Tag Archives: London

How Often Should I Travel?

I once found myself in London sitting on the floor of a friend’s flat, debating my next move. I had been travelling for a couple months and couldn’t decide whether I wanted to visit Morocco or Istanbul next. I had never been to either and both were well out of my normal comfort zone, a combination of criteria that should have insured a feeling of excitement no matter which route I chose.

Instead, both options felt boring to me. I knew, cultural differences and random unexpected experiences aside, what to expect from my next destination, wherever it was. No matter which location I decided on I would end up in a routine similar to the one I had been on while travelling the past couple of months. No matter how odd the destination I arrived at I knew I’d be able to find my way and do just fine for myself.

I realized I couldn’t choose between the two options because I quite frankly didn’t care to go to either of them. The growth I experienced on this trip seemed to be at a plateau and no amount of culture shock seemed like it would jolt me back onto the fast track of enhanced personal revelation.

Debunking the Myth of Eternally Vagabonding

After a couple months on the road I was tired of travelling and just wanted to go home. Though “going home” presented its own problems as I didn’t have a home to return to. I left with the aim of travelling indefinitely, yet even when I had been back in the States I moved often, leaving one location for another every couple months, sometimes within the same city, sometimes across the country.

Now, sitting in London, totally ungrateful for the opportunities at my fingertips, I wanted a real home. I thought endless traveling would be right for me but I was wrong, and it became clear the notion of vagabonding indefinitely wasn’t right for everyone. In fact, in all my travels I’ve realized the notion of constant, consistent, endless travel isn’t right for just about anyone. For most of us, travel is a special experience and not the way of life we desire for our day-to-day existence.

A Quick Caveat

If most of us weren’t made to travel indefinitely, than how often should we travel, and for how long should we leave home?

The answer to this question will always be intensely personal and depends on individual factors that are both ephemeral (personal disposition, relationships back home) and entirely tangible (money, work, mortgages and leases). For the rest of this article I’m assuming you’re in the fortunate position of being able to travel whenever you want, for as long as you want.

What’s the Point of Travel?

Before you can answer how often you should travel you need to first answer why you want to travel.

Do you get bored when you stay in one place for more than three months at a time? Do you love surfing and do you want to explore the world’s best beaches? Are you intensely interested in food and do you have a laundry list of native cuisines and restaurants you want to munch on? Do you simply want to see more of the world? Or do you simply want to expand your understanding of the world by experiencing as much of it firsthand as you can? Everyone has a different reason to travel, and knowing why you want to explore the world is a good first step towards figuring out how often you should leave home.

In my opinion there’s really only one reason for travel, a single reason that lies at the heart of every specific explanation you can give for your wander lust. People want to travel because they want to grow.

We travel to grow- to grow our ideas of other countries, to grow our ideas of the world, to grow our ideas of what it means to be human, and most of all to grow our conception of who we are and what we want out of life.

Thinking in Cycles

If we travel to grow then it makes a whole lot of sense why indefinite travel tends to lose its appeal over time. After a couple of months of travelling you will hit a peak. You will have learned everything you’re going to learn from the trip you’re on and you will have settled into a new routine, a new set of expectations, a new perspective that will eventually become just as rigid as the one you developed back home.

Humans are adaptable, and while the thought of being able to live out of a single bag in a country where no one speaks your language may seem like the height of adventure before you leave home, after a couple months backpacking in Cambodia you’ll settle in to a life that once seemed an insurmountable challenge.

Once you hit that wall in your travels you’ll return home and find home life to be challenging and foreign and filled with opportunities for growth and appreciation you never noticed before you left on your adventure. And then, after a few months pass you by, you’ll feel locked into a stultifying routine once more and ache to push yourself by hitting the road once more.

The answer to how often you should travel sits within the rhythms of growth and adaptation lying within all of us.

Finding the Right Pattern

While everyone is unique and everyone follows slightly different flows of exploration and consolidation there are a two patterns for alternating between travel and home life that seem to strike a chord within the greatest number of people.

    • 2-3 months at home followed by 4-6 weeks traveling. Spending 2-3 months at home gives you the time you need to focus intensely on work, on home life, on building relationships, on seeing friends and family, and other similarly domestic activities. 2-3 months in one place also tends to be the amount of time it takes until the average traveller starts to feel the itch to explore once more. 4-6 weeks of traveling is a good amount of time to gain a good feel for one or two locations, making this pattern good for people who are happy seeing a small handful of new locations every year.

