The first question people always ask me when they find out I’m a travel writer is: What’s your favorite place? The second is: How many days a year are you on the road? Well, I’ve done the tally, and the answer is right around 200 days each year. That’s a lot.
While I sometimes take short back-to-back trips, most of my travel these days involves being away from home for several weeks or even months at a time. More destinations equals more articles. But more time away also has more of an impact on the other areas of my life.
Here’s are some of the unusual things that happen because I travel 200 days a year.
1. People forget to invite me to things.
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard, “But I thought you were out of town!” I log onto Facebook and see a party a bunch of my friends attended but I wasn’t invited to. It’s not the best feeling. I don’t hold it against people, though. After all, I am out of town a lot. I just wish people wouldn’t assume I was gone. What’s the worst that could happen? You invite me to something and I say I’m out of town. But there’s also a good chance I’ll be in town and I’d be delighted to come to your event. So please don’t forget about me!
2. Relationships… sigh.
I already said most people ask me two questions right off the bat, but there’s almost always a third one: isn’t it hard to date when you spend so much time away from home?
Not as hard as you’d think. I’ve had several nice if not long-lived relationships in the past few years. It can be hard to build some momentum when you take off for a few weeks at a time. But to be honest, the trouble I’ve encountered is other people being flaky. It’s not like I just leave town at the drop of a hat without any forethought. Traveling for several weeks or months means a lot of careful planning and rigorous scheduling. So yeah, I’m pretty organized. And no, I don’t have any trouble committing to a date or time.
When you’re home most of the time, though, rescheduling a date a few days or even a week later might not seem like a big deal. But for me, it could mean the difference between seeing you tonight and seeing you in a couple months!
For now, the way I think about it is this: When I find someone who makes me want to stay home more than I want to travel (or better yet, who wants to come with me on some of my journeys), I’ll know I’ve found the one and will adjust my schedule accordingly.
3. I forget where I am sometimes.
Most days I wake up and know exactly where I am. But sometimes, in the middle of the night, I wake up and can’t remember if I’m at home or staying at a hotel halfway around the world. Because I tend to move hotels every night or two, I also forget my room number a lot, so I’m constantly going to the front desk to get new keys.
More disconcerting than that, though, is waking up and having a mild panic attack because your hotel room looks just like your bedroom at home. Until you realize that you’re actually at home. It’s sort of like home doesn’t even feel like home anymore.
4. I eat alone a lot.
I’m lucky enough to cover food and wine as part of my usual beat, which means lavish, gourmet multi-course meals with palate-pleasing wine pairings in some of the world’s best restaurants. Alone. Hour after hour. But it’s not boring. There are so many things to learn about each dish and food, it keeps meals interesting for me. Plus, other diners sometimes invite me to sit with them, which I always think is rather nice of them.
5. Sleep deprivation is a way of life.
Travel is faster, easier, and more efficient than ever, but that also means you can cross several time zones in a matter of hours, and that makes it harder for your body to catch up. I’m almost always ready to nap at exactly the wrong time, and I’ve had more 4 a.m. tossing-turning sessions than I’d like to admit. But I think after all this time, I’ve gotten pretty used to grabbing 40 winks when I can and powering through the droopy-eyelid moments.
6. I've learned to work odd hours and in odd places.
Although some folks might find it hard to work on planes or in crowded restaurants or even on a park bench, I find I do some of my best work on the fly. There’s nothing like the looming deadline of a hotel checkout time or the door to the aircraft shutting to make sure you get those last few paragraphs of an article done, or that you finally respond to that urgent email your editor sent you… two days ago.
I also find airport lounges are some of my most productive offices. There are snacks and drinks, plenty of light, and the fun of watching airplanes take off and land, but none of the distractions of actually having anything fun to do.
I do hate waking up in a different time zone after the U.S. work day has passed to find about 200 emails have arrived while I was sleeping. It’s like having to catch up on a day’s worth of work before your day even begins. Constantly being on a different time zone from my colleagues also means I tend to work at all times of day and night, so it can be hard to carve out “working hours” versus downtime. At some points, it makes it feel like I haven’t had a day off in months.
7. I’ve gotten good at packing… and have a boring wardrobe.
One of my longest recent trips included a month in Australia during their winter, a few weeks in Southeast Asia, a jaunt through the Middle East in July, with temperatures hovering around 120 degrees, and then a wedding in Europe. Talk about hard to pack for! I needed work clothes, a formal suit, beach gear, and options for both cold and hot weather all in one suitcase. I can’t go into my system here, but suffice it to say, I packed a lot of underwear and socks, and then just got used to wearing the same outer clothes over and over again. And my mom was nice enough to tote the suit along to France so I could conserve suitcase space (thanks mom!).
I was so happy when I got home and realized I had a whole wardrobe to choose from again. My bathroom cabinet is also brimming with travel-size items that I can just browse and throw into a toiletry bag in a hurry if I need to make a quick trip somewhere. If you ever need to borrow a mini toothpaste tube, I’m your man.
8. I’ve got an amazing phone plan.
With apps like Skype, Whatsapp, and even Facebook Messenger, it’s easier than ever to keep in touch these days. But I also have an amazing unlimited international roaming plan from T-Mobile that’s cheap and works really well in most countries. Not only does it help me stay on top of emails and social media for work, but it also means I can let my loved ones know where I am at all times and startle them with middle-of-the-night calls when I calculate the time change wrong.
9. I've realized I can never give it up.
I think one of my favorite quotes about travel comes from author Paulo Coelho, who said: “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; it is lethal.”
I couldn’t agree more. Like any other job, being a travel writer has its ups and downs, and it certainly has its fair share of administrative busy work (if I have to fill out one more W-9 tax form, I’ll lose it!). But the downs are mere nuisances while the ups are incredible opportunities to see the wonders of the world, meet amazing people, and learn about new things and places on a daily basis. That keeps me energized, engaged, and just plain content. And now that I’ve adapted to the vagabond life, I don’t think I could ever give it up.
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