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In praise of long-term travel

On my first trip to Europe, I remember my aunt, who was my world-travel role model, looking at my ambitious itinerary and saying to me, “This is good, you’re doing a survey so you can figure out where you want to return to and really get to know.” And she was right. It was the places I felt most connected to—London, Paris, and Barcelona—that in the following decade I would return to for extended stays. And what was initially a simple attraction evolved into the deep connection that comes from forging a life in a foreign place.

Settling in for a while is one way to extend the ambitions of travel, but you can also simply move at a slower pace or visit more places on a single journey. Either way, long-term travel offers exponentially more experiences, substance, memories, and life than the average two-week vacation. Extended stays also tend to be, at various points, humbling, enriching, and broadening in a way nothing else is.

Long-term travel takes effort to coordinate, and it’s not feasible for everyone. But for many, it is possible, it just requires some creative thinking and a leap of faith. During college, students might consider a summer trip or an academic exchange. After college, there’s often the chance to work for a while to save money and then take time to travel or live abroad. Academics or people in long-term jobs with companies that grant sabbaticals can carve out longer periods for travel, and those who work from home can often work from anywhere for at least some amount of time. I’ve also met a number of people in periods of transition, ranging from divorces to the recently laid off (with severance), who decide to leave home for a while and explore the world.

And now, with more light on the environmental impact of travel, it’s also a good way to make the most of air time. In all ways, long-term travel is a way to fly less, but travel more.

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