As I sit here typing this post after 50 minutes of brainstorming and procrastination in a deceivingly modern cafe in Rishikesh, India, I’m reflecting on how my travels have changed over the past 5 years of travel blogging. This city is one of Hinduism’s holiest places and considered the apex of yoga worldwide. The Ganges River flows less than 2 kilometers behind me and I must neglect it for the day, as I take advantage of electricity and bandwidth to write a post overdue for last Friday.
Later on in the afternoon I’ll be rejoining Wandering Earl and the rest of his Welcome To India Tour, which I’ve been helping out on and enjoying myself. It’s my fourth time in India, second in Rishikesh, yet each travel experience remains unique. Aside from the colorful honks and lethargic cows, refreshingly reminiscent of my previous visits, this time I’ve come to see my reflection from fresh eyes.
Shaken, Not Stirred
I suppose the term ‘balance’ is a bit misleading, as I’ve combined working and traveling into one entity. Rather than the usual dichotomy of vacation and office, I’ve merged two of my healthier addictions so they’re essentially binary forms of the same drug. It is when I’m with other travelers – who are taking time away from a day job – that I begin to realize how my personal pattern of movement differs from theirs. My schedule has to include regular week and months-long stops to account for writing, editing photos, responding to 300+ emails daily, managing finances – in short, running a business whose manager is always on the run.
On my short list of things to plan around is Internet access, which I’m rarely without for more than 24 hours. Every hostel search, airport layover, and mountain trekking adventure has me looking for ways to get online in step one, two, or three, of the planning process. Elaborately preparing in advance if I need to be offline for more than a day or so. Typically my busiest days of the week are Sunday through Thursday (or Wednesday if I’m bizarrely efficient) giving me more digital flexibility on the other days of the week.
Every scene is a photo opportunity that may not come again, so I take as many as possible from angles wide and narrow – of those I take, only 10% will ever make it beyond my recycle bin. A snap or 15 of every dish that sits in front of me is standard before I eat, including a few notes in my iPhone for a restaurant review that will appear on this site eventually. (Though when I’m particularly hungry this happens.) Details fade fast in a memory that’s full of journeys and was never really much good to begin with. Moments that go undocumented can easily be lost to time so I have to take some extra time in each moment to leave a temporal trail for my practically useless hippocampus.
A Complicated Recipe
These gears turn inside of a delicate machine, whose impulsive conductor tweaks on the fly too often by cutting out luxuries he could once take for granted. In a crunch between my personal essentials – sleep, exercise, the occasional shower – messages to family and friends are usually the last to go out. The balance I need to strike isn’t just between work and travel but with life’s many facets as well – where the outcome of the equation has no definite answers.
If I’m going to decline an invitation for a night out in Sarajevo, extra cup of coffee in Quito, or spontaneous trip to Copenhagen, it’s because of a devoted discipline to my digital companion and ultimately all of you reading, who allow me to continue traveling indefinitely. It’s never been a lack of desire, which hasn’t faded at all over the years of this journey.
God, Anil, I can SO relate. In mid-September I was on a press trip in Hawaii, at the end of which I flew to Spain for the Travel Blogger Exchange Conference. It took 41 hours, 5 planes, one limo between LaGuardia and JFK due to a booking screw up (I know you have them a lot too), and then two trains once I arrived in Spain. By the time I got to my final destination I was dead tired but the conference was due to start in 4 hours. I dragged myself to the opening party and made every session over the next two days, then proceeded to go on three more back-to-back press trips with no rest in between. Frankly, it almost killed me. It took me about five weeks to recover, and I had to completely slow down my travel. One week in Bordeaux, France I only went out to see the city two times. I had to work, and I had great wifi there, so the touring part suffered. So few people realize that the road IS our home and we have to carve out work times somehow. Mind you, I’m not complaining. Like you, I love what I do, but it’s definitely not an easy life.
