A few months ago I had the idea of writing a short book entitled “How to Travel Forever: A Simple Guide to Life on the Road”. The idea was to create a guide for people who want to make travel a big part of their lives. Around the same time, I figured that a blog could offer so much more in terms of stories and advice than a book, which is how Wireless Vagabond came to be. I still plan to write a book one day but have decided to first break it down into a single article on how to travel forever.
How to Travel Forever — The Privilege of Our Generation
We truly live in amazing times. The evolution of aviation has made it easier and more affordable than ever before to travel around the world. Our generation can now travel huge distances in a short amount of time; something that was unthinkable for previous generations. And while a few decades ago travel was only reserved for the richest of the rich, it is now an option for the masses.
Not only have flights become cheaper, but the evolution of the tech world has opened up countless opportunities for travellers to plan their trips, save money and connect with other travellers and locals alike.
Easier travel is not the only thing the Internet age has brought about. Thanks to the World Wide Web, there are now so many opportunities for pursuing your dreams, promoting your own work and starting your own business. Never has it been this easy to work for yourself and make an independent living.
Just 20 years ago it would have been deemed crazy to write an article on how to travel forever. Thankfully, that is no longer the case.
The 4 Variables of Long Term Travel
If you want to know how to travel forever, you need to understand the 4 variables of long term travel: time, money, frugality and sustainability. The reason I say ‘variables’ instead of ‘conditions’ is because not all of them are always necessary. Everyone’s situation is different.
The most obvious variable for someone wanting to travel forever is obviously time. If you don’t have any time to travel, you just can’t travel. How much time you need depends entirely on what lifestyle you want and how much you want to travel. Ideally, working for yourself will give you the flexibility to choose for yourself.
The second most important variable is frugality. By frugality, I mean the ability to get by on as little as possible. Ultimately, I think this is a vital skill, even for people who are well off. Being able to make the most of your money is always a good thing, regardless of your earnings. A lifestyle of travel isn’t always stable and secure, so it’s good to know how to get by on very little just in case. You never know when you might need it.
Another important variable is money. Whilst there are people who travel without earning or spending money, this is not for everyone. Whether we like it or not, transportation, accommodation and food, more often than not, cost money. Having a steady income and a safety net are a good way to ensure a continued lifestyle of travel.
Finally, the variable that I think is most important, and one that is often ignored, is sustainability. If you’re talking about how to travel forever, you kind of need your lifestyle to be sustainable. If your lifestyle cannot be sustained over a longer period of time, you will find yourself in a tough situation. Frugality goes a long way to ensuring sustainability, but other factors play a role as well.
As mentioned above, it is not always necessary to fulfill all 4 variables. Some people have lots of money and don’t need to be frugal, others are so frugal that they don’t need any money. Still, if you’re wondering how to travel forever, keeping these four factors will definitely make things easier.
The Full Time Job Model
Now that we’ve distinguished the variables of long term travel, it is time to look at the different lifestyle models and how they compare in terms of providing a fulfilling lifestyle of travel.
The most common ‘model’ is the typical 9–5 model. I always say that people should not waste away in a full time job that they don’t enjoy. That being said, having a job does not necessarily mean that you can’t travel. There are so many jobs out there and in many of them, travel can be an important part of your work. There are also many big companies that offer flexible work hours and generous holidays. The best way to balance a full time job and travel is to find a job that you love and one that allows you to pursue your travel goals and dreams. This kind of job might not be easy to find, but ti’s definitely worth the effort of looking.
That being said, I’ve got to be clear: If you’re stuck in a menial job that allows you very little flexibility and freedom, you might have to be prepared to make some changes in your life.
The advantage of the full time job model is the stability it offers, especially in terms of the ‘money’ variable. I personally like having a base and to then travel from there, but I would nevger do a full time job that was mundane or too restrictive. The most common issue that people living this model have is that of the ‘time’ variable. Depending on the job, people who have full time jobs will usually only have weekends and holidays to travel, which isn’t always ideal. Once again, this depends on the type of job and I know many people qwho travel the world despite, or even thanks to, their job.
