I've watched with interest as the travel blogosphere has filled with people 'living the dream' of funding an existence of non-stop travel by blogging about it. Good luck to everyone attempting to do this - but as an ex freelance travel writer I take this whole 'digital travel nomad' business with a large pinch of salt.
Something I learned during that decade of jumping on and off planes and writing about the last trip as I planned the next trip during the current trip - is that travel for travel's sake is tedious after a while.
Travel friendships are shallow
Before I got into travel writing - like most people bitten by the bug - I travelled quite a lot on my own. And I loved the way it freed me to make friends with anyone. At first I felt self conscious. Almost like I had a sign on my back saying "He has no friends!". But after I'd plucked up courage to talk to strangers it was fantastic fun. (A few beers helped to begin with but now I will talk to anyone!). For a while this ability to just meet interesting people totally rocked. Problem was a lot of these 'friendships' were transient and ultimately a bit meaningless. We bonded over a shared need for info about the next place we wanted to visit or whatever - but we talked the same old stuff most of the time. After a while I grew tired of this.
It's hard to observe and to participate
Once you realise these 'pseudo friendships' aren't that sustaining you tend to withdraw a bit. You sit back and observe. I kept a diary (blogs didn't exist!). Sometimes I realised I was watching with a degree of cynicism. There's a dumb pecking order to backpacking. The deeper the tan, the more battered the rucksack - the cooler the traveller. (Maybe now it's also about how many twitter followers you have?). I got tired of it all. But there were still amazing temples to see, incredible food to eat, local people with totally different lifestyles to learn from. I found though that the more I observed, the harder it became to click back into participation mode. Once I started writing full time as a travel writer this observation/participation partition seemed more pronounced still. I wasn't doing a trip just to experience it. I was there to get a story, take pictures, make notes. The first few trips were fine. I lived in the moment and just scribbled a few notes and took some pictures, but increasingly the pressure to nail the story took away from the delight of exploration. If you're serious about monetization for your travel blog I reckon you'll feel the same way. Nomadic Matt's comment in his post about how he makes money sums this up well:
"I spend more time trying to put bread on my table than I do anything else, and often it really takes away from being able to just travel and enjoy where I am."
It's lonely on the road
I've been thinking about writing a post on this topic for a while but a post by Nomadic Chick called The Definition of Lonely made me get on and write it. It's a short, oddly wistful post. It begins:
“Today, I feel lonely. I wonder what I hunger for? Male companionship? To have my friends surrounding me? … Sometimes it’s intangible, something I can’t quite grasp.”
She goes on to say she's learnt after a year on the road that she's "discovering a drawback to long-term travel and that’s the reflex to be reserved... it leaves me somewhat alone, even when I’m surrounded by human contact."
She nails that feeling I described above perfectly. Is this a new definition of loneliness? For me, no (for her I guess, yes.) I felt that way a lot, particularly after I'd been doing the job a while.
It's wonderfully self-indulgent to gorge yourself on new stimulation day in and day out. But after a while - just like any drug - we get hardened to it.
Oh yeah. Another camel ride. Great one more temple to tick off the list… Angkor Wat next.
So, if you're reading all those blog posts selling the dream about making money just by writing blog posts and doing smart things with ebooks, advertising and sponsored posts... as you wander your way around the big wide world. Pause for a while.
Do you understand the reality of what you're actually taking on?
Image by Flickr user: Giorgio Montersino