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What Travelers Should Know Before They Go Home

There are many milestones in an expat’s life. Finding your favorite coffee shop or bar that you visit weekly. Having your first basic exchange in the local language. Making your first good friend. Saying goodbye to a friend who is moving on.

And going back home for the first time.

Visiting home can be both exciting and daunting. Kristin is about to do it for first time after being away for over two years, and I’ve also gone as long as two years without getting back to my hometown.

Kristin’s heading back to Anna Maria in December after 2 years away.

If you’re also about to go home after an extended period abroad, here’s what you should probably expect:

 

Interest in your life abroad will be minimal.

You might be fantasizing about your return, envisioning yourself as the life of the party – everyone will want to know every detail of your adventures. If this is what you’re hoping for, you should start readjusting your expectations now. Most expats are surprised, or even a bit hurt, when their friends and families show very little interest in where they live or where they’ve traveled to.

It doesn’t mean they don’t care about you – but if they haven’t been overseas themselves, they just don’t understand enough about your lifestyle to really ask that many questions. When you live abroad, you are always surrounded by fellow travelers who have similar interests and experiences at home. That’s not going to be the case at home.

 

You won’t relate to their stories the way you used to.

While you won’t spend much time talking about your life, you’ll probably hear a ton about their lives.

Your friends will be gossiping about people you’ve never met or barely remember. Your family will complain about a local shop shutting down. People will overreact to things you think aren’t that big of a deal – a mild traffic jam or a wrong order at a restaurant. You’ll find that their stories or ways of thinking now make you feel disconnected, like you don’t really belong there anymore.

You might find yourself daydreaming about other things

 

Everything will be the same.

One fear expats might have is that they’ll find their hometown has completely changed when they return. After all, we’re always told that “you can’t go home again.”
But in reality, I’ve found that home actually feels like it’s frozen in time. Small, insignificant changes will have occurred, but the things that matter stay the same. It won’t seem like years have passed. You’ll fall into a familiar, comforting, even boring routine very quickly. Your friends and family will still love you and be happy to spend lots of time with you. That will never change.

 

You’ll see just how much you’ve changed.

What changes during your time abroad isn’t home – it’s you. Your personality will stay the same, but your worldview and ways of thinking will be challenged and reshaped by different life experiences. Most travelers don’t realize these changes have taken place until they go home again.

You’ll realize you don’t worry as much about things that used to really stress you out. Rush hour will be a breeze after getting stuck in the congested roads of Bangkok. You’ll have more patience with cashiers, waiters, and other customer service workers simply because you speak the same language fluently and can communicate clearly. You’ll be more thankful for what you have, rather than complaining about any financial pressures, after seeing how intense poverty can be around the world.

 

You might realize that your hometown isn’t that interesting.

This one depends on where you’re from. Kristin’s from an island off the coast of Florida, but when I went home to my boring town in the UK I was hit with the realization that there just wasn’t much going on, and the rest of the world offers so much more.

There’s a lot more interesting places out there.

 

Get ready for prices you aren’t used to anymore.

Compared to a lot of other countries, the U.K. and USA are just over-the-top expensive. If you’re used to prices in Southeast Asia, South America, or somewhere else with low costs of living, the prices back home might be hard to readjust to when you return.

 

Doing chores again will be a struggle.

Because it’s so affordable, we have a cleaning service in Thailand. We can also eat out every night for barely any money, so we never cook. As lazy as it makes us sound, suddenly having to clean and cook for ourselves again is a rude awakening. It’s definitely a part of our old lives that we don’t miss.

 

You don’t actually miss some things as much as you think.

Maybe you have a favorite food that you can’t really find anywhere but home. Maybe you miss an old hobby that is difficult to keep up abroad. Some expats are disappointed to realize that they’ve wrongly idealized these little things when they weren’t available, but at least going without them won’t be such a big deal anymore.

 

The reality is that nothing really changes when you return home. Your hometown is not going anywhere, and your family and true friends will always be there for you when you return. Your visit probably won’t be perfect, but what is? You will still have what matters – time with the people you love most. So enjoy it for what it is, and then get back into the world for your next adventure.

Enjoy your travels! You’re missing nothing back home. 

Expats – how long has it been since you’ve been home? If you’ve already been home for the first time, what was it like?

 

TRAVELERS OFTEN GET ASKED HOW WE’RE ABLE TO FIND THE MONEY, TIME, OR COURAGE TO GO ABROAD.

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Do You Have to Change to Travel?

As expats, we spend majority of our time around other travelers. Most of our closest friends travel frequently, and this common interest gives us plenty to talk about.

But there is a certain type of traveler that always leaves us scratching our heads – the travelers who completely change now that they are abroad.

It’s almost like there is some book they’ve all read teaching them how “authentic” travelers should act.

Not sure what we mean? Here are some examples:

Overdosing on Positivity

Some travelers will insist to the very end that they love absolutely every aspect about every culture they encounter.

We call bullshit on this one!

While it’s admirable to hold back from making judgments about a culture that isn’t your own, no one likes everything, and it’s just ridiculous to pretend you do. It’s okay to complain about a long journey on a crowded bus. It’s okay to think some local foods are too spicy or too sweet or too bland. It’s okay to be overwhelmed by a bustling, crazy city, or bored with a sleepy little village.

You don’t have to give up all your opinions to be a traveler.

 

Singing Praises to Street Food

For some reason, nothing makes an overexcited traveler feel more “authentic” than eating lukewarm meat on a stick from a street cart with questionable cleanliness standards.

Street food seems very “exotic” to those of us from England or America, but after a few purchases we realized that the quality of most street food is pretty low, and it will often have you running for a toilet shortly after.

You can find much tastier and safer local food in a restaurant, even if it’s just a family-owned hole-in-the-wall.

(If you do want to try the street food, at least find a stand that has the locals lining up. An unpopular stand is unpopular for a reason!)

 

Getting Too Deep

There are so many travelers out there claiming to have had some kind of spiritual awakening while exploring remote corners of the world.

Of course, we’ve all experienced personal growth while traveling. But there’s something a little fake (not to mention cringeworthy) about someone going over the top with their newfound philosophies, flaunting them in everyone’s face.

Extra bullshit points if all those profound, poetic words actually mean very little when put under scrutiny. True wisdom is more than just sounding nice.

 

Knowing It All

As a traveler, you are always the student, never the teacher.

Which is great if you are a curious, humble, open minded person. But if you like to know it all, you’re better off staying home because you’ll never really be able to claim expertise on a culture that’s not your own. You can’t become an insider.

As expats living in Bangkok, there are few things that annoy us more than hearing a backpacker act as if they are an authority on this city – especially if they’ve spent less than a week here and have barely left Khao San Road.

If it bothers us, how much more would it bother a local?

 

A Return to University Days

Yes, this was Simon’s old university home! 

Finally, despite lofty claims of spiritual growth, increased maturity, and global awareness, too many travelers have actually reverted back to the adolescent behavior of their dorm days. Pop into a hostel, and you’ll find people stealing each other’s food out of the communal kitchen, using each other’s shower gel without permission, and getting in petty fights about cleanliness, noise levels, or bathroom hogging.

 

Do you ever feel like some travelers come across a little fake or over the top? Share your examples and stories below.

 

TRAVELERS OFTEN GET ASKED HOW WE’RE ABLE TO FIND THE MONEY, TIME, OR COURAGE TO GO ABROAD.

WANT TO KNOW HOW WE DO IT?

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Is Teaching ESL Abroad for You?

This past weekend we were excited to launch our new, free guide – Getting You on the Plane: A Travel Manifesto – we hope it will inspire its readers to make travel a more regular part of their lives.

While there are many ways to travel the world, we both began our adventures by taking jobs as ESL teachers. This decision was the best one of our lives, but we realize it’s not for everyone.

Is it for you? Here are some questions to consider:

What qualifications do you have?

The most important qualification is simply being a native English speaker – or at least living somewhere where English is widely spoken.

If you have that covered, you’ll just need to find the country or school that prioritizes what you offer. Some countries care most about what kind of TEFL certificate you have. Others primarily want those qualified to teach in their home country. Some are looking for college degrees in English, or just a college degree full stop.

What qualifications could you reasonably get?

If you are lacking qualification, all hope is not lost. TEFL certificates can easily be earned online, and some schools will even pay for you to get certified before your job begins.

Do you like the idea of settling in another country for a year or more?

ESL teachers usually have plenty of travel opportunities, but their day-to-day isn’t quite as adventurous compared to the life of the traveler who is changing cities and countries every few days or weeks. They are making a home in another country, not just visiting one. After the initial honeymoon phase wears off, teachers settle into a routine that becomes quite normal.

This kind of slow travel is perfect for some people. You can really get to know the culture, form genuine friendships, and even learn the language.

Do you want a creative job with a lot of variety?

Teaching is different every day. You are always teaching something new, overcoming new obstacles with your students, and coming up with new approaches and activities. If you are a creative person, and the idea of a monotonous desk job fills you with dread, teaching is for you.

Do you have plenty of energy?

Teaching can also be exhausting in every way – physically, mentally, and emotionally. You’ll need to be able to summon seemingly limitless energy to keep your students engaged and positive.

Are you patient?

You’ll need patience both inside and outside of the classroom as an ESL teacher. Language learning is a slow process, and your students will get frustrated, confused, or discouraged from time to time. It’s easy to also feel the same as their teacher – but you can’t show it.

Outside the classroom, you’ll encounter a host of challenges beyond the typical traveler’s stress. Arranging work visas, dealing with landlords, setting up bank accounts and international transfers – all of these tasks will take a cool head and plenty of patience.

And here are some questions that aren’t as important as you think (and why):

Are you good at grammar? Didn’t do so great in English class back home? Don’t worry – if you’re teaching beginner or intermediate classes, you’ll be able to manage the grammar lessons just because you’re a native speaker and the most common errors will naturally sound wrong to you.
Do you like kids? Not all ESL classes are for children. Look into adult language centers if kids aren’t your thing – they are just as common in most major cities.
Do you speak the local language? You don’t need to. You will only be allowed to speak English with your students, and outside of the classroom you’ll get by with body language and charades until you start picking up some basic survival phrases naturally.

Have you ever considered teaching abroad before? What’s holding you back?

 

Travelers often get asked how we’re able to find the money, time, or courage to go abroad.

Want to know how We do it?

Click here for a FREE guide.

Why Everyone Should Be an Expat at Some Point in Their Lives

So far we have lived in two countries as expats: China and Thailand, and we wouldn’t trade this experience abroad for anything.

Actually living in a new country is completely different from just visiting one. We believe everyone would benefit from life as an expat, whether it’s a six month stint, several years, or for the rest of their lives.

We met as expats living in China. 

