I know a lot of people would read the title of this post and think, what’s the competition? Surely travelling wins – hands down. If that were true then everyone would be packing up and leaving. The truth is, it’s not that black and white. There are several reasons why not everyone is suited for the life of a backpacker and there’s even more for why I gave it up.
Although I don’t in any way want to put a negative spin on travelling – it’s still the best thing I’ve ever done and I would encourage anyone to do it, I do want to point out that there are also massive perks to being home and having a stable routine. I suspect these perks are widely under appreciated by anyone who hasn’t been away from home for a substantial amount of time (so much so that I often forget about them myself and I’m partly writing this as a reminder). These comparisons are something anyone thinking of booking a round-the-world trip of their own should give some serious thought.
Here’s how I would weigh up the differences between the two lifestyles.
Freedom Vs Routine
This is the biggest difference and the hardest one for me, especially now I’ve started full time work. Of course I miss my freedom big time. I miss not having to set an alarm and spending my days doing whatever I wanted – having no responsibilities and roaming from place to place whenever I felt like it. However, although it might be difficult for some to understand why, do that for so long and you start to crave a routine. While it’s extremely exciting, moving on and taking in new things every day can have a draining effect. I started to miss little things like going to the gym and getting up and eating at the same time every day. It might sound trivial but it’s the small things you miss when you’re away from home.
Saying that though, I’d be lying if I said freedom didn’t win this one. It’s by far the best thing about travelling and the main reason people choose to do it. I enjoy my job but I don’t think there’s many people who would pick full time work over having the option to do whatever you want every day, free from limitations.
A room full of stuff Vs a backpack
To me this is one of the biggest perks of being home. Living in the same shabby clothes for months at a time with barely any choice of outfits really started to drive me crazy while I was travelling. As did agonising over decisions about what I needed to ditch when I did rarely buy something new. Packing and re-packing the bag several times a week wasn’t much fun either, or constantly losing things in a mass of jumbled up, dirty clothes. It’s an absolute luxury to have a wardrobe full of clothes and not have to think about how much something will weigh when you buy it, not to mention things like luxury toiletries and sentimental items. Although when I first got home from both of my trips I did struggle a bit with the concept of having a choice. It was so daunting that I actually ended up reaching for the familiar items in my backpack for a while!
Seeing new things Vs where you’ve always known
Again, this is a difficult one to give up. I miss the excitement of waking up every day not knowing what I would experience and the excitement of seeing something new and beautiful for the first time.
Although this can get tiring, it is my favourite thing about travelling and something I will always strive to do more. However, when I first came home I found I saw what had always been familiar and seemingly boring in a different way – experiencing so many new places has a funny way of making you appreciate what you see every day and suddenly recognising it for it’s own beauty.
A different culture Vs familiarity
On one hand experiencing a new culture and the local way of life is a big reason for why I went travelling in the first place. Living a different way of life is all part of seeing and experiencing new things. It’s exciting, it opens your eyes to the world and above all makes you simultaneously appreciate and dislike your own culture for what it is.
However, it’s also what made me feel the most homesick while I was travelling in South East Asia, and was the nicest feeling about coming home. After several border crossings involving rude, stern looking Asian men at the gates, it was refreshing to land at Heathrow and (although you might not believe it!) be greeted with smiles, pleases and thank you’s. It was convenient to spend my own currency, a relief not be constantly harassed to buy random items and so satisfying to eat a traditional Sunday Roast and proper cheddar cheese again. Like I said, it’s the little things that you miss. You really crave your home comforts when you’re away. As much as experiencing something completely different is one of the best things about travelling, if I had to choose one of these for long-term living, familiarity would win.
I have so many points to make on this subject that I’ve decided to divide the post into two to avoid it being one epic post! There is more to come in part two.