I’ve been reading a lot of travel blogs lately and have noticed that most travellers fall into one of 4 different categories.
Vacation Travellers– This is what most Americans do. They work their job, get their two-weeks vacation time (maybe three if they’re lucky), go somewhere like Hawaii for those two weeks and then don’t travel again for a year. It’s the most limited way to travel and one of the more expensive ways as well. Many locations take far more then two weeks to explore. Other locations that are on the other side of the globe or in remote places can take upwards of two days to get to, which cuts into the time that can be spend there. People who work in Europe or Australia have it a little easier- it’s normal to get 4-5 weeks off, which makes traveling a less rushed experience.
This style of travel is the most restrictive of the four listed here. It’s difficult to get around if you have a job that ties you down to one place. It’s also dangerous if you have the mindset of “I’ll travel when I retire,“ since the future is unpredictable. Health problems, job loss, family crisis and many other problems could derail those post-retirement plans.
However, this style does work well for people if they enjoy going to the same place each year or just have one or two dream places they want to visit.
Having a Travel-Heavy Job– Some folks have jobs that require a lot of travel. This is certainly one of the cheapest ways to travel since it’s done on someone else’s dime. It’s also a great way to accumulate frequent-flyer miles and get elite status with airlines and hotels. It may be possible to stick around after the job is done and go exploring or spend time with the locals through work connections.
However, depending on the company and the job, it comes with a lot of strings attached. You might not get to choose where or when you go to a place. I once took a business trip to Rolla, Missouri. It’s a small town located about an hour outside of St. Louis. It’s a nice enough town, but with the town’s highlight being a bowling alley, spending four days there ended up being about three days too long.
It’s hard to explore a place if all you have time to do is go from the airport to the hotel to an office and back to the airport again. It’s also a hard lifestyle to maintain, particularly if you have family. One woman I know flew from Atlanta on Mondays, spent four days in Denver and then flew back to Atlanta on Thursday evenings nearly every week. She didn’t get to spend a lot of time with her husband with that schedule and the constant flying to the same places was draining after a while.
If this is the route you want to go to get more travel into your life, it’s important to pick a job where you like doing the work, regardless of whether there’s any travel involved or not. There’s nothing worse then being stuck in a place you don’t want to be in doing a job that you hate. It’s also important to find a company that is willing to be flexible when it comes to traveling. A friend of mine recently went to Rome on a business trip. She had never been there before, and her company didn’t mind if she spent an additional week there on vacation or that her husband came along on the trip. She not only got the job done, but she enjoyed a wonderful trip on the side.
Being a Nomad- Nomads is the term I like to use for travellers who don’t have a steady job or even a place they call home. Many nomads are students who just graduated from college and want to see the world before settling down. Other nomads might be people who saved up money and then quit their day jobs to travel. The nomads may be on the road for six months to a year. Some keep traveling for years, supporting themselves through odd jobs here and there. It’s certainly one of the most flexible ways to travel- you can go wherever and whenever you want to. It’s also cheaper since you can choose slower, cheaper methods of transportation to get from place to place or pursue housing options like renting out a cheap apartment for a month inside of renting a hotel for a week.
The challenge with being a nomad is the financial issue. Most nomads have a stash of cash that they are living off of, and once the money runs out, they will either have to find a job wherever they are at or return to their home country to get a job. It can also take a lot of time to save up the money needed to travel (although as Nora Dunn points out in her article, it may not take as much as you think). There are also the issues that come with delaying or taking a break from a career and maintaining connections with folks back at home while on the road. Some major life changes do make becoming a nomad for a while easier. One couple hit the road for a year for their honeymoon. Matt, of dancing Youtube fame, went nomadic after he got tired of designing video games.
Being “Location Independent”– Location-independent travelers are people who are usually working for themselves and have jobs that can be done from anywhere in the world. For example, writers, graphic designers, webmasters and other jobs that need only a laptop and an internet connection are all jobs that can easily be made location independent. The advantages are obvious- you can choose to settle down in one spot and travel whenever you want to or be nomadic all the time. It’s easier to stay connected to family and friends since you can return home anytime. It’s also a lifestyle that can be maintained indefinitely since you can earn a living while staying out on the road.
Unfortunately, not all jobs can be made location independent. It’s also a job that comes with all the risks and challenges of working for yourself. And not everyone wants to work for themselves.
In the end, there’s not one ideal style for everyone and lots of travellers tend to be mix of these styles. Nor is this an exhaustive lists of all the different ways people can incorporate travel into their lives. The key is to figure out what works for you and make a plan to put that lifestyle into action. For me, I’m currently looking into ways that I can support myself through writing, since it’s an activity I love to do and can be made location independent. I’m also looking into ways that I can do volunteer work around the world since I want to help better other people’s lives.