The secret to long-term world travel is constant curiosity.
Yes, you can spend a short amount of time on the road and easily fill your travels by rushing from place to place, eating local foods, viewing popular tourist attractions, and interacting with the locals. But long-term travel is an entirely different thing!
Traveling the world for months or years-on-end is an incredible experience, but after some time (and the amount of time varies from person to person), the number of new experiences you have each day begins to slowly diminish and the thrill of world travel quickly starts to wane.
The first waterfall you see is beautiful and awe-inspiring, but the 300th waterfall is nothing more than water dribbling down a bunch of rocks. That gigantic medieval church you explored at the beginning of your trip is now just a blur of crosses and statues and stained glass windows – just like you saw in hundreds of other churches, abbeys and monasteries all around the world. And after months of eating like the locals do, you’re now longing for anything with even a hint of variety (or a taste of home).
That’s what happens when you travel the world for months or years-on-end. It’s totally normal… and you should expect it when you start out on a long trip of any kind.
But there is a way to continue your world travels without subjecting yourself to the same food, attractions and tourist traps over and over again.
The secret to long-term world travel is being curious… and using your unique curiosity to seek out new information, new people, new places, new adventures and new ideas.
The real secret, however, is to not just be curious about the world as a whole, but to be curious about the world in a way that is unique and enjoyable to YOU and YOU ALONE.
For example, my mother loves history. She could read books for months-on-end about the history of a particular place in the world that interests her. But I don’t personally get very excited by history most of the time. Instead, I’m much more interested in economics, money and self-improvement.
Unfortunately, most travel books and popular tourist destinations tend to focus more on history than money, economics and self-improvement, so my mother would probably enjoy visiting a place like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France a whole lot more than I would – because there’s so much history there for her to absorb. Visiting the Eiffel tower and learning more about it would be a wonderful use of my mother’s time… and she’d enjoy it very much.
I, on the other-hand, have little interest in visiting the Eiffel Tower. To me, it’s just a bunch of metal stacked up to create a useless, but unique landmark in the center of France.
So, while I may not seek out the Eiffel Tower on my own (like my mother might), I would, if I found myself in Paris, France, try and find some about the Eiffel Tower that I could appreciate and learn more about.
In other words, I’d use my unique curiosity to ask questions about the Eiffel Tower that would be of interest to me. I wouldn’t ask questions about the history of the Tower, like my mother would. Instead, I’d be much more interested in how much the Eiffel Tower cost to produce, how much it costs to maintain each year, and how much income it generates for the city of Paris.
You see? There’s nothing wrong about my mother being interested in the history… and there’s nothing wrong with me being interested in money and economics. We are different individuals and we have different interests. It only makes sense that when we travel, we would use our unique curiosity to seek out the information, people and places that are of most interest to us as individuals.
In fact, that’s what YOU should do as well!
If you’re planning a long-term trip of any kind (whether it be on a bicycle, with a backpack, in a car or with an organized tour group), I think you should stop wasting your time and money on the things you are not really interested in and start using your unique curiosity to find the people, places and ideas in the world that are going to me of most interest to YOU. That’s how you succeed as a long-term world traveler!
Being curious about the world around you is a great place to start. And using your unique interests to learn more about wherever you happen to be is a great piece of advice as well. But if you really want to grow as a human being and learn from your travels, one of the best things you can do is to write down the things you learn each day.
That’s right! You shouldn’t just be curious about the world around you. You should be recording the things you learn, as you go along, so you can remember those things and use them to your advantage in the future.
I’ve been doing this for years… and I recommend you give it a try.
Get yourself a small journal or use a note-taking app on your smartphone to record the things you learn each day. If possible, write down at least one new piece of information each and every day. If inspiration strikes, don’t be afraid to write down two or three things on any given day.
Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to every single day…
- Look at the world around you.
- Ask questions that are interesting to you.
- Seek out the answers to those questions.
- And then write down what it is that you have learned.
I recently took a trip to Alaska, and while I was there I made sure to write down at least one new thing I had learned each day. Looking back at my notes now, some of the things I learned were related to my travels in Alaska, but many of the things I wrote down at the time were related to my other various interests.
Here, for example, are just some of the notes I made about the things I learned while I was in Alaska:
- Lake trout can live to be 20-50 years old or older, while most trout varieties (think: rainbow trout) only live for 7-12 years on average. The largest lake trout ever caught (in Alaska) weighed 102 lbs.
- Most things make no difference. Emergencies are seldom that. You don’t need to send that email. No one cares when you call. Most of life’s stressors are largely self-imposed, so stop stressing and start living life the way you want to. To enjoy life, you don’t need fancy nonsense, but you do need to control your time and realize that most things just aren’t as serious as you make them out to be.
- There are approximately 133,500 bears in Alaska (100,00 black bears, 30,000 brown bears and 3,500 polar bears). In Sweden there are about 3,500 brown bears. But Alaska measures 663,300 sq. miles whereas Sweden is only 173,860 sq. miles. Therefore, there is 1 bear every 5 sq. miles (on average) in Alaska, whereas Sweden has 1 bear every 50 sq. miles. Meaning, it is 10 times more likely you ill see a bear in Alaska than in Sweden.
- What you don’t do determines what you can do. Cultivate a selective ignorance, develop a low information diet, and ignore the unimportant so you can focus on the few 20% of things that will make the biggest and most positive 80% difference in your life. Focus on being productive, not on being busy.
- Wood Bison (found in Alaska) are the largest land mammals in North America. They can weigh up to 1,800+ lbs, whereas Plain Bison (like those found in Yellowstone National Park) weigh only 1,600 lbs.
- Gorillas have the same number of hairs per square inch as human beings. Gorillas just have longer and thicker hair than humans.
- Melophobia is the fear of music. The primary cause of melophobia is a personal link to music that triggers emotions, causing fear.
- Alaska was purchased from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million dollars (or 2 cents per square mile). At their closest points, Alaska and Russia are only 3 miles apart.
Reading through these notes, you can see what I was doing. As I traveled, I became interested in things in my environment. I visited a lake where I learned about the fish that swam in its freezing cold waters; While I was sleeping in my tent at night I began wondering how many bears there really were in Alaska; And when I saw a bison off in the distance, I learned that there are different types of bison and that this one was a wood bison – not to be confused with the smaller plain bison I am more familiar with.
Mixed in with my notes about Alaska were a whole mix of random things I learned. Some of these things had to do with my interests in self-improvement, but many of the things I wrote down appear random and out of place. That’s okay! Those pieces of information are interesting and important to ME and me alone, which is exactly the type of information you should be recording as you travel.
So, now it’s your turn! Get a journal or use an app on your smartphone to start recording the things you learn each day.
Remember: The secret to long-term world travel is constant curiosity. Look at the world around you, ask questions that are interesting to you, seek out the answers to those questions and then write down what it is that you have learned. Do this for years on end, and you’ll look back and be amazed at how much you’ve learned during your travels, and how much of that information you’ve actually retained.