Why? Here’s what we believe you’ll gain from making another country your home:

An Open Mind

Okay, so there are a few things in life that can pop that bubble everyone lives in for awhile during their youth. Maybe you had some epiphany-type moments at university, or when you met someone living a very life than you’re used to, or when you read a certain book.

But there is really nothing that compares to how expat life can open your mind. You’ll notice things about your old habits, home, and culture that you’ve never even given a second thought before.

You realize that the word “normal” really means nothing, and we are all products of our culture to some degree.

In China we were shocked by how people behaved trying to get on the metro (literally shoving their way on, no lines, no rules). In Thailand we weren’t thrilled with the sights (or smells) of squid on a stick that seemed to be at every street food vendor.

But eventually the shock fades, you stop comparing everything to what you’re used to, and you adapt to your new normal. You’ll find yourself becoming a less judgmental person who understands that there is rarely just one “right” way to do things, and you don’t immediately get upset when someone does something you’d have previously perceived as rude or strange.

You’ll also be amazed by some differences that seem so obviously better when compared to back home – such as a drastically lower cost of living, less red tape and tiresome regulations, better living amenities (beautiful swimming pools, saunas, and gyms are the norm in Thailand), and a culture that actually welcomes foreigners and values global awareness.

Not the best sight and smell we’ve came across. 

Amazing New Friends

Remember when you went to university and finding new friends was easy and natural? The expat community in most cities is kind of like that.

People worry about being lonely in a foreign country, but we’ve actually had the opposite experience. Nearly everyone we meet has a shared love for travel and adventure – even if we have nothing else in common, there is always that to fall back on. And everyone is looking for new friends because we’re all in the same boat when we arrive: unsettled and ready to find our new social circle.

Comfort with Your Style and Looks

You can forget about blending in – no matter how you dress, you will look out of place as a foreigner.

So if you used to make fashion choices based on just going along with the crowd, you’ll quickly lose that thought process. You’ll embrace a style that is more comfortable or genuine for you – whether it’s something a little wild, a little plain, or a little outdated. You’ll be happier with your look, and no one else will care – there is such a mixture of cultures and styles in the expat community, there is not one expected way to dress anymore.

Nobody cares what you look like. 

A Break from Materialism

The more we move around, the fewer bags we need, and the emptier our remaining bags become. Material items become less important, or even burdensome. You’ll discover the freedom that comes with owning less stuff, and you’ll find you prefer spending money on new experiences rather than new things. Flights, food, events, and socializing – isn’t that what really makes us happy?

A Healthier Financial Life

If you are living in a country with a lower cost of living, saving your money is easy. We can easily tuck money away while also traveling every couple months and enjoying a comfortable day-to-day life.

Epic trips can happen often! 

Easier Goodbyes

This could be seen as a negative, but the expat life is full of goodbyes. If you aren’t about to leave, one of your best friends is. You won’t go a year without a goodbye. The first couple will be tough. But then you’ll feel yourself getting stronger.

Is this because your heart is hardening? We don’t think so. Instead, we think we are learning that friendships can stay healthy and active regardless of location. We currently have friends all around the world, and we love it.

There is always someone to miss, but there is also always someone to catch up with, someone who is eager to hear the details of our lives and wants to share their own adventures. And we always have fun new places to visit on our holidays!

Confidence

You get so many stares when you are obviously foreign. You’ll also embarrass yourself a million times doing things the wrong way in an unfamiliar culture. And if you’re trying to speak a new language or use body language to communicate? Even more opportunities to look ridiculous.

Eventually you stop caring. You accept that you’ll often be the center of attention, and that people are occasionally going to see you as stupid, crazy, or silly. Why does it matter? The peace and freedom that comes with this revelation is priceless.

We’re often seen as silly!

More Self Knowledge

When living abroad, you’re always trying new things. You discover you start liking things you’ve always claimed to hate. In Thailand, many expats will develop a taste for spicy food – or at least a tolerance for it. You’ll also find yourself turning away from things you used to love or depend on – like getting around by car.

Maturity

For us, the biggest reason to live abroad is that it really forces you to grow up and take responsibility for yourself. You realize that you are more capable and more resilient than you ever thought. You become a lot more independent. You think more for yourself, and you realize that you are in charge of your own life. You have control over every decision about how you’ll spend the rest of your life. That alone makes it all worthwhile.

Returning Home

You might think being away for years means that when you return home it’s going to be like a foreign experience itself. It’s not.

We’ve never gone home for longer than a few weeks, but even during a short visit you’ll slip back in to your old life very easily. In a matter of days it’ll feel like you’ve never left.

Yes, people get on with their lives whether you are there or not, but nothing else changes that much – not the things that matter. You’ll see the same faces, pass by the same local stores, and eat the same meals. It will be familiar and comforting, and you won’t feel as if you’ve missed out on anything by going abroad.

Enjoy your new abode! You’re not missing anything back home!  

Do you agree with these points? What do you think is the best thing you’ve gained by living as an expat? We’d love to hear.

 

Travelers often get asked how we’re able to find the money, time, or courage to go abroad.

Want to know how We do it?

Click here for a FREE guide.

Where Can £89 Get You in Southeast Asia?

At this point in our life, we spend most of our time in Asia. We are currently based in Bangkok, and during many of our holidays we tend to end up in another Asian country.

They say you don’t really notice how much a culture has affected you until you leave, so who knows what might be the cause of any reverse culture shock when we do move on, but for now we’re going to guess that one of the hardest adjustments we’ll have to make is having to pay “normal” prices for things again.

