Imagine the romance in ridding oneself of material possessions; of nourishing the spirit through journeys from one destination to the next. And the next one after that. And so on and so forth.
The cycle would never end.
Long Term Travel. This used to be my one big goal— big enough that, in an attempt to fast-track the growth of my travel fund, I bravely interrupted a promising career ladder back in Auckland to start from scratch in Sydney.
The goal was lugged around even though limitations were despicable: inadequate finances, limited leave allowances and the hassles of carrying a third-world country passport, to name a few. Still, I embarked on small extended trips as a dry run of sorts. But each time, I went home.
Maybe I am not as brave as the few who seemed to have made a nomadic lifestyle work. I still wish to know the secret ingredient one day. But for now, all I have are shrapnels of truth from the big bomb of reality that befell many others who have left to travel the world forever, but failed.
1.Travel is a privilege.
Yes, there are ways to simplify other aspects of one’s life in order to (somehow) afford Travel; the most common example being, “foregoing the daily cup of Starbucks coffee.”
True. It is possible to travel cheaper. What with seat sales aplenty and blogs handing out free cheatsheets of what travel agencies charge a premium for?
But no, because the Starbucks coffee example for instance, is already a privilege in itself. One is merely redirecting the expense from one privilege to another.
Traveling the way I do began only after several wage increases; and only when my financial obligations have steadied down a notch. I tried many years before then, but even in the simplest way of living, I could barely afford to leave.
Now, if the very act of traveling already comes at a cost, how else can one sustain such cost to infinity?
2. A home base is a need.
Often, the decision to take root is way more courageous than running free. Realise that when one’s youth is over and though still as passionate, the eagerness to move may no longer be the same. There comes a time in life when the comforts of home become a necessity.
I realised this after around 5 weeks on the road a few years back. I was crossing the border to Cambodia from Laos, when I needed to leave a few things behind because it could no longer fit in my backpack.
To the naked eye, it was only a pair of sunnies with a scratch on the lens or a tattered old book I’ve finished reading anyway or a bright yellow water gun that seemed to have lost purpose after Songkran. But to me, those were relics of happy days and happier nights. Leaving pieces of my story behind in favour of “traveling light” was heartbreak at its best.
As I made my way to the immigration counter at the end of the trip, and consequently, to the flight home, I knew I needed a place of my own. I wanted to go home to a house full of a lifetime’s worth of memories– may it be a cupboard filled with the right wine glasses for each type of wine, or marks on the door frame for each year my future kids grow tall. I yearned a bed to rest my head on; chores to hurry home to.
3. I cannot quit my job to travel the world.
I’ve been friends with a successful travel blogger since 2006. Inspired by his adventures, I have been wanting to start a travel blog almost as long as we’ve known each other. But I did not have enough material. My measly income from a small office cubicle in an ad agency in Cebu back then could not support a life of infinite holidays.
But income from that office cubicle paid for a bigger opportunity overseas. Until the cubicle turned into a nurses’ station, a coordinator’s desk, and today, a director’s suite— complete with a small lounge and an admin assistant of my own.
What I am trying to say is, I am able to travel at whim because I have a full-time, regular and secured job. Sure, my obligations do not allow me to be away for more than 7 weeks a year. But that also means that I am allowed 7 weeks a year away, paid.
4. Location independence is a lie.
I can write. I am able to take decent photographs. I know enough of web design and web development. I have a profession that is in demand to almost everywhere in the world.
I can go anywhere right about now and land a job tomorrow.
But such bold a statement, however plausible, is not anchored on the security that a normal job in a normal life offers. My skills can take me somewhere, sure, but not for long and if I keep moving, not forever.
I dig the idea of looking forward to a holiday; of driving myself to work hard enough to truly deserve Staycation as a reward; of planning flights around long weekends months ahead; of staying up to get first dibs on a seat sale at midnight.
In the same intensity, I am glad that the journeys I make are finite. Because then, I am enticed to make the most of limited time; to squeeze as much juice from every goshdarn lemon. I find thrill in the idea of until-next-time; of how the very process of bounded travel mirrors the very beauty of mortality.
5. I am superficial. Whatever.
I am happy for those who can pull off a life of constant traveling; for those whose only consideration when they decide to travel full-time is themselves; for those whose #yolo branding on social media is also the truth of their offline lives.
Because my truth is, I have bills to pay. I come from a country whose culture expects children to support their parents, which I do, wholeheartedly. I cannot starve myself of good food. Some movies are best watched on big screens. I cannot un-love lipstick, gadgets, Oakleys, shoes and cookery.
I am female. As much as I believe I am of substance, I am also superficial.
I love traveling more than anything else in the world. But I cannot afford to hold back on life, however trivial, whilst saving to travel long-term.