RTW Diaries: A Confession, A Change of Plans

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Have you ever dreamed about doing something for a really long time, only to finally try it and find out that you don't love it nearly as much as you expected to?

We've all been there, I think. Maybe it was that cooking class you finally signed up for, a dream job you landed that turned out to be a letdown, or maybe even that time you convinced yourself that you could run a marathon.

For me, it's turned out to be long-term travel.

Cliffs of Moher

When I set out on my round-the-world trip in July, I was excited. I was planning to be gone for about 6 months, and assumed that by the end I would only want to keep going. I was ready to fall in love with long-term travel like many of my traveling friends.

But it just never happened.

Right from the beginning, there were challenges. It took me a few weeks to settle in to my travel groove — a few weeks to adjust to traveling on my own once again. In the months leading up to my big trip, I had only traveled in short stints. And only with other people: in small groups, with a friend or two, with the guy I was dating. This was really the first time in a year that I would be traveling completely on my own.

Florence
It wasn't all smiles, though.

I had forgotten how lonely solo travel can be. How stressful it can get to only have yourself to rely on. How much it can suck to be seeing new places and experiencing new things without someone to share it with.

I eventually did settle back into traveling on my own, thankfully, and even ended up making some friends while zipping around Europe with Busabout.

But by the end of Month Two, something still just felt… off.

Green Park, London

Re-evaluating my plans

As I began my third month of constant travel — and I mean constant: frequent movement and more beds than I care to count — the idea of home was becoming more and more appealing. I was missing familiar places and faces; I was missing sleeping in my own bed and driving my own car; I was even craving lazy evenings at home catching up on my favorite TV shows. I was exhausted and ready for a break.

I won't say I wasn't enjoying traveling anymore, because I was. I just wasn't enjoying ALL of it anymore.

I was no longer enjoying the stress of finding a place to stay each night or figuring out transportation. I was no longer enjoying unpacking and re-packing my bulging bag every few days. I was no longer enjoying the lonely evenings and dinners-for-one. And let's not even mention the money situation…

Syros
Don't let the smile fool you – I was nearly flat broke at this point, waiting on freelancing payments.

Someone once told me that it's around the 10-12 week mark that homesickness really starts to set in for long-term travelers. I thought that perhaps I was hitting that wall, too. After all, traveling — and traveling solo especially — isn't always rainbows and unicorns. I hoped I would snap out of it.

But, by the end of September, I was running low. On money, on energy, on enthusiasm. It was time to re-evaluate my plans.

I saw two options:

I could either continue on with my RTW plans and head to Asia as soon as TBEX Dublin was over, find a cheap apartment somewhere for a few months, and just buckle down and get some work done in order to afford to explore Asia (and eventually fly home).

OR, I could shift my plans a bit and go home for a few months instead, postponing Asia until after the New Year.

In the end, I decided to change my plans.

Ireland

I'm now writing to you from my cozy living room in Ohio, where I intend to mostly stay until mid-January. Now that the decision is made, I know it was the right one for me.

Am I giving up?

Some might call changing my plans and coming home early “giving up.” I prefer to call it simply listening. Listening to my gut and doing what I knew was right for me and my travel style.

After 2 months of travel last year, I thought I would never be ready to stop. But after 3 months of travel this year, I've come to the conclusion that long-term travel isn't for me after all.

Oia
I finally figured it out!

I've built my blog around the idea that you can live a “normal” life — you know, one where you have a job and friends and a permanent address — and still fit travel into your lifestyle. Traveling nonstop for months on end kind of goes completely against that, however. And perhaps that's one of the reasons that it just didn't work out for me.

The truly nomadic lifestyle will probably never be for me. And you know what? That's okay.

I feel like a lot of travelers and bloggers and “digital nomads” out there make this lifestyle of perpetual travel sound like the coolest, most awesome thing ever. But the reality, of course, is that it isn't always. And it isn't meant for everyone. In the end, I had to listen to my gut and allow myself to take a break.

It was the best decision I could have made for myself.

And now that I know that the nomadic lifestyle isn't for me, I can focus on travel styles that ARE for me.

