In 2009 I went on a working holiday to New Zealand, thinking that I would only be gone for 6 months. Six years later I am still travelling and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
Sometimes travel goes beyond a short term trip and becomes a long term lifestyle. Travelling long term is an amazing experience and it allows you to savour amazing experiences around the world with no time pressure or sense of urgency.
When you choose to wander for several years like Lee and I have, there are certain challenges that come with the lifestyle. These are different challenges than you might face while living in one place or while on a shorter trip. While the challenges make it more difficult, they are not insurmountable and with the right attitude and strategies you can overcome them. After all, every lifestyle has its benefits and challenges – the most important thing is how you deal with them.
In this series of blog posts we will look at some of the challenges of long term travel. The first was about finding the money to support yourself on the road. This one is about dealing with the fact that almost everyone you meet will have a different life/work balance than you.
You Can’t Compare Your Schedule With Those Who Are on Holiday
Since we spend most of our time in guesthouses and hostels, most of the people that Lee and I meet are travelling through the area on a short term trip. This means that they are moving at a much faster pace than we are. They will have an excursion or an activity planned for every day and they will be going out most nights as well, enjoying the local nightlife and cuisine. Their days are filled with 100% free time, compared to our balance of work and leisure time. Meanwhile Lee and I will be spending most days in the hostel working away on our laptops and cooking our own meals, taking days off to do activities every week or so.
One of the challenges of this lifestyle is being the only person working a full time job when everyone else around you in in vacation mode. I will make friends at the hostel and they will invite me out on a Tuesday afternoon to have a drink somewhere or go for a hike – but I will be in the middle of a busy workday and I will have to decline. Of course, I am a freelancer and my time is flexible – so if I really wanted to I could quit for the day and go with them. However, the work that I was planning to complete that afternoon wouldn’t go away and I would still have to do it on another day. There will always be something fun happening 24/7 and I will always have to say no to most invitations to go out and have fun and if I am not careful, I can start to get frustrated and resent my work.
I find that this is one of the challenges of the digital nomad lifestyle that is not present when you are simply freelancing in one location. When I worked from home in England everyone else was at work too, so there were no enticing invitations to go out and play. Staying disciplined to get work done as a freelancer is difficult anyway – doing it when everyone else is telling you to come join them at the beach requires an enormous amount of willpower.
The plus side of this is that I have a lot of motivation to finish work as efficiently as possible, especially when there is something amazing waiting for me at the end of the work day. Also, it helps to remember that I am playing the long game when it comes to travel experiences. It might take me a month to do all of the sightseeing that someone else does in a one week visit, but since we are travelling indefinitely for a period of years there is no rush. The work is what allows me to stay on the road and in my free time I have a lot to enjoy.
If you are travelling and working, have you experienced this? Let us know what you think in the comments below.