What I've learned about indefinite travel
3 min read

What I've learned about indefinite travel

I’ve spent more time traveling than being "home" over the past few years. I’m still learning how to travel in a way that allows me to be my best self regardless of which country I'm in.

I’ve recently solidified my belief that you can’t treat long-term travel like a vacation. When your definition of travel shifts from a temporary escape to an ongoing lifestyle, you no longer get a free pass to let yourself go.

Vacationers seek novelty when they travel. Their goal is to compress as many novel experiences as they can into the limited time they have to explore before their obligations at home claw them back into “the real world”.

Having a limited time budget afforded to travel, vacationers drop spending time on real world habits—exercise, eating healthy, maintaining hobbies—to maximize itinerary events: beaches, postcard views, and socially accepted alcoholism (because vacation).

Suspending everyday responsibilities to enjoy a brief escape from life makes for a memorable vacation. But prioritize itinerary events over habits and routines long enough and you’ll quickly realize the novelty of a just desserts lifestyle leaves you craving the nutritious fulfilment of boring-but-healthy routines.

This is my nomad conundrum: sufficiently experiencing a new destination while also maintaining habits that (1) pay the bills and (2) fuel the person I want to be.

The real world rarely hands over fulfilment for free. To feel accomplished we need to accomplish things. No matter what country we happen to be living in.

Being able to work anywhere, at any time, for not that many hours, is a privilege I’m proud of. But that freedom doesn’t change the formula for fulfilment.

No amount of new friends or new foods will replace the enduring gratification of completing a full month of workouts, finishing the right book, or making progress towards a meaningful goal.

Optimizing nomadic travel for happiness

Travel changes your environment and the people around you but it doesn’t change what makes you happy. In a practical sense this means knowing what you need to be at your best, and then ensuring it can be obtained at your next destination.

💪 If the gym is too busy or too far away, I won't go.

🍳 If I can't make eggs from my apartment, I'll eat an unhealthy breakfast.

🌞 If I don't have easy access to sunlight, I'll spend too much time indoors and have a hard time waking up in the morning. 

Trial and error has taught me I need to live somewhere that minimizes friction around meeting my goals. These are not nice-to-haves, they're non-negotiable parts of choosing a place to stay that have the potential to make or break my happiness for an entire month or longer.

I've learned it's much harder to check these boxes (among others) during short stays of 1 month or less.

👶 When I first started traveling: the excitement of hopping between cities, meeting new people, and telling stories about yet another new country was fun.

👴 Now: I hate airports, am tired of packing and unpacking my one bag, and restarting somewhere else right after I've built some momentum.

It's just easier to build routines with 3+ months of leeway. 1 month is barely enough (for me) to get comfortable in a neighborhood. Moving forward I'm looking at staying places for at least 2+ months at a time, outside of short side trips.

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