  • 6-9 months at home followed by 2-3 months of traveling. This pattern lets you focus very deeply on a specific work project or other type of consolidation-oriented task whose completion you then reward with an extended period of perspective shaking overseas travel. Even the most ardent travel nut seems to find it relatively easy to stay in one place for 6-9 months when they have a passion-driven project to focus on. Once you leave home again 2-3 months is enough time travelling to either get very deep in a new culture (it’s an especially good time frame for learning a language) or to visit a couple new countries in one trip.

No matter which pattern you choose, no matter if you make up your own pattern, just know that travel is part of a larger life cycle, so find the right cycle that meets your particular needs for both adventure and security.

Travel Pre And Post Internet

images (24)Travel Pre Internet:

I’ve been travelling for over 40 years – by thumb in my early days, by boots in the Scouts, a Lambretta came next and then my first old banger followed by newer old bangers to the beaches of the Costa Brava.

My thumb, boots, bikes and bangers took me all over Europe and the UK before finding that a charter flight to Spain on an old ‘Connie’ could get me to the beaches and bars a lot quicker and allow more time to enjoy the local travel opportunities by horse and cart and the occasional bus and train.

‘Go West and Prosper’ seemed to be a good idea so instead of taking an 8 hour flight I took an 8 day transatlantic crossing from Tilbury to Montreal on the Stephan Batory of Polish Ocean Lines ensuring that jet lag did not trouble my travel plans. Some years later I crossed the pond again on a ship but this time it was 5 times bigger and I travelled in style on the QE2 and dined in the Queen’s Grill somewhat removed from my earlier experience. I highly recommend ocean voyages but cannot see myself on one of the modern cruise ships going from port to port with constant line-ups to get on and off to buy t-shirts. However, I have done 10 Windjammers and a Star Clipper cruise in the Caribbean which were all memorable (let’s hope Windjammer Barefoot Cruises recover from their woes). But I digress.

I had read that Canada is a spectacular country, from sea to shining sea, and my entrance into the St. Lawrence River to Montreal and then heading west in an old Econoline van from the Great Lakes, across the Prairies to the Rocky Mountains before ending up whale watching off of the Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island was a trip of wonder to a bloke from London. Today the scenery is still spectacular and the best way to go is still by road so rent or buy a car, motorhome or motorbike, take the train or tour bus but remember the maps, a fly rod, good boots and take your time.

My favorite part of Canada / USA for adventure travel has to be Northern BC / Alaska, to hike the Chilkoot Trail in the steps of the goldseekers of 1898. The Northwest Territories to canoe the Nahannie River and the Yukon to drive from Dawson City to Chicken, Alaska. If you like the outdoors and can put up with a few bugs, cast a fly and scale a few hills or drive on endless dirt roads sharing the space with moose, caribou, elk, bears and eagles, then these are the places to put on your list. The pleasures and experiences in driving to Inuvik on the Dempster Highway or to Prudhoe Bay on the Dalton Highway or even the Canol Road can only be felt by doing them. I would have mentioned the Alaska Highway but now it is an easy drive unlike the aforementioned.

Today the costs of driving these distances may mean that sharing the journey with others is required, but RVing or simply vanning and camping is a great way to see beyond the horizon. Some enroute adventures now need to be booked in advance whereas when I hiked Denali and the Chilkoot Pass it was just a case of turning up, registering with the local ranger office and heading on out. A little more forward planning is needed for today’s traveller and cost considerations of lengthy flights or drives have to somehow be countered with more careful planning. In the days of reasonable gas prices I would not even consider the driving or flying costs and have driven to Key West from the northwest coast, down the west coast to the Baja and to the west coast from New York. I once even flew my 1946 Fleet taildragger from the Pacific to the Atlantic and back using around 5 gallons an hour of avgas. Before the oil and credit crisis I drove from Rio de Janeiro to Lima, down to Tierra del Fuego and back to Rio covering over 15,000 miles of spectacular scenery and with no consideration about the cost of gas. South America should be on your itinerary too! Some other memorable drives that may now require a mortgage with the gas companies include London to The Nordkapp, Norway, Skippers Canyon in New Zealand and the loneliness of the far north of Australia and the amazing coast of Western Australia stopping by at Monkey Mia and Wave Rock.

We tend to forget that the real cost of travelling is often less today than over the 40 years of my travels. In 1977 my round-trip airfare from Canada to Australia cost over $1700 in 1977 dollars so today it is far cheaper to fly, even with the airlines gouging for fuel, extra baggage, no service and no pleasure. The ‘Big Mac’ method of price comparison as developed by The Economist newspaper gives us a good gauge for most expenditures of today compared to yesterday but my $1500 cost to get a private pilots licence in the 1970’s seems cheap by comparison to today, but obviously not when using this Big Mac principle. Other travel costs are also far cheaper today but this should not mean that travellers should disregard the many methods of saving costs that can then be put to extended or improved travel experiences

Travel Post-Internet:

In my 40 years of travel I have had to use travel agents to make even the simplest of reservations and buy tickets, not even thinking to ask them if they had “been there, done that?” It was just a case of there being no other options to buying travel. Now we have unlimited choices and can seek out better travel agents, better prices, better selections and information about anywhere in the world for our travels – without even leaving home.

