Have you ever wondered how your long term budget backpacking life can evolve?
Everybody conjures up what traveling life is going to be like when they start, the adventures the discovery, ticking items off a bucket list, living out dreams but what about later on down the road.
What about years into the future when you’re still traveling? How will your interests, priorities and focus shift? What type of budget traveler will you become?
The longer we travel the more we do things differently, the more our perceptions change but we all start from the same position. No matter how much research and planning is done, we all start as naïve newbies.
As our budget backpacking journeys begin, we start by seeing what is shown to us, but with experience we walk through the curtain and see through the façade. We pick up experiences along the way, we gain understanding, start seeing things from different perspectives.
That’s exactly what we are going to do. This budget backpacking post takes you on a journey from novice to experienced and how you potentially will do things differently in the future from the day to you start.
Your budget backpacking evolution starts from day 1
Ok, let’s get into it. In this post we will cover how your evolution can form:
- First few days and weeks as a budget backpacker
- Things change after a few weeks of traveling
- Months into your travels
- When months turn into years
- Potential changes in your perception and your traveling style
- Budget backpacking turns into normal life
- Fully behind the façade – Reality vs Expectation
- Interests & Priorities change as an experienced traveler
- Internal journeys parallel to your external journeys
First few days of your budget backpacking life
Those first few days of budget backpacking life can be such a mix of emotions. No matter the research and planning you’ve done, you can be intoxicated by the new enviroment and atmosphere around you. Everything is going to be new, the weather, the air, the smells, the tastes. All of your senses can be heightened but sometimes nothing processes at first. There is a chance of feeling overwhelmed and it can feel surreal before you have a chance to really settle. It can be like you know where you are but nothing is processing.
There is a high chance of:
- Your emotions being all over the place
- Your adrenaline being spiked to the max
- A mixture of excitement, sense of freedom, happiness, fear, nervousness, anxiety
- Jumping from one adventure to the next
- Wanting to eat and drink everything new in sight
- Those first few days you don’t pay too much attention to your budget.
- You’ll eat out more
- Have a fear of eating and drinking alone
- You don’t understand prices yet (tourist, local, getting used to new currency)
- Getting scammed or conned (happens to all of us because of a lack of understanding)
- Sticking to tourist or backpacker areas rather than venturing straight into local ones
- Paying over the odds as you’re not comfortable with haggling or know to compare prices to get cheaper
- Try to do as much from ‘top 10 lists’
- Start ticking off your bucket list
- Party like there is no tomorrow
- Make a few backpacker friends and eager to know about their travels
- Take countless pictures
- Report everything back to friends and family back home
- Potential to get that first bout of initial homesickness (but It’s light at this point, you can get over it easily)
- Get your bearings
- Try to settle into your accommodation life (hostels camping, campervan Airbnb)
- Try to take things but may feel like nothing is processing
Even though there is a potential for not much to sink in, you will learn so much about budget backpacking life in those first few days than you can imagine. Over time as things do settle and sink in you will realise it yourself.
A few weeks into your budget backpacking life
The adrenaline calms down and you start get your bearings, you will tend to slow down now. You’ve potentially learnt already to take it down a few notches, not to be in so much of a rush learning that long term budget backpacking is a marathon and not a sprint.
You will more than likely:
- To get a grasp of where you are
- Know the best way to get around the local area
- Learn to relax a little more than the first few days
- You start getting a grip of budget backpacking life
- Start settling into your accommodation
- Have made friends, socialising with people more
- You may still do quiet a few tours/excursions and activities
- Become familiar with local routes
- Become slightly conscious of your spending
- Start understanding the local currency
- You start knowing what shops to go into, rather than getting overcharged
- Start to know what you like and don’t like to eat and drink
- You will start recognising certain things more but don’t fully get a grasp
- Find it easier and get used to using local transport
- If you are still in your original destination your face will start getting recognised in the area you’re staying in
- If you’ve been moving around constantly you may start to slow down a little
- Start to cook for yourself rather than eating out
- If you’re staying in a hostel you start to settle into hostel life
After those first couple of weeks as things sink in, as you become more aware of things around you, there is a good chance you start feeling less touristy. At this point you may start blending in more and even venture out into more local areas rather than just tourist and backpacker areas.
As the weeks turn into months
Usually once you get over the 8 month mark you have fully settled into budget backpacking life. By now you may have had a few light bouts of homesickness or felt lonely a little but you fought through them and are happy to continue. Your education and evolution will more than likely be in full force now, things you learnt from the first few days have sunk right in.
At this point in your budget backpacking life you:
- More than likely are starting to understand how certain dynamics work
- Relationships between locals and tourists
- You have learnt to take breaks between adventures
- You start to become more conscious of those tours and excursions – discovering how to do them yourself independently
- Taking local transport is no issue at all. You know how it works
- You’re sinking into the traveling bubble – you have less contact with people back home
- Met and made friends with a good group of people
- Have a much tighter grip on your funds
- You fully understand local currency
- You know about local and tourist prices and not to be ripped off
- You may slow your spending down
- In some cases you may have run out of your initial funds
- If you have run out of funds, you’ve gone through the panic and fearful emotions and learnt how to replenish funds
- You feel like a real backpacker now
- You have learnt about tourist traps, tourist zones overcharging you
- You feel confident to venture into local areas
- You have learn and started to enjoy eating and drinking alone but mostly always cook your own meals now
- At this point you may have embarked on your first internal journey
- If you have inner demons and darkness, It’s at this point you normally stop running, and turn to face them – This battle has only begun
- You are now giving advice to newbie backpackers – recognising yourself in them
- If you are still in the same destination you started, you have become a local
- You will have your favourite places to eat, drink and party
- If you’re still in the same hostel, you’ve become a long termer and the hostel is your home
- If you’ve been moving to different destinations chances are it’s at a slow pace.
