Why I Can’t Travel Like I Used To

A couple weeks ago I wrote a pretty popular article about the benefits of slow travel: how moving less actually allows you to see things in more depth and detail. I then proceeded to completely ignore my own advice and blow through the rest of Colombia. 8 destinations in 20 days, a whirlwind effort to see as much of the country as possible before my visa expired.


It was frankly, really stressful. There were overnight buses, slapdash city tours and rain, oh so much rain. When you add in that Mike and I are also trying to run our two businesses off unreliable wifi, things started to turn ugly. We started to snap at each other over the stupidest things: we were just so tired, frustrated and overworked, particularly at the end. There just wasn’t enough time to do everything we needed, everything we wanted, and to also breathe normally.

And ice cream, there has to be time for ice cream

It was a bit of a wake up call: things are different now. A couple of years ago I could have breezed through a whole long list of places without a problem, this is no longer the case. My overflowing inbox and aching back tell me that while traveling slow used to be a luxury, it’s now a necessity.

When you come down to it, it’s mostly about the work. I’m not just backpacking around, seeing the sights, I’m now working from the road. Business has been good (November was my highest earning month to date!), but with success comes, well a lot more work. Writing, administration, conference calls, working on side projects, these all take up a lot of time. And since I’m a travel blogger dating (and traveling with) another travel blogger there is always something that desperately needs to get done.

It turns out the work/life balance thing is a toughie, even when you don’t have a boss. In a way it’s worse, because if I get behind with work I pretty much have to lock myself in my hostel room and ignore all the beautiful attractions I came all the way down here to see. I’m tired of being so busy I have to skip the coffee plantations of Salento or the day trip to the countryside. I also don’t like worrying about work when I’m supposed to be out enjoying myself. I mean, there’s no use doing this crazy roadshow if it isn’t fun right?

So, Mike and I talked it over and here is the new plan: We’re turning over a new leaf. We’re going to do Ecuador slow. Like, really slow. We’ve already been in Quito for 5 days and we’re planning to stay at least 4 more. We’ll spend a week here, a week there, snailing our way across the country. We want to find the right pace that works for us: One that lets us get our work done, see everything we’d like to, and still have a bit of downtime for nappingor watching Dexter.ย We want to put our luggage down once in awhile.

It’s funny, I’ve been living and working on the road for over a year now, but I think I’m only just now starting to realize what that means. I love my job and I want to keep on loving it. I want to travel and work, and somehow enjoy both. Apparently that means traveling deeper and well, slower.

Oh god, am I a grown up now?

42 thoughts on “Why I Can’t Travel Like I Used To”

  1. You are describing what I have donned the “Stepford Syndrome” in a nutshell these are the guests who arrive frazzled and irritated and the next morning are completely different people. But by their next stop/check in they are back to frazzled and ugly again.

    These visitors travel through VA and miss it entirely. They stop overnight here and do not get to enjoy the history, the heritage or the culture of these Blue Ridge Mountains. They say they did, but of course they never even came close! The Claiborne House B&B is at the start of The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. But the trail is NOT just a road, it is about the people found along this trail, who make it what it is, in their Appalachian culture.

    For those visiting America, you need to get off the highway.

  2. Completely understand. That’s why Matt and I are staying put in Guatemala, so that we can get work done but do it in an interesting place with easy distractions. Looking forward to putting in another 10-hour day and then taking part in the festivities tonight. Curious to see where your “right place” will be….

  3. One thing you mention here is having a blogger boyfriend. Let me assure you, after 7 weeks of Vietnam and Cambodia with my non blogger boyfriend, you’re lucky. It was so difficult to sit down and work when someone who doesn’t really understand the pressures of working online was metaphorically pulling at my sleeve! The guilt wasn’t helping either. Eeek.

    1. Oh yes I really lucked out in that department! He totally understands when I need a work day or the absolute do or die importance of good wifi.

  4. Sounds like you’ve got a good plan in place for Ecuador. Missing a place completely is not as bad as visiting a place but not having the time to properly experience it.

  5. I completely hear you on getting burnt out quickly with fast travel. We find ourselves taking longer breaks in places around the world, both to regroup and to catch up on work. It’s not worth it to race around and see a million things if you can’t enjoy it and get exhausted in the process.

    After a busy 6 weeks of travel, we’re looking forward to staying still for a few months…somewhere warm!

  6. This was a fabulous post, Steph!

    I find that faster (more strenuous) travel chips away at you. You just get exhausted and you look back on a country and all you can do is sigh…and feel a little sleepy.

    I’m pro-casual movement travel. I’m not so pro on that whole grown up bit, though! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Everyone always talks about slow travel and I suppose you never really know how well you can adapt until you put yourself in that situation. I kind of feel that I will need to slow down at some point next year – I just don’t see how I won’t seeing as how it affects so many people and like you, I want to make sure I am still enjoying it and not just going through the motions because I feel I should.

