How to Deal with the Highs and Lows of Long-Term Travel

From freedom and adventure to friendships and spontaneity, being able to travel long-term is something that many people dream of. But with so many unknowns it can be easy to get lost worrying about what lies ahead. Instead, I always try to focus on the present and appreciate where I am because, having done this for nearly 5 years now, I’ve learned that it always works out in the end, and I am truly proud of how far I’ve come.

So here are some hard learned truths I picked up along the way as a full time traveller, as well as tips that help me to stay level-headed and confident on the road long-term

workawayer solo travelling woman walking towards a church in nature

Time seems to move with a whole new rhythm in the world of travel

Travelling can be chaotic and there’s usually a lot going on. Be it making friends and navigating busy cities, or trying new foods and learning languages; all of these things take time. And whilst time is often abundant when you start to travel, it never seems to stay that way for long.

Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (unless you’ve got visa deadlines or upcoming plans to stick to!), but it definitely is something to be aware of. For example, organising activities with other travellers always used to catch me out; the days between making a plan and that plan coming to life just seem to disappear… But once you let yourself relax into this new rhythm, things will fall into place much easier. I quickly learned that the less I planned and worried ahead of time, the more I achieved and the happier I felt in new places.

group photo of workawayers holding road signs happily smiling

Excitement can become overwhelming if you don’t find balance

Part of the joy and excitement of travelling is the freedom and unlimited possibilities that each day brings. The novelty of living in a bit of a travel bubble can feel so calm and blissful, as if you’re just floating along, waiting to see what comes, with no real pressure forcing you in any direction. You can make of it what you will - and that’s the fun of it!

The adrenaline that comes with trying new things and that feeling of ticking something off your bucket list are amazing. But like most things, there are highs and lows. When every day is filled with so much stimulation, things can quickly become overwhelming, leaving you at risk of feeling anxious from missing out on some of the amazing opportunities you set out to experience.

Learning to find a healthy balance is therefore really important in order to adapt and enjoy new activities whilst still making time for yourself to get the most out of your day-to-day life. Staying at each Workaway project for a little longer could also be very grounding and forgiving when you are struggling to find your feet. Remember slow travel is the way to go; there is no need to rush - the tourist attractions will most likely still be there a month or a year later and, if not, another exciting Workaway opportunity will surely pop up.

happy group shot of travellers workawayers eating popsicles at host project

Embracing old habits can help when adjusting to a new routine

Managing frequent changes to any kind of routine is difficult. With so much happening all the time, it can be easy to lose sight of yourself and the plans you had in mind. If this happens, I find it helpful to focus on old habits that I may have neglected amidst the excitement of travelling. For example, working out, journalling, calling your family or friends back home and spending time outdoors are just a few simple things that, when prioritised, definitely help me to stay grounded. You can’t stay on top of everything when you’re busy exploring new cultures and moving between different countries and hosts, but maintaining a few familiar habits such as these should help you adjust to new settings that little bit easier.

three backpacking workawayers outdoors eating our of tupperware

Hiccups happen along the way to all of us

If you are a worrier like me, unexpected changes of circumstances can be dreadful. Sometimes I feel a lot of pressure to stick to my original travel plans, regardless of whether they’re working out or not, simply to avoid letting myself or anyone else down. But this doesn’t make any sense! 

No matter how hard you try, things will never work entirely to plan. Hiccups do happen, so the longer I’ve travelled the more I’ve learned to just go with the flow. Try not to embrace any shame, defeat or frustration you may feel when things don’t quite go as expected. There might just be instances when you genuinely find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time, but don’t let them set you back as most of them will be nothing more than tiny bumps that quickly resolve themselves. Actively visualising and confronting any worries I do have usually helps. Be open and communicate with those around you – there’s nearly always someone nearby who can help. And remember that moments like these are the ones that you’ll probably look back on with laughter soon enough!

three workawayers with thumbs up at the bottom of a cliff travel community

Sometimes you might just need a little break

From choosing the best route and managing on a small budget to exploring different cultures and balancing constant change, it’s important to realise just how mentally -- (as well as physically -- ) challenging travelling can be. Acknowledging that you might sometimes just need a little break from it all is pivotal.

The best piece of advice ever given to me whilst travelling was “maybe you should go home”. At the time, this was the last thing I wanted to hear as I was still trying to navigate my way into this full-time travelling kind of lifestyle and make it work for me. But understand that sometimes all you need is a reset to get some fresh perspectives. Being a “full time nomad” is not an all or nothing thing; it’s a journey that you can dip into and out of as needed, without feeling any guilt or shame. Going home is never a sign of weakness, be it a brief or long visit. Neither is changing your plans and leaving the party hostel earlier to head to your last minute Workaway host; or cancelling your hiking day trip to meet up with an old friend nearby instead. Whatever works to give you that little break or boost that you need is the right thing to do.

travellers walking on a path with friendly dog and house surrounded by greenery workaway project

After all, long term travel is a lifestyle. Sure, it’s terrifying at times, but the rewarding side of it is the flexibility and freedom you can have to craft and create your own way of life, be that in six months or even two year's time. It’s all up to you!

What I’ve come to learn, and what I’ll always suggest to other people, is to try to remember why you are doing what you are doing. Having that little bit of purpose in mind should help you stay on track and make the most of your own personal journey. 

solo travel workawayer cuddling a herd of sheep on workaway farm
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About Ellie

Having caught the travel bug after finding the perfect first Workaway Hosts in Germany, travelling around Europe for the last few years has not only boosted my confidence but also made me some of the ... show more...

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