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Traveling is addictive. Setting foot in a new country, with new people, new customs and new scenery is completely mesmerizing. No matter how many times you do it, the feeling of wonder and excitement never wears off. A short vacation abroad can very quickly light a fire for further travel, sparking a desire to go further and to stay away from home for longer, until eventually, you are dreaming about traveling full time.
At least, that’s what’s happened to me. After graduating from university and jumping into the 9-5 world, I was traveling every minute I had off work. I loved being abroad, and every trip I took only fueled my desire for more. I was constantly daydreaming about traveling the world full-time until eventually, that dream became a reality and I took a year off work to travel. That year turned into indefinite full-time travel, and since then I’ve learned a lot about the pros and cons. If you’re thinking about full-time travel, here are some things to consider.
What does full-time travel mean to you?
At first glance, the concept of full-time traveling can seem pretty daunting, but it’s important to realize that just because you want to spend more time on the road, doesn’t mean that you can’t have a home, a base to return to and that you will never see your family or friends again.
Just like a full-time job doesn’t mean working every day of the week, full-time travel can be flexible and is usually used to refer to a lifestyle where you spend more time abroad than you do at home.
Full-time travel doesn’t need to make you a nomad, how all-in you go is completely up to you. The reality is that most self-labeled full-time travelers aren’t traveling the world 7 days a week, 365 days a year, it just means that travel is a major part of their life.
You may choose to have on-months and off-months, or to travel for half the year and to return home for six months. If the thing stopping you from traveling more or from pursuing a full-time travel lifestyle is the thought of disconnecting from your family or your home, then don’t let this hold you back.
The truth is that full-time travel can be whatever you want it to be, and it also doesn’t need to last forever. Traveling full-time can be expensive and tiring, and is often unsustainable over very long periods.
To make it more attainable, more and more people are choosing to try full-time traveling for shorter durations. Yearly sabbaticals from work are a great way to try out a full-time travel lifestyle while maintaining the security that you have a job to come back to when you return home. Alternatively, if you are looking for the next step in your career then you could take a break between jobs for travel.
My journey to Full Time Travel
I traveled to 18 countries that year and slept in more beds than I care to think about. I changed locations every two nights on average, and it was fucking exhausting.
At the time, I thought I would be going back to my 9-5 for the rest of my life so I wanted to make the most the year. I didn’t want to have any regrets. Had I known I’d end up quitting that job afterwards, I would have slowed down.
That said, I don’t regret anything. Every single day of that trip I was out adventuring and living life to the fullest. I made incredible memories, like walking with penguins at the end of the world, swimming with sea lions in the Galapagos, and hiking mountains in Nepal.
I made a lifetime of memories and friends, and in exchange, I spent a shit load of money and added permanent bags under my eyes from lack of sleep.
I came back to my job but my wanderlust was stronger than ever before. That year changed me, and a few months later I quit for good to pursue this blog and travel full-time indefinitely.
Even after quitting my job, it still felt like I was rushing around place to place. It wasn’t until COVID happened that I’ve really slowed down, which wasn’t even really my choice. But since then, I’ve been so much more productive with travel blogging and have come to a lot of realizations about full-time travel and what it means to me.
It’s made me realize how unsustainable my way of travel was, financially and mentally. Especially when you are trying to grow a business! I have a high tolerance for moving around quickly, and even I couldn’t keep up with what I was doing. Every traveler I’ve met whose traveled that quickly says the same time. Eventually, you just want to slow down.
It’s been a journey for me to figure out what works best for me when it comes to full-time travel, and I imagine that will keep evolving over time.
Things to Consider if you Want to Travel Full Time
How are you going to fund your travel?
Having overcome the fear of leaving the life you know behind in pursuit of full-time travel, the next big question to answer is how you will fund your trip.
People choose to pay for their travels in a number of different ways – some save up beforehand with no intention of working on the road, others have nothing but their first ticket in their hand and make money working as they go.
How you choose to fund your trip will depend on a few key factors such as the duration you plan to travel for, the lifestyle you want to live on the road, your travel budget, and the kind of travel experience you want to have.
Working on the road
Thanks to the internet it has never been easier to work on the road, with many full-time travelers funding their lifestyle while maintaining full or part-time jobs in their home country by working remotely. Although working while you travel will take up some of your valuable travel time, it does give you a little more financial security and will often mean that you can travel for longer periods of time.
The other way to fund your travels is by working abroad. If you are Canadian, this has never been easier with the International Experiences Canada working holiday program. If you are under 35, you can easily obtain a one-year visa legally allowing you to work in over 30 countries. You don’t even need to have a job lined up before you go! This is what I did when I moved to Ireland when I was 19, and am likely going to be doing it again this year.
Even if you don’t have a working visa, there are still plenty of ways you can work abroad. You could work on a cruise ship, a farm, teach English, and so many more. Check out my guide on how to travel on a budget for more ideas.
It’s always a good idea to have some savings put aside before you embark on a full-time travel adventure, even if you plan to make money traveling. There’s no easy way to put a number on the amount you need to save, but typically the cost of a return ticket and one month of living expenses would be a good place to start.
I saved up for years before traveling full-time. I didn’t know what I was saving for when I started – a house perhaps? It seems funny to think back on now. Over the course of five years, I saved over $30,000 CAD which more than covered my expenses of traveling full-time for a year without working. That may seem like a lot, and you certainly don’t need that much to get started traveling full-time.
How much you need to save also largely depends on what part of the world you want to travel. I based my travel budget on what was recommended in How to Travel the World on $50 a day, which was pretty spot on to my daily average.
I traveled through Latin America and Asia, including some pretty expensive places like Patagonia and the Galapagos. If you are only traveling in areas like Southeast Asia, you can get by on less then $1000 a month. Nomad List is a great resource for figuring out what it costs to live in specific cities.
As a general rule of thumb, the more places you visit, the more it’s going to cost you. This is part of the reason I spent so much money abroad that year (and all the bucket list experiences). In most cases, people use a combination of savings and on-the-road working to fund their adventures.
I’m writing a post on exactly how I saved that much money and how much I spent that year of full-time travel, so make sure to subscribe if you’re interested in knowing more about that!
Pay Off Debt
Debt is the number one barrier to people living a life they dream of. I strongly advise getting rid of debt before you set off traveling. It’s just going to stress you out, and if you’re not making monthly debt payments you’ll have a lot more money to spend on awesome experiences.
Getting Rid of Your Stuff
If you plan to travel full-time indefinitely, or even for a few years, get rid of your physical belongings. This may seem difficult, but trust me, when you’re out traveling you’ll realize how insignificant physical things really are.
There are a few reasons why you should get rid of your stuff. First, you can sell it which will help fund your travels. Secondly, if you keep your stuff you’ll need to find somewhere to keep it which can be expensive unless you have nice friends and relatives who are willing to store it for you (and trust me, people get sick of you asking them). Storage units can run you a couple hundred a month, so unless your stuff is really expensive and you plan to come back sooner then later, it’s just not worth it. Lastly, you can’t travel with a lot of stuff. I travel with a 40L backpack, which doesn’t fit much furniture.
When I came back from that year and unpacked the few boxes I had put away, I ended up giving away five bags of clothes. That was over half the stuff I packed away. Spend a year away from your belongings, and you’ll realize how little they mean to you.
If you are renting an apartment or house, you’ll want to sublet it or end your lease so you aren’t paying for it while you’re away. If you own your own place and furniture, you could rent it out or list it on Airbnb if you aren’t ready to sell. This can actually be a great income source to help fund your travels, but of course, you’ll also need to keep a safety reserve in case it needs repairs.
Following a Budget
Full-time travel can be as expensive or inexpensive as you make it. It’s easy to give in to temptation so you really need to make a budget and stick with it, or you’ll be packing your bags to go home sooner then you like. There are many different ways to travel on a budget, from making use of the sharing economy, travel hacking, and slow travel.
Where do you plan to come back to?
For the vast majority of people, like all good things, traveling full-time will eventually have to come to an end, but that doesn’t mean that you need to wave goodbye to the countries and cultures that you have grown to love.
Whether you plan to start a family, have met the love of your life, need to stay in one place for your job, or simply want a slower pace of living, you may decide to return back to your home country or you may want to consider joining the millions of people who have decided to settle as expats abroad.
One of the many joys of extensive travel is the opportunity to find a new place that you want to call home, and so it is unsurprising that many full-time travelers choose to settle abroad. If you’re interested in ex-pat life then check out sites like Expatra that can help you to better understand the process.
It may seem sad to think about the end of your travels before they have even begun, but by at least considering where you plan to come back to you are able to start putting measures in place. For example, if you want to come back to your home country, then a sabbatical may be preferential to leaving your job. If you want to move abroad, then you may want to sell a lot of your possessions to help fund your travels knowing that you won’t be coming back to them.
So there you have it, a few things to consider if you want to set off and to travel the world full-time. Are you interested in full-time travel?