5 challenges of long-term travel and how to cope

privacy Does the thought of quitting your 9-5 job, packing a bag, and booking a one-way ticket to travel the world sound appealing? While in many ways it is, there are also a lot of challenges that go along with long-term travel. Learning how to deal with these hardships can be a big help in making an around the world trip, career break, or extended vacation a lot more enjoyable.

Challenge 1: Lack of privacy

Unless you’re extremely wealthy, chances are you’re going to be traveling on a tight budget if you plan on being away from home for more than a few weeks. Most likely, you will be staying in shared accommodations like hostels or volunteer homes and sleeping on people’s couches, leaving you with very little privacy.

So, what should you do? Many times hostels rent out single rooms that can allow you some alone time on a budget. While you’ll still pay more than for a shared dorm, it can be worth the splurge once in awhile. You can also try looking for sublet listings in the area or searching Airbnb for cheap rooms for short and long-term rent.Challenge 2: You feel homesick

While you may believe that traveling will keep you too distracted to miss home, think again. Chances are, at some point you’re going to crave something from the life you once lived, whether it be the people, the food, an activity you used to do, or just being able to lounge in your bathrobe while eating cereal from the box.

When traveling, I usually carry around photos of my friends and family back home, not only for myself but to show locals who are curious about my life in New York. It’s also a good idea to purchase an affordable calling plan, such as Skype or PennyTalk, to make calls when you feel like you need to hear someone’s voice. I’ve also found that keeping a blog, or at least an active Facebook page, helps because friends and family can follow my trip and comment, which makes me feel more connected to them.

If it’s a food you miss, going to the more touristy areas and trying to find the Western-style restaurants can help you find what you’re looking for. While in Ghana, I missed pizza so much that I actually took a 3 hour bus ride to get some, no joke. While I enjoyed trying local cuisine in Africa and getting to know the culture, I was at the point where I would have literally run through fire if I knew there was a McDonalds or Pizza Hut waiting on the other side.

Whatever it is you miss, try to recreate it. But always remember how lucky you are to be having an experience abroad and to not let homesickness keep you from missing out on unique experiences.

Challenge 3: You miss your normal diet and fitness routine

This is my biggest challenge when traveling for a long time. At home I’m very regimented in my workout routine and there are certain healthy food staples that I eat on a regular basis. Depending where you are this can be challenging, but not impossible.

Your first stop should be a local market or supermarket where you can find an array of unprocessed foods. While they might not have exactly what you’re looking for they may have something similar. For example, in Ghana I really missed apples, which weren’t always available. I started eating mangoes to subside my cravings and realized I actually liked them more than apples. Also, try to book accommodations with kitchens so that you can prepare your own meals and choose your own ingredients.

While you may not want to waste precious time at a local gym or late nights out partying are making it difficult to wake up, change the way you look at exercise. Don’t think of what you’re doing as a fitness routine but as a way to see a city from a new perspective. Bike from one town to another, go jogging through a picturesque park, swim at a local beach, or take a unique fitness class that you might not take at home and look at it as a cultural experience. Another tip: limit your use of transportation and try walking and biking. Not only will you save money and reduce your carbon footprint, you’ll burn calories.

Challenge 4: Quick relationships become the norm

Regularly traveling from city to city and always meeting new people can be a lot of fun…until you have to say goodbye. However, goodbyes become the norm when you are globetrotting, and it can be difficult to part ways with so many great people.

With this, one important thing is to change your outlook on the situation. While it isn’t fun, you’ve got to think about how lucky you are to have gotten to experience a new place with such interesting people. Take a lot of photos, make memories together, and at the end of it all exchange contact information. With all of the technology and social media platforms we now have, keeping in touch with people all over the world is easy. I can’t even count how many times I’ve actually planned other trips with or gone to visit people I met while backpacking. So, don’t be discouraged. And at the very least, you’ve made a new pen-pal.

Challenge 5: The actual traveling part of traveling gets exhausting

While getting to roam around the globe and see different places is fun, the actual means of getting to these places can get old. Sitting on long train rides, waiting in line to get through security at the airport, and stuffing yourself into a crammed bus are hard enough, but when you’re doing it regularly it can become downright draining.

Since teleporting is not yet an option (but probably will be soon at the rate we’re going), the only thing to do is to schedule vacations away from your vacation. Take a week (or longer) off from moving around and stay put in one town. While many people want to see as many different cities as possible, sometimes it’s better to see less places for more time to really get to know the culture.

Knocked up abroad: international travel with a baby

travel with a babyThis is the third in Knocked Up Abroad‘s guide to traveling with a baby. Before you go, see tips on planning travel and flying with a baby.

