There are many wonderful aspects of being a long term perpetual traveler. There are dozens of names for them – digital nomad, lifestyle design, location independent, world wanderer – but they are all basically names for the same thing: a person who travels the world with no plans to ever settle down in one place. It’s a wonderful lifestyle with many benefits.
It’s also extremely difficult to break out of when it’s no longer meeting your needs.
Many of us head out to travel long term without considering an exit strategy. As we plan our world travels it’s all pie in the sky, glamor, and sheer exoticism every night. It’s fun, fun, fun in new and exciting places. Our thoughts are filled with dreams of the wonderful adventures we’ll have in remote, far-flung corners of the world.
Once we hit the road, we quickly discover the reality of travel isn’t glamorous at all. It’s long hours battling headwinds on hot, dusty roads or being crammed in a bus built for little people. It’s sleeping on uncomfortable mattresses in noisy hostels. It’s craving Grandma’s Cranberry Salad, but not being able to find the ingredients to make it.
Even so, we’re willing to endure the distinctly un-glamorous for the intoxicating excitement of the bits in between.
But we rarely think about how to stop.
A friend of mine recently said, “I’m tired of travel, but I’ve been on the road so long I don’t know how to stop.”
It’s important that we take time to think about when it’s time to call it quits; to develop an exit strategy for our travels. When has the travel fulfilled our needs and we would be better served by another lifestyle? How do we know when it’s time to move on, so to speak – to leave the traveling behind and explore other avenues in life?
One way to define that is to think about what you hope to gain through your travels – whether you are just starting out or have been on the road for years. What do you want to learn from traveling and how will you know you’ve learned it? If you aren’t sure where you’re going, how will you know you’ve gotten there?
I am a strong proponent of setting a particular goal, and when you reach that goal, take time to reevaluate. For us, it was a physical goal – reaching Ushuaia. When we reached that goal after three years on the road, it forced us to take a good long look at what we wanted to do next. Would continued travel on bikes be of the most benefit to all four of us? Or should we travel another way? Or should we stay in one place?
The goal, however, doesn’t have to be a physical goal. It can be a certain amount of time or when you’ve reached a certain level of comfort in your new lifestyle. The goal can be anything you want it to be – but define the goal carefully so you will know when you’ve reached it. Once you are at your goal, take a good hard look at your lifestyle and see if it is still meeting your needs and wants.
Give yourself permission to change gears if it isn’t.
As we travel through life on this planet, our needs, wants, and desires change and develop. It’s important that we are receptive to those changes and willing to respond to them. Don’t fall into the trap of just another rat race – albeit a rat race around the world.