Ios

My plans from here

My travel sweet spot seems to be about 6-8 weeks. Enough time to explore, yet not so long that it gets exhausting. I'm still going to Asia — but probably for 2 months, tops. I fly back to London on January 15, and will head to Thailand or Vietnam from there.

Now that the decision is made, I feel good about it. This way, I will get to spend the holidays at home with people I love. I will have a chance to recover from Europe (both mentally and financially). And then I can go to Southeast Asia refreshed and ready for a new adventure.

Santorini Sunset

This also gives me time to plan a bit for Southeast Asia; to make sure I make the most of the time I'll spend there. I will go back to my more “normal” style of travel — where I have to plan in order to fit in the things I really want to. You know, like most people out there who are planning trips and looking for inspiration (i.e. the readers of this blog!).

I don't look at this as a failure, even though I'm sure others might. Instead, I look at it as one more step toward figuring myself out. Life, after all, is nothing more than a giant learning experience. And the lesson I learned from the past 3 months is that, while I definitely love traveling, long-term travel and I just don't fit together like I once thought we might.

But that's the beauty about traveling — there's no right or wrong way to do it. Only the way that works for YOU.

Amphitheater on Ios

——

So what do you think? Is long-term travel for you? What would YOU have done in my situation?

 

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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213 Comments on “RTW Diaries: A Confession, A Change of Plans

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  1. there is definitely nothing wrong with not being someone who enjoys long term travel. i sure as hell dont! i love having a home, my dog, my group of friends, and a steady income. long term travel just isnt for everyone. i tend to travel for around 3-4 months of the year, but only for a month at a time. i then head back, work, and take small trips (or none at all) awaiting my next destination.

    it’s great that you recognize it is not for you and make changes accordingly rather than waste away time in a destination being sour. ive been there and done that and left regretting it immensely.

    looking forward to your asia travels! enjoy ohio…such a great time of year there 🙂

      Yes, I definitely did not want to have any regrets on this trip – and that included regretting going someplace new when all I really wanted was to go back to someplace familiar. Now that I’m back home, I’m really happy!

      I have been living nomadic since May 2014 and I know exactly what you mean about longing for those cosy, lazy nights in front of the TV. Until May I hadn’t travelled much in my life at all and I am very much an all or nothing kind of person so I got rid of all my belongings and headed to explore the world with a friend. Currently we are still having the time of our lives on the road (currently travelling through Guatemala) but I think the most important thing I am learning from my travels is how to really pay attention to the signals my body gives me when I need to make a change in my life. Through my experiences writing and making films about my travels I am really starting to feel how cathartic making art can be when times are tough. I wrote this article when I was struggling with life on the road throughout my 5 month road trip across the USA. I wrote the article to explain to people who don’t do long term travel, just how hard it can be. Have a look when you have time. Happy Travels and enjoy your time with friends and family at home as well.
      April

        Thanks for sharing, April! You’re definitely correct about how important it is to pay attention to what your body is telling you – especially when you’re on the road and constantly moving!

    I love your honesty! I haven’t tried long-term travel, but I already know it isn’t for me. I have two obviously conflicting goals of extensive travel and creating a cozy home for my husband and I. I honestly believe I can have both, and even simultaneously, but that means traveling in shorter stints and not months or a year at a time. Is it a pipe dream? Maybe, but it’s one I’m happily working toward.

      Good for you, Becky! And I don’t think it’s a pipe dream at all – I believe you can totally have both!

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I love travel, but I love coming home to my own place. I love meeting new people, but I hate goodbyes. People talk highly about RTW travel, but I know it’s not for me – I much prefer my base and saving up for bigger trips. Knowing yourself and your style is important, so good for you!! Ohio is for lovers, or at least what I hear!

      Ohio IS for lovers! 😉

      And thank YOU. I agree with everything you said, too!

    I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot lately for some reason. So many of the travel blogs I read are written by long term travelers and they are always so inspiring. And, like you said, the idea of it sounds wonderful! Then the reality of it… maybe not so much. I wrote about my feelings here. I really like that your blog is geared more for people who have a full-time job but still love traveling. Anyway, welcome back home! I’m looking forward to reading more about your time in Europe.

      It’s true – many of the most inspiring travel blogs are the ones written by people who have quit their jobs and sold everything to chase their dreams of traveling the world. And while I still love reading those blogs, the reality is that it’s not something everybody can do – including me!

