Travelling as a lifestyle can be tough. There’s a big difference between a two-week vacation and a constantly on-the-move way of life. While I’m just stating the obvious (let’s be honest), the truth is that there’s a big gap between expectation and reality when it comes to finding that balance.
When I left for Ecuador in August 2015, I really thought I was setting out on a “me” kind-of journey. It wasn’t my first backpacking trip, but it was supposed to be my big “figuring things out” adventure. I was going to live well, explore, grow, and just focus on pursuing an ideal life. I suppose that’s what we all want, but we aren’t all so embarrassingly open about it.
Anyway, it quickly became obvious that it would take work to really do all the things I wanted to do, to work on all the aspects of life that I wanted to work on. I admire people who travel full time and still manage to produce really high-quality work.
There’s so much to do when you’re in a different region every week. Sure, you could find a quiet spot and huddle over your laptop all morning, working on whatever project, but there’s this guilt that goes along with that decision. Guilt that you are missing out on this special place at this special time and not respecting how special it all is (done with all the specials, I swear). Maybe it gets easier to make that decision, but I don’t think I’ve quite gotten there. Here’s what I do know, based on some mistakes I’ve made along the way.
Get up early
If you get up at 6 or 7 in the morning and work for 3 or 4 hours, that’s still only brings you up to mid-morning. I love that feeling of knowing I’ve accomplished something before I head out. You can enjoy yourself without thinking about all the work you’ve got to find time to do later. Get that part out of the way early and enjoy your day. It may be tough at first, but it’s probably one of the most useful habits to form.
Make each day a mission
Set your sights on accomplishing something specific each day. If you do it, you know that you can continue your day without guilt. Of course, you can always do more, but it’s no big deal if you don’t. The best way to do this is to make a plan for the entire week in one go. This way, you know that you’re covering all your bases throughout the week.
Do something to help someone else
This is very general, and not exactly completely altruistic. Maybe it’s spreading the word about an issue, helping a friend with a project, or just talking someone up—whatever it is, it will make you feel like you contributed and it will probably make someone else feel good about you. It’s like a sort-of accountability that you’re creating yourself… the other person just doesn’t know about it yet.
Don’t just drink and hang out all the time
If you enjoy a drink every now and then, of course you’re going to keep doing so. But, there’s this culture of partying and vacationing and drinking every night in a lot of the most common backpacking destinations. You’re in the vacation mindset, but that doesn’t work when you’re travelling longterm. You’re setting yourself up for zero productivity at the time, a likely lack of energy the next day, and probably some bad dietary decisions that will likely exacerbate the low-energy issues. Celebrate specific events, holidays, dates—not every day.
If none of this works, just get some exercise
Taking care of your body and being active is always productive. If you can’t bring yourself to do anything else, just do something physically active. It will boost your mood and make you feel like you did good… even if you do nothing else for the entire day.