World travel gets more popular every year.
Take a look at the international tourist arrival stats from 2015. Around 1.2 billion people spent at least one night overseas. That was a 50 million increase on 2014.
That’s genuinely awesome.
I think everyone should travel. It’s just an epic thing to do. However, it isn’t all great. There are definite challenges to being on the road too.
Are you interested in travelling but haven’t yet fully committed to the decision?
Well, knowing all the pros and cons of travel may help you decide if it’ll be right for you.
Spoiler alert: it definitely would be!
But that’s just my opinion. To help you make up your own mind, read on to discover all the advantages AND disadvantages of travelling abroad.
Short on time? Here’s a printable PDF cheatsheet of this post! Click to download 👍
A Complete List of Advantages and Disadvantages of Travelling Abroad
Travelling is full of ups and downs. Rest assured that the good far outweighs the bad. Nevertheless, here we go: all the pros and cons of travelling you’ll encounter on the road.
Advantages of Travelling Abroad
Let’s start with the advantages. Travelling is full of them. Take the plunge into the unknown and you stand to gain immensely. In no particular order, here’s how…
Meet Incredible People
It’s often the people you meet that make the experience of travel so unforgettable.
Go travelling and become the newest member of a worldwide community of travellers. Meet people from all walks of life, with totally different backgrounds, stories and aspirations.
You will meet people you would never otherwise have crossed paths with. Your differences don’t matter. You’re all doing the same thing: adventuring, exploring, and seeing the world. You can make friends in an instant on that foundation alone.
Many people don’t like the idea of solo travel through fear of getting lonely. And yep, there’s the potential for it (more on that subject later). But, in reality, it’s all too easy to meet likeminded, lovely people to spend time with.
If you’re like me, then you’ll sometimes yearn for a bit of time to yourself…Overall though, you forge lifelong friendships with the people you meet on the road. Whether you stay in touch or not, they’ll walk with you forever in memory.
Explore Somewhere New
This one’s obvious, but travel takes you to places you’ve never been before.
You grow up and hear about distant lands and exotic cultures in stories. Myths and legends inspire wanderlust from a young age. You read books about foreign shores, first explorers, and novel ways of life.
Then you go travelling and see it all with your own eyes. You explore the ruins you learned about in history class, witness the images you’d only seen on TV, and spend time in magical places you’d never even heard about.
Your entire world can feel like your house, friends, family and neighbourhood. Step outside and have travel burst that bubble. Step outside the norm and you get a sense of how much there is to see out there.
Ironically, the more you travel, the bigger the world seems to get.
Have an Adventure
A desire for adventure is what drives my wanderlust.
I don’t know why, but I’ve always yearned for it. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to have an adventure. Travel is my way of having one.
It’s about independence, taking control of my life, and getting out and doing something a bit different. For me, travel is really living. It gets to the very heart of what it is to live life in a vibrant, engaged, intense way.
Go travelling and forge memories that will last forever. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Witness Immense Beauty
Travel confronts you with some of the world’s most beautiful places.
Beauty is everywhere, I know. You don’t have to travel a thousand miles to find it. But travel lays it on a plate in front of you. You simply find yourself in incredible places.
It gets to a point where you actually start losing touch with it. You find yourself thinking ‘oh, another waterfall’, or ‘ah yep, another mountain’. You end up a little spoiled!
The world’s beauty is a perfect antidote if you’re ever short on inspiration. It’s hard to be confronted with the sublime and not feel a sense of awe and wonder.
Quick N.B.: With all that beauty on offer you’ll want a camera to picture it! Here’s a list of the best backpacking cameras out there!
Make Unforgettable Memories
Travelling and adventure have a habit of making memories.
Go away for any reasonable period of time and immerse yourself in the experience. You’ll undoubtedly come away with stories you’ll never forget.
All we are is a system of memories.
Lose your memory, and who exactly are you? Our very identity is built upon the things we’ve seen, heard, read about, and committed to memory.
In the same way, maybe we can look at making memories as a fundamental way of learning who we are, and/or becoming someone new.
Do Something Different
Life is short.
It’s clichéd to say it, but you really never know how much time you’re going to get.
I love this quote:
Who is more likely to be scared of dying? The person who spends their life behind a desk for 40 years, or the one who explores the world and gets stuck into an adventure?
The purpose of life isn’t to take the less trodden path. But the less trodden path will most definitely help you find purpose in life.
Build Your Confidence
Travel is hard.
Obviously, I’m not talking a week on the beach sort of travel.
I’m talking weeks, months or years away from home, without the comfort of friends and family, and exploring foreign shores while living out of a backpack with minimal funds to get by.
You will experience hardship. It will be tough-going. Among the many challenges, you’ll get lost, lonely, homesick (and possibly physically sick), and question what you’re doing.
And one way or another you’ll get through it all. Overcoming adversity is a sure-fire way to grow your confidence. The meekest, most insecure and mothered person in the world can come away from travel with heaps of newfound confidence.
