In Defence of Long-Term Travel

| August 25, 2010 | 11 Comments
compass In Defence of Long Term Travel

In defence of long-term travel

We’re all here for the travel—and it’s a rare occurrence when the medium becomes more interesting than the message. But that’s what happened over the past few weeks in the travel blogosphere with a few classic posts. And we’re here to help you catch up—if only to apprise ourselves of the situation in so doing.

After chumming the water post-Travel Blog Exchange 2010 with some inflammatory hashtags, Alisha Miranda posted a rant over on SoSauce that was on its way to some interesting points before being quickly obscured by an ad hominem attack on Nomadic Matt. Referring ostensibly to Nomadic Matt, Alisha writes:

“…don’t tell me the right and wrong way to travel. I don’t want to hear it. I’m doing fine on my two passport stamps and don’t need your worldly views dragging me down for whatever reason you feel necessary… The lifestyle I choose as a traveler is entirely my decision… It seems like travel writers these days won’t tolerate anything less than a full-time backpacking lifestyle.”

While smacking of classic link bait (hey guess what—that stuff works), the ensuing interweb pile-on was interesting—and revealing—in its own right. Check out the comment stream following Alisha’s rant here.

In a more balanced but no less inflammatory post on Gadling, Mike Barish took issue with Nomadic Matt’s piece in the Huffington Post, owing to Matt’s “very firm opinions” on why his lifestyle is superior to the alternative that the vast majority of Americans call “normal”. Mike writes:

What someone at the age of 29 who has been traveling for much of his adult existence could possibly understand about the life that he rails against is actually less perplexing than his broad generalizations about those of us who do not abide by his philosophies. While there are certainly countless people who are lost in a sea of TPS reports and hollow pursuits, to write off all people with stable, non-travel lives as working stiffs is condescending at best and offensive at worst.

Mike goes on to write: “For the people who do stay home or perhaps only occasionally take traditional vacations, if they are happy, why is that bad?” Check out the rest of his post—and the comment stream—by clicking here.

We here at Two Go Round-The-World would certainly never begrudge someone the happiness they find in a traditional vacation—or the two stamps in their passport—but we see long-term travel as a worthwhile pursuit in its own right, as well. And in many ways, long-term travel is superior to traditional holidays. There. We said it. What we believe Nomadic Matt was getting at in his Huffington Post piece was that a lot of us fall prey to the North American belief that a vacation is a brief respite bookended by work.

Opinions, as the saying goes, are like asses— everyone’s got one and as human beings, we’re predisposed to believe that ours stinks less than everybody else’s. And now’s your chance to catch a gentle whiff of ours (we’re talking opinions here, of course).

There’s no doubt we see value in long-term travel—otherwise we wouldn’t have made it one of our ambitions and we’d certainly not be here wasting your time blogging about it. We believe it provides the opportunity for rejuvenation and relaxation, not unlike a “traditional vacation”. However, we view it as a chance for the traveller to hop off the treadmill and refocus one’s energy and vision. It’s an excellent way to recharge, take some time for yourself and see life from a different perspective.

Ultimately, Nomadic Matt’s idea of long-term travel is a protest against the traditional style of vacation that Mike Barish defends in his post. In the same way that we prefer regional cuisine, local farming and traditional food to a Big Mac combo, we are attracted to reflective travel that emphasizes a connection to local peoples and cultures.

But we’re known to chow down on a Big Mac occasionally—especially when hungover. And hey, we’ve hit a resort or two in our lives, too. She might be only twenty-something, but we believe that Stephanie Yoder’s got it right when, in response to some of the criticisms of Nomadic Matt’s lifestyle, she wrote: “My happiness is different from your happiness. More importantly: it’s not a threat to your happiness.” Check out her thoughts on the debate here.

In the interest of full disclosure—we don’t know Matt personally but our correspondence predates the launch of Two Go Round-The-World. In fact, his was the first blog to provide us a link back when we had just a post or two populating our archives. Last week, we had the chance to meet him at a post-work function—it was nice to finally meet him in person. Just in case you were wondering, he’s shorter in real life!

Over the last couple of years that we’ve been reading and participating in the travel blogosphere, we’ve noticed a growing  movement that’s finding new ways to proselytize about long-term travel—and some of them are indeed evangelical. Where once Rolf Potts was one of the only voices championing a vagabond lifestyle, a chorus has joined him. If anything, the dialogue surrounding Nomadic Matt’s piece in the Huffington Post proves that long-term travel is no longer of limited interest to travellers. Nomadic Matt bears some of this backlash because he promotes a blog that commands a large following and is very verbal in defence of his lifestyle—which in the time since his blog’s inception has moved into the mainstream. Long-term travel just doesn’t need to be defended anymore—at least not among those in the travel blogging community.

Instinctively, we’ve  know what a big market it has grown into—it’s so big that we should no longer consider it a niche  but instead regard it as part of mainstream—just another market segment along with baby boomers or empty-nesters, etc. And that’s a good thing, right?

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About the Author ()

For nearly ten years now, Daniel of Two Go Round-The-World has explored how travel captures our imagination and engages our deepest emotions. One half of the duo that maintains the widely read Two Go Round-The-World blog, Daniel treats his subjects not only as works of art but also as symbols of the cultural and political forces that inspire them. His latest book, The Physics of Flocking, gathers his favourite writing featured over the past two years on Two Go Round-The-World in columns like 'Looking Back' and 'The Whole Picture'—along with new reflections.

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  1. Phil says:

    Nice approach to the issue. Let’s hope the focus gets back to travel itself, rather than the countless philosophical arguments that are possible no matter what. Take care, Phil

  2. Skott and Shawna says:

    Good article guys! Holy smokes, this topic has sure gathered a lot of steam, eh?

