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Excuses, excuses, excuses. When it comes to travel, particularly long term travel, everyone has an excuse for why they can’t do it. Myths abound about long term, RTW travel, and if you’re on the fence about taking the plunge for yourself, it’s time to realize that absurdity of some of these myths.
Why is it that the people who have never traveled long term have such a skewed view of this type of travel? Why are there so many myths out there that are just flat out untrue? While it’s difficult to answer these questions, it’s not very hard to dispel the many myths about RTW travel that are out there.
1. It’s too expensive
This is by far the number one misconception of long term travel. While it’s obviously not free, it really comes down to your priorities and motivation. RTW travel is not only for the rich, retired, or those with trust funds. Period. It is completely different than going on a one week vacation. The mindset is totally different, and the style of travel is totally different, so multiplying what you spend on a one or two week holiday by months or a year is not going to give you an accurate estimate of what a RTW trip costs.
Sacrifices certainly have to made in order to take off for an extended trip, and being willing to rough it a bit, by staying in hostels, taking long bus rides, and eating unique food is part of the deal. If a nice house and car and toys is your priority, there’s nothing wrong with that, but most people who travel long term and make that their priority have to sacrifice something, and that sacrifice usually comes with not having much stuff. For most RTW travelers, they spend much less during a year on the road than they would at home, and while it may take years of saving and sacrificing, once you’re on the road, not working, and doing what you want when you want every day, all the hard work makes it worthwhile.
>> Find out how much money you really need to travel and get tips for saving money for your trip
2. I don’t have time
Time and money are the two biggest excuses people give for not taking an extended trip. Unfortunately for those of us who live in the US, most of simply don’t have the vacation days to take more than a week or two at a time. So while it’s not as simple as taking your vacation, you’d be shocked at what you might be able to work out with your employers.
Since the economy is still not in tip top shape, many employers now are willing to grant a leave of absence. It certainly beats having to fire or lay people off. Yes, it is a risk because there are no guarantees of your employment upon your return, but who knows, you may decide you don’t want to go back to your previous job anyway.
If you hate your job or are questioning your career choice, then this is a great time to take advantage and try something new. A long term trip affords you the time and freedom that you simply don’t have in your daily life at home, so you may discover a new hobby or love that you can turn into a career, or you may decide that being a permanent nomad is for you. If you have skills that can be utilized from the road – web consulting, contract review for lawyers, teaching, writing, photography – it’s possible to earn a few extra bucks while traveling or turn it into a new career upon your return (or just stay on the road and work from there). Anything is possible, and if you aren’t happy where you’re at now, then take this time to make some changes in your life.
3. The resume gap will ruin my career
While it is true that a big gap in your resume used to be looked upon as a major negative, the times are changing. With the world financial crisis still in full swing, there are tons of quality employees out there with gaps in their resumes. With unemployment still hovering around 10% in the US, many people are out of work. What you do with that time off is key to prospective employers.
Let’s look at a hypothetical situation: Say you are the one hiring and have two resumes before you, both with one year employment gaps in them. One has been looking for work this entire year (supposedly), collecting unemployment along the way. One traveled the world and put that experience on his or her resume and cover letter. This RTW traveler may have learned a new language, taught English to children in Asia, or volunteered at an orphanage in Bolivia, all things that would look fantastic on a resume. If you were doing the hiring, which would you be more inclined to bring in for an interview?
>> Find out how a career break can help you professionally
4. It’s too dangerous to travel internationally
Perhaps the dumbest myth of them all. Just stop watching, reading, and listening to the media. They thrive on sensationalism and over-exaggeration, so why so many people take what they say as fact is beyond me. By now we should all know that the media is a business, so that’s why we see so many horrific stories highlighted that are there for the sole reason of boosting ratings.
If you really want to know about visiting a foreign place, why don’t you go straight to the source? In the internet age that we live in, it’s too easy to find information written by people on the ground right now in a certain destination.
Get on message boards, read blogs, open a twitter account, get active in social media. You can find tons of people who are in these so called dangerous destinations right now. Wouldn’t their opinions be more valid than a media report or your crazy Uncle Barney’s, you know, the guy who has never left his hometown but has an opinion on how dangerous it is to travel in Central America? Just use some common sense here, and realize that the vast majority of places around the world are perfectly safe to travel in. There will always be exceptions, of course, but most so called dangerous places are greatly exaggerated.
>> Check out more of the worst advice and myths around travel
5. I’m too old to go on a RTW trip
When my wife first suggested the idea of a RTW trip to me, I was 28 years old. After dismissing her and citing the first three myths, this was next in my arsenal of why we couldn’t do it. “Babe, we’re not in college anymore. We’re too old to do this,” I said.
While it’s true that many of the people we met on the road were in college or on a gap year, we met tons of people our age, and older. We even met retirees and families with kids along the way.
Which is brings us to Myth 5a – I’m too old to stay in a hostel. Most people who have limited international travel experience have a grave misconception about hostels. While it’s true that hostels have crowded dorm rooms with shared bathrooms, it’s also true that most hostels offer private rooms with private bathrooms, so if sharing a room with 7 strangers isn’t your thing, you don’t have to do it. You can get all the benefits of hosteling – free breakfasts, kitchens to cook in, camaraderie of other travelers, common spaces to meet others – while still having comfort and privacy, and all for a fraction of the cost of a hotel.
6. I have kids. It’s impossible to travel long-term with kids
No matter where you are in life, there’s a myth about why you can’t travel long term. Having a family certainly excludes you from RTW travel, right? Well, all the families who have done it, are doing it, or planning to do it beg to differ.
