I remember the few weeks before my college graduation and how nervous I was about beginning my life after school. I was finishing up my time at Sarah Lawrence College with a degree in liberal arts—and I had no job prospects lined up in New York. I was thinking about what I would be doing and what had made me the happiest over the last few years, and traveling came immediately to mind.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it, but I wanted to write and take pictures about my travels. After doing a little research on how photojournalism worked, I discovered the best way to write about travels was to have them. After completing a European tour, I made the decision to move to Florence—from there, I never really stopped moving.
Becoming a long-term traveler wasn’t my original goal. I assumed I would have a place to settle down and perhaps travel from there on assignment (when eventually I got them). I loved living in Italy, but it was so far away from friends and family. In those crucial, post-college months, having friends was really important to me. When I found myself USA Today’s 10Best Local Expert on Florence, I found myself still traveling and living abroad—long after I had expected to.
The more I saw of the world and the more that my travel writing career began to pan out, the more it became difficult for me to find a place that I wanted to live long term. I was based in New York for a while, but my new boyfriend (now old boyfriend, Daniel) and I traveled out of there often. We were gone almost more than we were on the East Coast. From Norway, Morocco, Guatemala, Egypt, Greece, Japan, and more, we eventually made the decision to go to Spain for a while and regroup.
Being a long-term traveler has meant a lot of really wonderful and beautiful things, but it has also required some sacrifices, as well. I don’t see my friends and family that often—maybe a few times a year if I’m lucky. Just when I get used to one locale, I’m usually off to another, which means I’m bored if I stay in a place longer than a month. I’ve missed important events like my brother’s high school graduation, and have found myself questioning the decision I’ve made over and over again about becoming a digital nomad instead of choosing a more traditional path.
But being a long-term traveler has also been incredible. I’ve experienced things that I never thought I would have, and I’m living the life that 21-year-old Alex dreamed of. I wouldn’t trade the adventures I’ve had and the relationships I’ve created for anything in the world—even if it means that sometimes I have the fear of missing out on things back home.
I’d like to eventually find a place where I belong and a bit more security, but there is a part of me that recognizes that long-term traveling was the best thing I could have done as a recent graduate. I understand much more why the world is the way it is than I could have sitting in an office chair, and it has made my life richer in ways that I never would have thought. For those considering taking some time off work or a gap year, I would highly recommend making the leap.
Have you experienced long-term travel? What has it been like for you?