How Going on a Long-Term Trip May Improve Your Life
One of my favourite inspirational books “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss was originally released in 2007, and sold an entire generation of people on an illustrious vision of working remotely, “working smart”, and travelling the world as a Digital Nomad with nothing but their laptops and some clothes in hand.
In the book, the author describes how he essentially bases his life around the principle of not “retiring” at some point in the distant future, but rather living his “retirement” simultaneously with his working life.
Aside from the specifics of how he structures his working life, the key feature in this “living retirement while still young” system, is to not just visit exotic locations for a couple of days – or even a couple of weeks, but to go for extended trips abroad, in the region of six months or more at a time.
When the book was originally published, this was an almost unheard of lifestyle for many people. Since then, it’s only become easier to find a Singapore room for rent, a bed and breakfast in the Italian Alps, or any number of other package travel and accommodation deals all over the world.
On top of that, more and more people are now set up with remote working arrangements that allow them the freedom to engage in these longer trips.
But what are the real benefits of these kinds of long-term vacations? How could they improve your life? Here are some suggestions.
By keeping you away from home for long enough that you can view it with fresh perspective
There is a well-known trope in literature, where an author will “de-familiarise” the world or environment they are writing about, usually by introducing supernatural, fantastical, or otherwise unfamiliar and surreal elements, while nonetheless addressing issues and patterns that play out in the real world.
One of the benefits of doing this, is that it forces people to consider their everyday lives with “new eyes” in a manner of speaking.
In other words, when we’re put in a position where we see the familiar from an outside perspective, we’re better able to recognise important details in it, resolve issues or thoughts that might have been our minds for some time, and even appreciate those things that we would normally take for granted, significantly more.
Extended travels overseas will achieve something similar. When you’re away from home for six months or more at a time, it allows you to view your home country, and home environment, with a fresh perspective. In fact, it almost forces you to.
This can be a great way to get out of ruts you might have accidentally stumbled into, and can also deepen your appreciation of home, and your own culture, once you return.
By allowing you to truly immerse yourself in another culture and place
When we visit an interesting and exciting locale for a week or so, we will certainly be able to get a “taste” of the local culture and environment, and will probably do our best to see the leading cultural attractions, as well as to try the most highly regarded local cuisine.
But it’s on those longer trips – those times when you’re essentially living abroad for a certain period of time – that you actually have the opportunity to truly immerse yourself in that culture and place, and to come away with a much deeper understanding of it than you would have developed as a short-term tourist.
If you’re living in a country for the better part of the year, and are actually making the effort to immerse yourself in the culture, it’s likely that you will come away with a decent conversational knowledge of the language, a good idea of how the local systems and traditions work, and perhaps a deepened appreciation for the place and its history.
Of course, it’s also possible to seclude yourself in an expat community, and not do very much in the way of immersing yourself at all.
That being said, it can certainly be well worth your time going the other way, and trying to get the most out of your trip possible. You could do this, for example, by signing up for regular language lessons while you’re there, and by visiting the country with some organisation or group that is actively engaged in the local community, whether through charitable work, cultural investigation, archaeological work, or anything along those lines.
By giving you a taste of the “semi-retirement” lifestyle
As mentioned at the start of this article, Tim Ferriss’s essential vision and goal in his extended travels abroad, was to live his “retirement” in the here and now, rather than putting it off for some point in the distant future.
There are various reasons why this might be an excellent idea. For one thing, none of us know what kind of condition we will be in once we reach retirement age. Our health might not be great, we might have an array of family and social obligations, and long trips abroad might not have the same allure they once did.
Then, on a grimmer note, it’s also possible that we won’t actually live to see retirement age. That’s not a thought that anyone likes to have, but the future is unpredictable, and so if you have a great dream or ambition, it’s always better to begin working towards it and doing what you can to experience it in the here and now, rather than at some vaguely defined point in the future.
And, assuming that you do make it to retirement age, in good health, and with enough freedom and energy to see the world after all, you will then have the privilege of being able to meet it head on, as someone who has already experienced much, and has a good basic understanding of various cultures and regions of the world.
By making you a more unique and interesting person, with more unusual stories
Travel is great – venturing to new places can be a transformative experience, whether for 24 hours, or for longer. All the same, however, as more and more people are travelling these days, the simple act of visiting a universally acclaimed cultural landmark, or historic city, doesn’t really “set you apart” in the way it once did.
Of course, life isn’t a competition in all ways, and you don’t have to always be trying to be the most unique, interesting, and cultured person in a room.
All the same, experiences that do make you more unique and interesting are likely to feel quite fulfilling, and – as long as you don’t brag about it in a callous and arrogant way – can make you a pretty good guest at parties.
Spending extended periods of time in different locations can furnish you with a set of unusual stories that the average holidaymaker probably won’t have.
This is a pleasure in its own right, but it also opens up all sorts of doors to you. When you understand a culture in a more intimate way than the average person from your country or world region, and you have a good and intriguing set of stories associated with the place, you can become a travel author or blogger, a travel photographer, and more.
The fact that these longer trips will “set you apart” might even help you in your professional life, depending on various other factors.
After all, companies tend to be pretty keen on people who can communicate fluently in different languages, and work effectively in different environments.