Long term budget backpacking life: What you learn is part 6 of the traveling realism’s series.
NOTE: This budget backpacking trip post doesn’t apply to you if you’re just backpacking for a few weeks or a couple of months. This is for those planning on long term budget backpacking for at least 6 months + to years on end.
Thinking of long term budget backpacking with no end date in mind?
Things work differently for those who backpack for a set timeframe and those who budget travel without one
I’m guessing you’ve clicked onto this post because you’re thinking about long term budget backpacking. Are you already traveling and thinking about cancelling your scheduled return home or thinking about just buying a one way ticket and see how long you can keep long term budget backpacking going for?
Either way, you’re in the right place. In this post we cover how you learn to see things differently when you backpack on a timeframe as opposed to roaming with no end date. We give you a little insight into how your budget backpacking behaviour can change the longer you travel and we go behind the veil, seeing how your perspective on certain things change the longer you’re budget backpacking for.
Timeframe vs no time frame
Before we get into this post, I have to say there is nothing wrong with either way you choose to backpack. Not everybody can just uproot, pack a backpack and start roaming the world with no timeframe. And, nobody should dictate how you should travel. However, you do things differently when short term backpacking or long term budget backpacking; the same way holidays are different to backpacking.
When we’re budget backpacking for just a few weeks or months, we more than likely have a plan (which can change). We arrive with a clear intention and goal of why we’re in that particular destination or region. We’re taking a ‘break’ from our normal life for a while and because It’s just a break, we have time restraints so we are constantly on the move. With those time restraints It’s understandable that we want to see and do everything we can.
The problem though with constantly being on the move is we can’t always just enjoy the moment. Yes, we can experience it, create memories but sometimes it feels like we arrive, see and do what we need to, take some pictures and move onto the next stop. This can be tiring, cause burn out, and don’t have the time to soak it all in all in.
When there is no return ticket home, no end date, we might start our journeys with an initial plan and budget but there isn’t a definitive goal. We just roam from one place to another, seeing how long our tight budgets can stretch. Without having a timeframe, we generally traveling slower, we do things as and when we want, and have less chance of burnout but a bigger chance of laziness.
Long term budget backpacking this way gives us more of a chance to soak it all in, to immerse ourselves deeper into local culture and our surroundings for longer & create deeper memories. However budget backpacking long term for months and years on end also lets us see being the veil, to see how the mechanics work and sometimes that’s not so pretty.
How your long term budget backpacking life can evolve over time
First few days and weeks of Long term budget backpacking life
The first few days of your first budget backpacking trip, you’ll more than likely be bursting of excitement, wanting to see and do as much as you possibly can. Everything is new, the adrenaline pumping, you’ll be going from one adventure to the next, without giving your budget much thought. You’ll eat out, you’ll spend a little more than you should as you get your bearings and used to new currency and you’ll be so trigger-happy with your camera.
You will be a wide-eyed, newbie backpacker and things might feel a little overwhelming and surreal. Those first few days and weeks, you’ll be so excited to report things back to friends and family back home, while possibly making new ones.
After a few weeks into your budget backpacking life
That initial adrenaline starts to slow down, you tend to get your bearings, start to know where things are and recognise the local area. You start understanding the currency and while you’re still going from one adventure to the next your spending becomes more conscious. You also start settling in as a backpacker, start to know and see how certain dynamics work, like if you’re staying in in a backpacker hostel and how locals and tourists interact.
If you might still be constantly on the move, but having some experience with local transport your confidence grows. You are essentially growing into becoming a backpacker a feel less of a tourist.
As weeks turn into months your long term budget backpacking life takes shape
Once you pass the three month mark, you start to slow right down taking breaks and resting up between excursions. You know what tourist traps and and what is worth doing. You’re more immersed with locals and enjoy just taking in the environment around you rather than doing touristy stuff. You start to live more like a local, there might be days that pass without you doing anything because you just can’t be arsed to do anything.
You’ll be more shrewd and methodical with your dwindling initial budget. You may even stop to work and replenish your funds; and it doesn’t matter if that’s for weeks or months. By now you know what type of budget backpacker you’ll be, you’ll know your style of traveling, and budget backpacking will have become natural to you.
When the months turn into years of budget backpacking
Well, budget backpacking life becomes normal life, it’s just what you do now. You’ll move at a snail’s pace, taking as long as you want and 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.
