Traveling is an art form, and everyone must express it in their own way, but I often wonder how to know when it’s time to make a move.
When is the right time to head to a new destination, to a new country, or even back home?
Before a trip, the anticipation starts to build, and with preparation comes the confidence that you can make it happen. You set off with all of the nervousness and excitement of a novice voyager, ready to experience life as if for the first time.
Inevitably the initial buzz wears off, at least with extended trips or long term stays abroad. You get away from your old life, live temporarily in a sort of suspended state, and over time build a life for yourself somewhere else. In one way or another, given enough time, you will “settle”. It’s natural to do so.
Going abroad: to travel or to live
If you are heading abroad, you should examine your motives and approach to travel. A three-month trip in which you aim to see a few countries in South East Asia, or even one country, means that you will pretty much never settle. Your definition of “settled” will be when you find a place to rest your head for a few nights that serves a substantial breakfast.
The aim in this case is not really to get to know one place as if you live there, but to adventure and explore your country of choice, given the amount of time that you have. There’s nothing at all wrong with that, and I wish you all the best experiences and reflections in the world. Your choice for when to move on is probably pretty simple — when you get bored, make a move. If you really like a place, stay longer and soak it up. Be flexible with your itinerary, and don’t try to cram too much in.
If you plan on a long-term type of travel, or you are relocating abroad as an expat, then your decision is a little bit different. Unlike the flighty traveler, who is always on the move, expats are consciously looking to “settle” somewhere, either for a given or indefinite length of time.
When the length of time is undetermined, or you have the flexibility to move to other places whenever you want (as is the case with remote workers like myself), then you will sooner or later be faced with a choice of whether or not to extend your leases and stay abroad.
You should first logically examine pros and cons and see whether it makes sense to stay or move. If you have work and money and a nice place in an area that you are happy to live in, and you’ve established a good network of people around you, then (in my eyes) you have some good reasons to stay.
By the same token, if you don’t have any reasons to stay somewhere, or you actively dislike a place, then you have a solid reason to make a move. If another place is calling out to you and offers more in terms of your preferred lifestyle, then it might be worth taking a trip to the place to see if you would like to live there.
Live the life you want to live
Remember, as a traveler or expat, you are not obligated to be anywhere. Many people leave their hometowns or country to make a change or for “freedom”. Everyone has a different definition of what this means to them, but part of it is surely the freedom to live a life that you want to live. If your travel lifestyle becomes less desirable, or a place that you once enjoyed loses its appeal, you can exercise that same freedom to walk away.
I recall a story about a man named John Hennigan, whose friend wagered him $25,000 to relocate to a small town named Des Moines in Iowa, a town that was a significant change from Hennigan’s usual and preferred hangouts of Las Vegas and Atlantic City. He lasted two days before negotiating a get-out fee and returning home. Unlike Hennigan, you are not being paid to stay somewhere. You aren’t risking $25,000 (unless you have invested in a “beach bar” somewhere). You can go someplace else if you don’t like it.
Aside from moving from place to place, sometimes you might also just want to go home. I remember counting down the days to my flight home after long travel trips, exhausted and tired of life on the road. Settled life brings comforts and a sustainable pace of life, and it also reconnects us with friends and those we care about. I need it every now and again, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Life has its ups and downs, and wherever we live in the world we can expect to experience them in some form or another. The trick with living abroad or traveling is to have a sense of when your time in a place has come to an end, or when it is just beginning…
Also read: How to Find The Perfect Job Abroad