When you’re daydreaming about all the places you want to visit on your trip, or poring over maps creating sample itineraries, it’s easy to get carried away. There are lots of reasons to want to travel to as many places as you can when you take a big trip. First of all, it’s technically cheaper: with one RTW ticket, adding countries is much cheaper than it would ever be to travel to them individually. However, you need to think about how you want to travel, and come up with a travel pace that you can sustain, and that won’t have you burned out, those dozen or so countries you visited in a whirlwind just a massive blur in your memory.
Coming up with a reasonable travel pace is difficult from home. If you’ve never taken an extended trip before, it can be next to impossible. When you’re fresh and itching to get going, you can envision yourself with unlimited travel stamina, capable of several long travel days a week and each day packed with activities. I’m sure there are some people who can actually travel this way, but the reality tends to be far different.
Travel can be hard work. It can take its toll on you for a number of reasons. There’s the jet lag, which makes it tough to get used to being in a different time zone. Then there’s the culture shock, the disorientation, the many challenges, small and large, that you face throughout the day. Travel days can sap your energy because of uncomfortable seats and bumpy roads. And you have to assume that at some point you’ll come down with some kind of health issues; traveler’s diarrhea, or something a little stronger that knocks you out of commission for a few days.
Basically, you need to realize that what looks good on paper might not be so doable in reality. Schedules change, the bus that you are counting on based on your year-old guidebook might not run anymore, and roads close. And sometimes you just need to recharge your batteries.
So what is the ideal travel pace? When I started my world trip, I was moving locations an average of every three days. That seems reasonable, but it started to take its toll; all those overnight buses and activity-packed days really take it out of you after a while. I once heard someone say they treated travel like work: five days on and two days off.
There really is no ideal travel pace. The ideal travel pace is whatever works for you. I found that every few days I needed a day off – nothing special, but just a day where you don’t have any big sightseeing planned, and you can just take it easy and enjoy the surroundings. And I also enjoyed taking an extended break every few weeks. If you’ve built time for these diversions into your schedule, they can be some of the most memorable parts of your trip.
Just remember that you when you travel around the world, it’s your trip. If you want to hit it hard every single day, then by all means, go ahead. But if you travel and you need a break, by all means, take one. Skipping a few places might seem like a big sacrifice at the time, but the revitalization you’ll receive from taking a few days off could help you get more enjoyment out of the places you do go to.
What’s your ideal travel pace? Slow or fast? Let us know in the comments.