With budget backpacking just being normal life now, things are harder to excite you. You more than likely stop doing the touristy things and find your own hidden gems, that’s what keeps you going, loving and embracing those moments you find. You feel places better, feel the atmosphere, the energy and the places you connect with you just stay. That wide-eyed novice backpacker you once started as is a distant memory. When you arrive in new destinations, finding things, getting used to new things, currency, food, transport, people, culture is natural part of your life.
Your perception, perspective & Behaviour change as a long term budget backpacker
As you can see from the potential evolution of your budget backpacking life, you will become and do things completely different from when you started. I know I’m not the same backpacker I was when I started this unknown journey of mine back in 2010.
Like I mentioned at the top of the post, the longer you travel, the more you become experienced, you’re change your style to fit you, and you see behind the veil. I’m sure you keep asking yourself what I’m talking about when I say behind the veil and the mechanics of budget backpacking. Well let’s dive into it all, by the end of this post you’ll understand what it means for your long term budget backpacking life.
Plans? What plans!
Because we don’t travel on a set timeframe, we’re less likely to keep to a strict or even structured plan. In fact in most cases, whatever plans we do have simply dissapear. There is a freedom that comes with backpacking but when there is no plan, it’s the ultimate freedom. We’re not bound by anything, there is no commitment to do anything, and we have the ultimate flexibility to do whatever we do want, when we want. However that’s not to say we don’t research our destinations.
There is a difference in planning something and researching. To prolong a long term budget backpacking life, It’s good to do some research into your destination. Even if there is no plan, with some research you can navigate the unknown better.
The Universe decides
An example of not having a structured plan I can give you was during the summer of 2019. I wanted to roam across Europe, I wasn’t in any rush, I had a vague idea of my route and that’s all I needed. I started the trip in Portugal, slipped into the south of Spain and worked my way up towards France.
However Once I reached Madrid, something happened and I ended back up in Portugal. The wind took me back for a reason but the Universe decided something else. While in Portugal, I randomly bought a plane ticket and all of a sudden I was standing under the famous Petronas towers in Malaysia. Not just a different country but in a different continent. The universe at that point decided I should backpack around Malaysia and dip into borneo rather than stay in Europe.
Truth is, I was getting a little bored in Europe, seeing the same things everywhere, and it had been 5 years since I was last in South East Asia and being face to face with Orangutans left me in awe. A feeling I thought I stopped having; that’s why the universe took me there and that’s why i love not having a plan. I never know where I’ll end up.
But how can you afford to keep long term budget backpacking?
It’s a question I get asked to this day, even after all these years. I think It’s because I’m broke as a joke, I don’t have a career, I don’t have a trust fund or family inheritance. The truth is there are so many of us long term budget travelers who are broke but find ways to keep our journeys going.
I won’t lie the older I’ve got, there are times I dip back to England for a few months, work, save whatever I can and head back on the road. But most of the time, I work and travel as I go along. How can it be done? There are a few different ways. This post let’s you know how to keep your backpacking life going when the funds run dry.
Going through different emotional states during your long term budget backpacking life
If you’re a regular reader you will have heard me say many times, long term backpacking is no holiday. The truth about backpacking life is that not everyday will be an adventure and there will be some tough times. Those tough times can come both physically and emotionally.
We’re human at the end of the day, and we’re gonna experience a wide range of emotions. The longer we travel, of course there are going to be things we miss from home. We have to deal with so many other backpackers coming and going in and out of our lives. We’re going to have to deal with problems along the way, deal with shit times when we’re broke. There are times we question why we do it.
But on the flip side, we have some amazingly euphoric moments, feel higher than we ever have, sometimes feel like we’re in an alternate reality. There are times we’re left in awe and times we just feel humbled, full of self accomplishment, fulfillment, gratitude and lucky. Lucky that we can live a life of being free to do what we love. We have to take the rough with the smooth long term budget backpacking.
long term budget backpacking is what we do, It’s our normal life.
As I mentioned right at the top of this post, people who backpack on a timeframe take a break out of their normal lives to live a backpacking life for a while. long term budget backpacking is our normal life.
And, like with everything in life, the more we do it, the more experienced we get; It becomes second nature. We take things in our stride a lot better than what we did when we started. For us, doing things like passing through airports, catching local transport, figuring out local menus or timetables is just like eating the same cereal every morning. We understand how dynamics work, how to interact with locals on a deeper level.
We arrive in a new destination, and can map out in our heads instantly where to go, spot the rogue taxi drivers and which transport option we should take. The more we travel the less overwhelmed we are by it. Now I’m in no terms saying because we’re experienced that we’re all perfect. Nobody is a perfect backpacker, shit, I still fuck up in places and think that was a rookie mistake to make.