A Christmas Train Ride

Let’s start with a story. This happened last December, when we were back in England for Christmas. At this point we had both been living abroad for some time and we were probably taking the easy cost of living in Thailand for granted.

We’d already spent way too much money on only a few days in Iceland, even leaving us homeless for our final night in a drafty bus station. We couldn’t wait to get to England and make our way to the cozy home of Simon’s grandparents.

Our train tickets from London were already reserved and paid for, so it should have been a straightforward and painless journey with no extra expenses. Except after our sleepless night, a blizzard postponed our plane by about six hours.

So we missed that train, and had to pay for another. The second train cost £89 each. Keep in mind this is only a one-way ticket for a journey of about an hour and a half.

This arctic blizzard was the cause of the £89 payment. 

So Let’s Compare

When you convert £89 to baht, the currency used in Thailand, it equals 3,877. This is substantially more than we each spend in a typical week, even eating out every night and going out on the weekend.

We were horrified to watch that much money disappear on something so small – to the point where we still discuss it today. It has almost become a game – how much can you get in Thailand for the cost of a short train ride in England?

Let’s Play

Get ready to be shocked! We’ll start with flights, which you would assume to always be more expensive than a train. (All prices were found on Skyscanner.)

A return flight from Bangkok to Phuket is £67 – the train ride was only one way and it was still £22 more.

A return flight from Bangkok to Yangon, Myanmar is £37. So you could go there and back twice and still not pay as much as a train ticket in England.

A return flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia? £46

A return flight to Hanoi, Vietnam? £53

A return flight to Singapore? £55

A return flight to Hong Kong? £78 – for six hours of flight time, compared to that hour and a half on the train.

Now let’s look at domestic flights from within these countries.

In Vietnam you could fly from Hanoi to every other major airport in the country including Nha Trang, Phu Quoc, Dalat, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City for cheaper than that train. Ranging from £43 to the most expensive we found to Ho Chi Minh City for £80.

In Cambodia, a flight from Siem Reap to its other major city, Phnom Penh, is £31. For only £4 more than the train prices in the UK you could make this journey 3 times.

And we had to throw this one in – the cheapest flight from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to Indonesia comes up to only £12. You could make that journey 7 times and still have £5 to spare when compared to our train.

Moving on to Other Trains

Let’s actually compare the train in England to train travel in Southeast Asia.

The best available seat on a train from Malaysia to Singapore, which takes roughly 7 hours, is only about £11 one-way/£22 return. To put that into perspective, for the cost of our England train, you could go from Malaysia to Singapore and back four times.
http://www.malaysia-traveller.com/Kuala-Lumpur-to-Singapore-Train.html

If you want to get from the top of Thailand (Chiang Mai) to the bottom (Hat Yai), you would take two trains, with a stop in Bangkok. The total for your trip would only be £63 and you would be traveling for over 24 hours.
http://www.thailandtrainticket.com

The most expensive bed seat on a train from the top of Vietnam (Hanoi) to the bottom (Ho Chi Minh City), a 26 hour ride, is around £69. You can basically tour the whole country for £20 cheaper than that train in the UK.
https://vietnam-railway.com



Other Modes of Transport

A VIP bus from Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia is only £21. https://www.travelertick.com/destination/bangkok-to-siem-reap

A bus from Hanoi, Vietnam to Luang Prabang, Laos, totaling 25 hours, costs about £38. https://www.travelertick.com

Singapore’s so small, only a simple metro and bus ticket would enable you to see most of the sights. A 3-day pass can be purchased for about £11. http://thesingaporetouristpass.com.sg/

We even totaled up a train and bus route from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam across most of Southeast Asia to Yangon, Myanmar, totaling over 36 hours – the final cost? About £58. For this journey, you would cross 4 countries: Vietnam, Camdodia, Thailand and then into Myanmar.
https://www.rome2rio.com/s/Ho-Chi-Minh-City/Yangon

Finally, we had a look at the cheapest overland route from Bangkok, Thailand to Beijing, China – a trip that would take 4 days and 8 hours. It would only come to £113. Just £17 more than that shitty one and a half hour train journey from London to Doncaster, United Kingdom.
https://www.rome2rio.com/s/Bangkok/Beijing

Travel around Southeast Asia for next to nothing. 

So for those at home who are always saying “how can you two afford to travel so much?” – here’s the answer! We aren’t rolling in money, we just don’t need much to travel in many parts of the world.

We absolutely recommend Southeast Asia to anyone who wants to travel the world with a limited budget. It’s gorgeous here, fun, and the prices are affordable.

Tell us – were you surprised by any of these prices? If you had the £89 we spent on our train ticket, how would you choose to use it?

 

Travelers often get asked how we’re able to find the money, time, or courage to go abroad.

Want to know how We do it?

Click here for a FREE guide.

Short-Term Travel vs. Living Abroad

In less than a week, an important anniversary is coming up for Kristin. It will be two years since she packed a couple bags, boarded a plane, and moved to China.

Kristin’s first view of China from the plane.

Simon also celebrates his anniversary every year in November.

While these are the dates we left our home countries for a long-term life abroad, we each had several short-term trips beforehand, and we continue to take short trips now – ranging from 3 or 4 days to a couple weeks.

We believe strongly that travel is always a worthwhile, character-shaping experience, whether you are gone for days or years – but the two experiences couldn’t be more different.

If you are considering which one (if not both) is for you, here are a few thoughts to consider.

