Is Full-Time Traveling As Good As It Sounds?

I know that traveling full-time sounds fascinating – you get to explore new places, bring your home everywhere you go, try new foods, meet new people, and more. But, it’s not always beaches, mountains, and other beautiful landscapes. I’m definitely not complaining and I am very thankful for the life I get to live. However,…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 24, 2023

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Do you want to travel long-term? In this article, I talk about the downsides of full-time traveling, and whether full-time travel is for you. #fulltimetravel #travelI know that traveling full-time sounds fascinating – you get to explore new places, bring your home everywhere you go, try new foods, meet new people, and more.

But, it’s not always beaches, mountains, and other beautiful landscapes.

I’m definitely not complaining and I am very thankful for the life I get to live. However, while I once believed that full-time travel was the greatest thing ever, lately I have been feeling oh so tired!

Related: Welcome To Paradise – We’re Living On A Sailboat!

Over the last few months, I have seen countless friends and travelers that I know stop traveling full-time, all for various reasons. And, each time someone quits, I have stopped and thought about my own life and full-time traveling journey.

I want to bring this up because I know that so many people who travel full-time feel that they are the only ones having a hard time – struggling with loneliness, dealing with broken RV or boat parts, feeling tired, and so on.

I think that if more people realized that these feelings are normal, then they could push past the hard parts and enjoy the fun parts even more.

Traveling full-time is amazing but it’s not for everyone. And over the years, I’ve had plenty of people tell me that they could never travel full-time, and I always thought those people were absolutely crazy.

“WHAT?! Why wouldn’t you want to travel full-time?”

But, after so many years of being location independent (since 2013), I’m finally starting to understand why some of the RVers and sailors I’ve met start to slow down or stop traveling all together.

And until recently, I had a hard time answering a question I often receive, “What do you NOT like about full-time travel?”

While the first couple of months of full-time travel were a difficult transition, the following years have been glorious and amazing. But like I said, I’m starting to understand some of the downsides.

Still, traveling full-time has many, many positives. I wouldn’t be doing it unless I thought it was amazing! You can read about all of the reasons why I love full-time travel below:

Today, I’m going to talk about the downsides of full-time travel. And while I don’t see us stopping full-time travel anytime soon, these are all things that you may want to think about before you decide it’s the lifestyle for you.

 

Being away from friends and family.

I don’t think I’ve been back “home” to Missouri in over a year, and even then, it was only for a few days during a stopover before getting our boat. I can’t even remember the last time I saw my friends from home. It’s also been forever since I’ve seen our family!

While we have visitors occasionally, it’s very different from regular get togethers with friends and family at home.

I still remember the day that we sold our house in Missouri – I cried and I was so sad to move away! Even though I looked forward to our new adventure, it was hard to leave everything that I was familiar with.

That being said, we have made great friends both on the road and in the boating community.

But, since most these people also travel, we eventually have to say our goodbyes and will probably never see those people again, no matter how great the friendship is. I still fondly remember saying goodbye to an RV neighbor we once had. We didn’t speak to each other a ton, but we loved sharing our past experiences with one another. I really loved hearing about the amazing life our RV neighbors lived. When it was time to separate, this 87-year-old man, who barely knew us, had tears in his eyes.

And, this happens all the time! It’s difficult making friends when you know that it’s going to be over soon.

 

Dealing with a literal broken home.

When something is broken in a “normal” home, you can typically still use your home, sleep in it, and have no other worries.

Yes, you may still have the stress of money and trying to fix it, but dealing with a broken moving home, such as an RV or boat, can lead to a lot more things, such as:

  • Getting into an accident because something is broken (such as a flat tire, blown engine, etc.).
  • Not being able to sleep in your home because it’s in the shop, which can lead to even more expenses, scrambling to find somewhere to sleep, and more.
  • Putting your life at risk in order to repair the issue (this is more-so true on a boat than an RV, because with an RV you can just pull over, but it’s more difficult to do that on a boat).

Then there’s the whole boats and RVs just aren’t made the way that homes are, so they are literally just broken all the time. This is true whether your RV/boat is brand new or if it’s 50 years old – there’s just always a long list of things to maintain and items to replace and/or add.

 

Get used to being uncomfortable.

Many people have a very specific routine that they go through every day, whether they want to admit it or not.

After all, humans are creatures of habit.

