What I Know Now About Long-Term Travel

Long-term travel around the world is both rewarding and a challenge for all. A long-term trip can be a week or two up to many years on the road. In my life, I have been fortunate to travel to 45 countries, most of them solo, and my longest stretch of travel was about a year long. During that time, I have learned many things from my time on the road. Below are the top 10 lessons from my long-term travel experience.

1) Get Travel Insurance 

Getting travel insurance is essential for any long-term traveler. I have met many travelers along the way who have had terrible complications with scuba diving, got in road accidents riding motorcycles or scooters, or needed to be helicoptered down from high elevation due to altitude sickness. All of these events resulted in hefty medical bills, but having travel insurance alleviated the weight of the cost dramatically. 

Not every traveler will need to utilize their travel insurance. However, it is better to be covered for a fraction of the cost rather than gamble on paying an expensive bill if something unpredictable were to happen. This article is not sponsored in any way, but if you are looking for a place to start researching travel insurance options, I used World Nomads Insurance. They were friendly and easy to use.

Leikyn decided to get travel insurance on her long-term travel journey shortly before her scuba equipment failed

2) Check Visa Requirements Before Booking Anything 

Every country has different laws and agreements that state how long a traveler can stay depending on their purpose of travel. It is SO important to check the requirements before booking any part of your trip. There are so many unique regulations when it comes to visas. 

For example, some countries allow visas upon arrival. Some countries allow electronic visas while others only accept official paper visas. Some countries require that you apply for their visas while in your home country. 

This means if you’re on a long-term travel excursion and away from your home, you may not be allowed to apply for a visa at all. Knowing this information beforehand is crucial because this can lead to fines or, in some cases, being sent home directly from the port of arrival. You can research visa requirements by looking at your destination’s embassy or consulate website. 

3) Don’t Listen to Everything in the News Reports 

The news is a great source of information. However, I recommend taking certain stories with a grain of salt. Some of the best countries I visited were painted in a negative light by friends, family, and the news. One example of this was Egypt.

In 2019, Egypt was claimed to be dangerous for travelers. The primary reason for this was the people. I decided to visit the country anyways and was welcomed by some of the friendliest people in the world. This kind of thing happened time after time while on the road. I found that most people are willing to assist travelers as long as you are kind and respectful in return. 

On Leikyn's long-term travel journey she met one of the most friendly locals in Egypt

As a precaution, if a country is reported to be dangerous on the news, I do suggest checking several sources before making your final decision. Good resources to check are other news outlets, other travelers who have been there recently, and your country’s travel advisory website. Seek out lots of information from different points of view. 

4) Be Flexible 

When on a long-term travel trip, try and keep your plans flexible. You may find that you want to move on from a city sooner or extend your stay in a different place. In some cases, you may find yourself wanting to add a new destination to your itinerary altogether. Having a flexible plan opens up the opportunity to explore the world at your own pace while leaving room for those gems you learn about along the way. They can also lead to lifelong connections and friendships. Flexible plans can help you find cheaper transportation between countries or cities too. 

5) Have Your First Night Booked 

Booking your accommodation for at least the first night of your trip can be a huge stress reliever. It allows for an easier transition into the new location. Keeping true to the idea of being flexible, I recommend only doing this for the first night or two before arrival. If you decide to extend your stay or go somewhere unplanned, you can usually find an available hostel, hotel, campground, or even couch surfing host the day of or the day before. 

6) Pack Light

Packing light is a game-changer, especially if you’ve decided on a long-term travel plan. Firstly, it saves you money on checking bags on every flight. I traveled with a 40L backpack at first. This is roughly the size of a carry-on suitcase. The backpack style allowed me to walk from bus stations to accommodations, travel in all transportations with ease, and lock away belongings safely. Eventually, I switched to a 16L small backpack. The best way to get started on packing light is to avoid the “just in case” mentality. When deciding what to pack, ask yourself if you really need that item or is it something you can buy along the way if it’s needed. 

Leikyn learned her lesson the hardway and knows to pack light for all her long-term travel journey needs

7) Dress for the Location 

One of the biggest mistakes I find travelers making is dressing like a camper everywhere they go. Big cities, rural villages, and everything in between. There is a time and place for zip-off pants and hiking boots. Dressing for the location can help you stick out less like a traveler and make you feel more like yourself. For example, dressing how you would to visit your local city is more than perfect for a day in a European city. If you’re hiking the mountains or camping, then bring those zip-off pants and hiking boots. If you’re in southeast Asia, you’ll need to cover your knees and shoulders when visiting many religious sites. You don’t need to pack anything special, this can be accomplished with a light scarf or sarong. 

8) Laundry

Laundry is one of the most important topics not discussed by many long-term travelers. You may see other travelers bringing a wash line and soap. In the spirit of packing light, I would suggest otherwise unless you are camping long-term off the grid. While traveling, I found that many hostels and some hotels offered laundry services for cheap. If they didn’t, they were able to recommend a place nearby. Additionally, if you are couch surfing, most hosts are ok helping you out with laundry as long as you ask politely. 

