Advantages to Life on the Road --> a joint contribution with my husband Chris
(1) No cleaning for three months
I have not scrubbed a single toilet, not waxed any floors. I have however, hand washed a multitude of clothes in various sinks with various soaps and cleaners. But I haven't vacuumed or done any heavy cleaning since we packed up and moved out of our house in March.
(2) Becoming Improvisational and Instinctive
Traveling forces you to be creative, to try new things, to go without. Often I have not had the regular tools I need. For example, early on in our trip, I lost my baby changing pad. There are not really any changing tables in Italy, so I have changed my son on rugs, benches, floors; and generally I have to use paper towels, wipes, bags, sweatshirts...anything I can find to attempt a sanitary changing area. At first, it can be annoying to not have what you need. As you get into a flow of travel however, it becomes almost fun to see what you can come up with when squeezed for options. I have improved at adapting to situations overall. Making baby food out of restaurant bread and fruit stands, using juice or watered-down rice cereal when I don't have milk, creating toys from scratch. Airplane bags become puppets, pan lids are cymbals, hotel telephones when unplugged become perfect entertainment. It is always a challenge and requires creative thought and new ideas, keeping me on my toes and adapting more than I would if I had everything.
(3) Less is more
When you travel with only three outfits, after a short amount of time you realize that this is all you really need. A sweater when it is cold. A bathing suit for swimming. Nice pants or a skirt for dinner, something casual for touring and travel days. Life becomes simpler, easier. There is no clutter to distract you from your life as you are currently living it. For long-term travel, often people have consolidated their life prior to travel, so their bills are online, their things are in storage, there is not much 'at home' that needs attending. Often when you are living on the road, your whole life is where you are. So you pay as you go, with prepaid cell phones and cash. If you buy something new, it is to replace something you lost or that was ruined. Nothing is extraneous. I most emphatically recommend tidying up your life prior to long-term travel (as in over a month), because it gets complicated to pay bills, deal with mail, cancel memberships, contact people, etc all via email from thousands of miles away. Much easier to eliminate what you can (I cancelled two credit cards before I left, traveling only with one personal card, one business card and one debit card). I made most of our bills automatic payments onto the credit card, so I in fact only have to look at one bill online, and pay it directly online from my bank. Reduce, Simplify, and Go.
(4) Control your expenses
Without a mortgage or rent to keep up with, you are free to travel in a style that suits your taste and budget. There are hostels which can accommodate you for (usually) much less than $50 per night or you can stay in a fancy resort for $400 per night...it is entirely up to you! The best part is that you are not subjected to the greater movements in the housing markets, where the amount you have to pay remains fixed but the value of what you are paying for is steadily in decline. Just ask most any new home buyer in the past 3 years... We personally have diligently tracked our expenses from the time of our first major travel excursion (1 year) in 2002-3 and through 3 different homes. We have found that the amount we spend in an average month while on the road is approximately 2/3 the cost of a month living in a similar situation in a stationary location. In other words, being on the road is generally cheaper than being in one place. Most people do not believe us. This is generally something that shocks everyone when we tell them we spend less traveling than when we were living in a house with utilities and all of our stuff. Part of this is taking a more minimalist approach, but some of it is just a basic equation when all expenses in hotels and rentals are fixed, whereas all of the 'extras' in a house can add up. When we first started traveling full-time on a year-around-the-world trip in 2002, the first question most people asked was, "how can you afford it?" At first this was a funny question, then it became annoying. The real question is how can you get paid, or how can you make money while you travel. Or how much do you have put away in savings? Because the reality is that the amount of money it takes to travel is less than what you need to live in the same place, if you can find a way to do it.
(5) Less distractions
Our life at home was very pleasurable...always something on TV, always something to eat in the fridge, always a bottle of wine in the basement...you know what I mean. Some of you might not want to live without these comforts at your fingertips, we certainly miss them sometimes; however, they can, at least in my case, take away from the things I really love and want to do. We used to eat dinner in front of the TV occasionally... As of today, I have not watched a TV in 3 months. We used to have an Italian night 1X/week, I now study Italian every day. I write so much I am getting carpal tunnel. We get the things we need when we need them... stockpiling is useless when you have to carry everything you own to the next place, so you keep it light. The best part is that, for reasons I am not entirely clear on, we appreciate the simple pleasures that much more... and we live almost entirely in the moment.
(6) The literal ability to go anywhere, do anything
This is all dependent on where you are choosing to travel, your 'means' of procuring income (i.e. can you be anywhere or are you stationed overseas in a particular spot?), and your preferences. But I love that while traveling, if we hear about a great event coming up somewhere nearby, we are often free to go attend. There are no obligations holding us back from experiencing life. For instance, the Tour de France was in Paris, but we were living in Lucca. Well, a quick flight, and there we were for a weekend in Paris to watch the Tour. We made the decision to come to Lucca while we were in Prague, miles away, when we found out my husband could start at his Italian school mid-month, so we planned our trip and booked our apartment. The freedom of life on the road is infectious, especially in Europe where so many different places, events, cultures are only a quick train or plane ride away. There are so many choices you can make, where to go, what to do...
(1) Less time with family and friends
This is obviously self-explanatory, but the most difficult part about traveling is missing the ones you love. It gets even more difficult when you travel with children...and they don't get as much time with your families and friends as you would hope.
(2) Less social interaction / language barriers
We actually have quite a lot of social interaction when you get into the groove of traveling and meet other fellow travelers, or when you stop in one place long enough to make friends, start conversations and you definitely meet interesting people along the way. But when you are in another country, esp one where you do not speak the language well, it is tough to get past that superficial level of friendliness to have someone to lean on and discuss deep issues of life with...which often leaves yourself and your travel partner as your 'everything'. It can be a lot of pressure on a relationship to provide everything that you need... Often while traveling, you have to rely ONLY on yourself and your partner to get by in many ways, which can be emotionally exhausting. Also, as a parent, there are no babysitters (well, unless you get lucky), no temporary help while you take a shower or run errands, no date nights. You are traveling as a team, for better or worse, all the time. This builds unity and connectedness but can also build frustration and test patience as distance between you is compressed.
(4) The rule of one thing/one thing out
When you have a fixed amount of weight you can carry with you on an airplane you are limited to how many things you can acquire - don't even bother trying to fly on Ryan Air. We do our best to live by the rule that when you buy something you really like or want, then something else has to go...trust me, this will entirely change you perspective on the cost vs. benefit of buying anything, unless it is really needed i.e. an umbrella in a rain storm...
(5) Mishaps, Mistakes, and Adversity
It helps to have either infinite patience or a fabulous sense of humor, but either way, sometimes you lose. There are inevitably those times where something doesn't work out. Your first train is late and you miss your connection. You have to stay an additional night in a place you do not want to be, or you get lost along the way. You lose your tickets, or your money, or your bags... You have to expect the unexpected.
(6) Planes, Trains and Automobiles
There can be so much travel, and so much time spent going from place to place. Logistics, logistics, logistics. It can be exhausting, difficult, tedious, sweaty, and plain painful at times to always be on the move. It can also mean long journeys by plane, train, bus, boat, whatever. You get used to getting where you need to go by every form of transportation, except possibly mules. The timing can be challenging, early morning flights, long mile walks from the train station to the hotel dragging your bags and stroller across town in sweltering heat or thunderstorms...there can be moments when the travel parts are less than ideal, and the travel from place to place is less about the journey than it is about the destination!