So you’ve decided to travel abroad with your new family addition, well done! You’ve chosen the best baby-friendly destination, packed light, and even survived the long flight. Now that you’re on the ground, possibly recovering from jet lag and hopefully learning new foreign phrases for “what a cute baby!,” how can you ensure you and your baby have a fun and relaxing vacation? After five countries in under four months (several of them without other adults), I can say it mostly comes down to attitude and planning. Here are my tips for international travel with a baby:

-Don’t expect the world to cater to you. The most important thing to bring on a trip with a baby is the right attitude. If you travel expecting every restaurant to have a baby-changing table in the bathroom (which they probably won’t, especially in Europe) or that public transportation should be stroller-accessible, you can be sorely disappointed. Keep your expectations low and get creative. I’ve changed my baby on many toilet seat lids, on top of and even in sinks (stuff your diaper bag in to make a flat base), and occasionally in her stroller. Allow yourself to be surprised by people, too. In New York, I was prepared to carry my stroller up and down stairs at some subway stops by myself, yet I was helped by strangers every time. A restaurant owner in Italy set up a makeshift table on top of their deep freezer when she saw me struggling to change the baby on a sink top. Look at inconveniences as part of the adventure rather than a sign you should have stayed home.-Plan your logistics carefully, and then let the rest of your plans go. As noted previously, it pays to do your research before departing. Each day of your trip, plan out where you want to go, how to get there, and what you might need but realize that you might not do any of it. In Malta, there was a wine festival in the next town with cheap tastings and free food, but a cranky baby meant we stayed within walking distance of our apartment (good thing too, or we could have missed a great parade). In Slovenia, we had to make a detour back to our hotel after a diaper incident meant I had to strip my baby down to just her winter coat and diaper. Babies can be unpredictable, so you may need stop at a cafe to feed a baby, take an extra walk around the block before bed to soothe crying, or go back to your room early when the weather turns bad. While combination transit or tourist passes might be a good value, they won’t be if your baby won’t go in a museum without screaming or prefers an open-air stroll to a bus ride.

-Find favorite rest stops. When you need to take a time out from exploring to feed or change your baby, there can be some comfortable places to stop that exist in nearly every destination. Museums and large hotels tend to have nice bathrooms, sometimes with changing facilities. Large baby stores may have a private nursing room or a place to change the baby, plus plenty of gear and gadgets if you need them. Pharmacists generally speak English and carry nearly all of the necessities. At night, however, you may have to be creative again. I tend to visit the same cafes in Istanbul again and again not just for the food but for the bathrooms, the waiters who rush to coddle and play with the baby, and comfy seating while I feed her.

-Breast is best when traveling. While it’s a personal choice how you feed your baby, if you can and want to breastfeed, there is evidence both anecdotal and scientific to support that breastfeeding is preferred while traveling. According to the CDC, it provides needed immunities, nutrition, and hydration for the baby. Even if the mother gets traveler diarrhea, breastfeeding can help to protect from contaminants and rehydrate the baby. It’s also convenient: perfectly packaged, the right temperature, and nothing goes to waste! Nursing mothers may still want to carry a manual pump and store a spare bottle or two. So far, I’ve found every country to be friendly to breastfeeding mothers, though I carry and use a scarf for modesty and spit-up. La Leche League has resources in many countries if you need help, check their map for local groups.

-Document your baby’s trip. It goes without saying that you’ll take plenty of photos and perhaps journal, blog, or tweet your trip, but it helps to document the more mundane activities too. When my baby was born, I got a set of cute notebooks to help me keep track of her feeding and sleeping schedule and diaper changes. I maintained it faithfully only for the first month or two, but now try to revive the records when I travel. Especially if you’re dealing with a big time change, it can help you to figure out how the baby is adjusting by keeping track of how often they eat and how long they sleep at a stretch. It’s also useful when deciding how many diapers to buy so you don’t get caught short or hauling around a mega pack. In the event that your baby gets sick (fingers crossed that they don’t!) during or after your trip, you can tell the doctor if anything is out of the ordinary and help pinpoint causes. You don’t need a fancy notebook either, you can jot down notes on the back of a museum ticket or restaurant receipt while you’re making a pit stop.

-Pack “in between” clothes. If your baby has clothes that he is about to grow out of, bring them along on your travels. If they have only one or two more wears left in them, you won’t mind if they get left behind in a hotel room, will have less to launder or carry, and you’ll probably take many photos of your baby so you can remember a favorite outfit before it gets too small. Keep a spare in your diaper or day bag in case of a changing emergency.

-Know your conversions. Do you know your baby’s weight in kilograms? Does 39 degrees sound hot or cold to you? If you’re American, you probably suffer from the disadvantage of not knowing the metric system used by the rest of the world. You’ll need to know measurements when buying diapers as size numbers might change between countries. My baby was born weighing 3.4 kilos (about 7.5 pounds) and wears a size 2 Pampers in every European country, but wore a size 1 in the same brand of American diapers. In case of a fever while traveling, you should know what temperatures require a visit to a local doctor or just a dose of Children’s Tylenol (which is called Calpol in many other countries, by the way). This info is all online, of course, but it can’t hurt to jot it down in your wallet just in case.

-Carry lots of bags. One of the more useful items to pack and/or collect on your trip is bags disposable, resealable, and reuseable. Bottles can be kept clean and stained clothing can be kept separate from the rest of your stuff in a Ziploc bag (bring a stash from home, they are harder to find in some countries). Supermarket store plastic bags are useful for laundry and diapers until you can deal with them properly. You’ll be going to the store more than usual for baby supplies, and many countries don’t supply bags for free, so bring your own reuseable tote for groceries, carrying gear from your luggage on an outing, or bringing souvenirs home. Bags are useful even without a baby but can also make a huge difference if you have a wet baby miles from your hotel.