- You start enjoying hanging out with locals as well as travelers
Around about this time It’s also common to get into a slump:
- Traveling loses a little gloss and can become stagnant
- Budget backpacking get tiring you just want to spend money
- Can get bored of seeing the same things in different places
- Gets frustrating saying hello and goodbye on a constant basis
- Packing, unpacking, packing gets annoying
- Homesickness is hardest at this point
- You get annoyed at little things
- Traveling from A to B starts to become a chore
However if you can over the slump, then you come out of it refreshed and go but you change tact. This is the point in most long term travelers life you start to develop your own starveling style. Now that you have your feet fully under the table, starting to get a grasp of backpacking politics, and how things work. You know long term traveling life is your platform and there is the freedom to do as you wish.
Months turn into years
By this point if you’re still traveling you will have endured a few problems, some rough waters, had strong bouts of homesickness and loneliness but battles through. You will have wear and tear but will be a hardened traveler. Other people will see it on you too. They can see the wear and tear and will come to you for advice. Sometimes at this point you don’t even see yourself as a traveler. Traveling is just what you do, it’s turned into normal life.
Others may not be able to fathom it, but it will feel like you are in a different reality, you travel on a different pane. The best way to describe it is: when you start traveling you walking through long grass, you know the general direction but you can’t see the full picture. When you’ve been traveling for years you’ve experienced most of it. You feel like you’re floating over the long grass knowing how to navigate it.
When you are a seasoned traveler you:
- Don’t care about doing the touristy things
- You have your own style of traveling and are comfortable with it
- Your priorities have shifted, as have your interests
- What you get out of traveling has changed from when you began
- You’ve grown, you’ve matured as a traveler
- You are fully experienced
- Stop doing many tours as much as possible
- Perspective has completely change
- What used to be important is not anymore
- Fully understand the dynamics, politics of the travel industry
- Can spot tourist traps a mile away
- Travel as slow as possible
- Really soak in the moments
- Have learnt to feel traveling and appreciate what’s around you
- Have more enjoyment and get more out of being around locals than other travelers
- Are a nomad, drifting from one place to another is you daily life
- There are no plans real end goal
- Ran out of money countless times and replenishing along the way is no problem
- Lost most if not all your inhibitions
- Been on countless internal journeys have got to know yourself properly
- Have learnt what your character is truly made of
- Traveling is just normal life
- The way you see life can completely changed
- You live within your own bubble
So much can change from when you started traveling. Not just with yourself but within life itself especially if It’s been years. Technology can change, the way people interact can change, a worldwide pandemic can alter the way we travel and live. It’s all part of the evolution.
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long term budget backpacking is what we do, It’s our normal life
Once long term travel becomes normal life, everything becomes second nature. There’s not much left to figure out, you know how to deal with it, what to expect and not much can shock you. It all becomes second nature.
Doing things like:
- Passing through airports
- Catching local transport
- Figuring out local menus or timetables
- Knowing how to avoid tourist traps
- Researching destinations because we know not to plan
- Finding the cheapest places to eat
- Spotting rogue taxi drivers
- Know how to control our emotions – when we feel lonely, in a slump, frustrated
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.
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.
After a certain time thing become repetitive and you can get to the point of once you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. Because there is a overkill of certain exposures you can take.
Things like churches, castles and temples can get tedious after a while. To keep it fresh you have to mix it up a little, find different interests, see and explore different things.
After years of budget backpacking it becomes less about the things you see and do, and more about what you feel. The moments and finding that thing that will impress you. Most of the time that can come from nature.
Are you local?
You get past the stage of wanting to see those ‘must see and do’ or ‘special attraction’ as time goes on. You can find yourself in a local café, trying to make out what stories are being said around you. You can take in how the locals interact with each other. After a while they start recognising you back especially if you put some effort in with them.
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.
You start living like a local, and traveling life has completely changed for you. You don’t see through the eyes of a tourist or traveler you see everything through the eyes of a local and that means your perspective changes. Your opinions, your beliefs, those things those were told were one thing now look different from another angle. You will beknow have detached yourself completely from your old reality too. And that’s how traveling life is now normal life.
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Long term budget backpacking life
As you can see from this budget backpacking post, there can be such a transformation from the day your start traveling as that naïve, newbie backpacker to years down the road when traveling is just what you do.
There’s no saying from the starting point how long you will travel for. The best thing to do is just let nature and life take It’s course. Some of you may head out with the intention of long term travel but find It’s not for you or you can’t cope. There is nothing wrong with that, you can always keep traveling but in a different way.
For others you might not even set out with the intention of long term travel but naturally it happens. You may find that you just don’t want to get on that plane home and decide to carry on traveling.
If that happens and you do end up traveling long term I hope this post has given you an idea of how it can pan how and how you can evolve over time.
Where to go next?
Weather you would like to get informed on long-term solo travel or love reading travel stories of adventure, discovery & despair Amit has you covered. Check out his latest books
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Holly · October 13, 2020 at 7:34 pm
This is a great, detailed post!
Damon Meister · April 18, 2018 at 2:46 am
How I wish I can travel long term. Things are different when you have a family… So for you guys who are still able to travel and enjoy freedom – Just do it!