Most of us have gotten into our heads that vacation means a very specific – usually short – time period each year that we’re allowed to be away from work and checked out of reality for awhile. Oftentimes, the planning of that trip around things like work, gym time, friends and family, doctor’s appointments and every other thing in our lives ends up being more work than fun, especially when you’re on such limited time.
But planning a long-term vacation or travel venture allows you to really take a break from the norm, immerse yourself in a new place and really get into the vacation mentality. It requires a different set of planning, but ultimately leads to a happier and more fulfilling trip.
1. Your Sanity
The stress of planning a trip sometimes doesn’t feel worth it when you’re only gone for a week or 10 days. A long vacation lets you reap the benefits of your planning and actually relax, disconnect and be present wherever you are, rather than keeping half a mind on whatever still needs doing at work or at home.
2. Your Wallet
Choosing to spend a long time in one place often means a cheaper trip. You can negotiate deals on long-stay accommodations, find cheap, off-the-beaten path places to eat, cook for yourself, and are under less pressure to hit all the major tourist spots, meaning you end up saving money. When you’re strapped for time, it’s harder to seek out the good deals and free entertainment, as you’re trying to cram in too much sight-seeing or you’re trying to do too much in a short period of time.
3. Learning a New Language
If you go somewhere you don’t speak the language for any length of time, you’ll want to pick up at least some useful phrases. But if you settle in for a month or more, you have the opportunity to not only learn from phrasebooks, but put those hard-learned words to the test among locals, and have them correct your pronunciation and assist in your learning. It’s been well-documented that learning a second language does wonders for the brain, including memory improvement and honing your multi-tasking skills.
4. Learning a New Skill
Hanging out in a new locale for a time, unencumbered by work and other expectations, you have the opportunity to learn new skills, maybe pick up a craft you’ve wanted to try out or take up playing an instrument. It makes it all the better if you learn something native to the country in which you’re living, perhaps perfecting a cooking technique for a certain dish or crafting something in the local style. This takes time, but is a great way to feel more connected to the country you’re visiting.
5. Forming Local Friendships
Seeing new places and the wonders of the world is great, but your lasting memories of your travels will be the people you meet. In many places, locals are more than welcoming to travelers and taking the time to get to know them will be one of the most rewarding aspects of your trip. Share meals with them, ask about their families, become part of one another’s lives. You’ll learn much more about a country’s history and culture that way, and develop a friendship with someone you might otherwise never have known.
6. Chance for Reflection When You’re Away From Your Typical Routines
It’s hard to hit the pause button and try to reflect on our lives in the daily grind. Going to work, meeting friends for drinks, family commitments – there hardly seems enough hours in the day to take care of everything that needs doing, let alone for introspecting and meditating. But a long vacation is a great chance to take a serious look at your life and acknowledge if you’re happy and what needs to give.
7. Opportunity to Declutter
When packing for a long vacation, you will become painfully aware of how much stuff you have, especially if you move out before your trip or put things in storage. We accumulate so much without realizing it, and pre-long term travel is a good time to decide what you really need. Get rid of everything that’s superfluous, and free up both your physical and mental space.
8. Seeing a Place Beyond The Surface
When you choose to settle into your destination for more than a week or two, you’ll see not only the typical tourist spots, but also learn the place’s quirks, what the politics are, and what drives the people there. This will open your mind and give you empathy for people from other backgrounds, and perhaps get some perspective on your own life.
9. Ground Travel
If you want to do some traveling around the country or surrounding region, ground travel is often the least expensive way to go. Taking local trains and buses or hiring a guide with a car is not only cost-effective, it’s also a more romantic way of seeing the country. Rather than flying over it, you get to go right through the heart of it. A luxury you don’t have time for on shorter trips.
10. It’s Just More Fun
When you don’t have a near-immediate return date, you can relax into a place. You’re not unconsciously counting the minutes until you have to leave, trying to make each blissful vacation day last and dreading when it ends. This way, you have all the time you need, and are gone long enough to miss the life you left behind.
If you decide to go the long travel route, you’ll want to seriously consider the ways in which you can make it most enjoyable. You don’t want to worry about paying rent, or what’s happening to your mail while you’re gone, so line up a sub-letter or let your lease run out before you leave and plan far enough in advance that all your needs back home are covered. Clear your mind as much as possible before you go, and embrace the opportunity to live a different life for awhile.