It’s why I built in the vacation times each year – which I’ve been terrible at enforcing on myself – but wonder if we’re sometimes too tough of bosses on ourselves 🙂
Anil – you have managed to capture this perfectly…a little too perfectly. I felt like I was reading my own mind. It’s such a delicate balance and for me – I’ve got things out of balance this year and am working on getting it back an equilibrium. I think you are right – I don’t realize just how strange my life is until I’m around other travelers – and maybe that’s why I feel like with each passing year I’m becoming more of a hermit. I live inside my head more than ever now and honestly crave alone time way more than I ever have in my life.
Thanks for articulating this so well and for all of the sacrifices of sleep, coffee outings, nights out to bring us your wonderful thoughts and insights.
Thank you very much Sherry, I’m really humbled by your comments. I hope that you’re able to swing things into balance again soon, with some added rest in the near term to fully recharge.
Given the privilege to travel for free or almost for free is one of the greatest gift a travel blogger could have, next to visiting wonderful places on earth. You are like the representative of human body to show the hidden wonders of nature thru images and words of poetry. And I’d be the happiest person on earth to be given that kind of job. & I’m happy for you. 🙂
Well, I don’t travel for free! 99% of my travel is paid for by myself 😉
Though it is a privilege and exceptional opportunity. I have no complaints yet it does change how I travel compared to many others I meet on the road.
I agree with Sherry. It was a bit like reading about myself. One more thing I notice that differentiates me from other travelers is the social schedule/hours I keep. Since my party days are behind me, I tend to work a lot at night when other travelers are out in the clubs and again in the mornings when they are sleeping it off. Then I try to give myself prime daytime hours to explore.
I envy people like you who can work in the evenings. I’m most attentive during daylight hours but guess that lets me enjoy more evenings doing unproductive things.
Don’t you sometimes feel a bit of relief when you know most other travellers/rommmates are out enjoying a night on the town…so you can have a bit of quiet time and get some work done?
Balance isn’t always an option it’s often just taking advantage of whatever free time you have to benefit you in the long-term….ahh, the complications of extended / continuous travel!
I always just plan it into my routine; and often have an apartment as a base somewhere in the world so I can have a more regular schedule of work, travel, and play.
Great post Anil.
Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be better just to work a traditional job for 6 months of the year, save up some money, and then travel with no purpose other than to enjoy the destination. I wonder if the quality of experiences would improve with 100% attention and no work obligations?
Perhaps, though in my case, there’s a large part of me that enjoys the challenge of doing both. I have trouble not working 🙂
All part and parcel of the life you choose. You’d probably get bored pretty quickly though if you didn’t have something for your mind to focus on.
Yes and yes. I like working as much as I like traveling.
I think I actually saw you walking around Rishikesh the other day! Eloise and I just left yesterday and arrived in Jaipur this morning!
Did you get up to McLeod Ganj in the end? Would have been cool to have hooked up for a chai if we’d have known a bit sooner! 😉
You should have come over and said hi! Arrived in Rishikesh after spending some time in McLeod Ganj a few days prior. Sorry to have missed you!
Were you rocking the shades and wearing denim shorts?! I didn’t want to go up to some poor dude and terrify them by start introducing myself.
Ah never mind, always next time 😉 Where else are you heading in India?
We’re down in Udaipur now, the lake there is amazing. I feel an article coming on…!
haha, no that wasn’t me, I don’t wear sunglasses 🙂 But I was there and I’m actually in Udaipur now for the next two days as well. Wonderful city, have a great visit here!
Ha how weird! I’ve PM’d you. Hit me up if you fancy that quick chai while you’re here. I’ll keep my eyes peeled!
I’m finally catching up on my many messages but so glad I was able to catch you and Eloise considering the few times we were crossing paths! Happy travels and hope to meet again somewhere soon. And, if there’s a jiu-jitsu studio nearby, it would be great to get some practice in as well 🙂
I an relate to having changed since I started blogging. I definitely wander the world seeing photos wherever I go!
haha, that would make a good blogger business card line!
Count me in as another person who could have written this; and, in fact, I did in a post from a few months ago (though it was nowhere near as eloquent as this one).