You travel. You suffer. You endure. You grow.
Learn About Yourself
Your confidence on the road grows at about the same rate as your self-knowledge.
There’s nothing quite like stepping out of your bubble to realise who you actually are. I can vouch for this one. Indeed, I wanted to travel with a primary goal to learn more about myself. Now, self-awareness is a lifelong process. But I definitely got home feeling far more aligned with who I really am.
It’s difficult not to. All those new people you meet, ideas you come across, cultures you learn from, things you see, and experiences you have…it all leads to self-discovery.
You get home from travel feeling distinctly different from the person who left it months before.
Recoup, Unwind, De-Stress, Move On…Heal
The road has healing qualities, I’m sure of it.
Throughout time, people have gone travelling to explore, learn, see, and live.
But there’s often deep pain, and the need to escape from it, lurking somewhere in the background.
If you need an opportunity to stop, move on, recover your energy, and generally lick your wounds (mental, physical or emotional), then consider going travelling. You don’t need a plan, you just need time. You don’t need a goal, you just need to be open to the experience.
I don’t know how it works, but travel offers a soothing balm to the cuts and bruises that life can throw at you.
Quick point of interest: some people take crystals with them for good luck and protection on the road! Want to learn more? Here’s a guide to the best crystals for travel!
Expand Your CV
Many people baulk at the idea of travel because it means creating a gap on their CV.
How could you possibly explain that year abroad to a prospective employer? Personally, if a future interviewer looks at my gap-filled, random-arse CV and has a problem with it, then I probably don’t want to work for them anyway. Equally, there’s almost always a way to bend the CV to fit your needs.
But that’s just me.
And anyway, travel can actually make you more employable. After all, it demands maturity, tenacity, problem-solving, independence, some language skills, time-keeping abilities, people-skills, and more.
What employer wouldn’t want a staff member with these qualities?
Remember, we don’t live in the 1950s.
Travel is exceptionally common. Most employers are used to it and may even be surprised if you haven’t been away. Secondly, the way we’re working is changing. More and more of us are pushing against the typical one-career-for-life mentality.
Gaps, random roles, periods of unemployment, and travel, just go hand in hand with that! Can you articulate the value of your time overseas? Then you can justify it to a future employer.
Disadvantages of Travel
On to the disadvantages of travelling abroad.
It’s important to know about them. But remember that they’re all, always, possible to overcome. And, when you do, you come away with greater confidence in yourself. You learn to fend for yourself and stand on your own two feet.
Ironically, without the challenge, I don’t think travelling would be half as profound as it is.
Nonetheless, here are the disadvantages of travel to expect.
FYI: having the right gear can help out on the road! Here’s a list of the best backpacks for travel, in case you’re interested.
Travel requires money.
Sure, there are ways to travel for less, and having little money should never stop you doing it. But, in reality, without money, travel becomes far trickier.
In exactly the same way, going travelling depletes your bank balance. That nice nest egg you’d built up can shrivel up before your eyes! Indeed, most people scrimp and save to fund a trip.
There’s normally not a lot left when they get home.
It isn’t easy to handle. You look at your mates who’ve worked the whole time you’ve been away. They’re buying cars, houses, and doing cool stuff. Meanwhile, you have barely a penny to your name.
You might have to live back with mum and dad. You probably have to get a menial job to pay the bills or rent. It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself.
You’re Out of the Loop
You’re thousands of miles away from home, separated by oceans and continents.
After an initial teething period, you get used to it. You become immersed in the experience. And it isn’t as difficult being away from your loved ones.
Life goes on without you there though.
You don’t go to the parties, you miss out on the latest gossip, and you aren’t privy to the goings-on. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But you get home and find that you’re no longer up to speed with the group.
It can be easy to feel alienated and on the outskirts when you first get back.
Miss Important Events at Home
You can’t be in two places at once.
If you’re travelling, then you’ll almost certainly miss out on important events back home.
I ended up missing my Dad’s 60th birthday last year because of travel. He was great, and didn’t make a big deal of it at all. However, I missed it. And I was painfully aware of them all being together while I was on the other side of the world.
Similarly, this year I’ve already missed a family holiday and my brother’s birthday. I’m due to miss multiple friend’s wedding days, more birthdays, and probably Christmas.
I’m doing cool stuff all the time, but missing these are the times when I question if travel is really worth it. They’re some of the loneliest times on the road.
At the end of the day you have chosen to travel. It’s easy to feel guilty. It’s even easier to feel sorry for yourself.
Almost everyone gets homesick on the road.
It makes sense. You’re miles away from your nearest and dearest. You’re missing birthdays, Christmasses, and pretty much everything while you’re away. You’re often lonely, out of your comfort zone, and missing your mum’s cooking.
Feeling homesick isn’t fun at all. It can sap the enjoyment from travel for as long as it lasts.
