(From Wandering Earl)
You want to travel, you save up some money, you buy your flight and off you go. And then, chances are, it all works out even better than you planned and you end up on the road for maybe a year or two years or even longer.
Once your initial funds were depleted, you simply found work overseas in order to save up some more money. You taught English in Asia, you picked fruit in Australia and you worked in a bar or hostel in a couple of locations in Europe.
You explored two dozen countries, you checked off many of the places on your personal ‘must-visit’ list, you met new friends all over the world and you never have even a single moment of regret about taking off on such a long-term travel adventure.
And then, one fine morning, perhaps while walking around lost in Tokyo, feeling ill in Guatemala or moments after losing your camera in Kiev, you suddenly decide that it’s time for your trip to come to an end. Standing there on that street corner, lying there in your hostel bed, waiting for your camera to magically reappear, all you can think about is getting on an airplane and going home.
It happens. And it happens to just about every long-term traveler at some point. Few people end up traveling for the rest of their lives as there will most likely come a time when travel no longer excites you as it once did. And while you will still enjoy your experiences overseas, you’re ready for a new direction, a more stable direction, a life that doesn’t involve sleeping in hostel dorm rooms, taking 20-hour bus journeys or having to live out of a backpack.
In fact, I know that a lot of people think about this scenario before they even start their adventures and I know that many people decide not to follow through with their travel dreams simply because they are afraid that when it all comes to an end they will return home lost, broke and without any options.
What If I Decide To Stop Traveling?
Readers often ask me about what will happen if/when I decide to stop traveling. They want to know what I would do if I found myself in the USA trying to return to a more traditional lifestyle. I always give the same answer, which is this:
“Right now, as I travel the world, I make sure that I am also creating something that will be useful to me even if I stop traveling one day. I am working hard to gain additional skills and knowledge and to ensure that my current streams of income are not reliant on my travels. This way, if I do return home at some point, my income won’t suddenly disappear and I’ll still be able to either find a job or create my own.”
And there’s no reason why every traveler can’t do the same.
Learn As Many Skills as You Can
Whenever you do work overseas (whether paid or volunteer), your aim should be to try and gain as many new skills as you can, skills that will help you land even more positions, both while traveling and back at home. So while it’s perfectly okay to fund your travels by working for six months, say in a cafe or a bar somewhere abroad, then spending that money on travel, then working again somewhere else and repeating this pattern over and over again, just make sure that you are benefiting from such work as much as possible.
For example, I have a friend who taught English in Thailand and during his free time he would give free conversational classes to Burmese refugees, something that allowed him to learn all about the struggles and needs of such people. Then, when my friend returned to the US after a couple of years, he was hired by an organization that helps refugees integrate into their new American community and he landed this job all because of his experience in Thailand.
Another friend of mine spent six months in India volunteering at an Ayurvedic health clinic where she also gained the skills necessary to become an Ayurvedic consultant. After receiving her certification she continued to travel around the world for another six months before returning home to France where she started offering Ayurvedic consultations, something that immediately gave her a job and an income despite having been away for over one year.
All it takes is determining what your true interests really are and then dedicating yourself to learning as much as possible. You could study massage or yoga, you could get your scuba diving certification and work as an instructor, you could gain solid experience teaching (or learning) languages, guiding tours or bartending, you could learn an instrument or polish your writing skills by creating content for local magazines and newsletters in the countries you visit or you could learn about business, health, construction, wildlife care and more by volunteering with organizations around the world.
You get the idea…learn, learn and learn some more as you travel and the more specific your focus, the better off you’ll be if/when your travels come to an end.
Create a Reliable Income
Another option is to try and create a source of income for yourself, one that, just as I’m trying to achieve, won’t disappear if you stop traveling. This does take a great deal of effort but if you don’t mind some hard work, there’s nothing stopping you from creating a website, blog or some other online project that will achieve this income goal. Having even $200 of monthly income (you don’t need to think on a grand scale at all) will certainly make a huge difference when you find yourself back at home and in need of some time to figure out how to re-join the real world.
If you can create such a business/project, you might even be able to expand upon it once your travels are over (and turn it into a full time job!) as you’ll have some extra free time to sit down and really concentrate on your ideas.
Save Some Money & Don’t Worry
Whatever you choose to do in order to ensure the transition to life after traveling is a smooth one, I do recommend saving some of the money you earn while on the road, no matter where you are in the world. As I mentioned in my earlier post about long-term travelers saving up for retirement, even if you put away a few dollars per week, you’ll create an emergency fund that can be quite useful, one that will provide a small cushion in the event that you do decide to go home at some point. And if you don’t decide to go home, well, there’s nothing wrong with having some savings that you can use whenever you might unexpectedly need more money later on in life.
But again, there is a high probability that a time will come when you will want to return home and end your travels, a time when you’ve had enough of the lifestyle and need a break, perhaps a very long break. However, that fact, and as terrifying as it might be to imagine yourself back at home, lost, broke and without any options, shouldn’t stop you from setting out into the world in the first place.
All it takes is some focus during your travels and an effort to learn new, specific skills or to gain some unique knowledge or to create a source of income that you can not only take with you all over the world, but that you can also take home and build upon, in order to ensure that your post-travel transition will be as seamless as possible.