The expat or the world traveler route?…Which is better for you and why?…

The red dot on this map indicates where the island of Madeira is located.

“There is a difference between being an expat and traveling slowly to see the world. Each path offers unique experiences and challenges. An expat’s life revolves around settling in one place and becoming part of the local community. On the other hand, slow travel is about taking time to explore each destination deeply.”

In an increasingly interconnected world, the concepts of “expat” and “world traveler” have become more prevalent, reflecting different ways people choose to live and explore. While both groups share a love for experiencing new cultures and environments, their lifestyles, motivations, and experiences differ significantly. Understanding these differences can help clarify the nuances of these two distinct paths.

Definitions and Basic Differences

Expat is short for expatriate, a term used to describe individuals who live outside their native country for an extended period, often for work or personal reasons. Expats typically settle in one country for months or years, integrating into the local community to varying degrees. Their stay is usually characterized by a semi-permanent or permanent relocation, influenced by employment, family, or retirement plans.

On the other hand, a world traveler moves from one place to another, often for shorter durations, driven by a desire to explore, experience, and enjoy diverse cultures and environments. World travelers may stay in one location for days, weeks, or months before moving on to the next destination. Their journey is often continuous, with no fixed home base, emphasizing exploration over settlement.

Motivation and Purpose

Expats often relocate due to job assignments, career advancement opportunities, or company transfers. They might also move for personal reasons, such as joining a spouse or family member, seeking better living conditions, or pursuing retirement in a more favorable environment. Their primary motivation is usually practical and long-term, focusing on stability and integration into the new country.

In contrast, world travelers are driven by curiosity, adventure, and a passion for discovering new places. Their motivation is more about experiencing diversity, learning about different cultures, and seeking personal growth through travel. The purpose of their journey is exploration and enjoyment rather than settling down or establishing roots.

Lifestyle and Daily Routine

Expats often lead lives similar to those they had in their home countries, though adapted to their new environment. They might rent or buy homes, enroll their children in local or international schools, and establish work, social activities, and community involvement routines. Over time, they may develop a deep understanding of and connection to their host country’s culture, language, and traditions.

For world travelers, the lifestyle is more transient and flexible. Depending on their preferences and budget, they might stay in hotels, hostels, short-term rentals, or even camp out. Their daily routine is less structured, often dictated by travel plans, sightseeing, and spontaneous adventures. They are constantly on the move, with no fixed abode, leading to a more fluid and unpredictable way of life.

Integration and Interaction with Local Culture

Expats have the opportunity to immerse themselves deeply in the local culture. Over time, they may learn the language, understand societal norms, and build lasting relationships with locals. They often become part of the community, participating in local events and contributing to their host country’s social and economic fabric.

While they may make meaningful connections and gain cultural insights during their short stays, world travelers generally do not have the same depth of integration. Their interactions with local cultures are more superficial and fleeting, often limited to tourist attractions, short-term acquaintances, and surface-level experiences. However, their exposure to various cultures can lead to a broad, albeit less deep, understanding of the world.

Financial Considerations

Expats often have stable income sources through employment, savings, or pensions, which support their long-term stay in a foreign country. Their financial planning includes considerations for housing, healthcare, education, and other long-term needs. The financial stability provided by employment or other steady income allows them to establish a more permanent lifestyle abroad.

World travelers may have more varied and uncertain income sources. Some work remotely, freelance, or take up short-term jobs to fund their travels, while others rely on savings or travel on a budget. Their financial strategy often focuses on cost-effective travel, accommodation, and daily expenses, allowing them to sustain their nomadic lifestyle.

Emotional and Social Impacts

Expats can experience a range of emotional and social challenges, including homesickness, culture shock, and the difficulty of integrating into a new society. However, the potential for building a new support network, forming deep friendships, and feeling a sense of belonging can be highly rewarding.

For world travelers, the constant movement can lead to feelings of isolation or disconnection, as they rarely stay in one place long enough to build strong relationships. The excitement of new experiences and the freedom of a nomadic lifestyle can be exhilarating, but the lack of a stable support network can also be emotionally taxing.


While both expats and world travelers share a love for exploring new places and cultures, their lifestyles, motivations, and experiences are markedly different. Expats seek stability, integration, and long-term living arrangements in foreign countries, often driven by career or personal reasons. On the other hand, world travelers prioritize exploration, adventure, and the thrill of constant movement, driven by curiosity and a desire to experience as much of the world as possible. Understanding these differences can help in appreciating the unique journeys of both groups, each enriching the global tapestry in their own distinct way.

As our long-term readers are well aware, from the beginning of our travels, we have chosen the world traveler lifestyle rather than becoming expats who choose to live in one location. Will this change in the future? It could depending upon the outcome of current medical concerns, which will be addressed over the next several months. We will keep you updated.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, July 8, 2014:

Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas is a larger capacity ship with cabins for 3835 passengers than yesterday’s posted Celebrity Solstice at 2850. We prefer smaller ships, but it’s not always possible to find both the preferred size, itinerary, and dates. The ship’s size is near the bottom of our criteria list. For more photos, please click here.

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