14 In Guides + How-Tos/ Southeast Asia/ Travel/ Travel Talk

How To Travel Long-Term

 

This last winter / spring I embarked on my first multi-month trip through Southeast Asia. While these tips are specifically for SEAsia, they can be applied to most long-term adventures.

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» Almost Any Price Can Be Negotiated. This is something I learned late as a backpacker, although I still have some reservations. I definitely bartered in markets, negotiated prices on transportation & asked for extra stuff like free breakfast at hostels, and even talked down some tour prices. However, I feel like when I had a good thing, I didn’t need to nickel and dime everyone. When I felt my private room in city center with breakfast delivered to my door was a fair price, I smiled and happily paid that. Just remember that bartering is part of the culture and brush up on what’s typically the percentage of asking price that you should pay.

» Travel Slowly. As tempting as it can be to try to squeeze in as many cities (and especially countries) in as possible, it ends up causing you to miss out on sites and experiences. If you travel quickly it makes two aspects of your budget spike: transportation & visas. Although the visa price technically is the same, if you pay $100 for a 30-day visa it averages to a little over $3 per day, but if you stay only 10 days that spikes up to $10 per day. Not to mention that if you stay the full amount of that visa, you get to take the time to get to know a country even more. Also, the more you move, the more you have to pay and even though transportation is cheaper than it is in the U.S. paying $15 for that bus ticket for 5 days is better than just for one day and then buying the next ticket.

» It’s Okay to Rest. Typically when I travel I’m constantly a go, go, go person, but traveling for an extended period of time leaves you feeling exhausted. You know what? It happens to every traveler and when those days happen it is totally okay to do absolutely nothing, even if you’re in Siem Reap or Luang Prabang. You have to take care of you.

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» Let Yourself Feel Your Frustrations. This is along the same note of taking care of yourself. The key is after you feel them, let them go. If you bottle up your emotions, especially feelings of frustrations, you will drive yourself crazy or snap. Traveling has its share of difficult moments, it’s good to acknowledge them, address them (if needed), and then let it go. Don’t let frustrations ruin or day, or even more, your trip.

» But Remember You Have Sanity Limits. The two things that consistently challenged my sanity were night buses (especially in Laos) and mini-bus rides. We decided pretty early on that if there was a night train or a full-sized bus, that it wasn’t worth the stress, the discomfort, the frustration and inevitably bad experience just to save $1-2. If our budget was SUPER tight, sure, but that was worth my spare money.

» Be As Open As Possible to All Sorts of New Experiences. This is something that I’m constantly trying to improve on. My apprehensions came out more on this trip than ever before. I was leery of most of the forms of water, riding on small, wobbly boats with lots of people, the big cats at the zoo, etc. But the worst was that my western mind had preconceived notions that foods were “gross” and because of this during most of the trip I ate on the safe side, which I really regret. Yes, I ate a few “crazy” things, but I missed out on a lot of things too.

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» Pick Your Highlights for a Country Ahead of Time, Then Fill in the Gaps. We had our first three countries roughly planned out and then  listened to the advice of other travelers. However, our last few countries were less structured and I feel like we spent a lot more time planning and we made a couple of bigger “mistakes” that we wouldn’t have made if we had a bit more planned. Not to mention that planning is the first fun that you have of a trip, so live it up!

» Be Flexible. Remember that those plans can and, more than likely, will change. The great part is that that’s all part of the adventure. Sure, you’ll perhaps miss things you wanted to originally see, but you also gain a whole new set of experiences.

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» WAYS I COULD’VE CUT BACK ON MONEY:

» Travel Slower: Since I covered this in detail above I’ll sum it up – your visa cost averages out much lower and you don’t over do it on your transportation costs.

» Cheaper Transportation: I sort-of covered this, as well. If I wanted to make my money last a lot longer I would’ve taken the night buses in Thailand instead of the night train, I would’ve taken more cost-effective mini-van rides and bartered more on these costs. I could’ve chosen no A/C on the night trains and where it’s available you can use ride-share or some even hitchhike. 

» Eat More Street Food: Not only does eating street food give you more authentic food-culture experiences, it is really food on your wallet as well. You can get massive meals for between $1-3 depending on what you drink or if you have dessert (I’m a big fan of dessert).

» Choose Cheaper Accommodation: We opted for private rooms A LOT. Traveling in a pair meant that a private room was sometimes cheaper and often only $1-2 more per night, so we chose this luxury to ensure good sleep and to get our own bathroom. However, the nights in dorms weren’t ever awful, but this was just a little luxury we gave ourselves. I could’ve saved AT LEAST $100 on this trip by choosing more budget-friendly options.