The Internet now gives travellers ideas and options of Where to go, When to go, Why to go, What to do, Who to book with and How to save money and offset costs. We can search and find experts for every travel option. If we are comfortable with the Internet we no longer have to go to a travel agent to make reservations and buy tickets except to book with some of the larger travel companies that still produce glossy brochures and offer all inclusive packages or tours that only sell through the agency system. The Internet also allows those of us who are smart enough to know when to seek out a top travel agent with knowledge, experience and expertise (KEE skills) of destinations and activities about where to find them. There is no longer any need to only use our local agents when we can find one somewhere else in the world. When we do not need ‘the knowledge’ and can do it ourselves we simply surf the web so that we can book directly with tour and travel operators wherever we have decided to go.

Some travel agents operate their own tours, some are both wholesale and retail, some limit consumer selection by only selling their ‘preferred’ suppliers and some have professional consultants with years of experience invested in gaining knowledge, experience and expertise and are worth their weight in gold to the savvy traveller. Beware though, as some are also called destination specialists and some of these designations merely require the agent to take a rudimentary test offered by tourism offices, destination marketing groups or even tour operators and in my opinion can harm the reputation of the travel industry. A specialist is not necessarily an expert.

Travel is probably the most used commercial aspect of the Internet and if retail agents want to harness this exciting medium to offer ‘the knowledge’ and their ‘kee’ skills to a global audience, not just their local community, they must embrace the changes that are happening. Travellers now have the ability to seek answers to the 5 W’s of travel and the important ‘How to’ save money and offset costs by having information just a click away.

And then it occurred to me that even internet travel prices often include a commission element even when sold directly to the consumer. If we book directly with operators we should not have to pay full retail prices as we are doing for ourselves what a retail agent would normally do for us. A dilemma for the operator is that to show a both a retail and a cost price option could deter many agents from selling the services as travellers could use an agent for free advice and book directly with the operator to get a ‘net of commission’ price. Obviously this two tier pricing is not often available but travellers who do not need advice should also not be penalized by retail pricing. A new way had to be found and I think I have found it!

The need for fairer fare prices is why I developed the Top Travel Voucher program at The Top Travel Club and I even found a dot com for it. All travel selections on the site are at ‘net of commission’ prices for members who handle there own travel arrangements directly with the operators linked on the club website using our voucher program.

I am inviting travel operators from around the world to join this program, from B&B’s, Motels, Hotels, Luxury Lodges, Eco Resorts, Beach Resorts and Tour and Adventure Operators who want to promote their products and services to travellers who are comfortable with direct bookings and reservations.

I am also inviting Travel Agents with knowledge, experience and expertise of destinations and activities to showcase their skills to a global audience of travellers and to the members of this new travel club. I am leery of ‘specialist agents’ and only want experts to showcase their services.

This opportunity is available to the travel trade at no cost except for them to offer net, wholesale or outlet prices to club members and visitors to the website using top travel vouchers. I believe this program offers fairer fare prices to direct-booking travellers. The operator would normally be paying commission anyway but now travellers get the savings because they make their own arrangements.

The Top Travel Club opened in mid-April 2008 offering thousands of top travel vouchers for travel in over 70 countries with around 150 travel operators onboard. Every week we add more travel operators with more choices for members. Currently you can get savings on accommodations, adventure travel, boat charters, culinary tours, hike, bike and dive tours, auto and RV rentals fishing lodges and guides, safaris, vacation rentals, single travel, women only and dude ranches. Members get the vouchers free of charge by paying an annual membership fee and non-members can buy the vouchers on the internet at Top Travel Sites at deeply discounted prices to the face-value. The future growth will include restaurants, travel clothing, travel insurance and the opportunity to access air ticket consolidators who want to deal directly with consumers.

The way I have travelled and the way I see travel is that consumers should have unlimited access to every travel opportunity with the ability to do their own due diligence or to find a professional who can offer quality advice and services at fair prices, and to find all of this without needing endless hours of searching.

To find out more about the new way of cost offsets for travel please go to The Top Travel Club and my apologies for some of the spelling (traveller / traveler) but that is what I was taught. As long as we all understand the meaning, vive le difference!