Short-Term Travel

There are very few things more exciting than stepping foot off the plane at the start of a holiday. Everything is so new and fresh! And one of the most positive aspects of short-term travel is that this feeling keeps – your wonder and curiosity isn’t going to go stale. Your brain actually functions differently in a foreign environment – it’s even been compared to falling in love. You become hyper-aware of every little detail and the smallest things are exciting, creating a state of euphoria.

Loving everything about Oman!

Also like falling in love, short-term travelers have a much easier time overlooking differences in culture that might start to nag them if they had more time to settle in. The rose-colored glasses stay on for the duration of the trip.

On the other hand, short-term travel can become intense and exhausting quickly. If you have a travel companion, you are probably with them most hours of the day. With limited time to experience the culture around you, you might not be giving yourself a lot of down time or space to process everything you’re experiencing. We are nearly always ready to head home and just do nothing for a day or two when We finish up a short trip.

Living Abroad

To start with, living abroad is not really traveling, and the expectation that it will feel like an exciting adventure each day is only going to lead you into disappointment.

Arriving in your new country often starts off rough. You might feel the same excitement of the short-term traveler on arrival, but those feelings are also mixed in with competing pangs of insecurity and stress. Where are you going to live? What’s your new job going to be like? How long until you’ve made some good friends? How do you set up new bank accounts, phone service, and insurance? Where’s the closest grocery story?

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed, and dealing with all these little details in a country that has slightly different expectations and etiquette than your own will likely lead to some culture shock.

But culture shock is only temporary if you let it run its course. With time, you’ll find yourself feeling an attachment to this county that you never felt during your short-term travels. You will develop genuine friendships with locals. You’ll feel comfortable, familiar, and at home as you walk the streets. You’ll start to roll your eyes at some of the cliche and over-the-top travel advice given about your city.

Bangkok is home now.

This new county has become a part of you – and this is where the cultural identity of an expat is a bit strange. Here is how someone explained it to me before I moved abroad: you can never 100% be a part of the new culture you’ve moved into. But after awhile, you won’t really fit 100% into your home culture, either. The expat community becomes its own “third culture,” but it’s a small one.

Finally, you’ll reach the most comfortable stage of living abroad – but for those with the travel itch, it may also be when you start to get bored. Nothing feels foreign or challenging anymore. You have a routine. You always know what to expect. Where’s the adventure?

At this point, you may choose to move on, and here’s where we’ve experienced the final difference between a short visit and a long-term stay: your memories when you leave.

When only spending a week or two in a country, memories are pleasant and light-hearted. But after setting up a home, as temporary as it was, it will always tug on you in a way that is more bittersweet. Continue with this life, and you’ll find you are always homesick for many places. It’s a deeper experience, but a more painful one.

For those of you who also lived abroad, can you relate? How do your experiences compare to ours? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Travelers often get asked how we’re able to find the money, time, or courage to go abroad.

Want to know how We do it?

Click here for a FREE guide.

When Travel Sucks

If you find yourself reading through a few travel blogs, browsing travel hashtags on Instagram, or flipping through your traveling friend’s Facebook albums, you might be lead to believe something that’s simply not true.

You might think travel is all breathtaking photos, adventures, and happiness upon happiness.

It’s mostly like this, but not always!

To be perfectly honest, travel sucks sometimes. You’ll probably find yourself confused, lost, or bored. It can also be frustrating trying to figure out a culture that isn’t your own. If you aren’t careful, being in a foreign environment can make what would normally be a mildly annoying situation into seemingly one of the biggest ordeals of your life.

Many first-time travelers are shocked by these moments, and maybe they swear off future trips, or share their exaggerated thoughts with their friends, or convince their friends to swear off future trips.

Before you get ahead of yourself, let’s look at travel in a more rational way – a way that doesn’t idealize anything or let easily-stirred negative emotions take over.

Many complaints we hear about the traveling lifestyle can also apply to your home life. Let’s look at some examples:

Sickness

You might not be perfectly healthy during your holiday, just like you have probably unfortunately fallen ill at home for Christmas, your birthday, or another special occasion. Poor health does not choose its victims based on their schedule or their location. It’s terrible if you are sick while traveling, but it could have happened at home just as easily.

Don’t let it put you off traveling because…
No matter where you are, you’ll have access to doctors and hospitals if needed. If you are really concerned, opt for travel insurance (which is incredibly cheap) instead of avoiding traveling altogether.

Crimes and Scams

Every city has a few off-putting stories about tourists who fell into some common scam and ended up parting with some of their money or valuables. Unfortunately, crime is everywhere. And we mean everywhere – including your hometown! It’s so sad when this keeps people from traveling, because in most cases they are actually safer abroad than in their familiar communities in the U.K. or the USA. You just need to carry yourself with a little confidence while traveling – people who are obviously confused and foreign might be seen as easier targets.

Don’t let it put you off traveling because…
Crime is everywhere. You leave your house at home and you could be mugged the second you step on the street. The truth is that crime is a lot worse in the UK and USA when compared to many other countries.

Journeys and Transportation

We really do understand this one! We hate every form of transportation, too. There is nothing fun about planes, airports, buses, or taxis. Some travelers romanticize their 40-hour bus ride through the mountains or 2-hour song tao journey across Myanmar because it was so “authentic.”

NO. We aren’t going to sugar coat it for you. Both of those experiences will be brutal.

But transportation is a part of life. Staying at home will eliminate long stretches of it, but we think people are getting a little dramatic when they let long distances stop them from traveling. It’s just one day of your life. How often have you wasted days binging some TV show? But in exchange for this wasted day, you’ll get to see the world.