9) You Are Not Alone

Traveling long-term or solo can be a scary thought. Just know you are not alone. There are many travelers who have done this before you and many travelers around the world who are currently doing so. Not every day will be an Instagram moment and that’s ok. Additionally, it’s ok to try it out for a few weeks or months and realize that lifestyle isn’t for you. No one will think less of you if you want to come home early. Going home early is always an option available. I think many people feel the pressure to continue on a journey because they told their family, friends, or even social media about the trip. At the end of the day, your happiness is determined by you alone. Whatever you decide is ok. 

10) Speak Up and Trust Your Gut

At the end of the day learning to trust my gut was the most important thing I learned from my long-term travel. No one knows you better than yourself. Learn to trust that gut feeling. Along with trusting your gut, be vocal. Don’t be afraid to have your opinions be heard. This will be helpful when negotiating for products, dealing with aggressive street vendors, and help to keep you safe along your journey.

Leikyn posing at the Devil's Pool in Zambia

Long-term travel is rewarding on so many levels. You will find yourself learning so much about the world around you and yourself. I hope my top ten lessons answer some of the questions you may have before starting your own journey. If you already have done some traveling, I hope you can relate to a few of the points. Happy travels! 

By Leikyn Bravo

11 Amazing Things to Do in Iceland

Up until around 20 years ago, Iceland was off the map for most globe trekkers. By 2019, the second-largest European island has become one of the top-rated bucket list travel destinations for millions of people. With so many things to do in Iceland and a beautiful Icelandic backdrop, it’s hard to know where to begin! Iceland has a fascinating landscape that is unlike anything else in the world. From lush greenery to majestic waterfalls, from volcanoes to geysers, from natural hot springs to glaciers, Iceland is an outdoor lover’s paradise.  Modern houses with grass roofs, sheep darting around the fields, crisp air, plentiful organic food, and clear glacier water from the tap all contribute to making you feel like you are on another planet. 

Due to its low population, most of Iceland appears almost deserted. Before the pandemic, annual visitors outnumbered its inhabitants by three times to one. With a 75% decrease in the number of visitors due to the pandemic, I decided to take my dream trip to Iceland without the crowds. The outdoorsy nature of my planned activities and the need to rent a car to get to my destinations made this wonderful road trip both safe and enjoyable.

Finding Things to Do in Iceland

The best time to visit this Nordic gem depends on what you’re after. The peak season is between June and August. Summertime offers the mildest weather, the most daylight, and the greatest number of activities available. Recently, the winter months have also become popular with the opportunity to explore ice caves, hunt for northern lights, and enjoy various snow activities. 

The average length of stay in Iceland is around seven days. Shorter trips are also possible but won’t give you enough time to really explore beyond Reykjavik and the west coast. Within nine to ten days, you can cover all of Iceland via its famous ring road without feeling rushed. Below is a selection of my favourite things to do in Iceland. 

1. Explore City Life

Reykjavik — the capital and largest city of Iceland is home to 2/3 of the entire population of the island. The city is so small that its center can be easily explored by foot. It is dotted with vintage Norden houses with bright tin roofs, ultra-modern glass towers, hilly streets with impressive statues, colorful street art, and relics of its Viking and medieval past. Reykjavik’s gorgeous waterfront faces stunning coastal landscapes across the bay, adding to its charm. 

The most famous landmark of the city is Hallgrímskirkja. This church’s piercing tower acts as an observation deck, giving a panoramic view of the city.

2. Immerse Yourself in Hot Springs

Iceland is well known for its hot springs and geothermal pools. Some will cost you (for example, the Blue Lagoon) but others are completely free. Finding a hot spring is one of those can’t-miss things to do in Iceland. 

The Blue Lagoon is by far the most famous and popular hot spring in the country. The pale blue, milky waters are full of rich minerals and elements such as silica and algae and have a pleasantly warm temperature against the cold air. Although the lagoon is a byproduct of a geothermal plant, it is still a beautiful place to visit. For the most enjoyable experience, be sure to make your reservation well in advance and ask for the earliest time available to avoid the crowds. 

If you prefer a more organic and rawer version (not to mention free), I recommend Reykjadalur Valley and Seljavallalaug. Both places require some hiking but the landscape along the way is so picturesque that you’ll arrive before you know it. 

The Reykjadalur Steam Valley is a river full of hot springs and mud pits. You can “adjust” the temperature of the water to your liking by moving closer to the hot or cold water source. There are wooden platforms where you can change into your swimwear. The farther end of the platform tends to be warmer and less crowded. 

The Seljavallalaung 

The Seljavallalaung is one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland. You will find it in a narrow valley, built into the side of the mountain. It sports truly breathtaking surroundings. The hot water that flows into it is completely natural and the mountainside acts as the fourth wall of the pool. The hottest water is by the side of the pool opposite the changing rooms. 

