When I planned my year around the world I was most focused on the actual planning details. It was so hard to find long-term travel planning information online, which is why I collected all the nitty gritty details of handling my mail, my taxes, what to pack and more. Once I had figured it out and hit the road, I figured the hardest parts were behind me. I didn’t realize that handling my online job while exploring the world would prove difficult, at times.
The casual jabs from other travelers have been just a part of it. When I am in the hostels plugged into the wifi and in “total focus” zone, some other backpackers have taken it as a personal affront. No one is traveling with a laptop, I see maybe one other traveler a week passing through with one in hand. Most people are truly on vacation. But that’s not what I signed up for when I left. By not completely saving for this trip, instead I would maintain my online SEO clients while on the road for a year, I decided to spend about 25 hours a week working and the rest seeing the sights, going on the breathtaking hikes, etc.
I am in the minority, however, and that is hard for people to understand. I was uncommonly lucky to find such steady online work while I was still at university, back in 2005. This job has been my saving grace for years now, allowing me to pursue my acting dreams by picking up and moving to LA, and then allowing me to sell everything and travel the world with a mere five months notice.
When I first planned my round the world, I knew that I would need longer in each spot. Some backpackers move cities every few days, but I built into my trip several extra days in one spot each week. I was in it for the long haul and I would need recuperation and organization days, days filled with just planning things out on the internet, posting stories to this blog, touching base with the family, and working. I would need two and a half days every week just for work. Seems like a small price to pay in throughout the year, and it has been — such a small price, such big reward.
And by now, as this trip nears to a close, I’ve added in extra days just to be. Days where I sit in a cozy hostel lounge with a cup of piping hot tea and either a good book (I have averaged two books a week on the road) or solid WiFi intended for surfing the internet and watching movies, not just for work.
Because I am tired. I am grateful, too. That is first and foremost, but I am tired of the pace of life I have maintained for ten months. I am tired of constantly hunting down a solid WiFi connection for my job, when at home it would just work. I am tired of making new friends every day, but yet telling the same stories every day. It wearisome to be on the constant search for new and travel fatigue has surely take hold of me.
I still find joy in the new and the interesting. I am still so excited to be visiting the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, an event that is completely living up to the lofty expectations I had heaped upon it in anticipation. The joy is there, but I have adjusted my life and travels to fit me, my current mood, and the time I need for my job.
For other long-term travelers or digital nomads, know that you are not alone out there. Sometimes I feel alone on this journey. Not only because I am spending longer in each place than most backpackers, and not only because I split my focus between traveling and working, and not because I haven’t seen my family in ten months. But because of the aggregate of all of that.
For others feeling travel weary, my advice is to take life a bit slower. A lot slower actually. Stop looking to the travelers around you for an idea of the pace you should travel, and instead ask yourself how fast you want to explore. It might be time for you to hole up somewhere and live for a bit in one spot.
The best advice that I’ve yet received in my months of travel planning and then actually traveling came from the Boots’n’All forums. When I submitted the first draft of my trip itinerary, other travelers were outright critical. They told me to slow it all way down and take out half of the places I had planned to visit. They said I would regret moving so quickly. They were right. I can’t imagine how I would have fit all of Scandinavia into my mere four months in Europe. And by spending longer in each country I have been able:
- soak in more culture and have time to learn the stories of each place, to pick up the cadence of life.
- spend longer in certain cities and relax rather than packing up and moving onward every two to three days.
- stay sane. Again, it’s wearying to move locations every two days. Longer is better in a lot of cases. Not always, but a lot of the time.
- take the advice of other travelers when they tell me: “Holy cow, ______ was awesome, you have to go there.”
I never would have thought it when planning my route, but in ten months of travel, I have never truly been ready to leave a country. There is still something that I want to see in nearly every place I’ve now visited — I could have spent weeks longer in Laos and I will return. India easily could have been my entire year of travel instead of two months. Bosnia & Herzegovina was so unexpectedly wonderful that I could have done much more hiking and exploring there, too. The list of sights and places I’d love to experience only grows longer the more time I am on the road.