The Downsides of Constant Travel


woman sitting alone on a brick wall watching the sun set
AePatt Journey/Shutterstock

Instagram paints a pretty picture of longterm travel, but it’s not accurate. I’ve spent the last four years traveling pretty much non-stop and, while it’s certainly great and I love doing it, there are serious downsides. It’s not for everyone.

Since I finished college back home in Ireland in 2015, I’ve been traveling. I started writing in my sophomore year, and by the time I graduated, I was earning enough to do it full time. And the best bit was because I was writing for newspapers, magazines, and websites all over the world, nobody cared where I was as long as the work got done. I’ve used that freedom to spend months skiing in France, to live on tropical islands in Asia, to road trip around Mexico, to get the train from coast-to-coast in the U.S., to sail in the Mediterranean, and to generally see the world.

Sounds incredible, right? And it is. I’ve loved traveling like this, but the longer I do it, the more I can see the downsides. There are a lot of “digital nomads,” “#vanlife”-ers, and the like posting a distorted, overly-positive view of constant travel on Instagram. If you follow them, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all beach days and coconuts. There’s a lot more to it than that—not all of it good.

You Lose Your Life at Home
In the four years I’ve been gone, life at home in Ireland has moved on without me. My friends have built careers, entered serious relationships, fought, fallen out, and just generally got on with their lives. When I go back for a few months every year, things are not the same.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love my childhood friends—they’re some of my best friends in the world—but their lives haven’t been on pause while I’ve been gone. They’ve changed a lot, and I’ve changed a lot.

After a few years traveling, it’s gotten increasingly hard to spend time at home. I’ve been left behind a bit. If I moved back permanently, I’m sure things would gradually find a new normal, but as things stand, I’m an outsider.

You Miss a Lot
And as things change at home, you miss a lot. I was best man at a wedding earlier this year, and it cost me several thousand dollars to be there. I can’t afford that for anything but the biggest events. Early on, I missed reasonably mundane things like 27th birthday parties. In the past few years, though, I’ve started to miss bigger events.

This year alone I’ve missed a different wedding and two of my best friends’ thirtieths. By sheer chance I was at home when my elderly dog died, so I was able to say goodbye, but I doubt I’ll be so lucky with the next one. I say goodbye to him every time I leave now.

If I keep traveling, I’m only going to miss more events like this. Births and birthdays, weddings and funerals. They’re all going to keep happening whether I’m there or not.

Relationships Are Hard to Build . .

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