Don’t let it put you off traveling because…
Transportation is a necessary evil – it gives you access to the best sights and experiences in the world.

Absolutely loving that “authentic” Myanmar song tao. 

Cleaning and Shopping

Here’s a side to our glamorous traveling life that never makes it to Facebook – grocery shopping, cleaning, and other chores. If you are staying abroad long-term like us, it’s not going to be all adventures, all day, every day. You’ll develop a routine similar to one at home, and it will include picking up a new bottle of shampoo on your way back from work, putting in a load of laundry, and mopping the floors. (Although we should admit that we are lazy bastards and hire a cleaner to take care of some of those tasks for us.)

Don’t let it put you off traveling because…
Not every moment needs to be (or can be) thrilling! If you had visions of a non-stop adventure abroad, you’ll likely feel disappointed when those expectations aren’t met. But don’t let that disappointment send you home. The reality is different, but still absolutely worthwhile.

Meh to cleaning!

A Few Smaller Concerns

Bills – Yes, if you decide to reside somewhere for longer than a month, you’ll probably have to cover the cost of electricity, water, and internet. You might even choose to buy or rent a car or motorbike if public transportation is lacking. That said, depending on where you are, the bills will probably be much smaller than they were back home.

Childcare – While based only on observation, there are so many families traveling now. We see them on social media and walking around every day in real life. Having a kid doesn’t mean you can’t travel. Every country has kids! It’s an obvious fact, but give that some thought. It means that whatever you need for your family, you’ll find it. Your family will be fine – probably even better because of their time abroad.

Insects – A lot of warm countries get a bad reputation for huge bugs rivaling the ones in our worst nightmares. Kristin grew up in the Southeast region of the United States, and she’s yet to encounter anything worse than what she dealt with back home. But if you’re used to a cold climate like Simon, get ready for the mosquitoes! Don’t worry – it’s rare to get a disease from the bugs in the main tourist trail cities. If you’re going somewhere more remote, check if you need any shots or medicine beforehand.

Travel isn’t always a smooth, fun, or exciting ride. In our experience, the high points come more frequently than the low ones, but you have to be prepared for its frustrating or boring moments. Don’t become disillusioned or discouraged. Travel is always worthwhile in the end.

Don’t be put off! It’s usually brilliant!

Travelers – have we missed anything? What do you wish you had realized before you set off on your journey?

 

Travelers often get asked how we’re able to find the money, time, or courage to go abroad.

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Is Traveling a Lonely Lifestyle?

Travelers often hear a question that goes something like this:

“You have such an exciting life – but don’t you get lonely being so far away from home?”

And many people mention this as a big reason why long-term travel isn’t for them – they would just feel too alone out there in the world.

So – do we get lonely?

A table for one in Cambodia

Of course we do! But we also felt lonely sometimes back home. You can be lonely abroad, in your hometown, around you family and best friends, or alone in a tiny hotel room. No lifestyle will leave you immune.

Kristin is an introvert who is perfectly happy to spend days alone (although she loves her friends, too). But Simon is definitely a very social person who needs a good group of friends to be happy.

Does that mean only Kristin is suited for long-term travel? Absolutely not! It doesn’t matter which personality you have – you can create the life you want when you’re traveling.

In other words, it’s definitely possible to have a solo trip that stays solo if you are in the mood for quiet introspection (although most solo travelers we’ve met claim they have less alone time abroad than they did back home).

It’s also possible to make friends right away and share your adventures with them. Boarding the plane alone doesn’t mean staying alone for the duration of your trip.

We’ve made some of the best friends we could ever ask for while traveling and living in foreign lands. We also met each other!

Traveling together is rarely lonely!

The truth is you are much more likely to find travel companions (romantic or platonic) somewhere out in the world, already traveling – not at home. You just have to go!

So how will you meet these friends abroad? There are many ways:

– Hostels are typically very social environments where solo travelers come together, even if you book a private room instead of a dorm.
– Tours can also be a place to meet new people.
– If tours aren’t your thing, try classes or clubs instead. (Hiking groups, book clubs, and yoga classes can be found in many major cities.)
– If you are willing to work or volunteer during your trip, you’ll connect with the rest of your team.
– You can sign up for several travel websites and apps that connect travelers looking to meet new people.
– There are also many Facebook groups for travelers or expats.
– Tandem language exchanges can connect you with locals who want to practice their English.
– If you’re single, some people have actually made good friends while traveling thanks to Tinder or other dating apps.
– Sometimes fate can step in! We’ve made friends on planes, waiting in an auditorium, sitting in a coffee shop, enjoying a community hot tub, and lying on a beach.

This list isn’t exhaustive, so just know there are always ways to meet people. You don’t have to be alone if you don’t want to be.

But, unfortunately, no matter how many friends you make, you will still be lonely from time to time.

Maybe sometimes you’ll feel a little homesick. Remember that your friends and family will always be on the other end of the phone and will always be excited to see you when you return home. You haven’t lost anyone. The people who really care about you will never treat you differently, even if you aren’t around as much. You’ll pick up right where you left off.

Also remember that sometimes you’ll have an easier time creating close bonds than others. Occasionally you’ll meet people right away who you instantly click with, but most friendships take a bit of time. If you’re planning to stay in one place for awhile, don’t get discouraged if you don’t find a best friend right away. Enjoy your new acquaintances. Keep an open mind about everyone. Let it happen naturally.

