Monkey Abroad

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Why Living Abroad is a Better Travel Lifestyle than Backpacking

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Backpacking and living abroad are not the same thing. Backpacking involves frequent migration to new cities and countries until your savings are depleted. Living abroad is experiencing the lifestyle of a single foreign country for a prolonged period. Both are geared toward long-term travel, but each provides a significantly different travel experience. Here are a few reasons why I think living abroad is better travel choice than backpacking.

Intercultural immersion

Backpacking is more-or-less just a long-term vacation. It’s fun while it lasts, but at the end of your journey all you’ve got is an empty wallet and a bunch of outrageous stories to tell.

There’s more to long-term travel than jet-lag, cheap beer, and sleeping in a new hostel every night. You’ve got to experience some culture shock if you want to truly grow from your travel endeavors. Living abroad means real intercultural immersion, which means significant personal growth.

Foreign culture

During my flight to Thailand, I had a 2-hour layover in Korea, so now I can technically say that I’ve been to Korea. Backpackers will later get to report that they’ve been to X countries over X days, but does that carry any real significance?

Khao San Road in Bangkok, Thailand has been described as the backpacking center of the universe. It’s cheap to stay the night, it’s fun as hell, and it’s loaded with friendly backpackers from all over the world. But the problem with Khao San Road is that it has virtually nothing to do with Thailand. It’s just a hub for tourists to meet up and drink cheap beer until they move on to the next hostel.

Backpacking

Khao San Road in Bangkok: the backpacking center of the universe.

Stay abroad longer

If you’re interested in long-term travel, backpacking gives you the freedom to travel anywhere, anytime, but only for as long as your finances can support you. That all depends on how much money you’ve saved before departure.

Living abroad is a better alternative for those interested in longer-term travel since you won’t blow through your savings to travel and sleep in a new place every night. And since you can get a job while living abroad, that means it’s possible leave with more money than you initially brought with you.

Make money

If you decide to backpack, you’re gonna spend all of your money during your travels. After that, you won’t have a dollar to your name. If you’re like me and you want to make some money overseas, living abroad is simply a better alternative than backpacking.

Living abroad means that you can settle down anywhere in the world and find a job to sustain yourself for as long as you’d like. Not only do you get to experience a foreign culture every day, but you can make money while doing it.

Pua Nan

My backyard in Pua, Nan, Thailand.

Respect from locals

One thing I really enjoy about living abroad is that I’m not treated like a tourist. Surrounded by backpackers, I’m just a face in the crowd. I prefer to be recognized by Thai people as a resident and friend rather than a fly-by-night. Living in a small town in rural Thailand, people know me, people treat me like a contributing member of their community. That’s a great feeling.

Tourists don’t receive that same respect. Since backpackers never settle in one place for longer than a week, they’re forever tourists. That means they’re more likely to be taken advantage of by locals and fall victim to tourist scams.

Don’t smell like s@#t

Okay, this one’s just for fun. It’s a dead giveaway when you cross paths with a backpacker. They’re perpetually smelly people. Usually they reek of onions, but some smell more like rotten garlic, others like human feces. It all depends on how few showers they’ve taken in the last month.

Conclusion

When it comes to travel, I’d always choose living abroad over backpacking. It’s a sustainable, long-term travel lifestyle that offers significantly more cultural immersion than its nomadic counterpart. Not only does living abroad allow you to travel and see the world, but you’ll save your hard-earned money and experience significant personal growth while doing so. Plus, you won’t smell like a dumpster all the time.

Author: Kevin Cook

I want to inspire you to pursue your own dream of traveling and/or living overseas!

6 Comments

  1. I hope my backpacking friends don’t get offended 🙂

  2. A keen insight, Kevin!

  3. While I have to agree with most, I do have to disagree with you on “Respect From Locals”

    It’s probably different in a small town, but in Bangkok, and most decently sized areas, I’m only persistently “Farang” That word in particular, though, I am so sick of hearing, as it is all that’s used for Westerners. There is no he/she/this guy when it comes to us, it’s always “Farang want . . .” or “Farang go . . .”

    • I see why you might get irritated with the word ‘farang’ – Thais say it very frequently around me also. But I attribute that mostly to the difference in our language. You always know when Thais are talking about you because they really don’t have a better word to describe an outsider from the western hemisphere.

      • That is a point though, that Thai culture is inherently insular. They have words like Farang (not the only one, mind you) for anyone that is different from Thai, but no inclusive words for He/She/People in general.

  4. Exactly! This is THE way to do it ( and why I usually go a month minimum ) !

Let me know what you think

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