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.

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…

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.


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.

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.


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. I totally understand!! Last December I packed up everything in storage and was lucky enough for my mother to babysit my pets and left for Australia. As much as Oz was lots of fun I was still missing the Canadian snow and my dog!! In the end it was pretty much the nuclear heat that did me in though… I have so many great memories of my time abroad, explored the whole country, met some awesome people and don’t regret anything but next time I’m keeping it at 4 weeks or under. Luckily I live in a city were it’s easy to catch a flight to anywhere, anytime.

    Home sweet home!!

    On a sidenote, happy to say it’s been 5 months since I’ve been back home and the dog has finally recently forgiven me, not that she wasn’t well cared for during 6 months, she gained lots of weight and picked up some very bad manners…

      I don’t regret any of the things I did this summer, either – it was a great trip and I took away some amazing memories. But, like you, I think my next trip will definitely be a shorter one!

    I totally get this. About 9 months in of not seeing anybody at home (and in fact not talking to them because I’m not much of a caller) I felt myself going crazy. Most of the time I wouldn’t leave my room and I would just watch British TV shows on my laptop because the idea of travelling just wasn’t appealing tome. And so I flew home. Unfortunately, I’m a week back and I now want to be anywhere but home and I’m very confused. Well, I hope this decision works better for you than for me! 🙂

      Haha, it’s definitely one of those “the grass is always greener on the other side” dilemmas, isn’t it? I hope you figure it out!

    I really appreciate this post and the honesty it holds. This for me is something I know I will struggle with. I often do things solo just because I move around a lot or tend to lead a more crooked path then my friends, so I know that I will struggle traveling solo, I struggled in Prague years ago and that was only for a few days. My love of travel has been with me since I was 12 and it was only this year at 26 that I decided to make a real go at it. To document and see and live. But I also know I have a desire to plant roots. When started my blog I didn’t know in which direction to take it, as much as travel will be in the forefront, I have more to say than just what I’m seeing. That one day I would love walls to hang memories on. So as I prepare to hopefully spend the next year teaching in Korea as a way to pave myself some financial freedom and have somewhat of a plan for after, you just never know where you will end up. I often feel overwhelmed by how large and yet small the travel blogging community. I often feel so far behind. But like you said there is no right or wrong way to do this and better late than never. I think it takes a lot of courage to go with your instincts. I hope you enjoy your time at home and I look forward to reading about your Asia adventures.

      I’ll give you the same advice that I gave myself, Jessica – just do whatever feels right for you, and forget about what everybody else is doing! In the end, you have to make yourself happy first.

    Does it really matter what others think? Do what’s best for you. We love all kinds of travel but we seem to end up in one place for 4 or 5 years at a time, I think they call that extremely slow travel 🙂
    Whatever works and makes you happy is what’s right for you.

      Ha, nope, doesn’t matter at all what others think!

    Good for you for making the decision that was right for you! I can honestly say that long term travel is not my bag. Even though I did it for a year and I don’t regret a minute of it (okay, so maybe I do regret that hostel dorm room in Laos… but other than that…). I am just the type of person that thrives on routine…. and having a couch. Sure, it’s not as sexy as backpacking through Asia, but it’s what works best for me. (P.S. backpacking through Asia only SOUNDS sexy. It’s actually very exhausting and full of very large grasshoppers.)

      Haha, I will be sure to watch out for the large grasshoppers!

      I know what you mean about routine, though. I like those, too! I also like being able to be lazy and not feeling bad about it, or like I’m missing out on something. I didn’t get to be lazy very often in the past 3 months!

    I get it. I think you made the right decision :-). I’m excited you’re still going to Southeast Asia too!

    You know, I had the exact same feelings four months into my trip while I was still doing the solo travel thing. I was lonely and depressed and homesick. In fact, I was actually looking at flights back home when I met Dave. And then, well, I didn’t feel so lonely anymore. I’m certain that if I hadn’t met Dave I wouldn’t still be travelling full-time. Having somebody to share all of those amazing experiences with really made a huge difference.

    Now, our travels are getting slower and slower… our eventual goal is to spend three months of the year having a Melbourne summer (to see Dave’s family), three months of the year having a London… “summer” (to see mine), and then spend the remaining six months of the year either somewhere in Southeast Asia or slowly travelling. We both miss our families heaps and are getting pretty tired with the constant moving and packing up our things. This should hopefully give us the perfect balance 🙂

    Finally, I adore all of the photos in this post!

      Definitely still going to SEA! And now that I’ve had some time off, I’m starting to get really excited about it, too!

      I think if I’d had a travel buddy for all of my trip things would have been a lot different. When I was traveling with Busabout and made a few friends that I would catch up with in multiple cities, for example, I enjoyed it a lot more than when I was just entirely on my own.

    For a lot of people, this is the reality. As a full-time college student, I can only travel in short bursts – a week here, a weekend there, and then during the winter and summer breaks. Do I make it work? Of course, and I don’t feel like I am missing out on all this much. Perhaps one day I’ll try the long term travel thing (actually, right now I am living abroad, but not sure if that counts) but until I graduate I’m going to need to stick to the home base. And that’s perfectly fine 🙂

      It IS perfectly fine, Kay! And that’s how I traveled, too, until I finished grad school earlier this year and decided to try a longer trip. Now that I have though, I think I much prefer my old style of travel!

    Great post. I have been toying with the idea of doing a long term travel trip, but I am afraid of doing it solo. I usually travel with my boyfriend, and he is not ready for a long term trip yet. With that being said, I do agree travel is learning about yourself and what works for you. Everyone handles it differently.

    Have you thought of finding travel partners for some of your long term travel? It might make it more enjoyable. However, I understand the risk of getting along with someone and spending all your time with a stranger who might have a completely different travel style.

      Well, you’ll never know until you try, Angela! Solo travel can be great! But I do understand your trepidation.

      I think I WOULD be willing to try long-term travel again – but only with a partner in crime. Unfortunately, those are difficult to come by, especially in the U.S. when most people have jobs and debt and such that they can’t leave behind for long periods of time!

    At least you gave it a go. Some people might dream of long-term travel, but could let fear and doubt hold them back from ever giving it a try. You did it, and even though you’ve decided long-term travel isn’t for you at least you won’t have that feeling of regret wondering “what if I had…?”

      Exactly! I knew I had to give it a go, no matter what the outcome. At least now I know!

    congrats on making a tough decision.

      Thanks, Annie. In the end, though, it really wasn’t that tough – I knew it was what I needed.

    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.

      That is such a fantastic point, Ryan. And the budget issue DID stress me out much more than I would have liked it to on this trip. I’m usually the type who will splash out on unique experiences abroad, but it was harder to do this time around. Since I was funding my trip mostly through freelance writing, there were a few times when I had barely any money and was really stressing over it, to the point where I didn’t even want to go out to eat with friends/tourmates. It was terrible!

    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!

    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.

    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!

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

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