What has been your experience finding friends abroad? Have you ever experienced loneliness on a trip? How did you handle it?

 

Travelers often get asked how we’re able to find the money, time, or courage to go abroad.

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Things Travelers Hate Hearing When Returning Home

As infrequent as they may be, we love our visits back home. Living abroad is exciting and fulfilling – exactly what we want from life – but of course every traveler misses the friends and family they left behind. Seeing them again is always a fun reunion – but back in our home countries, there are a few things we always hear that we’d rather not. Whether it’s a question we don’t know how to answer, or a statement that just couldn’t be farther from truth, here are the top things we dread hearing.

You’re so lucky!

There are a lot of misconceptions that those of us who travel or live abroad can only do so because we are so privileged. The truth is that we didn’t win some random prize. No one handed us a plane ticket or a job on a silver platter. We are out in the world because we chose to be here, and we did what was needed to get here. People who say we are “lucky” could have made the same choices – and they still can!

Of course we do realize we are privileged in some ways, mostly because we are native English speakers and there is a high demand for us worldwide as teachers, but this sentiment is usually shared by a fellow English speaker. (Note that we’ve also met many expats who aren’t native English speakers but have still found jobs abroad.)

You could easily be here too.

I will be over soon to see you!

If only this was true! How many friends have claimed they will be having their next holiday here? It’s such an exciting idea for us – we’d love to show off the foreign communities we’ve made our home. But in the combined 7 years we’ve been abroad, only one friend has ever shown up. So we’ve become a bit cynical to this promise now – we aren’t getting our hopes up.

When are you coming home for good?

Many people assume that this is just a little phase we’re going through. We don’t view our time abroad as a gap year. It’s not a detour that leads back to the life we had at home eventually. We have started careers and lives abroad and we can’t see ourselves giving that up if we can help it. There are almost 200 countries out there to see, and each one offers a completely unique experience. How could we ever quit this?

When are we coming home? Never.

“The Real World” or “Normal Life”

These phrases are always referring to Western English-speaking countries, and it’s honestly just a tad arrogant. No culture and no life is more “real” or more “normal” than another. Some people see our time abroad as one long frivolous holiday. In reality, we are responsible adults with meaningful careers, bills to pay, people who rely on us, and good life-long friends who care about us.

As teachers, we really feel this is the best choice for our careers. There are endless opportunities for us around the globe, and many offer more respect, better working environments and a higher quality of life than what teachers receive back in our home countries.

Meanwhile, back in the “real world” we could barely pay rent with a teacher’s salary, and jobs are scarce.

When are you going to settle down?

What exactly does “settle down” mean, and why does everyone have to do it? We are perfectly happy “settling” for a year or two at a time, and then moving on to a new, amazing opportunity. We aren’t interested in owning property, cars, or boxes and boxes of meaningless possessions. And we certainly aren’t dreaming of the day we can tie ourselves down to one place indefinitely. Again – the world is so big! We want to experience it all, and we’ve found a way to realistically achieve this.

We’re pretty settled now 🙂

Are you running away from something?

No, we are running toward a million things, and we don’t understand why everyone else isn’t joining us. From our perspective, our “running” is perfectly healthy and normal, and we’re concerned about the people who seem to be hiding from something. But maybe we just all have different interests and goals for our lives – and that’s perfectly fine.

This kind of accusation doesn’t usually come from a friend or family member – it comes from someone we’ve only just met, and who seems to have a very narrow-minded view of the world. If we are running from anything, it’s probably people like that.

Shouldn’t you be spending this time building your career?

We ARE spending this time building our careers. Not only are we working full-time in our chosen field, living abroad can show future employers many characteristics that they are looking for, such as independence, open minds, communication skills, and a willingness to embrace and overcome challenges.

We have been building our careers since we first met.

You’re wasting the best years of your life.

We just couldn’t disagree more. Yes, these are sure to be some of the best years of our lives, and we wouldn’t spend them any other way – exploring the world, regularly having adventures and a party or two.

Aren’t you getting too old to travel now?

Age just has nothing to do with it. Why make decisions about what you can and can’t do based on a number? We are healthy, we are not neglecting any of our responsibilities, and we are not making decisions we will regret later on. We know what we want, and there’s no real reason to slow down – except that traditional society thinks we should.

Don’t you miss your family and friends?

Yes, like crazy! But it works both ways. They could always come over and see us. It is also so easy to stay in touch, and we know the people who really care about us love what we’re doing and are proud of us for living our lives to the fullest.

How can you afford it – surely your money must run out?

We have jobs! I suppose acquaintances or new people we meet assume we are backpacking, but there are actually so many different styles of long-term travel. We have a steady paycheck, a 1-year lease on our condo, and we are living and working and paying bills just like everyone back home – although our bills are actually fewer and cheaper. We have more money to spend abroad than we ever did back home.

Saying nothing

Sometimes it’s not what is said, but what is not said. More experienced travelers once warned us this would happen, but we were still so surprised when it actually did. It’s strange to talk to someone back home who seems determined not to mention our time abroad at all. Maybe it’s just because we are such travel fanatics, but before we started traveling ourselves, we were always fascinated by those who had experienced any other corner of the world, asking them all sorts of questions and eating up their stories. Not that we are expecting that level of obsession, but if we listen to someone’s stories about gardening and the local housing economy, surely they can feign some interest in our lives too.

We’re not stopping the adventures any time soon!

