7 Reasons to Sell Everything You Own and Travel Long Term

I plan to let my lease expire and sell everything I own except for what fits in a suitcase and a backpack. Then I will wander around the world for the entirety of 2018.

You may have heard stories about people quitting their jobs, selling all of their stuff, and buying a one-way ticket away from home. I know I have, but why do people do it?

Traveling is popular for a reason. There’s nothing that remotely compares to seeing a brand new part of the world. Not only are you exposed to new places, but you also get to see new people, new cultures, new foods, and new toilet seats (thanks, Japan).

To leave your current life behind and jump on a plane, however, is a massive decision. But for some people, it’s the right decision. Here are some reasons to consider doing it yourself. I’m largely basing this list on my own reasons to do this for 2018. Here we go!

1. You Can Afford to Do It

Laundry costs can really add up when traveling. Also, you sometimes have to pay to use the bathroom in Europe.

One of the best reasons to travel long term is if you can afford to do it! A lot of people would jump at the opportunity if it weren’t so expensive.

While traveling is generally pretty expensive, there are a lot of clever ways to cut down on costs. Some countries are very inexpensive to live in, and some people are so masterful at saving money that traveling is less expensive for them than living at home. Here are some things to consider.

  • Food: When I went to Thailand in 2016, meals were $1-3, and that’s eating out! That’s easily 10x less than what I might pay for a meal in Seattle. In more expensive places, you can usually save money by shopping at grocery stores.
  • Lodging: Hostels are pretty cheap worldwide. I generally stay in these and pay $20-50 a night. Otherwise, you can try couchsurfing, which is completely free!
  • Home savings: One of the biggest benefits of “selling out” back home to travel is that you can eliminate having to pay rent, and then use that money to fund your travels. Most people would just need to rent a storage unit to put their remaining stuff into (which is about $100 a month in Seattle, WA).
  • Work: Some people can work on the go. Others can look for work in the places they travel. There are programs for travelers that give you room and board in exchange for labor (See WWOOF for an example).

Being able to afford long term travel doesn’t necessarily mean having a lot of extra money. It just means that your travel style and plans match up with your financial means. And hey, selling everything you own is a nice start for making travel financially viable!

2. You Need to Get Uncomfortable

Do you even know how uncomfortable that bench was??

Your home environment is most comfortable to you. Even in harsh, unhealthy home environments, there’s comfort in familiarity. That’s why people stay in bad situations. It’s bad, but at least they know what to expect.

Part of the challenge and thrill of travel is that you aren’t familiar with the new places you visit.

We like to be comfortable, but we grow the most when we’re uncomfortable. Expanding your comfort zone is so beneficial because it enables you to be comfortable in more situations. For example, when a person trains to scuba dive, they can eventually become comfortable breathing 100 feet underwater, swimming around with fascinating sea life. That’s really amazing! Traveling puts us in new environments, and we are forced to adapt and become stronger in the process. Seeing yourself become greater is one of life’s greatest treasures.

No matter how excellent your home environment is in theory, you can still develop some undesirable comfort-based habits. You can become bored and jaded. You can stagnate. Traveling can absolutely pull you out of that slump! When life seems hopeless, your first thought should be to consider a change in your environment.

Traveling has no substitute because there’s no other way to simulate such a dramatic shift in environment. Given that environment dictates so many of our habitual behaviors, immersing yourself in a new environment can essentially give you a fresh start with what habits you want to form. Your brain will be looking for new patterns in this new place, and now you can choose wisely with your years of experience! On my most recent trip, I started most days by doing situps in bed, something I hadn’t been doing at home.

3. You Are Young Or Old

The way I phrased that doesn’t seem like a reason, because I included all ages. But there are unique reasons to travel depending on your age.

If you’re young, you are well-prepared for the physical challenges of traveling. While traveling, you’ll generally walk more, climb more, and will be uncomfortable more often, and a young body can take it in stride!

If you’re older, your extensive world experience will serve you well on the go. Not only that, but traveling when you’re older (just like any age) is one of the most exciting options at your disposal. I’ve met people 60+ years old in hostels who were more adventurous and traveled more than me! You might not have the physical stamina of a 20-year-old, but that doesn’t have to stop you from going. Travel at your own pace. Most older folks have more money from a lifetime of work, which can easily buy them more comfort while traveling (better lodging, better plane seats, etc.).

The human brain can change at any age, and if you ask people about life-changing experiences they’ve had, you’ll hear again and again about travel experiences. That’s no coincidence. Traveling can change our perspective about love, lifestyle, possessions, what we need to be happy, who we are, who we can become, and about humanity as a whole!

4. Your Stuff Is Suffocating You

Sometimes, all you need is a change of clothes… and deodorant… and a toothbrush. You know what I mean!

The American dream is traditionally the house and picket fence image. But inside that house is probably way too much furniture, a surplus of equipment we never use, and other random junk we haven’t even looked at in years.

When I travel, I have a suitcase and a backpack with me. With so few things, I still get to see amazing natural phenomena, (unbelievably ornate) old buildings, fascinating historical sites, and delicious food.

