Travel bloggers, online entrepreneurs and digital nomads don’t often talk about the downsides of the nomadic lifestyle. It’s much easier to share highlights of our adventures as if all we do is go cliff-diving in Thailand and film GoPro videos, synchronised to the beat of a catchy EDM track.
In April 2014, when I was just 20 years old, I quit my 9-to-5 desk job to work for myself and travel indefinitely. I didn’t have a University degree, savings or wealthy parents. Contrary to what I let my Instagram followers believe, “living the dream” is hard work!
Here’s the lowdown on what travel bloggers, like me, don’t talk about. The downsides of our lifestyle and how to overcome them.
Thrown in at the Deep End
To be your own boss is rewarding, but it can be stressful when you have no idea what you are doing and no-one to show you how to do it! After I quit my job, I experienced this feeling almost 75% of time. I only thought I knew what I was doing for the other 25% of the time.
With nobody telling you what to do next, you just have to go figure it out for yourself.
My advice is to seek feedback, advice, and even criticism at every opportunity. Even if you run out of friends and family to annoy, there is an endless amount of people on social media who are ready and willing to critique your work and ideas. Just remember to not take everything to heart and know when to separate the helpful from the hateful!
To be abroad for most of the year can mean missing family and friends. I occasionally feel disconnected when I miss out on important moments back home. I counteract these feelings with the happiness I feel when meeting new people and hearing about their unique stories. I come across many individuals, who like me, can feel a little homesick too.
I regularly use Facebook groups to find events or meet-ups near me. You can easily do this too:
- Search in Facebook “your current city” + “digital nomads / industry-related keyword”
- Join groups and introduce yourself!
There are digital nomad communities everywhere! Meet-ups, events and even job opportunities are regularly posted in these groups too.
As well as feeling homesick, you can often feel a sense of isolation when working as you travel. You can avoid this by arranging occasional, short, 30 minute Skype calls or real-life lunch meetings with people during your work week. It’s not always the most productive but it’s definitely important to have those face-to-face connections with real-human people (offline). It can be a good way of keeping yourself focussed as well as ensuring you don’t become a complete hermit!
Luckily, you can always decide to travel home for a bit. I think it’s important to recharge your batteries with those who matter to you the most. There’s no nomadic rulebook telling you that you can’t!
When you are your own boss, you have to discipline yourself. I love what I do but sometimes I love it too much! Excessive screen time can be bad for you, especially if you’re not taking regular breaks.
I combat this by making sure I reward myself for my hard work! I always have some kind of escapade booked every weekend while remembering to take breaks when I am working. All of this helps me keep my creative juices flowing.
On the flipside, when you travel there’s often so many things to discover on your doorstep, it can be equally hard to not ditch work for a day off in the sun! Learning to have good self-discipline takes time, but I always try to remember what I am doing this for, and how different my life was before I started blogging.
One of the biggest challenges can be keeping your health in check when on the move. Doctor’s appointments, regular dentist check-ups, having a good healthy diet and routine can be difficult to maintain when everything changes every few weeks or months.
Health tourism has been on the rise and I have read and discovered many countries that offer discounted, competitive, and professional care. I have discovered excellent dental treatment at a fraction of the price back home in countries such as Thailand, Hungary, Turkey and India. These are becoming more and more popular amongst long-term travellers as well as health tourists from Australia, U.K. and America.
It is also important to stay active and regularly exercise. Yoga, running, swimming, hiking etc. are all worthwhile hobbies that you can take with you wherever you are!
Uncertainty (Where Will You Be Living Next?)
This can be overwhelming especially when there is almost too many options. I know you must be thinking “what a hard life!” but figuring out where to go next and for how long for can be daunting. You must consider factors such as internet connection, cost of living, amenities, flight prices (there and back) and occasionally how safe the country is. Getting it wrong can be demotivating and a huge waste of time that you could have spent wisely, building your online businesses.
It’s useful to make a rough plan for the next 6 months. This is extremely helpful when considering your budget for the year. Knowing you will able to contact your clients/family back home, what to bring with you on your travels and, pre-planning what you really want to see! For bloggers and influencers, this also gives you adequate time to contact relevant media to hook you up with press opportunities on your journey.
Even though most travellers have the best intentions, it is possible to be misled by dodgy organisations and inadvertently fund something that you are morally opposed to. For shocking examples you only have to look to the recent unveiling of the ‘orphanage tourism’ industry in Cambodia; fuelling child trafficking and heartbreaking separation of young children from their families. Or elephant-riding and tiger-petting in Thailand, tragically encouraging the mistreatment of wild animals.
Remember, every payment is an investment. Make sure it’s something you want to fund. Seriously though, if I see another ‘backpacker’ petting a tiger in Thailand, I’m going to lose my sh*t!
It is vitally important to understand the impact of your transactions, especially when travelling to developing countries where your money goes further. We need to remember that as consumers, we have the power to influence companies to adopt socially aware business models.
We need to understand the impact of our transactions and be mindful of the areas we are visiting. To give more to the local communities we visit, rather than taking from them. Be a travel ninja and leave no footprints!
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Gardens by the Bay 🇸🇬 might be the coolest place I have ever been! A 30 minute wander 🚶 from where I am staying @5footwayinn Project Boat Quay, or just a 10 minute taxi ride if you are feeling tired from a day of exploring. The Supertree Grove @gardensbythebay (those big man-made trees I am looking at) are Singapore’s futuristic example to the 🌎 that we can coexist with nature 🌳 and welcome wildlife 🐿 back into our cities. I’ve been desperate to visit since I saw the revolutionary botanical garden in BBC’s Planet Earth II! Thanks to @5footwayinn for making this happen. Watch this space for my new travel series coming soon; “That Travel Blog’s Workstays in…”
My Advice for Those Wanting to Become a Travel Blogger
Hold tight! Don’t quit your day job just yet. Make sure this life is for you. Take some time off, go travelling by yourself. Start writing and building your personal brand, try to generate an income on the side. Then ignore my advice and do whatever your heart tells you to do.
If you fail, you won’t fail because you will have had an amazing experience. It’s better than looking back on what could have been.
One of my favourite quotes from entrepreneur and writer Randy Komisar will give you better advice than I ever will: