Almost everyone who reaches a plateau where he or she is happy and comfortable says it's because of finding balance between work, relaxation, exercise, socialising and family - plus some alone time to do something contemplative, creative, or educational. – Neil Strauss
The travel lifestyle can be full of adventure, insights, incredibly fun, but just like anything over a period of time it can become a bit of an indifferent feeling. People have asked me, are you ever going to stop? Do you ever feel excitement now that you have seen and done so much? And the honest answer is, well yes. Sometimes you get to another beach or waterfall or jungle and sometimes it's just a feeling of, meh, ok cool it's another very beautiful place, but that wow factor isn't what it used to be. Also being a solo traveler you
experience extreme degrees of loneliness at times, but I feel that this is not only necessary for all people to experience because it helps you to mature and develop through some of the most difficult of circumstances. Of course it's not always easy or pleasant as many people only focus upon the photos I post and they often never think about the fact that I spent 14-hours on a bus without a toilet being sleep-deprived and crammed into small spaces while driving through roadways that most people couldn't stomach, whether that be the motion sickness, body odors, or the fact that your rickety old bus is mere inches from sliding off a cliff. I will say that I have grown in ways that I feel I could never have if I would have chosen to stay in Denver and continued to live a very comfortable lifestyle and just focus on building my professional career even further. When I found out a few years ago that my former boss, Rachael Weaver (Senior VP of Network Programming), had to retire due to health reasons. First of all, of course I was very saddened by this news and reached out to her, because we had a wonderful working relationship of more than 10-years. Secondly, it did make me stop and think about my previous career goal, which being a determined individual, I often told friends that my goal was to be the Senior VP or Director of Network Programming for a network such as HBO, Starz, or even a smaller network by the age of 35, because I felt that I had reached the pinnacle or ceiling of my professional status at HDNet. And, it was of course not hard to think that most likely I would have stepped into this role at the age of 32 if I had not chosen to retire from my career in broadcast television.
However, once again I have digressed. Long-term travel blues do occur, and I can admit that I have felt them not just once or twice but multiple times. I've questioned whether it was time to return to the States and if I had grown tired of this lifestyle. Because, once again it's not all roses and freedom. There are plenty of sacrifices to be made. I've had to sacrifice stability through relationships–not being there to see my nieces grow up, friends get married, or be there to comfort family even when my grandfather passed away! But, I will say that I felt extremely thankful that I had time to spend with my grandfather before I left and he not only did he give me some wonderful words of wisdom having been a minister most of his life, but also highly encouraged me to go knowing that life moves on regardless, because living life with the constant idea of death is not truly living but live in wait of dying. I'll never forget that.
I also remember talking with my good friend Jeremy who took time to travel round the world after graduating college from UC Santa Barbara and he told me that one thing he missed during his extended travels was simple things like daily routines. Once again another great piece of advice. I feel that in order to maintain this type of lifestyle you do need to find a good and healthy balance. One way to overcome the loneliness, of course has been staying at hostels and making some amazing friends from all around the world. However, these friendships come and go quickly, because as a backpacker you are often heading in different directions and while we have many ways now to keep in touch, just like anything, over time those messages begin to become more scarce.
An easier way of developing a routine, has been regaining my entrepreneurial spirit. It's pretty amazing to me even when I stop and think about it, but I have started three different businesses spanning two different continents and have worked as a professional consultant on three different continents. I've been offered jobs and even continue to receive offers from investors for whenever I might be ready to begin yet another big business venture, since every single business I have started both in the United States and abroad has not only be a limited partnership, always no more than two other individuals, but my businesses have required less than a $100 investment from the partners and EVERY business has been profitable within one-week and one a two of my international businesses has held a profit margin of 60% or more! I know you are saying, that's insane and I don't believe it! But it's true. I prefer to keep my methods a trade secret at this time, because I am still constantly thinking of new potential ideas, but this again is one way I have learned to develop a routine, which I do crave from time-to-time. Therefore, without continuing to digress even more, here is are some suggestions of overcoming travel blues for the extended traveler.