It’s certainly not an easy task, and you’ll probably meet the most resistance of any group wanting to travel RTW, but it is certainly possible. Many like to cite a bunch of different myths of why it’s a bad idea to take kids on the road long term with you – it’s too dangerous, what about school, what about all our stuff, my family could never do that. All are fairly valid concerns, but all have a rebuttal.
We’ve already dispelled the too dangerous myth. You can homeschool your children or send them to a school abroad, and besides, the education your children will receive on the road experiencing new cultures and a new way of living will be invaluable to their education. Getting rid of all your stuff is an empowring thing, and it could make your kids realize that all the material items they had weren’t completely necessary. Each family is different, but you may be surprised at what your family can and can’t do.
Family travel is not easy, but it’s a great way to really bond with your husband, wife, and children in a unique way that not many families get the chance to do. Educating your children on the differences and similarities of people around the world, all the while exposing them to different cultures and different ways of life will teach them skills that simply can’t be taught at home.
>> Read about how traveling can be beneficial to young kids and get tips on hosteling with kids
7. I’m a single woman. It’s way too dangerous for me to go alone
Mom and Dad are not going to like the idea that their little girl wants to traipse around the world by herself. That’s just a fact. And while they may have some valid concerns, it’s important to point out why you can do this and why you’ll be safe along your journey.
It’s definitely true that solo women travelers have to exercise a bit more caution on the road than men or couples, but as long as you do your homework first and come armed with resources to put your parents and loved ones at ease, you should be able to prove that it’s not that big a deal for women to travel alone.
Since we live in the internet age, it would be a great idea to point your concerned loved ones to blogs or websites of other solo women travelers who have done or are doing it right now. Evelyn, founder of Journeywoman, is a 70-something-year-old woman who has been traveling solo for 30 years! Her site is chock full of awesome resources and inspirational stories of women all over the world who have done the same. Ayngelina is a young Canadian woman who traveled solo for over a year through Latin America. She has written a great post about the camaraderie of solo female travelers have when meeting each other on the road. Stephanie wrote an entire article dispelling the myths surrounding solo female travel, and she had a guest post on her site, Twenty-Something Travel, from Christine, about why she chooses to travel solo. These are just a tiny sampling of resources you can find about other single women who have safely made their dreams of traveling the world come true.
>> Get the truth behind myths about solo female travel
8. I’m American, and everyone hates Americans
It’s definitely true that we Americans have had a rough go of it over the last decade. W didn’t exactly help our image overseas, and while there may have been some anti-American sentiment abroad, by and large it was exaggerated. Even for those who have a misconception of Americans, it’s important to meet and talk with them to dispel the rumors. Once most people who have a negative view of Americans actually meet us abroad, they change their tune and wonder why they think like they do.
In the places you’d assume have the most anti-American sentiment, like the Middle East, usually the opposite is true. Those who have traveled extensively around the region spoke about nothing but kindness and friendliness towards Americans. Just another reason to talk to travelers who are actually on the ground in certain countries and cities to obtain information about what it’s really like to travel there. Even if you do meet some people who have negative perception of Americans, it’s highly unlikely that any harm will come to you because of it. Ignorance doesn’t typically equal violence, and while there are very rare cases of this happening, it’s not any more usual than most violence happening in your hometown city.
>> Read about backpacker stereotypes you’ll find on your travels
9. My health insurance won’t cover me
Health insurance has been a very hot topic in the US over the past several years. Certain groups like you to think that we are the only country in the world offering top notch health care, which is why we have to pay so much. That is simply untrue. In most countries around the world, even developed countries, health care is dirt cheap for their citizens, and the quality is just as good. Even for foreigners, it costs a minimal amount compared to the US.
Traveling without any type of insurance is certainly a risk, but it’s possible to get a catastrophic policy that will cover you in case of a major emergency. For anything minor, like a small cut, sore throat, or virus, it’s no big deal to simply show up to a doctor or hospital and get treatment for minimal costs. Many countries have pharmacies that will sell antibiotics over the counter if that’s all you need. Even if you buy a travel insurance policy, submitting the claims and dealing with the hassle to get repaid for seeing a doctor may not be worth it.
>> Find out if you need travel insurance
10. It’s too hard to plan/I’m not spontaneous enough
I’m a planner. I’m an organizer. On every other trip before our RTW, I liked to plan everything out. When planning our RTW, I realized that this was going to be impossible. You simply can’t plan for all the random things that will happen on the road, and if you try, you’ll go nuts. This was a big challenge for me, but I’m a better traveler and a better person because of it.
RTW travel can be as planned or open as you want. Some simply buy that first plane ticket and take it from there. Some plan all their flights and fill in as time goes on. No matter what you decide, chances are you’ll learn some new skills that will helpful to not only future trips but life in general. For those of who are planners, we can get pretty flustered when things go wrong. Learning to take everything in stride, which you must do on a RTW trip, is a great skill to learn and helps tremendously with learning patience. While planning a trip like this is difficult at times, it can teach everyone so many new skills that are transferable to real life situations.
>> Check out some useful tips for the Type A traveler
For citizens of countries where long term travel is not popular, it’s sometimes difficult not only to dispel myths your loved ones might believe, but also talk yourself into not believing them. Before we decided to go on our RTW, I though so many of these same myths were true. But then I started reading, researching, and talking to others who have actually done it.
It’s important to go to the right places for your information. Listening to the doom and gloom media reports or conspiracy theory relatives might have you questioning yourself, but if you start talking to the people who have actually done it themselves, you’ll realize that most of what you thought was simply untrue.
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