We’re not saying everyone wants to travel, or even that everyone should travel. We all have our own interests and passions, and as long as you are pursuing them, you have all our respect. We know our choices are a bit unorthodox. We aren’t following the typical life path most people embrace. We only ask that people keep an open mind and consider that we have thought this through and are making the right choices for ourselves.

Fellow travelers – have you heard these statements or been asked these questions before? What have we missed? What was your reaction?

 

Travelers often get asked how we’re able to find the money, time, or courage to go abroad.

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The Reason Why I Travel

What exactly do I want from travel?
Why am I doing it?
What do I hope to achieve?
Why do I spend so much money on it and make so many sacrifices for it?
What am I really getting in exchange?

The first time I was asked these types of question, I was arriving home from Rome. But the person asking me to defend my choices wasn’t a skeptical friend or a concerned family member. These were questions I asked myself – and I continued asking myself for many years.

Because, honestly, I didn’t know how to answer.

This had been my third international trip. And it had become, suddenly, unexpectedly, very expensive and stressful. I was coming home broke, sleep deprived after spending several nights homeless, and possibly in trouble at work because I was getting in three days later than planned.

My first few international trips had all been very difficult, in fact.

There was no sugarcoating it. Travel had not been gentle with me. Instead, it had ripped the rose-colored glasses from my face and stomped them to bits almost immediately upon introduction.

It was always, always, always inconvenient. And here I was after my third trip overseas, asking myself: why do you do this to yourself? What are you getting from it?

I knew I wasn’t “finished” traveling – but at this point in my life, I did believe I would be finished one day (maybe after stepping a foot into each continent) and I was looking forward to the relief of that day. Maybe then I could focus on my safer, cheaper, easier hobbies – like reading, writing, or yoga.

So I spent an entire transatlantic plane ride pondering these hard questions. I didn’t find any answers that day.

But maybe now I have a few answers to share.

One note that, of course, I believe travel can teach you many things and make you a better person. I have written about this before – but if I’m being honest, although I appreciate that aspect of travel, it’s not really what drives my need to do it. These are the (kind of quirky) motivations behind my desire to explore the world, but I feel certain other travelers have completely different lists. (And I’d love to see them!)

I’m greedy for every sight, every experience, and every story.

Ever had FOMO? I have something like that – but instead of a preoccupation with what my friends are doing without me, I’m obsessed with what the whole world is doing without me. If I think too much about this, I feel genuine anxiety about how much I will inevitably miss out on. I want to see everything. I want to be everywhere. I want to try it all, understand it all, be in it all.

I’m addicted to the adrenaline rush of new places.

I am not an adrenaline junkie at all. I hate roller coasters. I was terrified out of my mind when I tried cliff diving. Although Simon will probably attempt to get me to go skydiving one day, I cannot imagine ever being able to jump out of a plane. The one adrenaline rush that I’m addicted to? The feeling of being surrounded by nothing familiar and having no idea what’s going to happen next. I think I actually need this feeling regularly. Healthy or not, it’s an unfightable addiction.

I want to be invincible, and I want to prove it.

Clearly, travel does not always lead to the most peaceful situations. But now I find myself a bit disappointed when a trip goes smoothly 100 percent of the time. I want to be challenged. I want to be uncomfortable. I want to be thrown into an impossible situation and then come out the other side unscathed. Not because I have superhuman bravery – I actually think I’m an annoyingly fearful person – because I want to repeatedly show myself that I can be scared but still push forward and do whatever I want. I will allow myself to be scared, but I will not allow myself to think for a second that fear should hold me back. I want to be free of all those limits, and travel has been the best way to keep giving myself this lesson.

Nothing tastes sweeter to me than feeling rootless and free.

Only a rare handful of people have understood this peculiarity of my personality. Rather than seek out security, I am resistant to it. Nothing sounds worse to me than rooting down. Freedom is one of my most powerful motivators, and flying halfway across the world at least stretches out those roots, if it doesn’t break them completely. I feel the most at peace when I look at my small collection of possessions (everything I own can now fit in my two carry-ons!) and think about how quickly and easily I could go anywhere in the world. By having no home, I can have any home. I am building my life everywhere and nowhere.

I strangely relish the feeling of loneliness.

A common question for long-term travelers is “don’t you get lonely?” Of course we do. I was also lonely sometimes at home in my “real” life. There is no path that makes you immune to loneliness – no matter how large your family or social circle. But loneliness on the road is different. I can sit in a coffee shop surrounded by foreign words, not another other English speaker in sight, and I’ll feel completely, thoroughly alone – and I enjoy it. I love it. In these moments, my time is only mine. My thoughts are now for me and no one else. It sounds silly and cheesy, but this is how I can become my own best friend. This is how I learn that I love my own company and that I can find everything I need in myself, in the simplest of ways, no matter where I am or who I am with.

I want things that can’t be taken away from me.

Every time I step outside of the airport in a new country, I feel the greatest surge of satisfaction. Something has been added to my life that will never leave me. No matter what I’ve sacrificed to get to a new place, no matter how much I’ve spent, or what goes wrong, or whether I’ll love it or hate it or grow bored with it by the next day, I will have always been here. Becoming attached to material items makes me nervous – I don’t want too many things that I could lose or damage, but the experiences I have traveling are priceless because they are a sure thing. Mine forever. Untouchable.

I would love to hear your reasons for traveling. Can anyone relate to my thoughts? Anyone have their own motivations to share? Comment below!

 

TRAVELERS OFTEN GET ASKED HOW WE’RE ABLE TO FIND THE MONEY, TIME, OR COURAGE TO GO ABROAD.

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