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. Amanda, I owe you a big, BIG apology. When I read this post 5 years ago I judged you silently for doing what I considered “quitting”. Now I’m eating my wor… well, thoughts.

    In January I quit my job to travel for 6 months; I’m now 3 months in and know for sure that long-term solo travel isn’t for me. I’m gonna “soldier on” because I really want to visit these places and waited a long time to do this, but I must admit it’s effing exhausting!

    I’m hardly ever alone (in fact, I find myself craving some solitude occasionally), yet the lack of a single constant in my daily life is pretty rough. When we travel alone, like you did and I’m doing right now, absolutely everything around us is constantly changing, and didn’t realize just how emotionally draining it could get.

    So we’re in the same boat. I’m sorry for having been an arrogant douche before (even if I at least had the decency of not posting my thoughts back then)!

      I would never say “I’m glad you understand now,” because I know that feeling of total exhaustion really sucks when you’re traveling! But it’s one of those things that’s impossible to know until you try it. It works for some people; it just didn’t work for me, and it sounds like it doesn’t work for you! But it certainly doesn’t mean you’re quitting. 😉

    Thank you for writing this. For being honest about your experience. I’ve been traveling solo for about 8 months now, the last 6-weeks of which I’ve just been kinda bored and unhappy. I thought maybe slowing down would help, so I spend a few weeks staying near the beach in Thailand, trying to get my enthusiasm back. It didn’t help. Even after slowing down and staying at each new place for longer, I’m still burned out. I find that I’m not excited about much anymore. And the blog I started feels more like this huge burden weighing me down… But I also feel like it I go home now, before I hit my intended 10 months. I’ll be failing somehow, particularly in regards to myself. I already have a return flight booked, it’s about 65 days away, so now I’m just trying to decide to sticking out the remaining two months is worth it. Regardless, it’s really nice to hear someone else’s story, someone else who finds that maybe long-term travel isn’t for them. You are inspiring. Thank you.

      Not everyone is suited to long-term travel, and there is NOTHING wrong with that. If you’re no longer enjoying it, there’s no “failure” in going home early!

    the problem is that it’s an all or nothing deal here in the US. If I have a job then I cannot take more than 2 weeks a year of the very generous “accrued” vacation that employers give you… if you ditch the job and decide to travel then it’s pointless to do it for 3 months and come back to find another job as the overhead of it is too much.

    My sweet spot of travel is around 2-3 months but I would be happy if I could take 6 weeks off a year – and 4 weeks at one time and 2 weeks at another and live a normal life it would be a dream. This is very possible for people in Europe but here in the US forget it.

    I still want to make a lot of headway in my traveling. I’ve traveled more than most, been to 60 countries, took a year off to travel between 2010-11 and there are still 100s of items on my bucket list. How on earth am I going to make any progress if I don’t take some extended time off. It’s a must for anyone who wants to see anything significant in the world. I know some people who “do” Netherlands+Germany+France+Italy in a week – 2 days per country, I could never travel that way.

      I think it’s getting better in the US, though. There are more jobs that offer more vacation time now (and remember that you can always try to negotiate more time off when getting a new job, too!), and there are so many more options for remote work now than there every used to be. I don’t think we Americans will ever get 6 weeks of holiday time like many Americans do, but that definitely doesn’t mean you can’t travel at all.

    I’m so happy I found this post. I know I am reading so long after you wrote this but this post has really made me feel better. I have been feeling so sad after a friend of mine has recently set off travelling, with the mindset that she won’t really ever return. Probably because I am envious that she’s getting to experience things I want to, rather than the fact I will miss her terribly. I have to stay put where I am due to medical reasons and have always felt like long term travel was something I am really going to miss out on. Reading your post has made me realise that I can have the best of both worlds. I can have my career, my partner, my pets, my home and still travel. I think I felt like if it wasn’t long term it wasn’t really “travelling” and that I was missing out on something. I hope a month at a time will suffice and I hope I can feel as positive about short term travel as I do about my dreams of long term travel.

      You can absolutely travel short-term and still have incredible experiences! In fact, I think traveling in shorter stints in many cases can help you appreciate it more. You won’t get burnt out or tired of seeing certain things over and over again – it will almost always be new and exciting!

    I think your blog is beautiful. I absolutely appreciate your candid approach to travel. It can be downright depressing being alone at times. I am a canadian gal living in Tokyo currently and I do a lot of travel, but I find I need breaks! We are human, lets celebrate that!

    I am considering starting my own travel blog since I have so many stories and pictures to share from all my travels, yet I am nervous and find it a bit vulnerable to share my thoughts with the world. Any words of advice for a gun shy aspiring travel blogger?

