When my oldest children turned 18, I started to take longer vacations. (I wish I would have started when my kids were younger.) The first trip we went on was a 5-week adventure to Turkey, with a short stop in the Greek islands. After my twin boys completed their Mormon missions, the three of us traveled around in the Philippines (mostly on the islands of Mindinao and Palawan) for five weeks, with a short stop on the island of Borneo. For my daughter’s graduation present, we spent 3 weeks in New England and eastern maritime Canada, spending a delightful week on the island of Newfoundland. I’ve also made shorter trips to Egypt, Namibia, Morocco, France, Spain, Estonia, Finland, Malaysia, Colombia, Bolivia, Indonesia, western China, Navajoland, and other nations around the world. Over the last 4 years, I have made 5 3-4 week trips to Uganda doing volunteer work. Needless to say, I love to travel.
In the most recent issue of USAA Magazine (Summer 2012), Rolf Potts has an interesting article titled: “How I Did It: Afford Two-Month Vacations” and subtitled: “Rolf Potts has visited 60 countries and six continents. Here’s his secret.” While the short article doesn’t reveal many “secrets,” it is still interesting:
I learned many lessons on [my sojourns], but the most important was this: By traveling cheaply and forgoing the trappings of luxury, I could give myself more of life’s most valuable commodity–time. . . .
. . . Instead of luxury hotels, I seek out clean, basic hotels, hostels and guest houses. I buy groceries from the market or eat food from street vendors or local cafeterias. Freed from a rigid, expense-laden itinerary, I’m more likely to be spontaneous, embrace serendipity and enjoy each moment of my journey.
My children are long gone, and while I don’t mind traveling alone, it’s frequently nice to have company. Lately I’ve been traveling with friends who have similar interests to mine. And my oldest grandchildren will turn 14 in July. So there is now the possibility of traveling with grandchildren, something I look forward to.
Long vacations when you have a salaried job is not always easy. However, my current employer provides 26 vacation days and 9 holidays each year. I can also trade overtime hours for vacation hours. My bosses have been very understanding about my need to travel. While traveling I try to average one hour a day working on issues related to my job. There are Internet cafes all over the world.
According to Potts:
As a writer and blogger, I usually work during these long-term holidays. This arrangement doesn’t need to be exclusive to my profession, though. Over the years, I’ve met folks who do everything from graphic design to busineess-consulting work during their multi-month vacations. Others have bought time off by negotiating sabbaticals or leaves of absense with their more traditional employers. I’ve even met plenty of families traveling long-term together.
When you have a slightly obsessive personality like I have, it is very useful to get away for the job for awhile. It improves your perspective and helps clear your brain of the efluvia of life.
Austrialian photographer Murray Fredericks is one of the more interesting long “vacationers.” Fredericks likes to photographs in extreme environments. Of particular interest is to him is Lake Eyre, a large salt flat in southern Australia. According to an article by Mark Chipperfield in American Express’s Platinum magazine (Nov 2007):
By [Fredericks’] own admission, documenting the nuances of light and space in one of the world’s harshest environments has taken a toll on his health. Each year he spends five weeks camping alone on Lake Eyre–but the operation means ferrying camera equipment, batteries, food and water using a bicycle and a trailer.
Taking long, immersive vacations into distant environments and cultures can be a very cathartic experience. If nothing else, it causes your brain to examine a wider range of options.
Traveling with your children is also important, particularly to developing countries. Frequently, family members get thinking that middle-class America is global reality.
PS. Traveling in developing countries is also less expensive than traveling in the US, Europe, or Japan. And there are plenty of things to do and see in most developing countries.