Travelling around the world the way we do, without planes, hitchhiking, going slowly, travelling based on people rather than places, wouldn’t be possible (or harder) if it wasn’t for the fact we have no plans or deadlines. Which is exactly why we decided to take a (few) gap year(s).
Travelling is not just about moving.
For us, long-term travelling, or more accurately, no-time limit travelling, is not about constantly moving or endless vacations. That would be exhausting, or become boring. Despite what you might think, always being on ‘’vacation’’ is not the ultimate goal, for us. We think it’s all about balance. Hitchhiking is always an amazing adventure, sleeping comfortably in the nature is incredibly soothing and discovering new cultures, languages and sceneries is the whole reason we travel, but it can also be unsettling, uncomfortable, stressful and tiring. The perks of the excitement and adrenaline also come with their downside of stress and fatigue, and although we meet new people every day, the process can also feel like a routine.
We love travelling, but we think that getting involved in local projects, engaging with local communities and settling down for more than a few days is essential to really understand a place and know the culture. It allows us to have a completely different experience, meet new people (for more than a few hours or a few days) and learn from them and the project. We’re also very interested in off the grid and self-sustainable living, as well as languages, teaching and animal care. Instead of seeing travelling as a limitation to our learning (as we are not ‘’going to school’’), it has offered us a million opportunities to learn, hands on – and get free food and accommodation at the same time! We won’t hide that it’s (volunteer for food and accommodation) also a good way to save money, and to enjoy a place for a long period of time, without worrying about the wallet! You can also find ways to make money at the same time to fund your future travels (like we did in Italy), or work on your personal projects (like travel photography, or start your blog). Did I convince you already to take that gap year and dare to travel?
It’s also about giving back and contributing, leaving something positive and durable to the countries and people we visit, instead of being the sole benefactors of our travelling. When we break it down, we spend about half of our time actually not moving! Out of the past 11 months of travelling together, we spent 5 weeks volunteering at Agape Farm Camp, an eco-camp in Montenegro, 3 weeks living on a sailboat (which was moving, but we were still in a *relatively* stable living condition), 3 weeks with my mom and stepfather living in Airbnb’s, 6 weeks living in Seborga, taking care of a country house and rescued animals in the mountains and 1 month doing natural building in a village in Morocco. For me, RTW travel is also about travelling with a purpose- or a few.
Limitless travel: Taking your time.
This was one of our biggest surprise when we started living (yes, living) this way, and probably one of the biggest difference between periodic travelling and the travel life: taking your time. When you’re a ‘’full time traveller’’, getting up early every day with a list of places to visit is just impossible. At one point, we stopped visiting, and we started just living. Experiencing the life, culture and nature like we breathe: slowly, and deeply.
That’s often what we explain to the people we meet that are surprised when we say we saw nothing of the world yet. Of course, in the same amount of time we easily could have seen most of the countries in Europe, visiting 2-3 cities every time- but that’s not what travelling is for us. We love to wander- explore aimlessly. The less we know (beforehand) about the place we visit, the better. You can’t be disappointed when you expect nothing. Some of the most beautiful places and views we saw where during hitchhiking, where we ended up surrounded with beautiful mountains or sea. Not planning a ‘’to do or see list’’ is one of the biggest gifts hitchhiking gave us. It allows us to simply enjoy and appreciate what we get to do and see. Anyways, I’ll save that for my love letter to hitchhiking.
What we’ve discovered is, as cheesy as it sounds, you’ll end up where you need to. Or rather, you can choose to make the best out of any situation.
How travelling changes your perspective
You learn so much while travelling, not only about the world we live in, but also about yourself. Having no time limit, maybe for the first time in your life, and no obligations and plans, is an extremely liberating experience. It allows you to go back to the basics: living. Thinking. What do I want? What do I like, and why? What do I want to eat? What are my priorities? What does money mean? What do I want to do with that money? Why do I want to go to this place? Why not that one? [Insert more existential questions, such as: What is life?]
Travelling around the world with no deadlines is also about making choices, and taking risks. It’s choosing not to conform, resisting your instinct and ingrained ideas that you need to settle down and letting yourself live and experience the world. Nothing is given, nothing is holding you back. Every day, you need to choose. Where you go, where you sleep, where you eat, who you talk to, who you trust, what you want. You learn to make decisions, for yourself. Again, maybe for the first time in your life. Sounds simple, yet when you think about it, we’re really bad at making decisions. In an era of endless possibilities (for us, privileged ones), we tend to rely on our entourage, cultural norms and money back guarantee to make our decisions. Remove those, throw yourself in another country, where nobody knows you. Alright. Now, what do you want? What makes you happy?
You’ll probably find yourself questioning most of the things you know, and took for granted, as you discover other ways to live. What does it mean to eat healthy? What does home mean? What is family? You’ll probably end up with much broader definitions and answers to these questions –and an exponential amount of questions.
Experience based travel rather than sight-seeing.
We say travelling helps you find yourself, and grow. For me, the reason travelling is transformative is not so much about travelling –not in the way we usually imagine. Of course, realizing your dream or achieving a goal can give you a new perspective on what you can do and expand your horizons. Going abroad and losing your points of reference as you step out of your comfort zone will teach you a lot about yourself, and change you. You will learn so much about the world, how people live, geography, history, politics. What we don’t realize is that this probably won’t happen as you finally get a glimpse of the famous sight of the city you’re in, or when you get to the hostel you were told to go to. It will, most likely, happen in the most random moments. When you go to the toilet and have to learn how to use it. When you sit on the side of a road, sweaty from walking in circles, your shoulders sore from your backpack and you see kids playing, just like you used to, speaking a foreign language. When people ask you about what you’re doing, or what your plans are –and you try to find an answer. When you don’t know if the water is drinkable, and you start to understand what it’s like not to have access to drinking water. When you’re the only white person in a room, and you get the slightest idea of what it feels like to be a minority. This you can’t get from any travel guide. These are the everyday moments that change your perception of life, happiness, comfort. These are the moments you can only get when you take your time. These are the moments we prioritize. We probably missed the major sights and attractions in every country we’ve been to, but we know we can come back to them. We’ve gained much more by seeing everything, while looking at nothing.