Mid-April I shared how I felt after full-time travelling for three months. Back then, I thought, ‘Yes, I’ll write another one in three months’. It’s August now, and it’s been four months since that thought. Trust me, until now I haven’t been ready to share anything yet. Three months can feel so long in some life scenarios, but very short in others. But I am ready now! Reading through the last blogpost it’s very interesting to me how my thoughts have changed, some topics have become irrelevant and new ones have come up.
Let’s go back to May and do a little recap. I recommend to first read my thoughts after three months of full-time travelling. The background information, learnings and adventures are the foundation for this one. Also a little disclaimer: I’m very thankful that I could do this travel. Though, I’m being as honest as possible and honesty does not always sound like paradise and positivity. However I think it’s so important to show the good and worse parts of the journey. It’s human to not always only see the blue skies, but also have to face rain showers and intense thunderstorms.
May & June
After travelling Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos for three months, Brad and I decided to spend two months on Koh Tao in Thailand (read more here why Koh Tao). Honestly, I felt pretty much travelled out and couldn’t get excited about leaving the hotel to go exploring anymore. I longed for a healthy routine, a consistent home, I longed to see friends and the island’s rescue dogs (I go walk them almost every day when I’m there, they give me so much). Also, a small job opportunity opened up and I started working a few hours every week. It was nice to have some money coming in more regularly again. As I have spent a lot of time in Thailand over the past three years I also decided to take Thai language lessons. All in all I was busy with different things, from working online on my laptop, getting better at filming underwater, volunteering and going out diving. I absolutely loved the variety and realized that there was no task I disliked doing. I promised myself that I wanted to keep life this way. Doing what I love.
The feeling of not being needed anymore that was very present back in January, fully disappeared. I discovered new areas I was good at, filled my days with activities I enjoyed doing but also took some time every day to reflect and to be mindful of what was going on inside of me. I got better at facing a day without a plan and to just go with my feeling instead. I started doing activities only for myself… the Thai language class, aerial silks and going to yoga classes.
All in all the two months in Koh Tao were a much needed time to reset. It became clearer to me what I wanted to focus on and that exploring all the countries wasn’t really the path for me. I also realized that two months weren’t enough, and I wasn’t really ready to leave yet.
July & August
At the beginning of July, we left to travel from Koh Tao down south to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. The plan was to take a flight to Indonesia in Malaysia. The first week in Malaysia was really tough. I felt so exhausted in a way, it’s hard to describe. I remember standing in Georgetown saying: ‘I don’t care about this town, exploring doesn’t give me anything, I’m tired of walking around, taking photos, why am I doing this?’. At the same time, I felt guilty complaining about something other people dream about doing.
Originally, we had planned to go to Nepal, India and Sri Lanka from November onwards. During that first week in Malaysia we decided to cancel those plans. These countries deserve all our attention and appreciation. Something we knew we couldn’t give. I’ve read about travel exhaustion and fatigue a few times and wish it were addressed more. Everyone who hasn’t experienced a long-term travel would tell you you are just depressed and should work on your mindset. On Instagram you see people travelling for a long time without ever mentioning the downsides. Am I the only one feeling the way, is what I thought. When I shared a bit on my profile, I received feedback from people who felt the same. It made me feel better to not be the only one feeling that way.
I sat down to reflect on what was important to me and what wasn’t. Going to Indonesia still felt good to me so that plan would be fulfilled. But as mentioned above the further travelling plans were cancelled. Taking that decision felt soo good! I’m currently still in Indonesia. We are travelling slower these days, still doing our laptop mornings sitting in a café and working on our own little projects. We only visit tourist attractions if we feel like it. On other days it’s only lying in bed and watching a show. I always come back to the realization that everything in life is about balance. So is the long-term travel life.
Further thoughts & new revelations
In the previous blogpost of this series I talked about home sickness. Home sickness – or I’d rather call it family sickness – is still present. On some days more, on others less. I therefore decided to visit my family in Germany soon. My eco-heart is breaking due to the fact that I’m flying so far to then go back to Asia again. But honestly, I don’t really see myself coming back to Europe, at least not within the next year. My family is way too important to me to not see them for that long.
Over the past three months I noticed behaviour patterns of mine I want to work on. I especially learned what’s important to me in life and that freedom doesn’t come from full-time travelling.
So, what is freedom?
What is the freedom we are all longing for really? This question was one I had asked myself before starting this journey many times. Obviously I thought: Wow, if I don’t work anymore and go full-time travelling, can spend my day doing whatever I want, travel any country, go on adventures every day, THAT’S FREEDOM! I love that I’ve found part of the answer for me now: full-time travelling won’t make you feel free. I mean yes it is a huge privilege, but I think it’s just an illusion to think it’ll automatically lead to a long-term feeling of satisfaction. Like with many things in life we tend to think that once we accomplish them, then things will change and we’ll feel good. ‘Once I reach pension and have a lot of money, life is going to be so awesome!’ sounds way too familiar, right? But somehow, that feeling of accomplishment never really kicks in, does it? And why do we prolong to achieve that feeling in the first place?
Of course it’s nice to travel and I don’t want to argue that it can be freedom for many. Personally though, I discovered that ‘freedom’ starts in our minds, and when we’re doing what we really love. This can be anything apart from full-time travelling: Changing your job and starting one that feels much better to you, moving to a different place, staying where you are and making changes to your daily routine, creating daily habits that have a positive impact on your life… In fact, full-time travelling sometimes didn’t even feel that free to me. You have to watch your budget, you need to plan ahead, there are things that go wrong and cost more than planned. And you also know that the just spending money phase can’t last forever and that deadline is getting closer and closer.
This leads me to another funny perception I had. In my head it was always like: ‘When I have to go back to the real world, I will work as…’. Stop it right there – what on earth is the real world, Linda? Why do you have to go back instead of taking a next step? Aren’t you living the real life in this moment? I caught myself many many times being steered by the conditioned beliefs that I took on with me from the educational path and society, and am still hearing too many times.
‘You can’t travel forever’. ‘One day you need to be an adult and think about saving money for the future’. ‘Aren’t you too old to do this?’. ‘You know you should settle one day, right?’.
It’s funny how we limit ourselves, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we rather spend our energy on the things we can achieve and that are possible? When I was on Koh Tao in May I had this feeling of fulfilment. I was working as a dive guide, marketing our app, starting to create content for a business and volunteered at the dog shelter every day. It felt so incredibly good, everything what I did was because I chose to do it. There was literally no task I didn’t like. It was then, when I realized that this doesn’t have to change! I can make whatever choices I want to make, and I’ll make them because they feel right. And if they do feel right, life is just fricking amazing, isn’t it?
I can work on my beliefs, I am in the amazing position to make the choices for my life, and go a path that feels right to me. And if it does, why would there be such thing as ‘having to go back to the real world’? There are plenty of opportunities these days to earn money apart from the typical office job.
It’s not the travel itself that gives a feeling of freedom. I think it’s more following your own path, your heart. To free yourself from the fears and worries and beliefs that were part of you since your childhood. And also reminding yourself on a regular basis that you are the designer of your life, you can make your own choices. It sounds so simple, but honestly, it’s so powerful. And it also makes me feel at ease with whatever is to come. Whatever you want to do, do it now. Whatever you want to feel, find a way to feel it now. Later in life is too late, and it’s not right to keep yourself from feeling good in the now.
What comes next?
All in all the emotional rollercoaster I described in the previous blogpost has continued. The last few months have been a mix of excitement and exhaustion. The time on Koh Tao was like a deep relaxing massage, Malaysia was more like running a marathon. It was interesting to observe that my battery didn’t charge from full-time travelling despite being to beautiful places and having the freedom to decide what’s coming next. I realized what actually gives me energy, and that balance is so important in many parts of life. For some travelling 24/7, all year round can be super fulfilling. My personal revelation is: It isn’t. Personally, I got to the point where my mind couldn’t absorb many more things, where my patience became lower and where I wasn’t getting much out of seeing the ‘best things’ of a destination anymore.
Full-time travelling reveals patterns and thoughts that I can’t blame external circumstances (like a job, grumpy people, …) for anymore. It reveals many feelings that I should pay attention to more and that deserve space. I’m still very glad I took the decision to quit my job, I’m very thankful for all the countries I’ve been to so far and the adventures I got to experience. Right now, I’m at the point where I am okay not go crazy full-time travelling anymore. I now prefer staying in a chosen place for longer and focus on creating connections to other people. I’m going to celebrate not having to pack my bags and book a flight. I could laugh about writing this, but maybe it was very important that I got to this point in life.
Do I miss my old job? No, not really. I’m content with where I am now. Getting out of the business world for some time did change my perspective and gave the distance I needed. I am happy that I can now think more about freelancing and discover that kind of work-style. I’m excited to see where it takes me and what I’ll learn. Maybe I want to work in an employed contract sooner than I think, or maybe there’s something else waiting for me.
Location wise the plan for the rest of 2023 is to spend time on Koh Tao, I’ll visit Germany and participate in a retreat in India on the way back to Southeast Asia. As Brad is doing a research project in the Philippines I’ll join him after that and then we will find a place to settle for a while. This is a rough plan, the rest we’ll decide step by step. Follow me on Instagram to stay up to date about what is going to happen!