Expat life vs. long-term travel – which is the better choice?
I know I sometimes wonder if I made the right decision in moving overseas.
Maybe I should have taken my meticulously saved up dollars and gone traveling instead. Spent ten months or a year making my way around Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
Who knows how my life would have turned out.
Yet, almost two years ago now, I decided to live my life as an expat, not a long-term traveler, for the following reasons.
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1. You're Less Likely to Burn Out
Travel can get quite exhausting. You're constantly planning where to go, how exactly to get there, what you'll eat and where you'll be sleeping.
If you're lucky, you'll go through this process minimal times as an expat.
Everything is new and confusing when you first move overseas. Then you find a place to call your own. You have furniture and a bed.
Your can take your clothes out of your suitcase and arrange them in your wardrobe, rejoicing in the lack of wrinkles when you wear them out. You know your food in the fridge will remain uneaten unless you have particularly devious housemates.
You, are in a word, settled. Having your own place and a routine can go a long way in ensuring that you keep your energy levels and often, your sanity too, intact.
2. You Can Get to Know an Entire City Inside Out
When you're traveling, you may end up only spending a handful of days or weeks within a city.
Living as an expat allows you to get to know somewhere in full depth.
I live in London – a massive city with an abundance of things to do. Living here gives me the opportunity to truly experience England's capital in a way that I never would if I were only passing through.
As a result, when I finally leave London to move onto somewhere else, I'll know I will have explored it as much as possible. I'll know this city in a way that I only know a handful of other places.
I'll never regret giving myself the opportunity to experience any place in this particularly way.
3. It May Help Your Career
Although many travelers end up embracing entirely new careers as digital nomads, this isn't the case for everyone.
Some people who go traveling like the jobs they're leaving behind – they may just want to take a career break, or see the world while they can.
Moving overseas can help your career in more ways than one. You may end up picking new skills that you wouldn't have gained working in your own country.
There may be the chance to further your education, increasing your employment prospects for when you head home.
You may seem more diversified to potential future employers – it never hurts to have international experience on your resume.
Working the same job in a different country could lead you to realize that you're happy with the direction your career is heading. Or, it could lead to a few home truths – in that it might be time to try something new.
Either way, you're going to be gaining work experience while earning money and there isn't any harm in that!
4. You'll Take Better Care of Your Health
There are some people who are pros at staying healthy on the road. Their mastery at cooking cheap and healthy meals from the confines of hostel kitchens knows no bounds. They work out. They can sleep without the aid of ear plugs.
They're an inspiration to us all.
Not me. When I travel, I eat all the things, and the only exercise I get is walking around museums or historical sites.
It's only when I have a home base that I start looking after myself – doing yoga, going to the gym, cooking deliciously healthy food and sleeping throughout the night.
As a traveler, I'm a hot mess. As an expat, I'm far more in control of my life.
5. You Can Still Travel – Sometimes for Longer
Here's the best bit about living as an expat overseas – you're still allowed to travel.
In the time I've been living in London, I've visited 16 other countries on three different continents.
I've also spent time traveling around England, seeing many villages and cities that other travelers to the UK simply do not have the time or funds to visit.
Better yet, I've been able to travel longer than I would have if I'd chosen the nomadic lifestyle.
As long as I keep earning money, I could keep my lifestyle going indefinitely (until that is, the urge to go home to Australia grows too strong to resist).
There's no right or wrong way to travel. Some may genuinely enjoy a nomadic lifestyle. Others may find themselves unable to give up the comforts that come from having a home base.
Either way, you're living your life and seeing the world.
That's all that matters in the end, after all.
LC is an ex-expat who is currently re-exploring her home country of Australia. Follow her adventures at home and abroad via her blog Birdgehls, where she writes about travel, expat life, gushes on about various animals and bemoans her often futile attempts to go completely green. Or, you can look her up on Facebook.
Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:
- G Adventures for small group tours.
- World Nomads for travel insurance.
- Hostelworld for booking hostels.
- Rail Europe for train passes.
Saturday 20th of February 2016
This article is spot on LC! I'm living in Buenos Aires now and have been an expat for nearly five years now (not always in Buenos Aires). Living here I've had the chance to get to know the city, but also travel to so many places around Argentina and South America. It's a great way to get to know a country - if you can do it this way.
Tuesday 1st of March 2016
Definitely. Not every can (or wants to) but if you have the means and opportunity then - why not?
Saturday 30th of January 2016
As someone who has chosen to adopt a home base lately, I totally hear what you saying. Being settled over constantly moving around is what I need right now.
Tuesday 1st of March 2016
It's a breath of fresh air, often very welcomed after the exhaustion that constantly being on the move can cause.
Tuesday 26th of January 2016
I want to be a long term traveler but I think it is better that I live as an expat that travels a lot. I really like being able to go home and unplug with all of my favorite comforts. I also really like living in Taiwan as an expat and it is easy to access so many great places in East Asia.
Saturday 30th of January 2016
There's many positives to both sides of the coin. All the reasons you've listed is why I chose to be an expat. Taiwan would be an unreal place to live!