    I think one important thing to remember as a long-term traveller is humility. Sometimes this is real tough, as there are so many exciting stories to tell, or adventures we are dying to experience. But long-term travel is a luxury not afforded to everyone, and we should be grateful that we can do this, not judgmental of those who cannot.

    Generally, these posts do not come across as elitist, but this is something to be aware of whether you are blogging or simply speaking to people who are not particularly involved in the travel community.

    I do agree that there are millions of people who are “going through the motions” of living their lives, working alomost on autopilot. However, there are also millions of “9-to-5ers” who have great careers, incredible families, are involved in their community, and are getting all they need out of life with minimal travelling. There is a distinct difference.

    And on the other hand, sometimes people just like to complain, and there really isn’t anything you can do about that. I work in marketing at a radio station, and you have no idea how many complaints we get from people when we right ads which are not vanilla. It’s ridiculous!

    At the end of the day, if you wish to travel and can travel, then travel…but don’t evanglize it as “the only way”. If you can travel but do not want to travel, then stay awesome and keep doing what you are doing….but don’t judge those who do travel as time-wasters or aimless nomads. If you cannot travel, but would like to travel, well, this is the toughest situation to be in. Sometimes people seem to be unfairly dealt a bad hand. Often, travel in some capacity is still possible and there are tons of links around on how to save, plan long-term etc…be patient and keep the faith people!

    For us (my wife and I), travelling is something we are super excited about. We have each done a little travel on our own, and are in the midst of planning our own RTW, leaving May-June 2011 (about the same time as you guys!!!) It is unlikely that we will travel for multiple years, as we are interested in starting a family, and we are both career oriented people as well. So we will realize this dream whilst we are overseas, and also come home with aspirations to become incredibly successful in the business world upon our return.

    On a much more casual note: have you guys decided which direction you are travelling yet?? I think we are ruling out East, but are undecided as to whether we start by heading west (to Australia) or South (likely starting in El Salvador or Belize). Hopefully we can end up meeting along the way…



  3. My goodness, much ado about nothing, I’d say & perhaps more about link bait than anything else. There are MANY ways to travel and in my 58 years, I think I have done most of them. I don’t think ANY one has said or demanded that there is only ONE WAY to do life, so not sure what the fuss is about.

    I agree with you than long term travel can be VERY special. We are going on our 5th year of non-stop, open ended travel as a family and it’s truly been extraordinary. It IS a dream come true and better than we ever imagined it, so we will continue it as long as it works for us.

    Perpetual travel is not really new ( we have 4 friends who have been doing it for over 25 years) but the internet & new economy has encouraged more people to do it ( especially since 2008 after the 4HWW & crash).

    It will always be the minority position as most people like routine and sameness, but for those who love freedom, it’s a great time to be alive.

    It’s not just about travel, it’s also about “thinking differently” and trailblazing a new way of being.

    • Daniel says:

      Agreed — A tempest in a teacup! Lots of thoughtful replies here, and really appreciate that! I’d like to address each one in turn, but am getting a litlle bogged down at work. Will get to them in time! Thanks for the comment!

  4. Mike says:

    How very interesting. Haven’t been “in the know” but glad I caught up just now.

    So, “long-term travel is superior to traditional holidays”??? Wow! you just brought it! (but yes, I do agree)

    “regard it as part of mainstream—just another market segment along with baby boomers or empty-nesters, etc. And that’s a good thing, right?”
    Good for who? For travel marketing companies that can make money off of us?
    Yes it is great.

  5. Corbin says:

    Love this post Daniel, I remember reading a bit about this when it started happening, it was sort of like reading the tabloids. lol. lots of “she said what?!” and “Oh no he didnt!”. Was worth a couple laughs for sure.

    I gotta go out there though and say that long term travel has opened my eyes to the world. I think that the longer you’re away from the steady 9 to 5 normality, the easier it is to realize whats important to you. But having said that, I have friends and family that think travel is just a waste of time, and find joy in work and routines.

    To each their own though. I’m just glad to see that there are people defending both sides. If everyone quit their jobs to travel long term we’d all be shit out of luck.

  6. Have to agree with Jeanne that it’s much about nothing. Make for a fun afternoon read though! :)

    Why did it make me feel like this slowly turn into one of those Stay-At-Home mom VS Work-at-home mom thing.

    I am one of those 9-to-5 people who still loves to travel. But I have no problem with RTW or long-term travel peeps. I love your blog and others because it allows me to live vicariously through you. Go travel around the world and explore so I can read about them too. :)

    Do what you love and who care what you do!

  7. Larry says:

    I personally love the idea of having the freedom to pursue long term travel. For others, that are not comfortable with leaving the security of their normal life, a week on a cruise ship may be acceptable. However, what I like to do does not threaten what someone else likes to do, so what does it matter?

  8. As a perpetual traveler, since 1988 … across 100+ countries, mostly amid the Developing world, I say this lifestyle is amazing and freeing and second-to-none; BUT, not for everyone …

    Simply, there is no “right/perfect/correct” life-style; it’s all relative to individual needs and for those that chose the 9-5 secure, sedentary life, it maybe very difficult to understand the life of a wanderer on the road …

    Regards – Michael Robert Powell
    - AKA the candy trail … a nomad across the planet, since 1988

  9. Jill says:

    First time coming across this topic…
    WOw, never knew that traveling could be such a hot button topic. I guess it’s like child rearing… everyone has an opinion on how best to do it, but there’s no such thing as the right/wrong way. Just the right way for the individuals involved.

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