3. Check Out How High Geysers Are Blowing

The most active geyser in Iceland is Stokkur. Its eruptions usually measure 15-20 meters (49-66 feet) high and typically go off every six to ten minutes. The opportunity to get so close to this geyser was one of the highlights of my trip. 

4. Cruise the Turquoise Ice Lagoon

The Jokursalon glacier lagoon is a lake filled with melted glacier water. The lagoon owes its fame to the blue, white, and turquoise icebergs that break off the edge of the glacier and settle in its waters. At the water’s edge, they are several dozen meters high but they slowly melt into the lagoon before drifting out to the sea. For those who would like to get closer to the icebergs, I highly recommend booking a glacier tour boat. These small zodiac boats can get very close to the glacier. During the excursion, you will ride past the huge icebergs populated by colonies of seals and seabirds.  

Where the glacier lagoon empties into the ocean, you will find Diamond Beach. This beach is famous for its numerous blocks of crystal-clear ice deposited on black sand. Being able to feel, sit, or even lie on the crystal-like glaciers was an amazing experience and certainly one of the best things to do in Iceland. 

5. See the Rainbow Above the Waterfall

Iceland is a land of waterfalls. You will be able to find them in practically every part of the island. Its distinctive shape, enormous power, and the rainbow that often appear above are some of the reasons why Gullfoss is one of the most visited waterfalls in Iceland. 

The unique feature of Seljalandfoss is that you can walk behind it. Prepare for a sensory overload: the mist of the water on your skin, the sight of the sun setting through the falling water, and the crash of the river as it falls to the rocks below. 

Just 500 meters away from Seljalandfoss, you will find another stunning hidden gem of Iceland — Gljúfrabúi. Its entrance is a narrow crevice that opens up to reveal a waterfall pummeling a small pool right at your feet. With rock cliffs surrounding the pool, this is one of the most intimate waterfalls of Iceland. Prepare to get wet since you will be walking through a small stream and mist will be everywhere.

Skógafoss is an impressive example of nature’s power. You can walk right up to it if you’re willing to get drenched. Standing next to it and feeling its sheer force felt overwhelming. Due to the amount of mist produced by the spectacle, rainbows (or double rainbows) appear on sunny days. 

The black waterfall, Svartifoss, is considered one of the most unique waterfalls in the world. Its walls are lined with dark basalt pillars whose columns were created by cooling lava. 

Many consider Dettifoss as the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Mist from the falls is visible from several miles away. Surprisingly, it can’t be heard until you get close. There is a good observation deck that overlooks this monument, but I personally preferred the view from below. 

6. Find Out How Volcanoes Work

One of the top things to do in Iceland is to see an active volcano. Unfortunately, I wasn’t lucky enough to experience it. The giant Fagradalsfjall volcano’s eruption started in March but had fallen dormant by the time I arrived. Magnificent crater and freshly-made lava formations are still spectacular to see on their own. The view from the volcano’s top is also well worth the hike.  

7. Explore the Plane Wreck

One of the stranger Icelandic attractions is the US Navy plane wreck. This plane has been lying on an empty beach since 1973. The wreck is not fenced or guarded at all. Anyone can approach it and climb inside. If you’ve ever dreamt about being in a retro sci-fi movie, this place is definitely for you. 

8. Hike to the Canyon

Studlagill Canyon is one of Iceland’s largest collections of basalt columns. The color of the river that bisects the canyon will be different depending on the time of the year. Sometimes it has an azure color and is very transparent. Other times it turns brown and muddy. Although not easy to get to, I highly recommend it to those who like to go off the beaten path. Prepare to hike for about five km through relatively untouched terrain, steep paths, and slippery rocks and stones. In my opinion, words can’t describe the beauty of this place. 

9. Visit One of the Most Famous Black Sand Beaches

Black sand, volcanic cliffs, majestic rock formations protruding from the water, sneaker waves, geometric columns, and grottos — you will find it all in one place on Reynisfjara Beach. As with many natural wonders in Iceland, volcanic activity crafted this dramatic beauty. This was by far one of the most unique and wild beaches I have ever seen and is one of the best things to do in Iceland. 

10. Discover Geothermal Areas

Hverir is a geothermal area with bubbling mud springs, sulfuric steam spewing from vents, and colorful pools. To enjoy this “alien” landscape, you will have to endure the stench of rotten egg fumes. Those who’ve been to Yellowstone might not be impressed, but in my opinion, it’s still a fantastic Icelandic natural wonder. 

11. Enjoy a Scenic Drive

Whether you stay on the main ring road that goes around the island or venture to smaller routes, Iceland is the place for scenic drives. Its diverse and colorful natural miracles help you focus on the journey, not the destination. 

Bon Voyage!

P.S. Don’t be surprised to see sheep crossing highways and walking freely everywhere. They’ve been known to take over roads and aren’t afraid of cars. But they are shy in front of cameras! 😊

P.P.S. Rent a four-wheel-drive if you plan to get off the ring road to explore. Many “highways” are unpaved gravel roads.

One of the sheep who wandered near the road.