All long-term travelers have their own way of doing things, their own style, their own opinions on the best way to take an extended trip. Some like to move at the breakneck speed just the same as a one or two week vacation. Some like to really slooooow it down and hunker down in one or two places for a few months. Most like some mixture of the two.
When we took our RTW trip, we fell into the last group of moving fast at times and slowing down at others. I’m writing about our trip on a daily basis, so it’s afforded me the opportunity to think and reflect. Since Argentina, and lately, Buenos Aires, has been the focus here on World Travel for Couples, I have naturally been thinking about our time there.
Buenos Aires is the city we spent the most time in during our year of travel. We rented an apartment in San Telmo for a month that we had set up before we left. We were on the road for a little over two months at the time, spending about a month in Peru, 3 weeks in Bolivia, and a few weeks in other parts of Argentina before arriving in BsAs. After moving rather quickly those first few months, we welcomed the change of pace and the chance to unpack our bags, settle down, and just enjoy one place for more than a few days.
This has really gotten me thinking about future travels and the benefits of really slowing down and getting to know a place. Not unlike many other long-term travelers, we suffered from the travel burnout phenomenon several times throughout our year abroad. By the time the year was up, we were both more than ready to return home (after a month home though, we were more than ready to head back out on the road). Travel burnout is a tough thing to explain to those who have never traveled for a long time, but that’s a topic for a whole different post.
Because of our work situations, we actually had the opportunity to stay on the road for a few months longer than we did. For many different reasons, we chose to come home instead, despite the fact that we would have spent less money by extending our trip for a couple more months. The biggest reason for returning home was simple. We were simply sick of traveling and were ready to be home. It sounds crazy to even think of how or why we felt that way at the time, especially now that we’ve been home for over a year and would give anything to be traveling again.
The more I think, remember, and reflect, though, the more I realize that we simply moved too fast. There are probably those of you out there who look at the number of countries (11) and cities/places (~90) visited on the trip and think we’re crazy. We averaged one country a month and a new place or city about every 4 days. Some who have done a similar trip went to two or three times as many places and moved much quicker (though some went to half).
Which brings me back to our month in Buenos Aires. It was a Heavenly month that we reminisce about often. Having our own apartment, our own bathroom, our own KITCHEN, our own refrigerator, a balcony, wifi, cable, even a pool in the building. Walking down to the corner market every day, shopping at the same grocery stores, frequenting the same restaurants, having drinks at the same bars. Taking daily Spanish classes, chatting with people in our building, getting to know the bus and subway routes, becoming familiar with the different barrios. Really being able to immerse ourselves in the city was just simply fantastic.
And that’s why we travel. That’s what we love about going to new places. Learning about the customs, the culture, the food, and the way of daily life is what drives us to keep going, to keep exploring new places, to keep traveling. And by only spending a day, or two, or even a week, in one place, while staying in a hostel and having 90% of your conversations with other travelers just doesn’t afford you the same type of experience.
I loved our trip. It was a life-changing time that has made me a better person, has made my relationship with Megan better, and has just changed the way I view the world and life in general. And while I really don’t regret anything we did (except that bus ride to Rurrenabaque in Bolivia), if I had to do it over again, I would change a few things.
First, I would go even slower than we did. It’s difficult to find a good balance, especially when you’ve never done anything remotely similar to what we did. But more than anything, I would choose to stay in one place longer, rent an apartment, and really get to know a city, a neighborhood, and its people. It’s no coincidence that the places we talk about most are the ones we spent the most time in: Buenos Aires, Bangkok, and Bariloche amongst them. We got to really know those places, and when you’re constantly throwing yourselves into new places and cultures a few times a week, it’s nice to get a bit of familiarity.
There’s no one right or wrong way to travel. Everyone has their own preferences, and everyone likes to do things differently. The most important thing we can do is listen to that little voice inside our heads and do what it is that WE want, what it is that makes US happy.
How do you like to travel? What’s the best pace for you when on any kind of trip? Does it change depending on the length of time you’re gone? I’d love to hear your opinions, so please comment below and share your opinions on it is that YOU like to do.