What are your secret weapons for traveling with a baby? Leave us your success stories (and mistakes) in the comments.

The shame of old (travel) blog posts

February 27, 2005: I posted about jetlag and date confusion, about how I can’t keep a calendar straight, how my expat life made that even harder for me to do, and how oh, we’re going skiing and also, I can’t wait to eat noodles later! It is written as though you know all the details of my life, who’s in it, and actually care about those things.

October 31, 2007: I posted a review of a 1966 movie about Hawaii. I managed to cross reference that review with some sharply written references about Hawaiian history and then, I tied all this in to the frustrations and vanities around the sun break guide to Hawaii I was writing at the time. I found a way to complain about writing a guidebook to Hawaii. Imagine.

March 17th, 2009: I posted a link choked name dropping round up of a day I spent at SxSW,the Music, Film and Interactive mega-event that takes place in Austin, Texas, every year. Do I tell you who these people are or why they’re important? No, I do not. Do I tell you why I’m in Austin at all? Nope. I make all kinds of assumptions about what and who you know. I proudly alienate all of my readers who aren’t there at the time. Way to go.

Old (travel) blog posts. They’re there to keep us humble. The shocking typos and editing oversights. The tone-deaf attempts at humor and self deprecation. The utter failure to provide any kind of context for, well, anything. The vain assumptions that these things matter to me, therefore, they must matter to you. I’m talking about my blog, of course, your archives are a library of beautiful syntax, of sensible contextualized advice, and entries that stand alone on their own merit, each one a well formed travel essay or service piece that could live a healthy life outside of the confines of your blog. Right? Right.A punishing little WordPress plug in called Advanced Random Post tortures me every time I refresh my site. It works its nefarious self-esteem busting evil by publishing, in the second slot on my home page, a post pulled at random from the archives of my site. On the one hand, this is a good thing. It pulls up selections from a series of guest posts I ran one April while I was traveling, 30 days or so of well written stories from friends and fellow travelers who kindly sent a story my way to keep my blog from going dark. It reminds me of, oh, that time I took a tour of the shipping terminal on Seattle’s Harbor Island or visited the Ballard Locks when they were full of running salmon. I see these old posts and I think, “Wow, that was a great day out.”

But Advanced Random Post also presents writing from my days as a volunteer for the Kerry/Edwards campaign. Those aren’t about travel! What was I thinking! And oh, no, I didn’t really choose to write about how tired I am after that hike in the Austrian Alps, did I? Not when I could have either posted a simple photo or told you how to do that hike yourself. That would have been useful to my readers. Instead, it’s two paragraphs of whining about fatigue. Why did I think you’d want to read that?

Every time I load a page, I’m confronted with the mistakes (and less often, triumphs) of my past. I can see the trajectory my writing has taken, I can see things change. I’m not the same traveler I was in 2004 when I started my blog in its current incarnation, and I’m certainly not the same writer. Seeing that old work reminds me of places I’ve been, of what’s changed. Sometimes I’m pleased but mostly, I’m just embarrassed. Did I really publish 600 typo choked words about an hour in a tea house? What was I thinking?

Moleskine notebooks introduces new bags, reading, and writing accessories

Moleskine notebooks new collection

Few products (analog, at least) get travelers, writers, and artists as excited as Moleskine. The classic black Moleskine notebooks have been used by Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, and Oscar Wilde, as well as many a journaler and design-lover. A new collection unveiled this week at Milan’s Salon del Mobile is the stuff of many travelers’ dreams. The Reading, Writing, and Traveling series from Italian designer Giulio Iacchetti includes bags and computer cases, pencils and pens, reading glasses, a rechargeable reading light and an e-reader stand. Each piece is designed for maximum mobility, and to complement each other as well as the original notebook, complete with the signature black elastic band.


The new collection is on view in Milan now and at the ICFF design show in New York in mid-May. See more photos and details on the Moleskine Facebook page and on the design blog core77, along with an interview with the designer.

We can’t wait to get our hands on a Moleskine laptop bag, though we can’t help hoping they branch out to luggage as well. What Moleskine products would you like to see?

Photo courtesy of Moleskine on Flickr.

Photo of the day (12.31.10)

Photo of the day
It’s New Year’s Eve, a time to make (and eventually break) resolutions for the incoming year. Time to start exercising, cut down on junk food and alcohol, keep a journal longer than 2 weeks this time, etc. Even us at Gadling have some travel resolutions to keep. These girls on the sands of Tel Aviv, Israel are fitting in some yoga with their day at the beach and it looks like their friend on the left has made a resolution to get in shape as well, or maybe just get a girlfriend. Thanks to Flavio@Flickr for this resolution inspiration and Happy 2011!

See any resolutions in action on your vacation? Submit your photos to the Gadling Flickr pool and we might just choose one as a future Photo of the Day.