You may feel it when scrolling through your Instagram and Facebook feeds. When you take a break to daydream on a particularly busy day at work, or go for a walk and wonder what lies beyond your 9-to-5 desk job. When you go on vacation and long for an extension of the perfect, responsibility-free unreality.
It’s wanderlust. And once it’s taken hold of you, it’s nearly impossible to escape it.
For most people, this fantasy of the perfect life — filled with exotic destinations, cultural experiences and reckless spontaneity — is just a dream. It’s a break from the reality of life’s everyday challenges. For others, however, it’s a lifestyle. But don’t be fooled. The wanderlust lifestyle is filled with its own set of challenges.
Take it from Mirella and Romulo, a Brazilian couple in their 30s who have perfected the art of traveling full time. In January 2015, the two left their jobs, sold their belongings and said their goodbyes to travel the world. With backgrounds in business and marketing, they started a project called Travel and Share, and began partnering with brands to use their products and services in exchange for exposure on social media.
When they launched Travel and Share, Mirella and Romulo planned to travel five continents in three years, recording all of their adventures and real-life, unedited experiences through video blogs, pictures and posts. Now, nearly two years into their travels, Mirella and Romulo have visited 23 countries on two continents.
"In our previous jobs we had to travel a lot, but in business travel you only get to see the same things everywhere: hotels and offices," Mirella tells International Medical Group® (IMG®). "We wanted to see the differences in each country, and to get to see that, we would have to stop traveling for business and start traveling for real."
And so began their journey. But it hasn’t been without its fair share of challenges. IMG asked the couple to share their advice and "lessons learned" for other international travelers who are captivated by the wanderlust lifestyle. Here are the tips they shared:
1. Don’t Over-Plan
Of course, there’s a caveat: Some things you have to plan (i.e., tip No. 2). However, planning absolutely every detail of your travels may close the door to other opportunities.
"We don’t over-plan," Mirella says. "We know more or less where we want to be in the short- and medium-term."
When you’re open and willing to adapt your schedule, you may get more out of your travels.
"It’s nice to have an agenda and itinerary, but it’s also important to be flexible. It has already happened to us many times that we liked one place a lot and wanted to stay longer, while other places we didn’t like as much, so we just passed through," Mirella says.
2. Finance Properly
When you decide to travel the world, you often decide to lose a steady income. That’s why it’s important to save money far in advance.
You must consider several costs, including lodging, food, transportation, miscellaneous expenses and the unpredictable accidents that could happen along the way.
"It is very stressful to travel thinking that you can run out of money at any time," Mirella says. "It is best to have your savings and budget planned for the time you have decided to travel."
Mirella and Romulo saved up for five years, planning to spend $1,000 USD per month. They estimated that 60% of their budget would go toward gas for their vehicle, and the remaining balance would be spent on food and other items.
Lodging is a nominal expense for the two, as they rely on Couchsurfing, a Web-based platform that connects travelers to hosts across the globe who open their homes for free. Additionally, Mirella and Romulo keep a tent in their truck in the event they can’t find a host through Couchsurfing.
To get started with your savings, Mirella recommends putting aside 20% of each paycheck for your travels.
3. Protect Your Health & Well-Being
Constant travel can be harsh on your health. In fact, a 2015 study revealed the darker sides of frequent travel, noting the physiological, social, psychological and emotional consequences of "hypermobility," specifically related to frequent business travel.
While the wanderlust lifestyle can be characterized as leisure travel, it does resemble business travel in that frequent mobility is a necessary function of the person’s day-to-day life.
As such, it’s important to keep in mind that traveling full time isn’t always as glamorous as it seems. The research points to a number of factors that can impact your overall health, including:
Although many of these health consequences are hard (if not impossible) to control, there are others that are more easily managed. With regard to exercise, Mirella recommends walking as much as possible instead of driving or taking public transportation.
To ensure you eat healthier, she recommends cooking your own food instead of dining out. Also, keep in mind food and beverage safety when traveling internationally.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises international travelers to steer clear of raw food, street food and "bushmeat" — local wild game not eaten in every country. Hot food, and dry or packaged foods are usually safe. For drinks: When in doubt, bottled or canned drinks are typically safe, but be wary of dishonest vendors who may sell tap water in bottles and use glue to mimic a factory seal, the CDC warns.
On the subject of beverages, avoid drinking too much alcohol during your travels for obvious health reasons. Mirella also adds, "Being hungover is not a nice thing to be while you’re in another country."
She also has some tips to help combat the emotional and psychological challenges you may experience:
Keeping all of this in mind when planning your trip can help protect your health and well-being during your travels.
4. Get Covered
You may think you’ll never need insurance, but even travel pros experience medical emergencies. That’s why Mirella and Romulo rely on travel medical insurance.
"It’s really hard to travel thinking that if something were to happen to our health, we could get in a lot of debt or it could ruin our trip," Mirella says. "Travel [medical] insurance gives us peace of mind."
This type of coverage is specially designed to protect you in the event of an unexpected illness or injury when you’re traveling outside of your country of residence. For Mirella and Romulo, travel medical insurance has come in handy a few times. Here’s one example:
"We were in a hotel in Costa Rica, having tons of fun – until we went out for dinner. Romulo ordered a tuna filet with mashed potatoes, which ended up being spoiled. The result was 12 hours in the bathroom," Mirella says.
After going to a hospital and receiving medication for food poisoning, Romulo still wasn’t feeling well. They called their hotel nurse, but she couldn’t help.
"With my temperature getting higher, we couldn’t wait any longer so we went to another hospital," Romulo says. "When we arrived, the doctor injected medicine into my veins. We had to pay over $1,000, which was way too much for us. We would have never been prepared to spend that much money on medicine, but we could handle this situation because we had travel medical insurance."
Mirella adds, "Travel medical insurance is crucial."
Despite the many challenges that come along with the wanderlust lifestyle, one thing is true for Mirella and Romulo: Preparation has been key — whether it’s purchasing travel medical insurance, understanding health risks abroad, budgeting properly or planning a flexible schedule.
The lessons they’ve learned and the tips they’ve shared with IMG can serve as a starting point for others who are interested in traveling the world.
However, you may still be curious about one more detail of their travels: With so many unique and beautiful places to visit, how do they choose where to go next? For Mirella, it comes down to the people who live there.
"A city is just a place to see, but people and new cultures teach you things," she says.
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