When I was 16, I lived with a host family in Normandy, France. It was my first foray outside of America without my own family. I went a shy and terrified teenager. I returned fluent in French, more confident, and in love with the idea of discovering a culture and meeting new people. I went on to graduate college and enter the corporate world. In doing so, I traded cultural immersion for quick vacations.
My vacation goals were to either visit friends, or see every tourist site possible in a small amount of time. Thankfully, I had the courage to quit my job and experience full-time travel. I’ve learned it’s nothing like vacation travel. It’s much better. Here are 10 reasons I love traveling full time.
1. I Can Experience The Culture Instead Of Merely Seeing The Sites
My first destination was Costa Rica in 2018. I had pre-booked my first 2 weeks there. I planned to head to Peru for 2 weeks afterwards, and spend 2 more weeks in Argentina after that. I was used to short vacations, so 6 weeks seemed like forever. I still had that vacation mindset 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 had booked my flight to Lima, dared to ask myself, “What if I just stay in Costa Rica and see more of it?” That was the beginning of my “slow-travel” experience. I reconnected, immediately, to my summer in France, and felt blessed that I had allowed myself the opportunity to finally discover more of the world in this manner.
As a full-time traveler, I enjoy walks with no destination in mind and sitting in cafes, watching how people behave. I love chatting up people at the next table and finding inspiration for my next destination. There are countless places where I didn’t see all of the main tourist sites. Instead, I discovered places that locals showed me, and ate foods I’ve never heard of. In my opinion, this is the true gift of travel: the unknown places most people don’t know about.
2. I Get To Choose My Happiness Over My Circumstances
One of the most freeing experiences of full-time travel is that, at any moment, you can choose to alter 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 town so touristy that I didn’t want to stay. I checked out a day early, and went to El Calefate, where I was much happier. I, of course, lost the money for the hostel I had booked, but the freedom I felt made the money loss worthwhile. Full-time travel gives you an infinite amount of opportunities to understand what you want, and to choose it. It makes you feel like you’re living on purpose, instead of sleepwalking through your best years.
3. I Expand My Comfort Zone
So much of full-time travel puts you in scenarios you don’t expect; scenarios that allow you to discover your resilience and resourcefulness. Ziplining for the first time, I felt sheer terror, and — oddly enough — excitement. I fell off a bicycle in Vietnam, and, though I’ve never felt completely at ease on a bike again, I have gotten back on several bikes since, proving that I’ll continue to conquer my fears.
In March of 2020, I found myself with the pivotal choice of being locked into New Zealand, or returning to New York, then the epicenter of COVID-19. 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 almost 2 years. I had no friends, relatives, or support network there, and built a life for myself.
I’ve repeatedly solo-traveled to places I only dreamed of, sometimes didn’t speak the language, done things I never thought I would, and still found my way to bathrooms and buses, and the beginning of wonderful friendships.
4. I Develop My Intuition
Along with survival skills, like creating a new life in another country, comes intuition. I think of the classic image of a deer with the white of its tail raised when it senses danger. For me, that tail-raising is experienced as a tingling in my body whenever something seems off.
One day in Central America, I took a walk to a waterfall and ended up alone on a road. Along the way, a young man began walking towards me. My “Spidey senses” activated immediately. He said, “Hello.” I returned the greeting and, as we passed, I had a feeling he would try to stop me. He did, curious about my accent, and asked if I wanted to “see his special place.” His eyes were on the bulge of my mobile phone in my pocket. Happily, he accepted my “No.” This was the first time I felt how powerfully accurate intuition is, and how I feel it in my body. I love the visceral awareness of others that this sense provides.
5. I Can Take My Time Admiring The World And Avoid Crowds
Instead of racing around seeing places, I can spend an afternoon with a picnic staring out at some beautiful valley in the middle of nowhere. I don’t have to zip through tours that race me to several places a day, I can see each one on my own time.
Instead of planning every moment and every activity, I allow the day to unfold and take me in unplanned directions. Instead of paying lots of money for tours, I stumble upon sites, or meet friends who share pride in their surroundings and offer me the joy of discovery. Full-time travel is the ultimate way to avoid tourist crowds at every destination. I can travel places off-season, furthering the likelihood I won’t be one of a million tourists.
6. I Challenge My Assumptions And Preconceived Notions
Travel is the best way to learn that the people of a certain country are not the same as the government that runs it. You can read the newspaper, watch movies, and read books about a place, creating an entire belief system of what that country is like. Then, when you arrive, and you’ll realize you got it mostly wrong.
Colombia is a place that comes to mind. I thought there would be lots of guns and drugs in my naivete. What I received, instead, was a plethora of jaw-dropping views, an introduction to excellent foods, and the chance to spend time with lovely people.
Rio De Janeiro helped me learn that when we develop fear of dangerous areas from afar, we have no understanding of the geography. I was told that Rio was unsafe at night due to the favelas. Once in Rio, I was surprised to feel very safe. A local told me that the favelas are in the suburbs of Rio, but, because they are so close, Rio gets a bad rap.
7. I Love Escaping Consumerism
When I worked in the daily grind, I was obsessed with money. Money for retirement, money to pay bills, money to go out, money to buy stuff. It felt like a never-ending cycle; like I never had enough of it. When I travel full time, I don’t have space for, or interest in, buying lots of stuff. It took me a while to figure out that my life is actually better without buying stuff on Amazon, filling my house with clutter, and shopping all the time. And, without all that buying, it turns out, I don’t need as much money to have the experiences I want.
8. I Delight In Endless Variety
I’m someone that craves frequent new experiences. There’s nothing like full-time travel to let me choose, not only what I do each day, but where I do it. No 2 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 getting exposed to wonderful new experiences.
9. I Learn About Myself
I have an obvious obsession with travel. What I didn’t expect is how traveling would help me grow as a person. Put in situations and places I had never imagined, I’ve had to be creative, understanding, adaptive, open-minded, and more. I’ve certainly felt frustration and came up against parts of myself I didn’t like. The travel process has allowed me to question who I am and who I want to be. I’ve learned to love the parts of myself I’m not going to change and to develop better habits and mindsets for the areas I do want to change.
While I admire so much about my outer world, and get to practice and deepen my language skills, discover new landscapes, and meet new people, I’m grateful for the ongoing opportunity to develop my inner world as I go.
10. I Can Go Anywhere
COVID-19 complexities aside, it’s wonderful to be able to go anywhere I want. Specifically, I no longer feel bound to certain geographies due to long or multiple flights, big time zone differences, or depth of things to see. I feel, ultimately, free. This is beyond the financial freedom I used to crave working in corporate. I now feel spiritually, mentally, and emotionally free to choose my path.
While full-time travel isn’t for everyone, it’s an amazing lifestyle to experience. Even if you only try it for a few months, it will transform you in beautiful ways.