Traveling full time looks extremely glamorous on Instagram but in reality, it’s anything but perfect. Especially when you work online and/or are a Mom you are presented with unique challenges the average virtual worker, tourist or short-term traveler just doesn’t have to deal with.
While we are extremely thankful for being able to see and do so many things, here’s 10 very real reasons it’s tough to live this kind of life.
1 Having a tiny wardrobe and being SO bored with your clothes
Whether you use a backpack, large rolling bag, or stick with carry on- your wardrobe is extremely limited. Especially when you travel full time because you have to pack for multiple weather conditions from the very HOT to the very cold which limits the amount of space you have. Sure there are great ways to maximize your wardrobe and space but you will never have a selection of outfits and shoes for each season. You have a few outfits and that’s it unless you want to get rid of something in order to replace it with something else or ship things to your non-existent home.
2 Diversifying your palette A LOT (but then miss food wherever you go)
When you stay long term in another country or area of the world you fall in love with a local cuisine. However, once you leave, you forever leave the most delicious version of that food you will ever have. Now when you are in Italy you crave dumplings and when you are in Africa you miss rice and beans. This is perpetual and only gets worse the longer you travel. It sounds ridiculous but it’s like a Chinese person moving to France and never being able to find their favorite food from home. It’s frustrating.
3 Never being able to adjust to weather
In order to fully climatize you need several weeks or months before your body adjusts to extreme heat or cold changes. We’ve gone from snowy Maine to Bali (and vice versa) and both ways it was awful. You are either always freezing or sweating and hobbling around on swollen ankles. You aren’t anywhere long enough to fully adjust so you are just a mess the entire time.
4 Not being able to buy all the gorgeous home items, souvenirs, etc you see everywhere you go
This sounds very ‘white privilege’ but it’s a bit deeper than that. Walking around a city and looking into the little artisan shops or shopping in an old market is enchanting and part of a cultural experience. Normal people get to bring something home to remember the special moments, places, people, etc. Not us. We just have to hope we can remember it or take a picture to be forgotten in a hard drive somewhere.
The real difficult part of this feeling a bit kicked in the gut during these moments because they remind you that you don’t actually have a home and don’t own anything. Everyone talks about how good it feels to get rid of everything but when you live years without anything, it’s still a little hard.
5 Feeling home in many many places and therefore never really feeling settled anywhere
Some people supposedly get homesick but I haven’t found that for our family and don’t really find that with any of the other travelers I meet. If anything, we dread when we have to go back for holidays or events because of the expense and hassle (but you didn’t hear that from me). However, the issue does for sure come into effect when you’ve been going on adventures a long time and stay long term in many places with many incredible people and cultures.
We feel at home in Bali, Slovakia, Maine, California, Italy…just to name a few. We cry when we leave each place and never quite feel settled anywhere…just perpetually missing another place.
6 Never being able to really be a tourist
Traveling full time probably sounds like a full time vacation. You might think that we just get to travel all day, visiting museums and temples. Going for hikes and off to festivals every weekend. Our lives are not like that actually. We work full time just like anyone else. This means we oftentimes work all day which is why we stay so long in each place. We can’t just spend all day out sightseeing. We also feel guilty when we don’t feel like doing anything because HELLO YOU ARE IN EGYPT but you are also so tired and have so much to do and sometimes staying ‘home’ is necessary.
Most everyone is also on a budget and attractions + activities cost money. A lot of the world isn’t as expensive as America and Europe but even in other places where it’s cheaper, it still all adds up. Therefore, you can’t just go nuts the entire trip and see everything. You have to pick and choose because funds are limited just like for normal people. So you get to spend a month in New York City but after all the money on the apartment, groceries, transport, and other personal bills that doesn’t leave thousands to blow on seeing all the Broadway shows on your list and now you have to leave without doing everything you wanted to do even though you had ‘plenty of time’.
7. Health insurance + taxes
Full time travelers really need to do their research before paying for health insurance. For US citizens, a lot of companies won’t cover you if they fly you home for treatment. For full time travelers, this basically means you can’t fly home for coverage. Now, there is A LOT that goes into finding the insurance that is right for you. Because we aren’t experts on health insurance, we just do what works for us and I did interview a professional expat health insurance broker on our page HERE
Taxes are actually pretty great if you are working virtually and not a resident of the US. But it’s still extremely complicated. No one wants the IRS on their ass so you have to hire a CPA who understands expat tax law to help you. You can get screwed over at the end of the year if you aren’t careful.
8 Being sick
Speaking of health insurance, being sick in another country is the WORST. It’s 10x worse without what you are used to and with an entire city you want to explore. You have to find a decent doctor that speaks English well. You have to figure out what medicine is going to do what. Plus, being sick in a hostel shared dorm is actually the worst.
9 Money stress is a BIG deal
When you are at home losing a job or getting in an accident is stressful. You have all those fears of how am I going to pay rent?! When you travel full time and you lose a big client or get in an accident, it’s now a matter of homeless or savings. You need to have enough savings for at least 3 months and a ticket home. Otherwise, you can find yourself trapped in another country. This is terrifying because you can’t run out and get a part-time job. You can’t legally work because you were just working online. This means your basically screwed.
10. Saying goodbye
Perhaps the worst part of traveling full time is the goodbyes. Your family begins to be spread further and further around the world. You perpetually miss places but more so, you miss your international family. There were tears when we left our housekeeper and Bali family even though we were going ‘home’ to visit America. We cried when we left our family in Maine. We cry when we say goodbye to our other traveling friends, never knowing when we’ll see them again. It never gets easier, you just have to feel sad, miss them and plan your next adventure to meet up.
We certainly don’t take for granted our lives. We are blessed and work hard to live this life. However, like anything in life, it certainly comes with its own unique challenges.
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