Getting Stuck whilst traveling is Part 2 of the Traveling Realisms series
Long term backpackers get stuck traveling in one place & It might happen to you
Here’s a thing you don’t told about whilst your planning, researching or thinking about budget backpacking long term – You might end up getting stuck whilst traveling in one place longer than you expected!
You may have landed on this post because you feel it happening to you right now, or you might be thinking of becoming a long term backpacker and wondering how you can possibly end up getting stuck whilst traveling.
In this post, we will cover how you could end up getting stuck whilst traveling long term, the different reasons long term backpackers get stuck, and how you can deal, cope and move on to keep traveling.
You’re adamant you won’t get stuck backpacking…Until it happens!
I don’t think there is a single first time backpacker – solo, budget or long term who sets out and thinks “You know what I think I’ll get stuck traveling.”…Note I did say first timers. Having backpacked since 2010, I’ll admit and I’m sure other long term backpackers will too, once you’ve been going for a while you start to recognise and know where you might get stuck whilst travelling. I know I do.
You might be sitting there, doing your research, planning or just thinking about backpacking and think, “Nope, not me. I have a plan, I won’t be getting stuck whilst traveling.”- Yeah that’s all well and good right now, like I said none of us ever think it will happen – but then wham one day you wake up somewhere and realise you haven’t left; You’re stuck traveling!
Before I started backpacking way back in 2010, I was warned about it by a friend who’d backpacked before but I laughed it off. I was adamant, I had a plan, Iron clad, and I was determined to stick to it and no way I’d be getting stuck whilst traveling.
I should have known better!
…Well, guess what…It happened straight away, and it wasn’t the only time!
There is something I’ve learnt over the years of backpacking all over the world…Fuck plans! Mine never work out, no matter how simple they are, I am more than likely to get stuck backpacking for many reasons. And, I know many long term backpackers for who this is the same for.
Getting stuck whilst traveling is a possibility for many reasons
There is one piece of advice I give to first time backpackers that I meet more than any other; always be prepared not to prepared.
What I mean by this is, no amount of planning, researching or advice given can truly prepare you for your trip.
Yes you can cover all the basics until you’re blue in the face, yes you can research until it comes out your ears you can even plan every last detail of your trip. However once you’re traveling things can happen. Unforeseeable situations and circumstances can occur, even those Ironclad plans can go up in smoke. Once you’re on the road, especially if you’re planning on long term traveling, ( I mean 6 months+ and years on end not just a couple of months) you’ll find things are not so straightforward and simple.
Different factors will come into play, people you meet will effect your decision making, locals you meet can change your opinion and mindset, your priorities can change. You might set off on your trip thinking you want to explore X, Y and Z but once you’re there have a completely different thought process.
Common reasons you may end up getting stuck whilst traveling
It doesn’t matter who we are, that moment we step foot in a new country, we are out of our comfort zone. Everything is new, the surroundings are new, the people are new, and some cultures are polar opposites. So it’s human nature to seek out and grasp onto things that we find familiar, something we can relate too like other backpackers or hostels.
We make friends, we get used to the surroundings, things start to feel more comfortable and they start to become normal. We settle in our new environment and that’s when we start to form a bubble. Once we’ve found this comfort zone the last thing we want is to leave it, so we stay. As days pass things become more comfortable, we make things more homelike and settle. The irony is, we travel to get out of our comfort zone but sometimes that’s the first thing we try to find or create.
Making friends/ meeting a great bunch of people can be a big reason to getting stuck whilst traveling
Traveling is as much about the people you meet and the experiences you have with them as much as the sites and destinations you travel to.
Here’s the thing about traveling, especially as a long term backpacker you just don’t know who you will meet or what significance they may have on your life. Lifelong friends can be formed, you may meet people who become closer than family, your soulmate, or people who change your life.
People can come into your life at any point, it could be on your first day or months into your trip. Once you come across them you may end up having so much fun with them that you even forget you were there to travel. I know that sounds ridiculous but it happens and priorities change, you end up staying longer than you expected and sometimes it can the case of days turning into weeks and even into months. If that happens; you’re not getting stuck whilst traveling – You’re already stuck traveling!
There have been so many occasions over the years where I’ve arrived at a new destination with no intention of staying more than a few days but met amazing people and ended up staying longer than planned.
Getting stuck whilst traveling because you’re sucked into the backpacker hostel bubble
If you combine the two reasons above, and you’re staying in backpacker hostel the hostel bubble starts to form. Well It’s disguised as a bubble but in reality It’s a trap. the trap sucks you in deep, it strips away your motivation and desire to travel, it provides you with everything you need in arms length in and around the hostel.
Days can turn into weeks, and into months, each day you become less motivated, to a point you don’t even care to know what’s happening in the outside world; all that matters is what’s happening in the hostel. This hostel backpacker bubble post gives you a full insight into what I’m talking about.
(If you’re looking to stay in a hostel but not sure where to start looking HostelWorld is the worlds biggest hostel booking site. The banner below takes you directly to their website and you can choose the right hostel for you.)
Partying too much definitely leads to getting stuck whilst traveling
One of the most common reasons backpackers especially young and gap year backpackers end up getting stuck whilst traveling is because we party way too much and lose sight of why we’re actually there.
Yes, of course, this is completely our own fault! We put our-self in this position but it’s so easy to get distracted and lose sight; especially if we’re having the time of our lives and just caught up in the moment.
When you’re not in this situation, it’s easy to tell yourself that you’re not going to be so stupid to just waste your money or time on partying and drinking. However, when you’re in this environment, it’s a different story. You can get sucked in and partying just one night, can turn into two, three, a week or longer. Before you know it you’re partying all the time and forget you’re even there to travel.
I’m sure there will be some split and judgemental opinions as you’re reading this. Some of you will be nodding your head saying “Yup this will be me – I live for the sesh!”, while some of you will be shaking your heads saying “No, I will not be wasting my money on partying If I wanted to get drunk and party I can do that at home.”
It’s fine either way but the truth is partying is a big part of backpacking culture, especially for first-time or young gap year backpackers.Backpacks and booze shows how prominent it is and why getting stuck whilst traveling is a big possibility because of it.
Running out of money/having to work/replenish funds
Yeah, sure you might start your journey with some sort of budget, you might have a backup fund, and even some for emergencies and that’s great. But if you’re planning on traveling long term, and with no income coming in, at some point you’re going to run out of it.
There will come a time when you reach that dreaded ‘0‘, there is no more emergency fund, and there are no more Western Union money transfers from the family. And with no money you’re forced to stop moving and you’ll be getting stuck whilst traveling.
Before you start panicking though, It’s ok, there are ways around it. If you find yourself getting stuck whilst traveling because you’re getting or are broke, just stop traveling, make a nest for yourself, find some volunteer work, or you can work in hostels, or other jobs in exchange for accommodation and food. There are ways to replenish your funds to keep going.
This post explains how you can continue your travels when the funds run dry. Or find out the different types of jobs you can do traveling to keep your funds replenished.
There have been times over the years where one week I’ve had nothing but the next I’m fine again and can move on.
Or if your visa allows it, you can get a proper job for a while, stay in one place, replenish and move on.
Getting stuck whilst traveling happens when you Fall in love with your destination
Somewhere along your journey, there will be a place that just captivates you. This place will take over you, make you feel like it was made for you, that you belong there and nowhere else matters anymore. Before you know it, you get stuck backpacking and could care less because you’ve found your paradise.
Over the years, I’ve seen so many backpackers end up getting stuck whilst traveling because they’ve found their dream destination. It’s happened to me on a few occasions. You know you arrive with the intention of being there a few days or weeks and you just fall in love with the place you can’t bare to leave it.
