When I think back to my first long-term backpacking trip I took across South East Asia I can’t help but smile. Travel back then was far simpler than it is now. Armed with my trusty backpack I set off to explore a sizable chunk of SE Asia. With nothing but pleasure on my mind, I carried a small wardrobe of clothes, simple point and shoot camera and very little else. When I wanted to eat I ate; when I wanted to explore I explored; when I wanted to sleep I slept; when I wanted to relax I relaxed. With nothing more than merely my internal compass and desires as my master, I set off and did things on my own pace as my bank account slowly dwindled.
These days things have changed in many ways. This is the first time I’m hitting the road as a digital nomad trying to create a successful travel blog. Although I would rather be doing nothing else other than this, I’m also facing a new set of circumstances and challenges I’ve never encountered before. In years past, when the internet was down in my flophouse, I gleefully went outside and explored. I could always send an email later. Lately, I’ve been finding getting a decent connection is often challenging. The internet is literally the lifeblood of my business; without it nothing flows. Sometimes I stare blankly at my screen fixated on the swirling page icon to load with the anticipation of a dog in the middle of a Pavlovian conditioning experiment; when it does load I feel like doing a cartwheel and giving a colossal high five to the first stranger I encounter.
I suppose what I’m really trying to convey is that I’m finding it challenging at times balancing work with pleasure. Sometimes I find myself cooped up in my guest house when I’d rather be out exploring. When I was teaching in South Korea I was resigned to the fact that I’m there to work and save money; however, now that I’m visiting new places by the day/week I’m often feeling the urge to spend the entire day exploring as opposed to parked in front of a computer. It’s been a unique experience for me so far. On the one hand, if I travel to my heart’s content, I’ll get behind on projects; however, if I decide to spend too much time online I’ll feel an extreme sense of guilt and anxiety for not doing enough of what I’m most passionate about in my life – travel. I’m still searching for the perfect balance. I’m somewhat resigned to the fact I may never find it – burning the candle excessively on both ends at times.
The one thing I can’t get out of my head is this question I internally asked myself the other day: “Does travel actually get in the way of running a successful online business and potentially even a travel blog?”
It’s something I’ve been pondering quite seriously. I’ve tentatively come to the conclusion that in certain circumstances NOT traveling is actually better for workflow and productivity – even when the work I’m doing is related directly to travel.
All of the random thoughts I’ve been having related to this subject have left me questioning my motives for being on the road. Did I enjoy travel in the past because of all the new cultures I experienced, exotic foods I ate, and the friendships I forged with locals and other backpackers? Or did I really relish not having to work – feeling a sense of freedom and autonomy – while breaking out of stifling routines? I feel the answer to these questions may lie somewhere in the middle. Deep down I know it’s best not to compare travel experiences.
I’m considering a lot of different options (including basing myself somewhere for a significant period of time) that will allow me to rekindle the love I have for being on the road along with all of the new associated responsibilities of earning money online. I feel this is a sink or swim period in my life. I’m not keen on teaching English again given that I’ve done it for several years. I enjoyed it well enough, but to be perfectly honest, I did it more for the experience of being abroad and saving for travel than I did for the love of the job.
There are moments that I long for the carefree backpacking days of my youth; however, I realize that period of my life is now clearly over. In many ways I’m chartering waters I’ve never sailed before. Travel has shaped and plied me into a new person over the years teaching me to be a more patient person. I’m somewhat anxious now about my future but I’m going to follow my dreams because I’d rather fail at my own life and fall flat on my face than to just settle for something less. And so the journey continues…