Good question, and there are certainly a few things to consider before you commit to any length of time. Some people hit the backpacking trail for 2 weeks, others for 2 years, some indefinitely (me!), but the optimum amount all depenads on a few variables – money, work, time, mentality.
Ultimately this can be the deciding factor in how long you can go traveling for, but how long should you go traveling for can be different. I’ve often said you need to budget around $10k for a 6 month trip, but just because you have $10k+ doesn’t mean you should go for 6 months.
Can you leave your job for that long? Do you have some backup funds for your return home? What if something happens, do you have credit cards to get you out of a hole?
Lots of people are concerned about their careers when they hit the road. Will their skillset be outdated if they leave? What about that gap on their resume? Can you justify bumming around Asia for 8 months to a future prospective employer?
I’d say that employers have no issues with an employee who traveled for 6-24 months, it looks like you’re a sociable, outdoing individual who can follow their dreams with vigour.
That being said, if you work in IT or a similar field technology moves fast so be wary. Perhaps some freelance work as you travel could both supplement your travel fund but also keep your skills fresh.
Something that the modern world steals from us at every juncture, and an asset which we should treat valuably – time. You need to be realistic with your travel plans, and how it fits into your timeframe. What about your mum’s 60 birthday? Your sister’s wedding? When do you have to repay your debts by?
But conversely, be aware that time is running out to travel – by 31 you can’t get your working holiday visa in Australia, UK, Canada, Hong Kong. Also, do you want to be backpacking when you’re 45? If not, then go now when you’re young. Weigh up time constraints on both ends before you make your decision.
What is it you want from this trip, what is it you want from life? Is this a quick escape before you jump back into the corporate world and scramble up that ladder again? Or have you been unfulfilled by Monday morning meetings, an incapable boss and an industry you don’t care about? If so, then perhaps this trip is more than a sight-seeing excursion, maybe it’s a time to reflect and get your priorities in order, if so, take longer and make the right decision.
Deciding how long you should travel for is never easy, but you need to be realistic about your finances, your obligations but also about what you want from life. I made the decision to be free, and 5 years and 60 countries later, I know I made the right decision for me. It’s your turn to make the right one now. Happy travels!