When traveling full-time, it can be very difficult to establish anything that even remotely resembles a routine. This is because most days are different, life can be dependent on the weather, things break, and so on.

Here are some instances in which you may have to change the way you live while traveling full-time:

  • Using less water. In a normal house, the average person uses around 100 gallons of water a day. If you are a full-time traveler (in an RV or boat for example), you will need to learn how to live with less water, unless you’re at a campground or marina.
  • Dealing with dirty clothes. If you don’t have laundry aboard, then you will have to find laundromats. Yes, I realize that many people use public laundromats, but when you’re traveling it can be hard to find laundromats at each place you visit.
  • Learning new cultures, laws, rules, etc. so that you don’t do something stupid.
  • Not speaking the language of wherever you are.
  • Feeling sick? You’ll most likely not be around a doctor you know, and you may have to go to a doctor in another country who speaks a language that you don’t understand.
  • Have pets or kids? There’s a whole lot more planning that goes into full-time travel once you add either (or both) into the mix.

And more! While those reasons may seem petty, those things can really test your comfort level and are why many people stop traveling full-time.

 

Not having a home base.

Okay, so our sailboat is our home, as was our RV.

But, there is something to be said about having a home base – as in one that doesn’t move.

For me, I do dream of one day having a home with a beautiful mountain and/or valley view, a garden, and a place to stop and refresh after a fun trip.

I don’t see myself quitting traveling forever, but being able to relax at home without having to move it sounds nice in the future.

I’m seeing more and more RVers purchase homes/property that have full hookups, so that they can stay in one spot and rest for a few months in a row. I’ve also met quite a few sailors who do the same for hurricane season each year.

 

Not having room for all of your stuff.

Another positive of having a home base is having room for all of your things!

The reality is that even a minimalist will have stuff.

When we downsized our house and belongings to move into our RV, we rented a storage unit for a few months to help us deal with some things that we still had but couldn’t fit into the RV. While it was helpful at the time, we are now really happy that we got rid of our storage unit.

I won’t lie, though, just a few months ago, we were talking about whether or not we should get a small storage unit again for some of the gear we have (bikes, bikes, and more bikes, and other outdoor gear) and things that we have collected over the past few years while traveling.

But, we’ve decided not to.

Related content: 8 Lessons I’ve Learned From Living With Less Stuff

 

The amount of trash in the world will make you sad.

I’m not perfect, and I realize that I’m contributing to the worldwide trash crisis. But, traveling full-time in beautiful places and seeing so much trash everywhere is a real eye-opener.

I hate seeing all the trash, and traveling full-time makes it a little more difficult to live sustainably. Sure, a sailboat can be powered by the wind and solar panels, but other forms of travel aren’t as eco-friendly. And, when you’re traveling in certain countries, they may not be as eco-friendly as you’d hope (you may get plastic plates with your food and items in the grocery store may come with a crazy amount of plastic packaging).

Sometimes I dream of having a sustainable home, one that runs on solar and has a bountiful garden.

Related content: Save Your Money And Avoid A Storage Unit

 

There are so many decisions.

When living on a boat, so much of your life is controlled by the weather. Once you arrive to a new anchorage or marina, you’re pretty much already thinking about your next spot, which can even happen the following day (depending on the weather).

There are so many decisions that you have to make as a full-time traveler, whether you are by suitcase, vehicle, or boat, such as where you’ll be living the following week, where you’ll be able to walk the dogs (or, if you’re even allowed to bring them), how you’ll school your children, how you’ll get food/groceries, dealing with checking in and out of countries, route planning, figuring out when/where to get fuel, water, where to dump, and more.

Full-time travel means that you have to plan everything full-time!

 

Is Full-Time Traveling As Good As It Sounds?

How much longer will I travel full-time?

After reading all of the above, I’m sure some of you think that I might be about to quit this lifestyle.

Well, don’t hold your breath – I have no plans of quitting this life of travel any time soon.

The grass is always greener on the other side, and there are positives and negatives to each.

I absolutely love full-time travel for many reasons, such as:

  • Getting to travel – DUH! I love being able to go to new places, find new hikes, try new food, meet locals, see beautiful landscapes, and more. This world is a beautiful place and I want to see it all!
  • You can explore off the beaten path places because you have a lot more time to see everything. This is probably my most favorite part of full-time traveling! I love just stopping for a break, realizing that we found something amazing, and staying for as long as we want.
  • You can bring your home to places that people can’t get to by plane, which leads to more travel options and you can stay in these places even longer. And, you never have to pack! Okay, well you kind of have to pack your home up but at least you know that you’ll never forget anything at home, haha.
  • You can live by the beach, mountains, desert, and anywhere else.
  • You can spend more time outside.

