. I then got bored.
At some point, I realized that I wanted to travel and have a solid life as well.
There are many strategies for travel, many different styles of moving about the world. I am a man of extremes, so I have found a good balancing in mixing fast, backpacking style travel with the comfort of finding hubs along the way.
How to find hubs, make homes when traveling
- Find hubs- Set your travels up around bases of operation. Map out a route with dots in the places where you think you would want to stay for an extended lenght of time. Take into account the cost of accommodation, the availability and possibility of work, and ease of access in and out. Talk to other travelers about potential hubs, drill them. A traveler stands in front of you for no other reason than to give you information of the road ahead. They are the cows of the road — milk them. Send out emails to travel bloggers, come visit me, ask questions on Travel Help.Once you have a route set, a rough strategy in place, and a string of possible hubs connected, travel quick for around a month until you arrive at your first hub. Look around, figure out if this is a place where you would want to stay. Look on Couchsurfing.org, do a Facebook search, find out where the other travelers and expats are, go meet them, find out if you are in a place that you want to stay. If it feels good, then make it a home for a month or two.
- Find a cheap room- Apartments are generally cheaper than hotel rooms. The difference in price is often hundreds of dollars. In most of the world, an apartment can be had for under $100 a month. A cheap hotel will often run at least $300 at a monthly rate. If you have already made contact with the traveling/ expat community — you already have your “support” system in place, you know where the travelers hang out — there is little reason to stay in a hotel. Look for an apartment.If you can speak the local language, find an apartment by reading newspaper classifieds or asking around. Look for “for rent” signs up in house windows or painted on the outside walls. If you don’t speak the local language, find an apartment by looking at listings on Craigslist, Couchsurfing, or Facebook groups, ask around the expat hangouts and at the hostels to see if anybody knows of any places to rent or of someone looking for a roomate. It is sometimes easier to move into a room in someone else’s apartment than it is to rent your own. Try to expend this option first. If this fails, then look for your own place. Use the above listed sources, look at postings on grocery store bulletin boards, ask around, look for signs.
It is often not too difficult to find an apartment, just keep looking on websites or in newspapers, calling, and searching. If you can’t read the local language, try to enlist the help of someone who can. Look for allies, search for people willing to help — chances are that you will run into somebody who knows somebody . . . who has a cheap apartment for rent.
Aim to spend under $100 a month. If you are in a more expensive region of the world, shoot for under $300. Pay by month. Never leave a security deposit.
Plan to stay for one or two months — three at the most. Any stay of over three months and you are not traveling anymore: you live there.
- Find cheap food- Now that you have decided on a hub and found a room, it is time to make it livable. Search out the cheap restaurants, grocery stores, and markets — figure out a strategy to eat for under $5 a day.
- Look for work- If you want to work, start looking for under the table work. Use whatever contacts that you have made when searching for an apartment as your base of information. Ask around. If you turn up a job, good; if not, then you are only spending a few hundred dollars a month to live there anyway — put off working until you get to your next hub.
- Use hub to travel- You now have a room, have a cheap food strategy in place, and maybe even have a job. Now use this hub as a base to travel. You can leave your bag and valuables in the apartment, and travel out on day or multi-day trips to the surrounding areas. Get a bike and ride, if you make it back home, great; if not, just sleep in the bush. Use your hub as a base to explore, figure out the place where you are, see how it fits into the landscape. This is the main advantage of a hub: it gives you time to really get to know places, rather than just floating through as a flash, as an apparition on some far flung horizon.
The benefits of having hubs
A hub allows you to live more of a full, more of a normal life when traveling. It is my impression that most people start off traveling to get away from this kind of life.
It was good for the first six months. Then I began to crave more. I began to crave a life again.
By having a hub, you can make friends that will still be around tomorrow, you can get into your projects, you know where everything you need is, and no longer have to walk around all day looking for a cheap places to eat.
I work on Vagabond Journey as my main project when traveling. When traveling between hubs, I usually just blog — which only takes around two hours a day — but when I am at a hub I can develop the site further, and work a regular 8 hour day. It is the hub that gives me a normal life when traveling, it is the hub that has enabled me to travel for so long. Traveling from place to place, only staying a few days in each stop, is fun for a while, but a year worth of doing this often leaves many people craving something more.
Mix up your travel strategies, come up with a balance that nourishes all aspects of life, gives you exactly what you want — makes you happy.
Life is about balance, travel is about balance — the hub gives me this sense of balance as I travel the world. I travel for a month, stay in a hub for a month or two, then travel again.
It is a good life — for me.
Long Term Travelers Make Homes Around the World
About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. VBJ has written 3657 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Astoria, New York
May 17, 2010, 7:23 pm
Thanks Wade. I wondered if you had some kind of formula when you travel.
The idea of a hub, cheap food, job, having others help, seems like a way to see the world, make friends, and not be stressed in trying to see a lot in a short time.
I still can’t get the picture you took of the toilet out of my head though:-)
May 18, 2010, 8:27 am
SO….. To summarize what you wrote, and what I have seen in other travelers, and put it into my words, there are different categories (highly flexible in definition).
Short term vacation (up to a month or so), which is exciting and tiring.
Long term vacation (up to 9 months or so), which is exciting and VERY tiring.
Long term vacation, 6 months to years, which can get boring or tedious after a while.
Life on the road, which realistically lasts in spurts of a month or more, where you live somewhere for a while, then travel to the next location. This can be exciting, but is not so tiring, and is pretty much a version of “normal life.”
I have said it before, that I would not want to travel like you do for very long. Now I am not so sure. Some variation of what you have laid out here could probably work for me, and I suppose most people.
One thing I think would be lacking for most would be the “support system” that comes with old friends and family. With today’s electronic world, that is an easier thing to maintain. For you, you are also bringing along your family, so you have that. I envy you in many ways.
May 21, 2010, 4:42 am
Hey, Wade, great post. Thanks.
May 21, 2010, 11:28 pm
Thanks for the post,
I’ve been traveling in Asia for 8 months now and after a few months of flash backpacking, I started to realize that I missed something and was just following what the guide book said, that I couldn’t get to know the culture and countries as deep as I would want to. A few times, I stopped at a place for about a week or two and even in this short time, I felt a different and deeper traveling experience. I decided now to settle down in a place for about 3 months, a place from where I can explore the surroundings, I guess what you call a hub. I feel it will give me the real feeling of what travel is all about and will break the “routine” of backpacking.
Anyway, thanks for the advises, congratulations for your amazing website and I will keep following your blog even if I don’t intend to travel for as long as you do.
Good luck and maybe see you on the road someday!
July 11, 2011, 4:31 pm
I have been planning on a fairly long [3-4 mos.] trip throughout parts of Mexico for some time now. I gathered alot of really helpful advice from your post. Money and lack of it was by far the biggest problem. I can really see it happening now ! Thank You for sharing your experiences.
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