Having a 9–5 job doesn’t mean you cannot live a life of travel. Very few people actually make the most of their weekends and free time. With good planning and some initiative, you can organise trips in a way that you can maximise your travel experience, even in a limited time frame. The extra funds of a stable job might also help with making the most out of limited time. Using vacation days smartly can go a long way too.
If you have a full time job, consider speaking with your employer to see if some form of flexibility can be worked out. In the 4 Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss explains how to convince your employer to give you more time off. I can say from personal experience that it is possible.
The Gap Year Model
Most young people who ask themselves how to travel forever tend to revert to the ‘gap year model’. This model consists in working full time for a period of time, saving up and then quitting to go travelling full time.
Many students do it after high school and it is a proven method for combining what some might call “the best of both worlds”.
There are two main issues with the gap year model. First, for all the fun and freedom you have while travelling, you are still spending half the year working hard, spending little and basically waiting for the trip to come around. The second problem is that of sustainability. Working half a year on, half a year off is not the most long term sustainable way to live because usually you are doing menial jobs on the short term. I don´t view this model as a long term solution and have avoided it myself.
Whilst the gap year model might combine the best of both worlds, it also combines the worse of both: lacking stability, limited opportunity and half a year of no travel at all. It also often prevents you from fully enjoying life during the 6 months of work because you´re always saving.
The Digital Nomad Model
This is the model that I set out to experience a year ago. And for a long time it worked quite well for me.
The digital nomad model consists in working online or remotely, giving you the flexibility and location independence you need to travel. Digital nomadism can take on many forms from freelancers, to artists, to entrepreneurs.
The main advantage is the freedom. You can have the time, money and sustainability to really travel as much as you want, for as long as you want. This is what I have enjoyed most about this lifestyle.
The downside of this model is the fact that whilst you are sort of always on holiday, you’re also never on holiday. In my year as a digital nomad, I haven´t been able to take some proper time off with no work whatsoever. No matter where I am, I´m always in a situation where I might have to work. As a digital nomad, it can be hard to find lengthy periods of time where you can just shut off completely because as a freelancer or entrepreneur, you may have flexibility but you still have to be available a lot of the time. Not being able to switch off is the biggest problem I have experienced with this model and it is why I am looking to find the perfect balance between the full time job and the digital nomad models, which brings me to the final model.
The Alternative Model
The models above outline the most common travel-centric lifestyles but are by no means the only options. There are many other alternative ways to travel forever.
There is no one ‘alternative model’, but there are many other travel lifestyles that do not fit the standard models mentioned above. Personally, I am looking to carve out an alternative model for myself. I like having some stability, financial security and a base, as offered by the full time model, but I also want flexibility, freedom and creative control, as offered by the digital nomad model.
I’ve meet people who live in communes and people who make a career while travelling. A friend of mine has made a career in fine dining as a waiter. He’s lived in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, working good jobs for quality restaurants. Given the industry, his moving around doesn’t hurt his prospects, in fact it helps them. In between jobs and visas, he uses the time to travel in the region. This approach offers a great combination between work and travel and is possible in a number of professions, including journalism, marketing, hospitality and more.
Another example of the alternative model is working on a ship. Be it cargo or cruise, people working on ships often get to see the world while working. The same goes for airline employees.
There are many different options out there for somebody who wants to combine career and travel. It might not be an option for everyone, but if it seems viable, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Hopefully this has given some insight into how to travel forever. I believe that travel is one of the most fulfilling and mind opening experiences, even if you’re travelling for short periods of time and close to home. A life of travel opens up opportunities, connections and memories that could be life changing and it is a major exercise in personal development and growth.
The most important thing to know is that there is no one solution to how to travel forever. There isn’t a best model. Everyone is different and has to figure out what works and suits best. I have spent the last year trying to figure that out for myself and I feel like I am getting close to the perfect balance for myself.