Fucking tourist traps are everywhere
As things become more second nature to us, the truth about backpacking life becomes more apparant, we see things like tourist traps a mile away. We know, how most cities or popular destination have a tourist area with over priced restaurants, bars, tacky souvenirs promising to be be authentic. A lot of world wonders, popular monuments and landmarks have now just become tourist traps; they’re overpriced, over hyped, and suck in hundreds if not thousands of tourists swarming around.
Expectation vs reality
Imagine expecting something to blow your mind, thinking it will be an experience you’ll never forget but once you’re there in front of it or experiencing it first hand, It’s left you disappointed and disheartened. That is expectation vs reality. With so many places becoming tourist traps or overhyped, fake heavily filtered Instagram pictures you learn as long term backpacker not to get too excited because it might just be a dud. I’m not saying everywhere is like that, there will be places that blow your mind and will leave an imprint in your mind forever. However there will be a lot where the reality is nowhere near as good as you expected it to be.
Same, same but different
Anybody that’s backpacked through Thailand will have heard that gimmick saying plastered on cheap souvenir T-shirts all over the country. But that saying rings to true the longer and deeper you get into your budget backpacking life. There comes a point where seeing church after church, temple after temple, medieval architecture after medieval castle after castle – there are only so many you can see before you can’t stomach anymore because they all just start looking the same. It’s a shame to say it but there does get a point in your backpacking life where it just becomes boring.
Sometimes It’s conversations with other backpackers especially if they just stick to the same old backpacker talk and there is no natural progression away from it; you do get bored of other backpackers at times. Even places start looking the same. There is a postcard that sums it up with a caption ‘Any European city’ because most major European cities are laid out in the same way.
Care less about doing touristy stuff
Because of all the aforementioned there comes a point where you just stop caring about doing the touristy or ‘must see things’ to do. The shine has gone from them that buzz you once had is gone. You’ve stopped backpacking in a way just to see and do things around the world, you barely even take pictures of the things you do see and do. That’s because the longer you travel, into the years I mean, your mindset is totally different.
I’m not saying that you don’t enjoy anything, far from it because now you get a buzz, feel excited, take and soak up different moments. You can be sitting in a local cafe and just watching how local life around you is working and that gives you that buzz. It might be just making good friends with a local, eating and drinking like and amongst them. Or it could be just finding your own tranquility, feeling the energy of place.
There are times now, I could be sitting on a cliff edge watching some waves crash below me, hearing some locals talk around me and be in such a happy place and think to myself ‘this is why I keep doing it, this is what I love’.
There are times I get asked by family back home who go on holidays to a destination I’ve been to or meet newbie backpackers where they ask if I saw this or did that cool thing. I say no, they look at me weird asking what did I do and I’ll explain how I sat in a local cafe listening to some awesome stories. They’ll normally come back with oh I never heard of that place, It’s not listed in any guidebooks or blogs. And that’s exactly the point.
Are you local?
You start enjoying local life, hanging out with locals, seeing how they live the longer your living your budget backpacking life because you’re traveling slower. By the time you get to years on the road, you travel at a snails pace. There are places you fall in love with and just stay and make a nest for ourselves.
But because we stay around for longer, once we start getting recognised we stop being seen as tourists or even as travelers. They start treating us like one of them, we might start getting charged local prices rather than tourist prices, they let us know how they feel about tourists, they invite us into their homes. We become friends with them on deeper levels. And we start acting like a local, we do as they do.
I won’t lie, I’ve caught myself doing this once I’ve been in a place for so long; when I see other backpackers I see them as tourists. It just happens because I’ve been there for so long.
Everyday long term budget backpacking life
There are days we just don’t do anything, there will be days where your aim is not to spend a single penny. There will be times you stay in bed all day, binge watch your favourite TV show, maybe even just get drunk and or high all day. Somedays the most exciting thing you do is your laundry or visit a local market for food or even just have a shave.
And of course Long term budget backpacking life teaches you about yourself
Yes, I know, that old cliche, but It’s so true. Years of long term budget backpacking will teach you things about yourself you just never thought possible. You will grow and change as a person, your personality will change and you’ll see what your character is really made of.
How will your perspective and views change once you step behind the veil
As you have seen through this post, the longer you’re budget backpacking the more things you will see differently and realise how certain things work. If you’re planning on long term budget backpacking for years on end, have you got a better idea of what’s behind the veil and the mechanics of long term travel?
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