And so much more.

While it does take some effort to make this lifestyle work, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

The thought of no longer traveling is something that scares me since we’ve been doing it for so long. Would we really enjoy being “home” most of the time? Would sitting still for long periods of time drive us crazy? Would we regret the change and go back to full-time travel life?

While it seems like a dumb thing to be afraid of, I know of many people who stopped traveling and felt lost, experienced culture shock, and were not happy. Full-time travel and house life are two lifestyles that are so very different.

Now, I know that some of you may take this as one big complaint of a blog post, but I am definitely not complaining about the life that I live! I know that many people live much more difficult lives, and I am very grateful for mine. In this blog post, though, I am hoping to help others make the transition smoothly and be aware of the possible downsides.

If you’re interested in long-term travel, please read Want To Be A Full-Time Traveler? 13 Ways To Make It Happen.

Are you interested in full-time travel?

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Well, to answer your title question… we would say “yes”!

    But, we’ve learned that you have to mix it up a little bit. We do a combination of RV travel and backpack style travel. And, we’ve learned that you have to make an effort to get back “home” at least twice a year to see family and friends.

    1. Backpack style is what we’re hoping to do eventually. Boat/RV life is so much easier with 2 dogs, haha.

  2. The idea of having a home to rest at for a few months sounds intriguing. I mean many people have vacation homes they use “travel to” 3 months a year. If you did the opposite you could like stay at your home base 3 months and travel 9 months. You would probably want something small and easy to maintain, preferably near family or friends that could also check on it periodically.

    1. I don’t know if we’ll get a home base anytime soon, but I do love looking at Zillow, haha.

  3. “Travel full time” might be good to expand the mind and have you see life from a different viewpoint. But I’m not quite sure about “full time travel” all the time. Hopefully, anyone that “travels full time” will document their vacation spots and strives to earn $ gUaP $ as an aspiring “travel blogger,” with the intention on making their travels profitable to the point of being a future “side hustle millionaire.”

  4. Very good points. Many people think living abroad or living full time out of an RV/campervan will simplify their lives and have less “stuff” to worry about. But the fact of the matter is full-time travel comes with a whole host of their own issues (like you’ve mentioned). There are compromises for all lifestyles!

    1. Yep, there are definitely compromises!

  5. Glenda

    Totally agree with all of these Michelle! We’ve been on the road for three years and it definitely has it’s ups and downs. I don’t this as complaining but more of being realistic. No matter where we are in life there are going to be discomforts, it’s all about perspective and making the best of every situation.

  6. Nella

    The hardest things for me about full time travel were definitely the “goodbyes” as you meet a lot of like minded and open people (refreshing from the 9-5 culture); AND keeping a routine. I traveled for almost 2 years, and after having been back almost a year, I find I am loving having structure in my life again, but definitely miss the freedom and new experiences life on the road brings. Wish you all the best!

  7. Marco B

    Great article, I can relate! I spent 5 months traveling last year, went to southeast Asia for some of that time. It was great but there was so much trash everywhere it made me feel like no one in Vietnam or Cambodia cared about their dirty streets πŸ™

    1. The trash definitely bothers me πŸ™

  8. I don’t get the living in a boat thing. Or at least full time. I grew up in Maine and did lobster fishing. It was fun being in the boat fishing during the day, but I got to go home everyday, take a shower, eat, watch TV, and go to bed. I would never consider living in that boat or something like it full time.

    Perhaps you should have a house and only live in the boat part of the year. I have been watching Lifestyle Overland on YouTube, and they sold their camper to travel in their Toyota 4Runner and Turtleback trailer with a pop up tent. I am waiting to see where they settle when they stop traveling.

    1. I have a shower, a kitchen, a TV, and a bed on my boat πŸ™‚ And, I get to travel in it full-time.

  9. Jules

    Traveling full-time is the dream, but not being able to have a routine would drive me crazy.

    If I ever have the option of living life on the road, I’d want a home base to come back to every couple months to regroup before going back out on the road again.

    Thanks for sharing insight into the other side of the dream, Michelle!

