4 Things They Won’t Tell You About the Vagabond Life

The last time I wrote for Fit Bottomed Zen was nearly a year ago, and I was traveling the world. My articles were about taking risks — backpacking like a boss, skiing in the Swiss Alps. I was living the life, or so it seemed, but like most things on social media, my experience was not completely honest or transparent. So, I’ll confess: There are MANY things that are less than glamorous about living the van life — the vagabond life. For the sake of length, this article will share four things you won’t be told about the vagabond life.

1. Lack of Security

Hopscotching from one European country to next is arguably one of the most glamorous aspects of backpacking, and travelers will proudly parade flag-patched backpacks of conquered countries.

Free birds will be far less likely to share their stories of insecurity and vulnerability that come with moving every few days. Carrying the physical and emotional burden of constantly planning and anticipating your most basic needs is exhausting, especially when you don’t know the land or language. The amount of constant planning that comes with backpacking will quickly eat your time, money and energy.

2. Loss and Missed Opportunities

When your mind is occupied with planning your most basic necessities, it’s easy to find yourself lost and missing home. Part of my experience navigating Europe was accepting loss and the passage of time. I lost countless physical objects and missed out on weddings, birthdays, and over a year’s worth of special occasions. Having a consistent routine and location makes it easy to keep life together, organized, and present.

3. Lackluster Relationships

It takes time and commitment to build anything worth standing, and traveling makes it difficult to grow roots. Consequently, I found people were less interested in building close relationships with me. It seemed most people approached me with a protective armor once they realized I would be leaving in a year, a few months, a few days. I found myself doing the same.

4. Processing Time

Traveling has taught me a number of lessons: I now speak half-decent German. I have a greater understanding of European culture and geography. I know how to find an excellent Riesling. I want to work in international education, advocating for migrant and refugee students. I value my family (and to my surprise) want to experience motherhood. Traveling the world taught me these lessons, but I wasn’t able to articulate them, or even fully realize them, until I returned home. In order to process what we learn, we must feel safe and secure, which is best achieved at home.

As with every choice we make, traveling and creating a home both come with sacrifices. Being rooted means sacrificing a level of freedom and thrill for stability, security and ease. Traveling offers an invigorating newness, a chance to fulfill dreams and gain confidence, while foregoing the gentle calm that comes with a consistent routine.

If you find yourself divided between your wanderlust and the comforts of home, understand that it is only natural to romanticize both situations.

What lessons have you learned while traveling? What have you learned by coming home? —Alex

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