Is long-term travel for you? Here’s how to test it

Long-term travel trial run in Panama.

You might dream of a vacation getaway to zest up your life or to recharge your soul. Or maybe you dream big and you want long-term travel. Maybe you want nonstop travel. No more working and commuting in the daily grind.

But would you really enjoy an endless travel itinerary? Unless you– where every day is like a vacation.

This article is about how we knew a long-term travel lifestyle was right for us.

Years ago, we discovered an endless travel lifestyle was possible when we tested our theory. We used one easy way to see if we could travel forever.

Whether you want nonstop travel or long-term travel, this method might help you make lifestyle decisions – like it did for us.

It’s so super simple – anyone can do this: we made trial runs.

Long-term travel ‘trial runs’

We took vacations to inexpensive places, and lived more like locals than tourists.

That’s it. That’s the method we used to test ourselves.

Our vacations were “trial runs” to see if a long-term travel lifestyle was right for us.

Our trial runs led to the budget slow travel lifestyle we’ve enjoyed nonstop since 2015.

Long-term travel test run steps

What does that really mean? To live ‘more like a local than a tourist’ on a ‘test run?’

Let’s break it down.

1.) Get at least 10 days off from work

For more than a decade, we saved up our vacation time so that we could take a week or 10 days off and go somewhere in Mexico or Central America twice a year (most years).

We chose locations easy to get to by plane due to limited time off during our careers. Back then, we could only dream of places on the other side of the globe, like Southeast Asia.

If you can find the time to go further from home while on vacation, you’re lucky!

2.) Plan your budget & destination

Go someplace you want to see – any place that calls to you. After all, this is a ‘vacation’ from your daily grind, so you should have some fun!

We used Playa del Carmen and Tulum, also Punta Allen, Mahahual, and other sites in Mexico. To further test our long-term travel dream, we took vacations to Nicaragua, Panama, and Costa Rica. We saw volcanoes, remote islands, beautiful beaches.

Instead of staying in all-inclusive resorts, we stayed in family-run hotels and ate a mix of street food and in moderately-priced restaurants.

couple on a bridge in the rain forest in costa rica

3.) Research places to stay — away from tourist zones

Baja California is close and easy to west coast states, but your vacation doesn’t have to be around pricey, well-known Cabo San Lucas. In fact, Mexico offers amazing long-term travel trial run options for Americans who have limited vacation time.

Cancun is a great starting point for bus trips to lesser-known destinations north, west, or south.

Eventually we went further south to start. Jungles and rain forests of Costa Rica, volcanoes, lakes, beaches in Nicaragua. None of it on organized tours or packages. From Panama City, we took a shared jeep taxi over the mountains to the San Blas Islands. We took a double propeller plane on a cracked concrete runway back to the capital.

Every adventure made us want more. We wanted more time to see more places.

Accommodations

Airbnb and Booking and other sites weren’t around when we made our test runs. We used mom-and-pop hotels with small kitchen amenities or hostels. We saved money with some meals at ‘home base.’

We didn’t always have a kitchen, and it wasn’t always possible to get away from hotel prices on short trips. But even though we didn’t rent a monthly apartment, we knew it would cost less than the budget hotel rooms we typically used.

Downsize from the typical expensive vacation-mode planning,and you can get a better idea on costs of living outside resort fantasy lands. We quickly learned there were many countries far less expensive to live than the USA — away from tourist meccas and far away from five-star resorts.

The hotel room pictured below was $20 a night in Costa Rica from our circa 2008 vacation. Good enough!

a basic hotel room is pictured and sometimes is part of an endless travel itinerary

4.) Record every dollar you spend

This is pretty straightforward — but it may be the most important point!

Smart phones didn’t come along until 2007(ish) and we were already on test runs for years by then. So in the beginning, we took pocket-sized notepads and recorded expenses by hand.

When we returned home and back to work, we opened up the notepad and examined our spending. We saw that if we spent $300 – $500 in a week’s time on everything, it would likely cost four times that for a month.

This is how we estimated how much money we would need to keep going nonstop during long-term travel. We guessed – based on what our trial runs cost – that we would need a minimum of $1,500 from savings each month to retire early and enjoy a long-term travel lifestyle.

Our guess was correct. Our budget when we started in 2015 was $2,000 per month (outside of Europe).

We might increase that budget in the COVID era. Thankfully, we have passive income from a long-term rental unit in Ohio.

If you are new to this site, we break down many of our monthly budgets from our travels. Some examples:

You cannot make your own educated guesses on what your expenses will be in the long-term travel picture if you do not know how much money you spend while on these short-term test runs.

5.) Push your limits on your next vacation

In the beginning, way back in 2002, we looked for the best airfare deals and that’s how we picked our destinations. Later, we spent a bit more money — but still looked for deals — so we could experience new places and push our limits. By 2013, we were comfortable flying into Managua, Nicaragua.

Caucasian man and woman in a small bus with Spanish people during an endless travel itinerary

By the time we were ready to try full-time budget slow travel in 2015, we had already been to a few places where most vacationing tourists don’t usually go. We knew what type of lifestyle we could have in exotic countries on a realistic budget.

The biggest test for me personally was when I moved to Tulum, Mexico, for five months in 2015, alone, before the spouse joined me. Would I get homesick? Would I miss a working life? Would I want to go back to the U.S.? NO, NO, and NO. LOL.

But five months on a budget slow travel test was pretty intense.

Extended time – an extended test run – might be wise before you go all in for long-term travel. Especially if you are going to do this on a budget.

Simple living abroad versus resort living on vacation can be an ocean apart. below is a picture of the basic, small studio apartment where I stayed in Tulum.

But for me, my simple living feels like a vacation, because this is how I always traveled overseas.

Don’t live vicariously through us — live your life!

When people find out we retired early to travel the world nonstop, they can’t seem to believe it. Often people say they are living vicariously though us. Don’t be one of those people.

If you want to do this — you can at least try this vacation test run method. Get out of the tourist areas. Get out of your comfort zone. Stay on budget. Stretch your travel limits. Grow your mind. Feed your soul.

Long-term travel definitely is not for everyone. But everything starts with something, and so why not give it the test-run try? And, if you decide an endless travel itinerary isn’t for you, at least, you’ll have had some vacation adventures — outside the tourist zones.

Thanks for reading, “Is long-term travel for you? Here’s how to test it.”

This post was updated on June 6, 2022.

Further reading

1 thought on “Is long-term travel for you? Here’s how to test it”

  1. So good this. Spot on. It surprises me that people ask others about where to go, how much they spend. I understand wanting to get a baseline, but people’s expectations and lifestyles are so different, you must do it yourself.
    I also think that a trial run is a must.
    Thanks for sharing.

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