  10. Gah! You hit the nail on the head!

    We’re just over 8 months on the road in our RV, and sometimes it’s tough. We really like dry-camping, so water and power conservation are ALWAYS on our mind.

    And especially the TRASH thing. Yesterday was EARTH DAY, and my wife and I were reflecting at the SICKENING amount of trash we have found in our National and State Parks.

    As part of homeschooling this year, we have the kids pick up a bag of trash at most EVERY place we stay.

    But my goodness, the trash problem just hurts my soul!

    Safe Travels!

    1. Don’t even get me started on trash in national and state parks! That just always makes me so sad for humanity.

  11. Your are absolutely right. Although it might seem like a dream for a lot of people, full time traveling is extremely challenging. With my previous job I was traveling for 11 months per year, jumping from one country to another and it was extremely difficult to say good bye to the people that I met and, also living far from my family and friends. Having a permanent home and traveling only when you feel like, makes you appreciate it more.

  12. I’ve always been wondering if one ever gets tired of traveling all the time:)

  13. I’d have to say, “YES, full-time travel is a dream!” I’ve been traveling the world with my husband and our now-8-year-old son for the last 2.5 years, and we absolutely LOVE it! We’re not living in an RV or on a boat, however, so some of the things you mentioned don’t apply to us.

    We’ve lived outside our passport country for over 12 years (10 years in Japan before launching our travels), so not being physically close to family has been our norm for a long time. We keep in touch with video calls and social media, though, so we communicate just as much–if not MORE–than we did when we just lived in different states in the U.S. The same is true for the new friends we make in our global adventures. We don’t say goodbye, just until we meet again in a variety of languages.

    We live in actual houses when we travel, so there may be maintenance to hire out, but it sounds very different from a boat or RV. We travel slowly, and get comfortable establishing our own routines in every new place we explore. We are free to buy what we need while we need it, and we delight in giving it away so we can bless others when it’s time to move on.

    I absolutely agree with you about the heartbreaking trash situation, especially as it ruins so many otherwise lovely locales. It’s a huge part of the reason we secure accommodations with kitchens, enjoy shopping at farmer’s markets, and do lots of our own cooking. It’s what we would do if we had a home base anyway, and it’s simply a more sustainable way to live. This is one of the many lessons we teach at OurKitchenClassroom.com.

    Full-time world travel is an absolute blessing for me and my family! It’s also not for everyone. This is a great post to help prepare those who might be considering the lifestyle.

  14. Kennesaw Taylor

    Hi, love your blog. We are full time RVers and I work and live in a National park. It blows my mind that we get some bad reviews about trash and we clean up every day.What kills me is that the tourists who write about trash don’t understand that the trash they see was put there by people like them. I watch people throw things from my boat every day and it appalls me, but all we can do is pick it up and do it again. On my boat everyone wears earplugs, I see entire boats raise their hands with earplug wrappers in them and let them go in unison.
    When we are moving slowly we must be careful to keep a safe distance from flowers and fruit because tourists will strip the plants clean and then simply throw whatever they picked into the water. Luckily we don’t get many bad reviews, but our biggest complaint is, all the wildlife was on the wrong side of the boat.
    Part of my daily job is to pick up litter in the park I work in. I don’t mind doing it, but it does break my heart that so many just don’t care. I won’t get into who litters the most, but where tourist are from determines how much they trash our National Parks.
    Great job, keep putting out that good info.

  15. Hello, I think you are absolutely right. Although it might seem like a dream for a lot of people, full time traveling is extremely challenging. With my previous job, I was traveling for 11 months per year, jumping from one country to another and it was extremely difficult to say goodbye to the people that I met and, also living far from my family and friends. Having a permanent home and traveling only when you feel like, makes you appreciate it more.

  16. Travel is a discouring of new cultures, leisure, and communities.

  17. All of this. With the pandemic, I slowed and settled in various places for much longer chunks of time. Furnished housing disappeared, so adjustments had to be made. And that’s okay. Now, after a year away in the mountains, I’m currently experiencing cultural shock back in my home region. It is startling. I’ll be here at least six months, but I definitely have so much more to see in this world. And I do it slowly. And I think that’s it. If one feels like they’ve seen the world, or just skim it and are good with that, one might feel bored at the thought of more travel. But I like to travel slowly and experience things more deeply. That keeps me going (even if I’m tempted to buy cute houses everywhere I go … but how can we possibly own houses everywhere we go?!).