The Biggest Problem to Overcome if you want to Travel Long-term (It’s Not What You Think)

What do you think is the biggest problem to overcome if you want to travel long term?

Some would say it’s money.

I don’t think it is.

At a minimum, if you speak English you can get an English speaking job all over Asia, and then switch countries each year if you wanted to keep moving on.

They’re really quite desperate for teachers in some places. In fact, one lady in China emailed me and said she was waiting “on the edge of a knife” to hear if I would accept a position.

I’m sure it was her limited English that caused her to use such an off-putting analogy.

Or, you could just save up for years and then go.

Anyway, money, and lack of time, can be overcome when the desire is great enough.

Logistics like visas, transportation, where to stay and all of that are actually fun to figure out, and aren’t obstacles so much as challenges.

Others might say it’s children that are the greatest obstacle to a life of travel.

We’ve been meeting enough families on the road to know that’s no excuse not to travel.

No. The biggest obstacle you will face is Lack of Community.

This is not the same as having no friends. You will make friends on the road, and some you will even stay in contact with. You may even feel like they know you better than your friends back home.

But this is not the same as a community.

What’s got me thinking about this subject? This article.

It’s called Relationships are More Important Than Ambition.

Although I think probably most people would agree, I’ve never seen it said this way before: big city life (which I love) is ambitious living, wanting to travel is ambitious living.

Do I want to visit every country in the world? Yes. And I suppose that’s pretty ambitious.

And during that travel, during that desire, that lust—yes, it’s lust that consumes me when I study a map and daydream about visiting an area of the world—are relationships coming first? Maybe they are with my husband and my child, but what about my family? What about my long-time friends?

In the article, the author’s sister dies of cancer, but she does so with a community who does benefits for her, visits her in the hospital, has known her for years.

It’s haunting to think that my son might not have that kind of identity. That his community would be friends he has met around the world on Facebook. I love Facebook, but it’s not enough.

That said, Jacob and I have done a pretty decent job of making friends and creating a small community for ourselves. Some countries are easier than others. Sydney is going to be one of the more difficult places it appears. People are very, very busy here, very fast-paced and disinterested. Obviously it can be done, but it takes time. Sometimes time isn’t to be had, not when we are on the move all the time. I’ll save it for another post, the countries we’ve found easier to make friends and the ones we didn’t meet anyone at all. In general, the less developed the country, the easier it is to connect with people.

So over the next few years while Ryder is still too young to care, I will be brainstorming about this subject and trying like mad to come up with a solution that’s satisfactory for our family. Until then, here is what we’ve learned so far:

HOW TO BUILD A COMMUNITY AS A DIGITAL NOMAD

1. Become a member of an international organization.

For us, that’s been the Mormons, who tend to have at least one branch in every country we’ve visited so far. A lot of religious communities will have the resources and the desire to open their arms and accept you straight away even if they know you will be leaving shortly. Let them hold your baby.

girl holding at church

Ryder loving the attention at church in Tahiti.

2. Never turn down an invite.

If someone wants to introduce you to their friends or get a bite to eat, jump on it. This isn’t regular life where you can say “maybe next week.” Now is the time. Next week you might be in TImbuktu.

3. Volunteer and give back.

One of the most regrettable things about traveling is feeling like you take more than you give. You rely on the hospitality and kindness of others so often. It’s inspiring and hope-inducing about human nature and about the world, but it’s sobering to think: yes, it was so kind that people who met me only six months ago would throw me a baby shower, but when will I ever give back and throw someone else a baby shower? When will I be in a place long enough to do that kind of a service?

mom and mom in law

My mom and mother-in-law flew down to attend my baby shower in Mexico

This is why it becomes very important to get involved in some sort of service whenever you can. To provide value in equal measure to the value that you are receiving. This can be through official organizations, or just by inviting people over to dinner.

To create a feeling of being a part of something, give, don’t just take.

volunteering mother teresa

Volunteering at an orphanage in Calcutta, India was one of my most life-changing experiences

4 Connect with other traveling families.

There are two major hubs that travelers tend to congregate: Central America and Southeast Asia, for their low cost of living and ease of travel. Runners up for family travel popularity are New Zealand/Australia and Western Europe. If you head to one of these places, it will be easier to create a community of like-minded people. The South Pacific islands, Africa, and Central Asia seem to be less popular for obvious reasons.

5 Check out meetup.com.

This website connects people with similar hobbies. It’s not everywhere, but it’s growing.

6. Consider longer stays instead of constantly moving.

The closest we’ve come to this style was staying in Mexico City for 10 months to have the baby. It now feels like home. We may choose to do this more often. This would mean, for us, traveling quicker than we’d like for some countries in order to stay longer and create a community and friends in another.

7. Consider a hub for part of the year.

Some people choose to do six months on/six months off when it comes to their traveling.

8. Remember that the most memorable travel experiences usually involve people.

So when it comes to making a decision about where to stay or visit, choose where you think you will have friends and a community, not necessarily the place with the most tourist sights.

thanksgiving dinner

Jacob knew this family in Tahiti from ten years earlier in New Caledonia.

9. Think about how you want to create your own tribe.

Right now, it’s us three musketeers against the world: Jacob, Ryder, and me.

warriors vanuatu 

At a round-island tour in Vanuatu

If and when more kids come along, I will want us to feel close-knit so that we can keep the communication doors open and figure out this nomadic thing together. A family isn’t a community in and of itself (I need women in my life!), but it’s the only consistent base we have as nomads.

10. Join a gym, class, or play a sport.

I admit Jacob has had more success with this one but it is how he has met many, many like-minded people abroad.

basketball mexico

Basketball in Egypt

11 Get out of the house.

Go to parks, use public transportation, hang out where the locals do. If you never leave your house and car, you will get isolated. And isolation is the opposite of community.

back of a truck tanna

About to head out to Friendly Bungalows in Tanna, Vanuatu

Do you have any tips for creating community while traveling?

Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 364 awesome articles for us.

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