    I don’t look at it as failure. I look at it as honest! I believe there a whole bunch more people who travel full-time who feel the same way but aren’t willing to admit it. I think I’m more like you, but an even more short-term traveler. Two weeks gets wearing on me.

      And I think traveling alone with be lonely, scary and depressing.

      Thanks, Tonya! And I think you’re right – most long-term travelers probably feel this way at some point, but not many of them write about! Which is fine, of course. I just felt like I had to share my experience.

    I’m with you. I don’t think I can do long term travel. Even a couple weeks on the road is more than enough for me and I need some sort of normalcy to reset. I’ve found having a home base and then being able to jump around is really what works for me. You get to know one area really well while exploring others. A win-win in my books.

      Definitely my ideal situation, too, Adelina. I, too, need time to “reset”!

    brava! and good choice. when we listen to our SELF, we end up much happier. Long term travel isn’t for me, either.

      Totally agree – listening to yourself is sometimes the hardest sort of listening, but I think it’s the most important kind!

    I think its better to do what you feel is right. Can’t enjoy anything obviously when something is running through your head saying how would it be if I had been somewhere else. When you feel you have to spend some time with people you love, there is no better place like your family. Have a good laugh, have a great time and when you feel you are ready for your little adventure again don’t stop. Keep having fun, apart from the travel you do I love the way you write with such passion its amazing. If possible try to even visit india. Cheers.

      Thanks for the support, Rohit! I’m very happy with my decision to come home for a bit. And taking a break is getting me excited about my next adventure!

    I don’t think long term travel is for me either. I lived abroad for 6 months and missed many things from home! Becoming a digital nomad seems to be the travel blogger holy grail, but I don’t think it’s for everyone! I’m sure it was very difficult and stressful for you to be on your own and have to worry about logistics and money and safety. Anyway, I’m glad you made the best decision for you and I hope you continue to build the perfect life for YOU, balancing travel and a “normal” home base if that’s what works.

      Yes, that “digital nomad” phrase is one used a lot in the travel blogging world. But I agree that it’s definitely not a good fit for everyone – me included!!

    Ahhh what I feel most like saying after reading this post is this – don’t be so hard on yourself, saying that this would be seen as a failure and feeling a need to justify your decision. After all it is your trip and you can decide freely how you want to do it and if you want to change it then it’s nobody’s business but your own!
    Also, I am probably making some assumptions here, but I think you went after the “long-term-traveling-thing” different than other travel bloggers (at least those I read). Most of those people don’t travel around for months changing cities every other day because everyone says very very fast that that is too exhausting, there’s to much to take in and that it’s too tiring to pack and move all the time.
    For my own long-ish travels that I plan for next year I intend to alternate between longer stays of maybe two weeks (or even longer depending on the situation) in the same place and actual travelling around. I also hope to do some homestays or volunteering.
    Maybe you could look into that if you want to try long term travel again at some point? Just sort of slow down and give yourself more time with the journey..

    Anyway I hope that I am making some sense here and that you enjoy your time back in the US as much as possible 🙂

      I personally didn’t see it as a failure, but I felt like maybe others would. I clearly was wrong! Haha.

      And you’re right – most long-term travelers do things a bit differently than I did over the past few months. Though, I DID stay in quite a few places for 5-7 days at a time, so it wasn’t like I was in a new city every night. Still got way too tiring for me, though, as I’m the type of person who wants to see EVERYTHING whenever I’m in a new place.

    Thank you for this post and the level of honesty it contained. I’m heading off on my first long term, solo trip later this month – a year in SE Asia and Oz and I’m terrified of ‘failing’…of having all my friends and family build it up and getting so excited for me, just for me to disappoint them only a few months in. But then I remind myself that to not try something at all is when you really fail yourself…to be honest with oneself is one of the bravest things anybody can ever do.

      Thank YOU, Catherine! I wouldn’t worry too much about failing… as my experience should prove, it’s impossible to fail if you just do what feels right for you!

    I am totally the same way. I either have to be an expat or just take frequent trips for shorter stints. I LIKE to work and have somewhere to store my books (perhaps the one belonging I refuse to downsize). Some people love being nomads, but there is nothing wrong with NOT loving that style.

      So true! I think the expat thing could be ideal for me someday, too.

    This is an awesome post, and I definitely think you made the right decision. Traveling for months on end with no real ‘home’ must be exhausting. I’ve never done it because I know I just need that space to rewind and re-set between trips. Nothing wrong with that! It’s just a different style for different personalities.

      Thanks, Jessica! And yes, it IS exhausting! At least, it was for me. I was also traveling super fast, though, which didn’t help matters.

    Thanks for your honesty, I guess not everyone would admit that.

    I left my home in 2008. Since then I’m living and traveling abroad. I know what you mean by exhausting, I really hate to pack my things and move to another place, therefore I became a really slow traveler. I try to stay at least 1 week at each place. Sometimes I stayed one or two months in an island. I like getting to know the places and meeting locals.

    Now I’m in Istanbul for a year (with some side trips between) because it turned out as a very cheap place to live, but soon I’ll pack my few things again and head to the Philippines. I don’t really have a homebase anymore. But I have a lot of new homes in the future.

    I travel and live abroad, because it’s cheaper than being at home. It’s exhausting sometimes and surely not for everyone, but I love my life and I can not imagine to go back to my country and pay ridiculously high prices for an average lifestyle.

      Well you’ve clearly found the style that works best for you, and that’s great!

      On this trip, there were times when I WAS spending a week or so in a place. But it was still clearly a little too fast for me!

    Well, I’ll be honest, as one of those long term nomadic people, I’d rather do it your way too. Unfortunately, practically and financially it’s just not possible, it’s nomadic or maybe one 3 week trip a year, which isn’t nearly enough. That’s one of the problems of living in Oz, it’s really hard to get anywhere. Nomadic travel is hard, it’s the amount of time I spend online that kills it for me, trying to organise and book things two countries in advance. But it’s way better than being at home and bored to death, so I’m sticking with it!

      If it works for you, that’s all that matters! It definitely doesn’t seem like an easy lifestyle, though.

      As a Kiwi I totally hear you on that. I fall on the other side of the coin, though – faced with those choices, I will choose the 4 weeks a year. That said, I also want a house and kids, so that factors in.

    Amanda, you are so right in your thinking! There are no failures…only learning experiences.

    I think you totally did the right thing! Travel doesn’t have to be long-term to be rewarding. For me, the sweet spot seems to be similar to yours–6-8 weeks. I don’t move as quickly or as often as I used to (every few nights); sometimes I stay in one place for several days or even a few weeks.

    Anyway, good for you for doing what felt right vs what people say you should do!

      Yup, 6-8 weeks (or even less, really) is probably my ideal! I think I will probably stick to that from now on – at least as long as I’m traveling by myself!

    Any time I travel alone, no matter how long the trip, I always feel melancholy that there’s no one to share it with. I think travel is much more enriching when it’s shared!

      Definitely. Not having someone to share all those amazing moments with is wearing on me.

    Welcome back to Ohio, we’re glad to have you back! =P

    I think it sounds like you definitely made the right choice for you! The longest I have traveled is a month, not alone, and I was definitely feeling the readiness to be back by the end. I think if I were anticipating being away longer, I would be prepared and be more okay with it, but 6 months is a long time. Especially when you’re always on the move. I think the longest I would probably want to go is 3 months, and spend at least a week in most places.

      Yes, I definitely made the best choice for myself. And I’m glad I did! 6 months IS a long time; clearly just too long for me!

    How refreshing to read something like this! I’m 100% with you on this too, Amanda. I don’t see short-term travel as a failure whatsoever (like others might make it out to be); it’s simply a personal preference. Truthfully, I think shorter-term travel can even be a richer experience than long-term travel. The extreme budgeting that is required for an RTW can force people to skimp out on nearly everything—restaurant meals, more interesting accommodations, tours/activities etc. All of these are part of the travel experience that shouldn’t be discarded just because they cost a little bit more. After seeing a young American on an RTW in Indonesia eating his one piece of bread for the morning proclaim “Oh man, I’m soooo hungry!” because he already shot over his travel budget for the day, I decided I’d rather be the guy enjoying new foods, cooking classes and comfortable beach huts than the one sleeping on floors and starving myself over spending an extra $10.