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Karen on Crete

It’s easy to see traveling as glamorous, going to all these amazing destinations, having life-changing  adventures, making new friends…these are all the parts I love most about traveling, yet it’s not all travel is.

It’s rare to hear people talk about the dark side of long-term travel, how exhausting it can be – physically and emotionally. How it can drain your energy and leave you feeling like you belong nowhere in the world, because you’ve been exposed to so much that no one place ever feels completely right anymore.

How each of those amazing experiences comes to an end quicker than you anticipated and were prepared for, and how each of those new friendships you gave your all to only really last for a week. Sure you’ll keep in touch and see each other in the future, but nothing ever beats face-to-face contact to build relationships.

No one talks about how traveling long-term makes you miss out on birthdays, family gatherings, weddings, and anniversaries. How it makes you slowly fade away from the minds of your loved ones and how, which each person you meet, you slowly become more and more open, yet more and more heartless, because you know each of these places you’re visiting and each of these friendships you’re forming are only valid in that moment. Next week you will start all over again.

I get messages everyday saying how inspired they are by what I’m doing and how they wish they could also travel like me, well the truth is its not all butterflies and rainbows.

Lately I have been feeling absolutely drained, like a dark cloud is hanging over my head at all times. I cut my trip to Crete short because I couldn’t stand being there anymore. There was nothing wrong with Crete, it’s a beautiful island and somewhere I never in my dreams thought I could visit! My time there was absolutely magical, and because of this it made me fall into a dark hole.

You see, in Crete I had one of the best experiences of my life! I got to stay in a self-made home in the middle of the mountains in Crete with the coolest hippie and an amazing woman who was also visiting the island.


Crete views
I met Leslie and Mireille via Couchsurfing, my platform of choice for traveling lately. We spent only 4 days together, but it felt like we had known each other for much longer. This is the way it always is when I meet people during my travels, I feel like they’re my soulmates, like they’re family, even though we only just met. We shared meals, went on a roadtrip around the island, camped at a pink sand beach and slept under a blanket of stars, cliff jumped, hiked waterfalls, and had deep conversations about our pasts, presents, and futures. It’s a beautiful thing opening up completely and sharing life-changing experiences with complete strangers, but it also takes so much out of you if you don’t pace yourself.

There’s a big difference between vacationing and long-term travel. When you go on a vacation you’re typically out of your bubble for a week or two. You get out of your comfort zone, see new places, make new friends, and perhaps have crazy adventures….and then you fly home and get back to your normal life. You go back to your family and friends. To your job and the house where you feel safe. You go back in your warm bubble with new memories and stories that inspire you to live more.

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With long-term travel you go through these same experiences, perhaps more intensely as time and fear passes, but you don’t get to go back home to recharge and appreciate what you just experienced.  Instead you have intense experiences, form intense connections, see incredible places, and then you leave. Say goodbye to your new friends, and head to the next dreamy place to do it all over again. Only this time you’re emotionally drained. And with each passing trip you fall further. You don’t get a break to think about everything you just experienced or to recover from the “breakup.” You just told these people your whole life story, shared so much together in such a short time, and now they’re gone!

Check out my favorite place in Spain

This emotional drainage happens to me each and every time I meet an amazing new friend while traveling and then leave to embark on my next adventure. It happened in Barcelona, Mallorca, Granada, Paris, Lisbon, Vienna, Porto… it’s happened in all of my favorite places. It’s the people you meet that make the place and trip memorable. All these places are my favorites for this reason – the people I met and the experiences I shared with them. I’m not writing this to discourage anyone from traveling, nor will it ever stop me from adventuring, I’m just writing it because if I don’t tell the truth and stop pretending like I am invincible and that nothing affects me I will go crazy, anyone would. This latest fall has reminded me of something I already knew, and given it new meaning. Everything in moderation. Even a good thing – traveling, getting out of your comfort zone, meeting new people, discovering new cultures, living every day like it’s your last – can be overdone and turned into something that does you harm; even long-term travel.

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So for those considering the travel lifestyle, here’s my advice:

Everything in moderation.
Take your time, listen to your body, heart, and mind, and take time to recharge when needed.  
Happy traveling! ✈️
Have any of you experienced the dark side of long-term travel? How did you deal with it? Let me know in the comments below!
xx, Karen

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About the Author

Karen Delgado

Karen was born in Lima, Peru, but grew up in Palm Springs, California. She started her travel journey in 2016 with an around-the-world trip that took her through Europe, SE Asia, and Australia. Since then she has created a lifestyle of travel, and splits her time between NYC (her current home base), LA, Barcelona, and Lima. She loves all things wellness, travel, and entrepreneurial, and is always working on new projects while exploring the world.

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