From reading (perhaps an unhealthy amount) of travel blogs from nomadic or long-term travelers, I started thinking about the things I’m missing by not traveling for longer periods. I think there are certain things that are more difficult or impossible to experience on shorter trips. I’m not talking about personal growth, learning how to adapt, and living outside your comfort zone (all important, don’t get me wrong)–but things specific to traveling or living somewhere new for longer than a few weeks.Here are five things that I think I’m missing as a part-time traveler.
1. Holidays/New Traditions: We rarely travel over holidays–either holidays here in the United States or holidays in other countries. Everything is booked more expensive and more crowded. Sure, it means we save some money, but we also miss experiencing holidays in other countries, and we miss being introduced to new local traditions that we wouldn’t ever know about. I’d definitely like to get to some holidays–like Diwali–but I don’t think that just “dropping in” gives you the same experience.
2. Making longer-term friends: Sure, you can meet someone (a local or a fellow traveler) on a two week trip and really hit it off. But most of the time, the relationship ends when you part ways, or after some half-hearted emails back and forth. It’s definitely not due to bad intentions or animosity, but often you don’t have as much in common anymore. Sure, some connections will last, but a few days really isn’t enough time to get to know someone in a way that makes you really want to stay in touch–at least not for an introvert like myself. Not saying it’s impossible, but its definitely more difficult.
3. Learning language skills: I take language classes weekly, but there is nothing like being immersed in another language to achieve proficiency or fluency. Sure, some languages are incredibly difficult to learn, particularly for someone like me who isn’t a gifted language learner. But even learning the basics, or being able to read but not speak, is a huge accomplishment–and much harder to do if you don’t stay in a country for more extended periods of time.
4. Understanding cultural references: Yea, there are lots of things even I don’t get about American cultural references either, but you really miss out on understanding the cultural references in other countries with shorter trips. Sure, you can have someone explain things to you, but you probably won’t be able to use them in conversation or really understand their genesis.
5. Trusting locals (and people in general) more. In many places, I’m still suspicious of locals who want to help, particularly in major tourist areas and sites. Yea, I bet you want to show me the best view of the pyramids…yea, I totally bet your cousin owns the most awesome restaurant. But we almost missed an awesome experience in Cambodia because we didn’t quite trust our tuk tuk driver, and we were SO wrong. Important lesson learned. Sure, some of this comes with experience, and getting off the beaten path. But I think a lot of it also comes with staying in a location a bit longer, or traveling constantly so you get a better feel for what’s altruistic and what is not. It’s like a travel spidey-sense, most often possessed by long-term travelers.
I’m a nester at heart. I like to be home. No, I LOVE to be home. When I go on a trip I’m just as excited to fly home as I am to fly to a new place. Sure, I still think about traveling (and plan for trips) pretty much constantly. I know that full-time travel isn’t for me right now, and I’m totally content in that decision (but always leaving wiggle room for the future, in my ever-capricious nature!). But there are definitely things that are much harder to experience with this style of travel.