» Open a Charles Schwab Account: I waited around until it was too late to do this, but this was the last time I leave the country without one. Charles Schwab accounts refund any and all ATM fees and foreign transaction fees! If I had done this I would’ve saved myself $114.42 that I managed to add up by using my local bank’s debit card.

» Cut Back on Souvenirs: I’m not usually a massive souvenir-buyer, but I went CRAZY in Asia. Everywhere I went I found myself picking up things like jewelry, elephant pants, a purse, buddha figures, ganesh prints, incense, lanterns… so much stuff! That $241.95 (yes, that number is very hard to swallow) could’ve been spent much more effectively! 

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These are just some helpful tips that I would have liked to know before I embarked on my first multi-month trip. If you have any questions or any tips you think are helpful please comment!

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    innercompasstravel
    November 3, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    Great tips, Paige! Going to use them on our trip to Thailand at the end of the month 🙂

  • Reply
    Meghan
    November 5, 2015 at 11:07 am

    Awesome post. Not only is it a great primer on backpacking and travel, but you’re discussions on accepting that you may feel tired and burned out and that not every day is perfect are so important. I read a fantastic blog post recently on the less-glorious and tired moments of travel and how people who have the opportunity to travel so much and/or do what we want can let those moments make us feel guilty and I think it’s SO important to put it out there that taking care of yourself is not only ok, but necessary. Not everything will always go right, even when you’re on a great trip or doing something wonderful, and I love that you acknowledge/have acknowledged this in your post(s).

    • Reply
      PaigeBrown
      November 13, 2015 at 11:30 pm

      Thank you so much, Meghan. That means so much. It’s so true that it can make us feel guilty. At first I thought, how crazy am I for not being grateful for everyday, but it realistically isn’t perfect everyday. It is okay to feel that. Thanks for the really sweet comment and support from a fellow-wanderer.

  • Reply
    Shayne Zalameda
    November 10, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    Wonderful post! I have been meaning to travel long term for quite some time now but I still can’t leave my office post because I still need to save some money. Currently thinking about taking in online jobs to support my life of travel. My fave part of this post is “Pick your highlights and fill in the gap”. A noteworthy tip. Thank you!

    xx

    • Reply
      PaigeBrown
      November 14, 2015 at 10:37 am

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, Shayne. I would love to find work online too! The problem with taking big trips is that it’s hard to make a lot of money when you get back because you don’t have a career to come back to, so it’s just hourly jobs. I love it though, and have found it’s worth it so far. Thanks for reading and telling me which point was your favorite! Xx

  • Reply
    liz
    November 12, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Love this post, Paige! What great tips and a great, honest look at the wonderful and challenging parts of long-term travel. It’s truly an inspiring post! 🙂

    • Reply
      PaigeBrown
      November 14, 2015 at 10:39 am

      Thanks, Liz! I really appreciate your sweet comment and thanks for reading! Miss you ! Xx

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  • Reply
    Campbell
    July 21, 2016 at 12:11 am

    Hi Paige, some good tips. I have been traveling for almost 5 years, half of that with my girlfriend that I met in the road. On most continents other than SE Asia staying in a hostel with a kitchen is a big money saver. Camping, cooking, couchsurfing and using public transport that locals use ads to the adventure, experience real local culture and saves money. Welcome to look at our blog http://stingynomads.com for tips all over the world. Safe travels!

  • Reply
    Laura Nalin
    November 16, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    Love it! I definitely agree with all of these. I recently traveled SE Asia for a little over four months and all of these definitely apply. It’s definitely easier traveling in a pair, though. I found my partner and I were paying less (and staying in better quality hostels/hotels) than those we’d met on the road traveling solo, so I like that you mentioned that!

  • Reply
    Brazen Backpacker
    January 5, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    Great post! Do you also work abroad for a full digital nomad experience? Or just save like crazy between huge trips? 🙂

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      January 5, 2017 at 9:25 pm

      Well, sort-of both. I mostly save up a bunch between huge trips, but I still manage to take loads of smaller trips between the big ones – a lot of that work is blogging and writing too. So, I’m hoping to move toward that full-time soon! How about you? Are you a full-time digital nomad?

  • Reply
    Sandy N Vyjay
    September 1, 2017 at 12:58 am

    We have not really traveled in the long term owing to our full time careers, but these experiences and tips that you have shared definitely ring a bell. One of the most important things we feel is that of being open to new experiences. Because the whole world opens up and boundaries physical and of the mind start shrinking.

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