When I was 16, I was living with a host family in Normandy, France. This was my first trip outside America without my family. I went into a shy and terrified teenager. I’m back fluent in French, more confident, and love the idea of discovering a culture and meeting new people. I went to college and got into the corporate world. By doing so, you have replaced your cultural immersion with quick vacations.
My vacation goals were to either visit friends, or see every possible tourist site in a short amount of time. Fortunately, I had the courage to quit my job and try traveling full time. I’ve learned that there’s nothing like traveling on vacation. This is a lot better. Here are 10 reasons why I love to travel full time.
1. I can experience the culture instead of just seeing the sites
My first destination was Costa Rica in 2018. I pre-booked my first two weeks there. I planned to head to Peru for two weeks after that, and spend another two weeks in Argentina after that. I was used to taking short vacations, so 6 weeks seemed like forever to me. I still had a vacation mentality and thought my main priority was to go to as many places as possible.
I fell in love with Costa Rica, and even though I booked my flight to Lima, I dared to ask myself, “What if I stayed in Costa Rica and saw more of it?” That was the beginning of my “slow travel” experience. I reconnected, immediately, to my summer in France, and felt so blessed to have allowed myself the opportunity to finally discover more of the world in this way.
As a full time traveler, I enjoy walking with no destination in mind and sitting in coffee shops and watching how people act. I love talking to people at the next table and finding inspiration for my next point. There are countless places where I haven’t seen all the major tourist spots. Instead, I discovered places that locals showed me to, and ate foods I had never heard of. In my opinion, this is the true gift of travel: the unknown places most people don’t know about.
2. I have to choose my happiness over my circumstances
One of the most liberating full-time travel experiences is that, at any given moment, you can choose to change your plans. The Costa Rica experience, where I chose to stay longer, was one example. On another adventure, I went to El Chalten, Argentina. I had booked a two night stay, but found the city too touristy that I didn’t want to stay. I checked out a day early and went to the califs, where I was much happier. Of course, I lost money for the hostel I had booked, but the freedom I felt made losing money worthwhile. Traveling full time gives you an infinite number of opportunities to understand and choose what you want. It makes you feel like you’re living on purpose, rather than sleepwalking through your best years.
3. I am expanding my comfort zone
Too much traveling full time puts you in scenarios you wouldn’t expect; Scenarios that allow you to discover your flexibility and resourcefulness. For the first time, I felt extreme horror, and, strangely enough, excitement. I fell off a bike in Vietnam, and while I never felt fully comfortable on the bike again, I’ve been back on several bikes since then, proving that I will continue to conquer my fears.
In March 2020, I found myself faced with a pivotal choice: to be locked up in New Zealand, or to return to New York, then the epicenter of the COVID-19 virus. I chose to stay in New Zealand, thinking it would be for a few months. If you’ve read my other articles, you’ll know I ended up staying for about two years. I had no friends, relatives or support network there, and I built a life for myself.
I repeatedly traveled on my own to places I only dreamed of, sometimes didn’t speak the language, did things I never would have imagined, still find my way to bathrooms and buses, and start wonderful friendships.
4. I develop my intuition
Along with survival skills, such as creating a new life in another country, comes intuition. I think of the classic image of a deer with its white tail raised when it senses danger. To me, the lifting of the tail is felt as a tingling in my body whenever something seems unnatural.
One day in Central America, I walked to a waterfall and ended up alone on the road. Along the way, a young man started walking towards me. My Speedy Senses were instantly activated. He said, “Hello.” I saluted, and when we passed, I had a feeling he was going to try to stop me. He did, curious about my accent, and asked if I’d like to “see his own niche.” His eyes were on the bump of my mobile phone in my pocket. Fortunately, before the “no”. This was the first time I had ever felt the power of subtle intuition, and how I felt it in my body. I love the deep awareness of others that this meaning provides.
5. I can spend my time admiring the world and avoiding crowds
Instead of racing around to see places, I can spend an afternoon with a picnic gazing at a beautiful valley in the middle of nowhere. I don’t have to go around the rides that race me to several places in the day, I can see all of them in my time.
Instead of planning every moment and every activity, I allow the day to rejuvenate and take me in unplanned directions. Instead of paying a lot of money for tours, I stumble across sites, or meet friends who share pride in their surroundings and give me the joy of discovery. Traveling full time is the perfect way to avoid the crowds of tourists at every destination. I can travel to off-season places, which raises the possibility that I won’t be one of a million tourists.
6. I challenge my assumptions and preconceptions
Traveling is the best way to know that the people of a particular country are not like the government you run. You can read the newspaper, watch movies, read books about a place, and create a whole belief system for what that country is like. Then, when you arrive, you’ll realize that you mostly got it wrong.
Colombia is a place that comes to mind. I thought there would be too many weapons and drugs in my naivety. What I received, instead, was a plethora of amazing views, an introduction to excellent food, and a chance to spend time with wonderful people.
Rio de Janeiro helped me learn that when we are afraid of dangerous areas from afar, we don’t understand geography. I was told that Rio was unsafe at night due to the slums. Once I arrived in Rio, I was surprised to feel very safe. A local told me that slums exist on the outskirts of Rio, but because they are so close, Rio gets a bad reputation.
7. I like to escape consumerism
When I worked at the daily grind, I was obsessed with money. Money for retirement, money to pay bills, money to go out, money to buy things. It felt like an endless loop; As if I didn’t have enough of it. When I travel full time, I don’t have the space or interest in buying a lot of things. It took me a while to discover that my life is indeed better without buying things from Amazon, filling my house with clutter, and shopping all the time. And without all that buying, it turns out I don’t need a lot of money to get the experiences I want.
8. I delighted in the endless variety
I am a person who craves frequent new experiences. There is nothing like traveling full time to allow me to choose, not just what I do every day, but where I do it. No two days are ever the same, and even if I stay in one place for a few months, I still feel like I’m learning something new every day and having great new experiences.
9. I am learning about myself
I have a clear obsession with travel. What I didn’t expect was how traveling would help me grow as a person. Putting in situations and places I had never imagined before, I had to be creative, understanding, adaptable, open minded, and more. I definitely got frustrated and encountered parts of myself that I didn’t like. The process of traveling allowed me to question who I am and who I want to be. I’ve learned to love the parts that I won’t change and to develop better habits and mindsets for the areas I want to change.
While I greatly admire my outer world, am able to practice and deepen my language skills, discover new landscapes, and meet new people, I am grateful for the continued opportunity to develop my inner world.
10. I can go anywhere
No matter the complexities of COVID-19, it’s great to be able to go anywhere I want. Specifically, I no longer feel bound to certain geographies due to long or multiple flights, large differences in time zone, or depth of things to see. I feel, in the end, free. This goes beyond the financial freedom I’ve longed for working in companies. I now feel spiritually, mentally and emotionally free to choose my path.
While traveling full time is not for everyone, it is a great lifestyle for you to experience. Even if you only try it for a few months, it will transform you in beautiful ways.