(Last Updated On: June 17, 2018)

Long-term budget backpacking life: everyday life,  is part 6 of the traveling realism’s series

Long-term budget backpacking life

The glamorous life of long-term budget backpacking life!

So, you’re ready to go on your first ever budget backpacking trip? You’ve done all your research and planning, you’ve read just about every travel blog there is to read. You’re excited by the glamorous pictures filled with amazing adventures from one day to the next and you want some of that action.

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You’re about to swap your ‘normal’ life for a life of daily adventure. You can just imagine it, you’ll be ticking things off your bucket list day after day, you’re friends and family are going to be so jealous of your new life.

And, why wouldn’t they be jealous, while they’re stuck in their everyday life, the mundane routine, you’re going to be gallivanting around the world, going from one adventure to the next. Your days are going to be crammed with new experiences, meeting new people, drinking cocktails on paradise beaches and discovering hidden gems on a daily basis.

Well…that’s not entirely true!

Everyday Long-term budget backpacking life

While there is no doubt your trip will most likely be an incredible journey full of adventures, mystery, meeting new people, discovering hidden gems, new cultures and crammed with unforgettable experiences; not every day will be an adventure, backpacker life is not all glamour.

It’s unfortunate but a lot of travel-related information like blogs, magazines, websites, videos don’t like to actually educate and prepare you for what long-term budget backpacking life is going to be like. They give you snapshots and like to ‘sell and showcase’ the idea of backpacker life being glamorous all the time. However, they don’t tend to mention what happens in-between the adventure days.

Not trying to put you off long-term budget backpacking.

Before anybody starts to think that I’m putting a damper on budget backpacking, or trying to put you off, that is not what I’m doing. I’m just making you aware of another traveling realism.

If you’re not aware, I’ve been budget backpacking the world since 2010. And, over the years I’ve come across so many first-time budget backpackers who were so under-prepared or didn’t know how to be a backpacker but it wasn’t always entirely their own fault. They just didn’t know any better. They saw and read about the glamours of traveling but just weren’t clued up on what everyday budget backpacking life was going be like and felt lost.

It’s not just others, I was exactly the same before my first trip. I read all these amazing things about traveling, watched incredible videos and vlogs and my mind was bursting with endless thoughts of what my traveling life was going to be like. However, it didn’t take long to realize I was not prepared for everyday long-term budget backpacking life and I didn’t know how to be a backpacker!

So the reason for this post is to give you an insight into what backpacker life is like.

How your backpacking life will evolve.

First few days and weeks of Long-term budget backpacking life:

The first few days, excitement will be bursting out of the seams, you’ll want to see and do everything all once. The adrenaline will be pumping and you literally will be bouncing off the walls. Those first few days are the days when you go from one adventure to the next without giving your budget a thought. Everything will be brand new, you’ll be wide-eyed and everything will feel surreal. Those first few days, you’ll be trigger happy with your camera to make sure you don’t miss a thing and you’ll be so excited to upload them to show your friends and family back home.

After a few weeks…

Things start to sink in, you’ll start to adjust to long-term budget backpacking life, things start to feel normal and you become more conscious. You’ll still be doing a lot of trips and activities but you might give yourself a couple of days to rest in between to re-cooperate.

After a few weeks, you will understand how to be a backpacker and how things work. You’ll understand backpacker dynamics and how hostel life works. You’ll gain a better knowledge of local costs as opposed to tourist costs and in turn, learn to budget better. With the knowledge you’ve picked up you’re also more likely to cook for yourself rather than eat out, friends will be made and you’ll start turning from tourist mode to backpacker mode.

As weeks turn into months…

Your pace will slow down, there will be days you’ll just lounge around your accommodation or just hang around with friends you’ve made. You may find by now you’ve started to stay in places longer, you’ll be known as a ‘long-termer’ in hostels. You’ll be more methodical and conscious with your budget, like really stringent. So, there will be less needless spending and trips will be prioritized, skipping ones you don’t feel are worth the money. With that, you’ll have figured how to be a backpacker and will make things cheaper, haggle and take advantage of any free things on offer. If you are in one place for a prolonged amount of time, locals will even start seeing you as a local and not a tourist, which really helps the longer you travel.