I also love the photo you featured. I do the same thing–reflection shots are my absolute favorite. I wrote about that, too!
I do all of these things; schedule in writing time, take millions of photos, thousands of words of notes, and generally work while I’m traveling. And do you know what? I wouldn’t go back to ‘vacationing’ if someone paid me. Ok…maybe if someone paid me!
I’ll have to read your version and appreciate the kind words, I’m blushing 🙂 One thing I need to do is get more photos of me, I’ve only got 5 I can use and when blogging they’re needed more often than not 😉
I’m similar to you in that I do need to set a routine and regular schedule in order to stay on track of work. I don’t think that this level of commitment can be sustained without a good schedule and strong dose of discipline!
Ok sorry two more cents…
The one thing that strikes me about this is the difference between blogging for a living and blogging in addition to what one does for a living. I travel as much as humanly and financially possible, and at all times I am blog-researching. I’ve not been on a vacation in almost four years, but I travel all the time. But I also work a regular job (I’m a teacher). I feel like most bloggers (correct me if I’m wrong) fall into this category. And that presents additional challenges.
I don’t really know what I’m trying to get at here, other than the fact that I’m tired of having all of my friends and coworkers say ‘wow you sure go on vacation a lot’. Actually, no. I don’t. And I spent 80% of my waking non-work hours in front of the computer, too.
Of course, I do this all willingly. And I shall continue to do so. Because while I’m confident that travel blogging for a living would be perfect (for me, not for everyone) I love it as a hobby, too.
No need to apologize! I appreciate the comments and discussion 🙂
You’re absolutely correct, the large, large majority of travel bloggers have day jobs; and that does present it’s own set of challenges. (I was also blogging and working a day job 6 years ago when I started.)
Though no matter the blend, it’s hard for people to not think you’re on vacation all the time. I guess there are worse stereotypes, might as well enjoy that one!
“Rather than the usual dichotomy of vacation and office, I’ve merged two of my healthier addictions so they’re essentially binary forms of the same drug.”
Beautifully, perfectly stated! Loved this post, Anil.
Thank you very much Angie 🙂
Could not have said it any better myself. Though, with frequent press trips, my time management and business management becomes even more complicated a process to maneuver. I am on a tour in Morocco now with people who are truly on vacation only (not travel bloggers) and it’s been really a bizarre reminder of just how unusual my life of travel is.
Crazy yet normal at the same time 🙂 Have fun in Morocco!
Beautifully written post! I can definitely relate. My travel style has changed dramatically since becoming a travel blogger. The note taking and need for wifi are huge changes that occurred, even without traveling full time. Now my travels are not vacations, but every once in a while we try to schedule in a trip that we don’t feel the need to write about. Sometimes it’s nice to just enjoy travel without thinking about a story angle or coming home to thousands of photos to edit.
Thank you Christy. I like the idea of taking trips to place you won’t be writing about. I’ve had to implement some annual vacation time for myself as well and it’s been nothing but refreshing for blogger and blog!
Vacation time for a full time nomad is the most logical thing I’ve heard all day! Not that we have it exceedingly rough, but when your job is travel– you’re kind of always at work. Bravo on taking your vacation time, Anil and we will see you in 2013!!
Thanks and happy to be back! Happy New Year to you as well 🙂
I can so relate to all of this. When we first started traveling the world, Nathan gave away his laptop (to a very happy hostel owner) after only a couple of weeks because “it weighed too much”. We were just out there exploring all day.
These days we have so many goals we want to achieve that we get little time to be out there exploring the cities we’re in, and have had to slow down our travels a lot.
It really is hard to balance travel and work, and since we don’t have a base it makes it even harder. I think the ultimate balance is to have a base somewhere and travel every three weeks, that way you can work really hard at home and make the most of the destinations you visit every month. That’s our goal, we just haven’t found a place we’d like to base ourselves in yet…
I’ll be curious to see where you end up and which city you choose 🙂 Good luck on the quest…
thanks for inspiration bro