You Fall Behind on the Career Ladder
Travel is good for your CV, as we’ve seen.
But you undeniably get home and have some career-catch up to do (if that’s your goal).
Your peers have had a decent head-start. While you’ve been away, they’ve been working. They’re getting promotions, pay-rises and progressing up the ladder. You have to start from the bottom. The longer you travel, the bigger the gap gets.
When you eventually come home, looking upwards at your friends’ success isn’t always easy. And with travel as just a memory now, it can be difficult to feel great about your decision-making.
Travelling is bloody tiring.
You don’t expect it. You’re used to holidays where the sole purpose is to rest up and relax. You come away feeling rejuvenated. Travel is food for the soul. But it isn’t always a relaxing affair.
That’s because travel is about exploring. You’re on the go all the time, forever moving from one place to the next, eager not to miss out on anything. All those new foods, people, languages, sounds, smells and places are there to experience.
Getting to know them all tires you out.
Indeed, you can easily burn out completely and get sick. And you don’t want to be unwell in some of the hospitals you’ll come across overseas…
There’s Potential Danger
The potential for harm is a common reason many people decide against travel.
It’s definitely the reason your mum doesn’t want you to go.
And yep, the prospect of long term (especially solo) travel is daunting. It requires a leap into the unknown that goes against all of our innate survival instincts.
Our brains are wired to want safety. What’s known and predictable feels good. After all, you’re less likely to die. Travelling requires a willingness to push against this need.
Look, it would be false to say there’s no danger out there.
Every year you hear horror stories of travellers going missing, or being killed overseas. The most recent one I can think of is the British girl, Grace Millane, who was murdered in New Zealand (statistically one of the safest places in the world) in December last year.
It’s awful and frightening and fuels the idea that travelling is dangerous. It can be, clearly. But with appropriate precautions, and general common sense, you have to be unlucky to come into harm’s way.
Remember, there’s danger at home too. You’re probably more likely to die crossing the road outside your house than travelling in some distant land.
Here’s another quote I like:
In essence: fortune favours the brave. Don’t wrap yourself in cotton wool forever.
You’re Forced to Confront Your Issues
None of us are perfect.
All of us have our insecurities, weaknesses, neuroses, prejudices, vices and Achilles heels. But at home, surrounded by everything we know and everyone who loves us, it’s difficult to face up to them.
Often, it takes a change of environment and a novel context to showcase our problems.
There’s nothing quite like travel to begin to understand yourself better. Remember that advantage of learning more of who you are on the road? Well, sometimes that newfound insight has a sting to it.
I’ve realised a huge amount of stuff about myself that it would have been easier to ignore! To name a few: how ignorant I am of the world; how self-centred my focus is; how insecure I can be; how anxious I get, how entitled I can be…I could easily go on.
Travel humbles you. It holds a mirror up and forces you to take note.
I actually count this is a major advantage of travel. It’s exactly what makes you become a better person (you have to know what needs fixing before you can do it, right?) However, I’ll leave it in the disadvantages section for now. After all, not everyone wants to find out their bad bits!
It Can Be Lonely
I’ve been born and raised in cities.
And I’ve always been struck by the irony that you can feel so intensely lonely in such a mass of people.
The same is true when you travel. There may be times when you are genuinely by yourself. But as I’ve already mentioned, more often than not you’re surrounded by fellow travellers. That’s almost always the case on the tourist trails.
Yet loneliness can develop anyway.
You can feel lost and alone and unsure of what you’re doing. Exploring the world has a habit of highlighting just how small you are. It can crumble your desire to travel, wring the joy from the experience and have you yearning for the comfort of home.
And it’s all part of the experience.
Everyone should learn how to be alone. Creativity, discovery, and self-awareness develop in the silence of solitude. Travel is king at forcing you into it.
Coming Home is Hard
The hardest part of travel is often coming home.
It’s ironic. Saying goodbye at the start of your trip is hard. Then getting back to that very same place, with the very same people, is often harder. You end up mourning your time on the road.
Coming home is a shock to the system after all your adventures and awesome experiences.
You feel different. But everything is the same. It’s the same bed, the same four walls, the same conversations, the same meals in the evenings, the same mundane concerns…It’s difficult to get your head around.
How has nothing at home changed when you’ve had this profound, life-changing time?
It can take a while to readjust back into home-life. I’ve found that you never want to travel more than in the weeks following your return home.
Time to Wrap Up
There you have it: a comprehensive list of advantages and disadvantages of travelling abroad.
Millions and millions of people travel in some shape or form every year. You may well be thinking of doing it too…And I’d always encourage that decision. It will change your life. However, it’s still a big call.
Knowing the pros and cons may help you decide what to do. Hopefully, this list has given you everything you need to choose the path that’s right for you.
Now I’d love to get your thoughts on this piece! Are you thinking of travelling? What do you think would be the biggest advantage and/or disadvantage for you? Drop a comment below.
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