Living Abroad vs Backpacking: Which One's For You?
You want to travel the world and explore new places, but you can’t decide on the best way to do it? It is a dream for many people to be able to see more of the world than your average holiday allows, but once they find the time they're not actually sure how best to spend it! I have always tried my best to fit lots of travel into my life- I have been a backpacker in the past and now I am living abroad! I have been in Cape Town for about 5 months now and it got me thinking about whether I enjoy the backpacking, nomadic lifestyle, or my current expat lifestyle more…
There are definitely a lot of positive aspects to backpacking which is why it has become such a popular way to see the world. Backpacking is a nomadic form of travel; you have freedom and that excites people. You can choose when and where you want to go next and you can see and do a lot in a short space of time. It is exhilarating to have minimal belongings and not to be tied to one place by a job or rent.
However, it is not all sunshine and laughs, backpacking can be very tiring indeed! You are always on the go and never have a permanent base to relax in. You are either planning how to get to the next place, where you're going to sleep or activities you want to fit into your time there. I really missed having my own space, sometimes got frustrated about living out of a bag and spending too many nights in a shared dorm room got frustrating!
Another thing that becomes boring after a while is the lack of proper friendships. You are always faced with that same introductory conversation again and again each time you meet new people- ‘Hi my name is Tasha, I'm from the UK, we are travelling for a year, we have just come from…., we are going to…’ etc! You meet so many new people all the time and you don’t get to connect with many of them past a few brief conversations.
In a similar way that you don’t get to know any of the people very well, you also don’t obtain a deep knowledge of each destination and culture you end up in.
Money wise, it can also be expensive if you are traveling for a long time with no income. When we were backpacking we had to top up our funds by working in a restaurant and a hostel for a while.
Living abroad seems like the bigger, scary, life decision, and yes, it does take more planning than just hopping on a plane with one small bag of belongings! But if you are willing to take the risk, it is one that we have found definitely does pay off. Once you are living abroad, and have settled in, you have the stability of a house and jobs, you also explore your new home like someone travelling, but with more time. You get the best of both worlds- stability and adventures at the same time!
The connections you make with people are different when you move abroad. There is more time get to know people and build lasting relationships.
You will also gain a much better understanding of the countries' culture and will get to know a place properly, finding favourite spots and places that become your 'regular'.
Of course, living aboard also has its downsides! You don't get to see as many new places as you would when backpacking. Most of the time you are settled in one place and working a normal job. You probably only have weekends off and a few short holidays each year to explore further away places. That's why choosing which country you want to live in is so important.
Missing family and friends is difficult when you live abroad, there is no way around it and all you can do is find ways to make it that bit easier- planning holidays to see them and keeping in touch regularly.
Backpacking and living abroad come with their own array of benefits and challenges!!
Would you rather be a backpacker or live abroad in a new country for a while?
For me, I like the combination of them both. I think travelling before and after moving abroad is a great way to get this mix. We are so glad that we took the leap to live in a new country for a few years and we have already learnt so much from the experience. We also have a long list of shorter travels that we are excited to plan and find time to do!