    Regardless I commented to tell you I appreciated this post and your candid approach to it all! Ill be following!

      Hey Shawna! My best tip for you would be: don’t write or blog for anyone else when you’re first starting out – write for yourself! Write the stories you want to write in a way that you would want to read them. The confidence will definitely come with practice!

      If you want a great course on travel blogging, check out Travel Blog Success too: https://travelblogsuccess.com/?ref=658

    So nice to know that each person is different when it comes to travel. I use to think that if I wasn’t backpacking around the world for years on end then I wasn’t a ‘real traveller’. But I know too that isn’t me. I like have a steady job and home to come back to but I like getting out into the world and seeing it. Some people might call me a tourist, but I like to think that I’m a traveller on my own terms and that is ok with me!

      There’s no “right” way to travel, no matter what anybody tells you! I like having a fixed address to come home to – I’m definitely not made to constantly be on the road! And yup, sometimes I’m absolutely a “tourist.” But I’m okay with that. 🙂

    I’m a little late to the party, but I just stumbled across this post and it really resonated with me. I much prefer to balance work and travel, and a lot of travel blogs kind of made me feel like I wasn’t travelling the “right” way, if that makes sense? I totally agree that you should trust your instincts; part of me would love to travel long-term, but not in the traditional backpacker way of never really knowing where you’re going to be sleeping that night. I’m currently planning a three-month trip to New Zealand, incorporating all the Great Walks, but I’ll be doing it my way, not the way I used to feel that I “should” travel! Your honesty is very much appreciated.

      You’ll enjoy yourself much more if you just do it the way you really want to! (And yay New Zealand! My favorite country!)

    No regrets for you, that is fantastic. Isn’t life about uncovering who we are? I know long term travel is not for me. I love my trips. I usually travel with my husband or daughter, or sometimes solo on business. Eventually though, I want to go home, to the rest of the people I love, to a familiar environment and schedule. And PRIVACY. Weird right? I can understand your stress of relying on yourself and having no back up. The flip side….the stress of traveling with a partner – almost no privacy, compromising, getting on each others nerves occasionally. In the end it’s all good as long as we travel, right?

      In the end it’s all good, so long as we listen to ourselves and do what feels right!

    I agree with you – it’s not for me either even though I’ve been nomadic for nearly 30 years slow travel is the way. I recommend living in a country so you can make friends, enjoy it, see the real stuff instead of just the tourist attractions. I see this was written a while ago and bet you’ve found the right balance for you now 🙂

      I think a lot of long-term travelers eventually turn to the whole “slow travel” thing.

    I love this post. I love to travel but don’t think long term travel is realistic with the other things I love in life… Also I get so tired of reading posts where people talk about not planning and just showing up places… thats find but if you’re only going to be somewhere for a week or two its sort of nice to have some ideas of what you would like to do there

      I totally agree! I am NOT one of those people who feels comfortable just showing up in a place with absolutely no plans!

    I loved this. I think there’s something wild and romantic about the image of full-time travel but the reality is far more stressful. But after you’ve talked and talked about doing this and that for HOW LONG?! it can be hard to stop, take stock and say “OK, on second thoughts.” I love long, slow travel where I live, work and/or study in the country I’m in. I’m glad you’ve found your “travel sweet spot.” (And I love that phrase!)

      YES, you get it. When you’ve planned something for so long and dreamed about it for ages, and then it turns out to be completely different than you expected… it can be really hard to admit that you were wrong!

    I can really relate to what you’re saying here friend!

    In my young 20’s i tried to live up to the ideal of nomad. I found myself always burning out after 3-6 months. Eventually i changed and transitioned into a halfway-comprimise. work and have a real life, a wife and a “life”, but travel at every given opportunity.

    i’d never go back to full time vagabonding, but i’d never give up and just be a 9-5 drone either. Balance is key 🙂

      Balance IS key. The most important one! It’s great that you’ve found that balance in your life.

    Hello! I stumbled upon your blog and I am so glad I did! I have been struggling with the want to travel long term, but I fear that I will end up not enjoying it as much as I think. I love being able to come home after a long trip and just relax with family and friends (and in my bed). I also have an intense travel bug and the need to go experience more! This made me think about how I can still do this while living the “normal” life! But if you don’t mind me asking.. How are you able to travel for 2 months at a time when you have a regular job? Thanks again and keep up the great work!!! 🙂

      Long-term travel definitely isn’t for everyone, but you’ll never know unless you try it out!

      As for how I’m able to travel for months at a time… I was in graduate school from 2011-2013, so I had my summers free to travel! And now I’m actually working from home. I still work full-time, but all of my work is location-independent, meaning I can still travel as long as I plan ahead and am able to work on the road.

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