While traveling, you’ll realize that you don’t need 99% of the stuff you have back home. You’ll be having the time of your life, and you won’t have anything but the bare essentials. This is the most striking thing about traveling—how it effortlessly communicates to you that life isn’t about how many things you can accumulate, but about how your experiences are changing you.

YOU are the one worth investing in. New TVs are fun, but they’re “cheap” when compared to swimming next to a sea turtle in Hawaii, meeting a new friend in Florence, finding unexpected romance in Paris, or coming to realize that you’re more capable than you thought.

You’ve probably heard the saying that if you have too much stuff, it owns you. This is true, psychologically speaking, because when you own something, you are responsible for it. 

Responsibility is a huge downside to ownership. Think about renting a house vs buying a house. Renters don’t have to worry if the AC breaks because the landlord is responsible for providing it. In the same way, every item you own is your responsibility. You can’t just leave it. If you want to dispose of something, you have to figure out how to get rid of it. Individually, this is no problem, but when you’re swarmed with possessions, they collectively own you!

People sometimes talk about how children take away freedom, but unlike everything in your house, you can take a child with you (a lot of people travel with young children)!

Having lots of stuff prevents you from moving easily. It may prevent you from traveling because you have to pay rent back home. There’s a relatively small cost for each individual item you own, but in aggregate, the financial (and miscellaneous) cost of having to manage a lot of things is huge.

I’ve never heard of anything regretting selling all of their stuff to travel. I think the ultimate feeling of freedom you get from owning just a few things trumps the pain of lost possessions.

5. You Want to See the World, Unencumbered

Some random tower in Paris.

Planet Earth is a big, mysterious, interesting place. It has something for everyone! No matter what your interests, there’s a great chance that you’ll find something in another part of the world that takes your breath away.

I had no idea that walking around the empty maze of Venice at night—with its corridors of varying width and numerous canals—would feel so magical. But it did. It activated a childlike wonder inside of me that I hadn’t felt in some time.

There are places that you and I haven’t yet seen that would set off fireworks in our brains (metaphorically speaking). There are people you and I haven’t met who would make us wonder if we ever really knew what friendship or romance were. There are experiences out there that would make us question everything we believe in the best way possible. And there are challenges out in the world that we think we could never overcome, that we will prove otherwise.

6. Long Term Travel Can Change Your Life

There’s nothing quite like having a Guinness in Dublin!

You rarely hear people say, “I was there for 5 days and it changed my life.” Why is that?

As someone who makes a living researching and writing about habits, I have a theory.

When you travel short-term, the experiences you gain can be substantial and meaningful, but they won’t likely create real change because you go back to your old environment so soon. As far as the brain is concerned, the trip, while impactful, was just a small detour and you’re back to real life. It will reacclimate itself quickly to your old lifestyle.

But if you travel for months, it’s no longer an experience. It becomes a new lifestyle. After months, the brain has plenty of time to recognize new patterns that bring it new (and exciting) rewards. These new reward patterns can then compete with your old lifestyle’s patterns, which you haven’t practiced in some time (and are thus weaker). This is often enough to completely change who you are. It’s simple—repetition is the language of the brain, and only long-term travel will give you enough repetition to make a subconscious difference.

There are exceptions like epiphanies that can enact lasting change somewhat quickly through a change in perspective (because of a powerful experience), but this isn’t something you can really aim for. It’s just something that might happen, and if you travel for a long time, you’re more likely to have one of these epiphany moments anyway.

I’ve honestly seen some significant changes in perspective even from my shorter trips of 2-4 weeks, and can see how traveling for months would amplify those changes and help them to last. I’m a better person when I travel—more confident, happier, more curious, more assertive, more active, slightly more handsome—so I would really like to see these changes stick!

7. You Want to Shatter the Rules

You can’t just sell all your stuff and travel. There are so many reasons you can’t do it.

But what if you did it anyway?

You are an untethered soul! There’s no greater power move than to get rid of everything that the rest of the world holds dear, pack your bags, and explore the globe. You won’t look back because there’s nothing back there! You got rid of it!

Selling everything you own and traveling is a powerful statement of independence and freedom. In doing so, you’re breaking so many unwritten rules, many of them your own and some of them from society.

I believe that the decision and execution of selling all of your stuff and traveling is powerful enough to change you before you even begin to travel.

You get rid of that last little anchor, look down at your suitcase and say, “This is all that’s left. But I’ve gained access to the whole world! I can go anywhere, see anything, do anything, be anyone!” Then you’ll let out a primal roar and beat your chest 15 times. This is normal. Don’t be alarmed (other people will be alarmed).

If you’ve read all of this, and still think that it’s impossible for you given your situation, consider half-measures like selling a few things and taking a 1-2 month trip. Selling everything you own and traveling the world is extreme and definitely not for everyone. This article is mostly for anyone who has thought about it, but it’s also a reminder that most of the “rules” we follow that hold us back can be broken. And since there are so many reasons not to sell everything you own and travel the world, I figured I’d give a few reasons to do it.

I am going to do it. Wish me luck! Also, if anyone wants to buy my desk, tv, couch, PS4, kitchen table….

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