  8. Interesting post. Sounds like you are making a smart decision to move slower and actually enjoy it. Travelling is great, but you also have to accommodate for real life things like work and resting once in a while, as you mentioned. I’m entering my third year in South Africa. Initially I thought I’d be here six months, but turns out there was a good reason to slow down and stay much longer than I expected!

  9. I’m nervous about the pace of our first month on the road this January. Once we hit Buenos Aires on February 14th, we’ll get the keys to an apartment where we can rest and enjoy a leisurely month of down time + exploration. But the weeks leading up to it will be full of bus rides here and there, a few flights, a handful of already-set appointments with hosts. Good reminder to question the speed of travel…

    1. I think the first month is usually easy b/c you are so excited and that enthusiasm can keep you going. I’m sure you’ll be ready to rest by the time you get to BA though (and let me know your plans b/c we’ll be headed in that general direction as well).

  10. Glad I”m not the only one experiencing difficulties in converting to slow travel. Time is a luxury we don’t often have (and thus, don’t often give ourselves), especially when we travel. When I was traveling Asia/ SEA for 7 months, I was so used to the kind of travel schedule I normally keep (usually a 2 week allowance for a country), that I had difficulty slowing down spending a week or so in each city. Of course, my mind was also ticking with daily expenses and trying to cut corners, so even moreso, I never gave myself that time. Slowing down is a challenge I’m still working on. I know the benefits of it, but breaking old habits are hard.

    1. It is really hard to get out of that mindset of see as much as possible as fast as possible. I sometimes feel like I’m just being efficient but really I’m running myself ragged. Takes practice to slow down!

  11. Working while travelling is a very different thing and travelling slowly is a must. Every so often we need to stop somewhere for a few months and focus on work. At the moment we’re in Chiang Mai for four months – the longest we’ve ever stayed in one place but we are really enjoying getting to know a place well. We have no plans to stop travelling so I don’t feel the need to rush.

  12. Great post, we are just hitting the one year mark on our round the world trip and we spent all 12 months in Asia. We saw 14 countires, which is far more than we had planned and it took a lot out of us. We are planning on moving slower in our upcoming travels.

    Getting old isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, I remember backpacking through Europe for a summer during college and it was no problem to move constantly, but it’s a lot harder now.

  13. Everyone’s different Steph. Sometimes you need to speed things up and other’s slow it right down which is what you’re finding now…I think it’s great that you know how YOU want to travel and not just do it a certain way because everyone tells you to.
    And yes you’re grown up but there is ALWAYS room for ice cream =)

  14. hehe! You are getting older! Me too btw —- my feet hurt and my back hurts and I need coffee in the morning or else James gets murdered. Travelling slow is a lot better for your physical body as well as your mental and emotional state – especially when you are not just travelling, but also working at the same time!

  15. Completely agree! Trying to find a work/life/travel balance on the road is very difficult. Either you spend too much time on work and miss the sights or vice versa…it’s hard to find a happy medium.

  16. I hear you! Ten years ago, I crossed South America (yes, pretty much all countries by bus) in a month to make it to the Rio Carnival. I missed half of it though, and now I’m looking into slower travel too. Because there are only so many night buses you can take ๐Ÿ˜†

  17. I totally feel the same way…so many of my past trips have been total whirlwinds. One time, I hit four Western Europe countries in two weeks–ridiculous. In October I did some slow travel in Costa Rica, and it was SO nice. I definitely want to keep that trend going. I think part of it might be that we’re realizing that those places aren’t going anywhere and we have the rest of our lives to hit our bucket list.

    1. Wow 4 countries in 2 weeks! I totally could have pulled that off back in college, but not anymore- I like sleeping too much!

  18. Hi Steph, it sounds like you’re getting a little travel weary not old. It sounds ridiculous to people who are juggling mega responsibilities but it happens. Although not many travel addicts feel they can admit it. When it happened to me, about nine months into my trip, I took a break in Sydney and house sat for six weeks. It was nice to feel part of a community again (I mean one that stayed in one place), I actually got into ( dare I say?) a routine for a short spell. When I left, I felt refreshed and ready to take on NZ and South America with the same gusto I had when I left the UK . You gotta do what works for you, but don’t be afraid to take a break somewhere. They’ll be plenty to do and write about there too.

  19. We could have written this post- it is EXACTLY what we’re feeling like at the moment. – we sped through Laos in 3 weeks, trying to see as much as possible, but working at the same time. It’s just too stressful in the long run, and we need to slow down – or we won’t be successful… We wrote about how hard it is to balance travel & work, but it is not impossible to do both – we just feel we have much less of a social life & much less downtime than in our life before travel ๐Ÿ˜€

  20. My boyfriend and I learned this awhile back. We agree that you definitely have to stay long to enjoy a place or else you’ll come back home feeling a bit empty. Unfortunately, a lack of vacation time from work does not allow us to stay that long in a city. Sometimes, we can only go for a weekend which leaves us thinking we didn’t really get to know the place. We can’t wait until we have more vacation hours!

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