When the Months turn into years…

Well, traveling becomes normal life, it’s just what you do now. You’ll move at a snail’s pace, taking as long as you can in one place. Those days when you can’t be bothered to do anything will turn into weeks and even months in some cases. Your everyday life will be just living in a foreign country, and moving on or doing activities when you can be bothered to.

Truth is there are only so many touristy things you can do and more than likely be fully immersed in local culture. You will have more fun hanging around with locals, going way off the beaten track.

Other travelers will be gobsmacked when they find out how long you’ve been traveling for and to some, you will be an inspiration. The budget you started with will have evaporated by now, so you’ll work as and when you need to. You’ll be an expert on finding things for free and you will just see life from a different perspective. That wide-eyed novice backpacker you started out as will be a distant memory, in-fact reality and the normal life you once left will also be a memory.

You need rest days for Long-term budget backpacking life.

Well, it’s as simple as saying you’re only human and not a machine. You cannot physically be on the go all the time, you need rest, you need to recuperate, you need time to take in what you’re doing. You’ll be surprised at the number of long-term travelers I meet who come armed with pack itineraries. They get burnt out within weeks of traveling or look so stressed out because they didn’t give themselves time to enjoy the moment.

These are people who have every minute of every day planned out. Now, let me just say, if people are traveling just for a few days, weeks or even a month I understand why they would want to cram as much as they can in; they are on a time frame. However, if there is no time-frame, remember this – Long-term budget backpacking is not a sprint; it’s a full-blown marathon. Between big trips and activities – chill out! Soak in what you’ve just experienced…Enjoy the moment!

Partying too much.

It comes with the territory for a first-time backpacker, especially if you’re a gap-year backpacker. There are going to be days where you just do nothing because you’re partying too much, check out backpacks and booze and see what I mean.

There will be some people reading this and turn their nose saying ‘I don’t travel to party’. Well, that’s fine if you don’t but a lot of first-time backpackers are young and like to party (That’s not to say only young people party). I was one of those people and although I hadn’t planned for it, I became part of backpacking party culture during my first trip. There were a lot of lost days through partying over the years for me.

Long-term budget backpacking life is not all glamour, sometimes a false picture is painted and the details of everyday traveling life is left out. This post shows you what's left out...

Times you have to work to carry on!

Something you should really comprehend and a facet of long-term budget backpacking life is that you will have to work to replenish or even create new funds. The money you saved before your trip will only last for so long, and remember I’m talking about traveling for 6 months+ or even years and not just a few months.

Like I mentioned before the more you travel the better you will get at managing the money you do have but money management isn’t a strong point like it wasn’t for me there’s no need to panic. There will be ways to earn money on the go, trust me when I travel there are days I don’t have a penny to rub and other days when my pockets are full. This post explains how you can earn money while backpacking: How to sustain long-term backpacking life.

Emotional and mental states of Long-term budget backpacking life.

A part of your everyday backpacking life will be to deal with your emotional and mental states, I’m going to be brutally honest, long-term budget travel can be excruciatingly painful at times. It can be a battle with your mind and sometimes it can get the better of you.

There will be days when you just feel down-right depressed for no reason. It could even be as simple as having a come down from doing an amazing activity the day before. It could be from having to say goodbye to another traveler you got close to or starting to miss home. You may even have to deal with a breakup during your travels, or been given some bad news from home.

Whatever the reason, we all go through it, we all have to deal with it, and sometimes you just feel fragile for no reason. Sometimes the best solution is just to hide from the world. As with everything though, these feelings and emotional states pass. You just have to ride it out and a few days later you will feel right as rain.

The longer you travel.

The longer you travel, there will be days and weeks you just take some time out from traveling.  There are literally days when you wake up and just want to be lazy, do nothing, catch up with friends and family back home, or binge watch on TV series. And when these days come, don’t think you’re wasting your time, trust me, in the long run, it’s healthy to just stop. It helps with longevity.

Long-term budget backpacking life is not all glamour, sometimes a false picture is painted and the details of everyday traveling life is left out. This post shows you what's left out...

I know some long-term travelers who just pack a few things to check in to a hotel and hide away for days to have sometimes to themselves. They collect, re-group, refresh themselves and come back a few days later.

When I first started to travel, I would see people in my hostel just lounging around, so I would ask why they’re not doing anything. The answer, “Just can’t be bothered to do anything” would shock me but over the years, that’s the same response I give when I’m asked the same question.

I just can’t be bothered to see or do anything.

‘I just can’t be bothered’ – Sounds ridiculous right? And some of you are probably laughing reading this and thinking this guy is talking shit, how can you not be bothered?…. Well, it’s just what happens sometimes, it’s the truth.

There will be days when the most exciting thing in your day is what you’re going to eat or doing your laundry!

Are you ready for long-term budget backpacking life?

As you can see from this post life on the road is not going to be glamorous all the time, your trip will be filled with incredible highs and joys but also some downright lows. Things are portrayed as easy but life isn’t that easy and if you’re willing to battle through it the rewards of long-term budget travel will be so rewarding.


Did you find this post helpful Let me know in the comments below if there is anything else you would like to know about how to be a backpacker or backpacking life?

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  1. You’ve done such a great job of sharing how to make this happen, I feel I could jump up and just go from this post alone! I’m the complete opposite from a budget traveler but love how you described getting a feel for the place over the first few months, longer time period, etc. Also nice to know where you can make some extra money along the way. Keep on enjoying life and soaking up all of those moments of just being in the moment, I admire that.

  2. We love to travel, but both of us like stability and having one home base, too. That said, I’ve definitely done my fair share of romanticizing the heck out of a nomadic lifestyle. It seems so freeing that it’s hard not to! But thank you for this honest look at what it’s like to be a true, longterm nomad. It’s always nice to see what the upsides AND the downsides are, so you can choose the downsides you mind the least. Safe travels!

    Meagan recently posted…Big Beehive: A big little hike near Lake LouiseMy Profile

  3. Thank you for this honest sharing. I sometimes wonder if I could live a nomadic life like you do. I know it’s enticing but not always easy. I haven’t traveled longer than six weeks and I am considering trying out long term travel in the future. Thanks for providing me with useful insights. ?

  4. It is really important to budget properly before you leave on a trip. The last thing you want is to finish your money before you reach the end of the trip. I prefer to work remotely, so that I can travel but don’t worry about money in the same time.

  5. I am, indeed, ready for it. Taking the plunge pretty soon. We have lived overseas and traveled extensively, but for only short bursts…now it’s time to go whole hog. I do think you are spot on with some of your insights. I’ll have to experience them to really understand, I’m sure.

  6. Honest and helpful points of view on long term travel. I share many of your views, especially taking time out with rest days. Also it does take an emotional toll at times – think of all the changes and comfort zone things you are challenging in your life? I enjoyed reading your post.

  7. These tips are on point! The longest I’ve ever traveled is 4 months, but even at 4 months these points are pretty accurate. Everything is crazy exciting at first, but if you’re not careful, you can burn out pretty quickly. My mindset was that I only had 4 months to do and experience everything possible, so I felt like I needed to spend every moment doing something. I felt like a lazy day was a waste of precious time. However, it’s important to find that balance and let yourself adjust to the new lifestyle.

  8. I loved reading such an honest and transparent view on the travel lifestyle. You are absolutely right that in general, most travelers are selling the glamorous part of the life without mentioning the physical and emotional toll it will have on you. We’ve always considered this lifestyle, so this was truly eye opening.

  9. I have been dreaming of roaming Africa or South America for my long term travel soon. I have been putting it off because I cant afford it just yet. I am inspired by your post to pursue that dream soon. I will still go for it even when Im 80!

  10. Such a refreshing read and a lot to consider. It’s something I’m planning on doing within the next two years but I’m holding off until I get the finances sorted. I’ll bookmark this…thanks

  11. We have to get better at budgeting but I guess it comes down to priorities and we are “spending the inheritance “ so maybe it’s not that bad lol. Some great tips in here and the real life angle is great, so many blogs ignore tha bit. Well done

  12. Thanks for keeping it real. I know that long term backpacking isn’t for me already but even traveling a week or two each month takes its toll. Having a foot in two boats isn’t easy. Glad to see you supported taking it easy and going with what you need rather than what you think you should do.

  13. What was that photo with flying volcanic rock as a warning sign? Scary! In reference to your post, I always wish to travel for long time. But sometimes I am afraid of monotonous life, hope traveling does not get monotonous. I am sure it will have surprises now and then, but I agree to what you say, not every day would be an adventure. I have never traveled for continuous 9 months+ I do not know how it would turn out to be. But your article is a good read. I am still interested in trying out long-term travel and lets see how it turns out to be.

  14. So true! We are currently staying in an awesome hotel in Cyprus with a beautiful pool and a beach just a few blocks away and we spent the entire day doing absolutely NOTHING! Sometimes you just need a day or two or ten to recharge and relax. But if feels terrible because you are in such a beautiful place. Happy to hear the account from another traveler who enjoys taking down time. How much longer will you be on the road?

  15. I like the way you capture the emotion and sentiment that comes with long-term backpacking. I applaud you for continuing to do it, because I would have stopped after a year! Your photos are brilliant too, especially the unhappy one of you on the boat!

  16. Loved reading this post, even though I dot do backpacking, I loved reading about all your adventures and crazy times. Some really interesting insights shred here and fantastically written as usual. Most of all always admire your true honesty in your posts and the real side of travelling.

  17. A very detailed insight that will make you think twice about starting a backpacking lifestyle. I’m reading a lot of backpacker blogs and it’s a lot of hard-word, dedication, and hustle. Many people think it’s easy, but in reality, there are not many people who can devote their time and life to that kind of lifestyle.

    Keep up! Will definitely follow your journey!

  18. This is such a great post. Long term travel is so different to what people think before they set off!
    Rest days really are so important, and people don’t think to make room for them in their itinerary. Especially when you’re making 12 hour journeys to get to a new destination, you need a day to recover from the travel before you can really enjoy the new destination!

  19. That’s a whole outbreak of real – and very welcome! We all need space to settle and recharge and get our heads back together now and then, and you’ve made a compelling case for it. I’d add that it helps to recognise the place where you get your energy; for me, that’s some time solo, then I can get back to being sociable without a care in the world. What you say about exploding into your trip with a whole load of excitement and extravagance makes sense too. I think I’ve got that a bit back to front, because sometimes I make too many economies, and could have done more along the way during our big trips. But I’m learning to pace my budget better.

  20. Thanks for bringing this out so that more and more people do what they actually like to.I believe that there is no age bar for travelling or taking this as a passion or career

  21. The longest I have been on the road was 7 months at a time. We didn’t backpack and weren’t on a budget – and even then we needed a “break” from travelling. I think its important to highlight to others that not every day is a holiday and long term travel comes with its ups and down. The ups are always better than the downs, but there is a reality to what you are doing. Happy travels.

  22. Thank you for deconstructing the myth or the glamour associated with long-term travel. To be honest, I’ve personally always felt that it is NOT a thing for me. No matter how much I love to travel and dream of doing it a lot more than I can, at the moment, maybe even becoming a digital nomad someday, I know it is not as easy-peasy or glamorous or exciting throughout. You’ve managed to point out the EXACT things people struggle with, especially when they’re getting into it with a very different perception of what it is going to be like.
    Medha Verma recently posted…A glimpse outside the borders: United States West CoastMy Profile

  23. I wish I was still at an age that I can do this continually, but I’m finding a lot of down time in between travels is a more realistic way for me to travel. But I think this is great for those who always like changing environments and thrive on challenges in traveling constantly.

  24. When I left for a longer period of time, I always stayed in one place so it’s interesting how you describe the different stages and how you back up from partying and start to save money by doing your own cooking etc. Like I said I always stayed in one place for a couple of months so I got into sort of a residential routine quite fast.

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