LONG-TERM TRAVEL BECOMES THE NORM
VENT HONSTELY TO FRIENDS BACK HOME
TAKE A REST
ACCESS YOUR BLUES
FINDING A BALANCE
The first is that in order to save money, I needed to travel slowly. This allows you to negotiate better prices on accommodations. You can spend more time asking and shopping around when it comes to any activities in the area, even being invited to participate in some excursions for free either from locals or because you meet people that are in the area short-term and the activity has a minimum number of people required and that's when the group may just offer to pay you to meet this requirement. I've received free surf lessons, free meals, free rides, free clothing, and free hugs.
The second, is that I need to learn to budget much better. Western Europe is already expensive in comparison with many other regions around the world, specifically Central America and South East Asia, and I knew that in order to stretch my budget I would have to make a variety of sacrifices, such as; staying in dorms instead of private rooms, stopping to volunteer in exchange for accommodation and/or meals, take on jobs that before I would have considered were beneath me because of my level of education and previous professional experience, but this was a wonderfully humbling time and has helped me realize where my priorities lay and what I consider to be necessities and what I consider to be luxuries. Above all, this has given me a much greater appreciation for what I have in life, growing up in the United States, having the opportunity to be educated at a top University in the States, and all of the more odd things that I took for granted before; clean laundry, hot showers, waking to know that there will be electricity and running water, the accessibility to food at any given time day or night, and Stove Top™. Yup, had to throw that in there! I really feel that I can't be long-term friends with anyone that doesn't have a genuine appreciate for this sodium rich processed packaged deliciousness. Currently, my dorm-mate Jacob has an infatuation as do I for this ingenious side dish, along with one of my best friends, Andrea back in the Mile High City. Kraft foods you sir, have developed the true crack addiction food item!
ROUTINE AND STABILITY
TAKE MINI VACATIONS FROM YOUR TRAVEL LIFE
So, sometimes when you take a break from being constantly on the move, you need those short breaks of escape to recharge just like anyone else. When I was managing a small 16-bed hostel in Bangkok or a 64-bed hostel in Nicaragua dealing with an international staff, there were several times that I needed to get out, whether that was to go and have dinner with my friend Krista who was managing Naked Tiger hostel and we could vent to one another all the things that couldn't be discussed amid guests, or in my current situation as I'm working hard to build my businesses in Korea. I feel that I have always tried to push myself to be a hard worker and in doing so, I often push myself a bit too hard and need a break and complete disconnect from technology and even verbally speaking with others, because it can be exhausting. So, don't feel guilty take a holiday from what others may think is a permanent holiday, which of course it can sometimes be but not always.
VALUE RELATIONSHIPS (BOTH PAST AND PRESENT)
DON'T BE AFRAID TO RETURN HOME
One story that sent chills up all of our spines was while I was staying at a hostel in Mancora, Peru situated on the Pacific Coast and was incredible falling asleep to the sound of the surf every night, there was a Peruvian guy, unfortunately I cannot remember his name so we will call him Pedro. Well, Pedro was working at the hostel and grew up near Cusco and worked for several years as a tour guide at Machu Piccu. Once during one of his tours he had a mixed group including an elderly couple from England. At one point the older gentleman sat down and just began sobbing. Pedro immediately went over to the older man's wife and asked if he should get someone for medical attention for her husband. She very calmly said, "no, he will be alright. I think he just needs someone to talk with, and I think it should be you." Extremely surprised that she felt it shouldn't be herself–his wife of decades–so he hesitantly and timidly approached the man by just slowly sitting down beside him, first in silence, then he asked the older man, "Sir, are you ok? Should I get someone to assist you?" The older man said, "no," amid his tears. And after a brief period of silence. He admitted to Pedro and said, "I feel as though I have let my life slip by." Pedro was quite surprised by this response and said, "what do you mean?" The older Englishman said, "well, I see you and all these young people (backpackers) here [at Machu Piccu] and I'm an old man now, and I just feel as though I was too concerned with doing all the things in life that society tells us to do." In this sense, meaning that we NEED to get good grades in high school in order to get into a good University finished our degree to get acquire a good job and build a career then get married have children work for 40 or 50-years and then you can retire and that's when you can begin to enjoy life. Is this truly the only formula for being considered a valuable and successful member of society?
I'm not saying this is wrong by any means, but it did make us all stop and think about why each of us left behind or continue to sacrifice a stable life to do many of these things that would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to do in your 70s or 80s. Just as I've used the quote before, I find it to continue to be fitting: