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Traveling Long-Term Changes Your Life Forever — For Better Or Worse

Danny Forest
Mar 4, 2018 · 5 min read

Three years ago, my wife and I “left” our jobs to travel the world for a year.

It was an amazing journey.

We saw the most impressive sights, ate the best food, had empowering volunteering experiences, but most of all, we met the most incredible people.

Lately, many people have come to us to ask for advice on long-term travel. So I decided I’ll share part of our story here.

When I said “left” our job, I meant we didn’t work for the year. We actually both negotiated a leave of absence.

So when we were “done” with our travels, we came back to Toronto. Back to our well-paid full-time jobs.

The Not-So-Glorious Return Home

It was painful.

We both liked our jobs. We both really enjoy Toronto. But it just wasn’t the same.

Most people didn’t give a damn about our journey. A lot of our friends were at a different point in their life. A lot of them just had kids. They had settled, we didn’t.

One of my brothers was completely avoiding me. To this day, I don’t even know why. Maybe he was jealous? Maybe he couldn’t handle our non-traditional way of life?

We were even kicked out from one of our family’s house because they could not handle the fact that we were helping people outside of our own country when, like any country, we also needed help.

Gone were the new amazing sights.

Gone was the deliciously cheap food.

Gone were the volunteering experiences (for me).

Gone were the incredible new acquaintances.

Coming back from traveling long-term is hard. I’m far from the first to write about that. Thankfully I was traveling with my wife, so we were in this together.

Whenever we could talk to other people who also traveled extensively, we did. It felt great to share experiences, but it was mostly great just to be understood by someone else.

Poverty And NGO Work

We were somewhat miserable coming back.

The biggest thing for us was that we saw so much poverty everywhere that every time we heard someone complaining about their first-world problems, it was hard for us to relate.

Audrey (my wife) started volunteering remotely for an NGO called Sundara almost as soon as we came back to Canada. That was her way of remaining connected to the world.

But it wasn’t enough.

That October, we went to Uganda to help with Sundara’s operations there. We had partnered with other NGOs there to provide them with water. Long story short, they had no access to clean water. People were dying from diseases and dehydration.

I helped bring awareness to the cause by taking photos (like the one above) and Audrey handled the operations and the outreach.

It was a life-changing experience.

The Turning Point

Then on November 11th 2016, we were sitting at the Foggy Dew Irish pub. We were talking about how we were not satisfied with our current situation in Toronto. At one point I told Audrey:

“Why don’t we just leave and travel again?”

That was our turning point.

We were so in agreement with this idea. Truthfully, I never thought she’d be up for it, but it turns out she needed that even more than I.

A few months later she applied for Doctors Without Borders. She got the job really fast.

In my case, I had applied for a competitive grant for Soul Reaper and got it. I could work from anywhere. My team was already remote, so it wasn’t even that big a change.

So with that, we left our jobs for real this time. We took a vacation in June and July 2017, and then we parted ways for her to do her first mission in Central African Republic, and for me to work as a digital nomad in Cambodia.

The Better

You will be more interesting

With all the places you’ll have seen, all the food you’ll have eaten, all the activities you’ll have done and all the different friends you’ll have made, you will have a repertoire of interesting stories to tell for years to come.

You will make new friends

The connections you make while traveling tend to be really strong. You share wonderful experiences that most people don’t get to live. When back home, you’ll occasionally meet like-minded people and the bonding will be that much easier.

You will have a deeper appreciation

A deeper appreciation for everything. When you see that people in other countries don’t have the things you take for granted, well, you don’t take them for granted anymore.

You will be more positive

When you are in new environments frequently, it’s stressful. You panic. You yell. You cry. Then you’re back and things feel so “easy”. You start thinking positive about every situation.

You will be more open-minded

You’ll have met people with all sorts of backgrounds. You’ll have eaten food you never even thought existed. Your prejudices will go away and you will start to appreciate everyone and everything for what they are.

The Worse

You will be less tolerant of meaningless problems

The so-called first-world problems become so hilarious at times. You’ll hear people complain about the most meaningless of things when you’re back home. Sometimes you’ll find it funny, but sometimes it will irritate you.

You will become really cheap

A lot of countries can be cheaper than home, depending on which country you’re from. When you’re used to paying little for meals, it’s hard to come back and pay 5–10x the price for less authentic meals. It’s the same for accommodation and other things.

You will lose connections

I mentioned that above. Your friends will have a different lifestyle. You won’t connect on the same level anymore. Striking a meaningful conversation becomes harder when you don’t have anything in common anymore.

You will annoy people

You will be interesting to some, but you’ll be annoying to others. You will be perceived as pretentious. You will be so excited about your wonderful journey that when you talk about it, people will think you speak in a superior tone.

If you watched The Big Bang Theory, it’s similar to when Howard came back from space.

You will not be understood

People will not have lived the things you have. A lot of your close family will not agree with your new lifestyle or ideas. This can be difficult.


Traveling long-term is an amazing way of life, but is not without its downsides.

Your journey will have its ups and downs.

It will shape the person you are and will be for the years to come.

It will change your life, sometimes for the better or sometimes for the worse.

Ultimately, once you go past the bad, nothing beats the good you get out of it in my opinion.

Are you considering a similar path?

Are you ready for the most amazing ride of your life?

You can do this!

Thanks for reading, sharing, and following! :)

If you want to be prepared for a better tomorrow, then SkillUp! Check out SkillUp Academy!

Danny Forest

Written by

Viking Polymath writing for today’s knowledge economy, building a more skillful tomorrow.

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