Close your eyes and picture it for yourself. Imagine arriving at your dream destination – Can you see it, feel it, hear the sounds? Now, can you really see yourself moving on for no good reason expect because your itinerary says so?
Imagine every other thought you have just evaporate. Days and weeks will pass in a blur, you’ll find yourself becoming a local, and will set up camp. The locals will start to recognise you, the shops, bars, cafes and eateries get to know you. You make local friends and you’re no longer a travelers or backpacker passing through. You’ll even get to a point when you do see other tourists and backpackers you don’t associate yourself with them.
Getting stuck whilst traveling because you just needing a break
Long term budget and solo backpacking, is no holiday. It can be tiring, a grind and a struggle at times and sometimes you just need to take a break. That doesn’t mean going back home but rather wherever you are, you just stop drop your bags, make a little nest for yourself and do nothing. You sometimes the most satisfying thing is being able to empty your backpack and not have to pack it back up for a while; It’s bliss.
Those times you’re emotionally, mentally and physically drained the best thing is to stop and do nothing for a while. If you’re staying in a hostel, you might find other long termers there doing exactly the same thing; absolutely nothing.
There have been times when I’ve stopped and you might laugh but the biggest adventures I’ve had during that time is going to the laundry or the local market to do my food shop and It’s been exactly what I needed.
Getting stuck whilst traveling because of burn out/ hitting the wall
This happens to long term backpackers alot, it coincides with needing to take a break but mainly happens to those who go too hard too fast too quickly. Long term backpacking is a marathon not a sprint.
You’ll notice those who have traveled the longest travel at a snail’s pace, we’re in no rush to do excursions, tours, or see famous monuments. We have no desire to tick off everything listed in the lonely planet ‘top 10 must see and do’. We do things as and when we want if we do it at all. Most have learnt from years of experience of not doing things too quickly.
So many times over the years I’ve met first time backpackers, who have no end date on their travels but come with packed itinerary and want to see and do everything at once. While I understand the excitement you just need to put the brakes on a little.
But burn out can come in different forms too, it could be from the mundane stuff like constantly moving, taking yet another overnight bus, packing, unpacking and packing again, the same repeated conversations, ‘the backpacker talk can get very tedious and takes Its toll.
Even just doing things can take Its toll, there are only so many churches, temples, rural villages, famous monuments, landmarks you can visit before they start turning into the same thing.
As horrible as it sounds when the burnout hits getting stuck whilst traveling is the best thing to happen because you stop enjoying it. The smallest things can irritate you and sometimes you can’t even be arsed with people until you’re rested up, recharged and ready to go again.
Getting stuck whilst traveling when It’s out of your hands
While most of the time It’s on you why you get stuck backpacking, there are times when It’s out of your hands. It can be frustrating when get stuck like this.
Like I mentioned at the top of the post, unforeseeable things can happen. It could be as simple as a breakdown or a cancellation that makes you stuck. Or it could be something more serious, you can get mugged, luggage can go missing, visa issues, tax issues, a natural disaster, a worldwide pandemic like the ‘Coronavirus‘ that spread and caused chaos to everybody through 2020.
These situations can be as little as an inconvenience, and at other times like a punch in the face. Getting stuck whilst traveling when It’s out of your hands can cause disarray and panic. It can be a major bump in your journey, force you to change your route or plans.
Anybody can end up getting stuck whilst traveling
As you can see from this post, there are plenty of reasons you might and possibly will end up getting stuck whilst traveling at some point of your journey.
But what do you do when it does? Well if It’s on you, your fault, or your choice then just enjoy it. Don’t stress about it, enjoy it, and the moments you have. And don’t worry if other people around you are moving on and you’re not, don’t worry about it.
If It’s because of something out of your hands then again try not to stress, or overthink things. The more you worry the more you will wind yourself up and can make the situation worse.
My advice, you’re long term backpacking, there is no rush so just ride it out, enjoy it and it doesn’t matter how long you end up getting stuck whilst traveling in one place.
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