the-ugly-of-travel-lifestyle-part-1

The Travel Lifestyle: Not Always Sunsets & Selfies

Don’t get us wrong, the travel lifestyle has been such a positive thing for us. We’ve seen so many things, made so many  – memories, grown as individuals and bonded as a couple. We’ve developed new perspectives on the world while learning to navigate through so many different situations and circumstances – we even had quite the interesting time on our very first day of full-time travels in Beijing!

Yes, this travel lifestyle (as we like to call it) has been more than we ever could’ve imagined. But that doesn’t mean that it’s all sunsets (which we like to post on Facebook) and adventure (which we typically choose to write about),

The Tough Side of The Travel Lifestyle

And Living As a Digital Nomad

cons of travel lifestyle

Nope, there’s a whole other aspect to this life that doesn’t usually get posted to our Facebook page, or talked about when we blog. Obviously the positives far outweigh the negatives, or we wouldn’t be here to be posting this, but to ignore the cons altogether would be to grossly disillusion you about exactly what our lifestyle involves.

It may sound petty: So sad for us, we get to travel to a new destination, explore and do what we love, but we aren’t trying to throw a pity party. We’re merely shedding some light on what goes on behind all those travel articles, photos and videos, all us travel bloggers are always posting. It’s just like when you scroll through your Facebook feed and see all those happy faces smiling back at you – people rarely post, or want to read, about the bad.

Since everyone seems to think we are “so lucky” and tell us they “wish they could do it too”, we thought we’d shed a little light on exactly what this travel lifestyle entails.

So, for those of you interested in this lifestyle and for those of you who are just curious about what we do beyond our stories in our posts, here are the first six of some of the hardest things about the travel lifestyle we lead.

 

Homelessness

travel lifestyle, digital nomads

If you’ve ever moved to a new country, a new city or even a new neighbourhood, you may have experienced the feeling. It’s a combination of sadness, excitement, trepidation, worry, and a sense of loss, all wrapped up in what feels like a ball in the pit of your stomach.

For us, this feeling reoccurs with every new place we visit for a length of time and then, inevitably, leave again.We get comfortable and familiar with a particular place, the establishments we frequent and the people we meet and then just as quickly we are packing up and heading out to a new location.

We joke that each new place is our “home” but in reality it is. Sure, in our hearts home will always be Canada and where our loved ones are but in this crazy nomadic life of ours, home is wherever we are and for us a “sense of home” is more of a fleeting concept we barely begin to grasp before it disappears again as we board the next flight, to our next destination.

With each new place we leave after getting comfortable it feels just like we are uprooting and leaving home again.

 

There’s No Place Like Home

We don’t miss home, per se. We miss the people, definitely. The ease in which we are able to navigate the country and culture, absolutely. But we don’t miss our old lives or have any regrets about our decision to live a travel lifestyle.

Unfortunately, there is still a sense of loss. While we are away, people are getting married, getting pregnant, and getting sick. The young are growing up and hitting major milestones like learning to talk and starting to walk. Our friends are bonding over outings and get-togethers, or forming new friendships as they go.

And while all this is happening, we’re missing out on those weddings, and births and being home to take care of our family, and watching the little ones start to walk or strengthening friendships already strained by the natural process of getting older and drifting apart.

So yes, while we’re excited about not being at home we’re still homesick. We miss all that home represents and all that we left behind.

There is no real sense of community for us anymore either. Other than our online travel blogging community (hello if you’re reading this!), we meet people in each place we go and we, fairly quickly, say goodbye again. Sure, we keep in touch with most of them online or via chat apps, but it’s not the strong, deep bonds one associates with friends from “home”.

 

What Language Am I Speaking?

travel lifestyle problems with language

Conversation is hard these days. Are we speaking Japanese? Korean? Thai? Can anyone translate what that intercom in the apartment keeps repeating over and over again? Should we evacuate? It’s not easy when you are frequently switching countries and, with that, languages.

Added to that, we’ve gotten used to speaking in a sort of broken English. Using words that are more common among non-English speakers, making wild hand gestures to get the point across and speaking in a way that is neither fluid nor really conversational.

Thank goodness we have each other to talk to but it seems that, without fail, whenever we meet any native English-speaker, we forget we no longer need to compensate and start using the same methods of speech that we would with a non-native speaker.

And no matter how much we think in our heads “stop flailing your arms” or “you can speak at a normal pace”, the message just doesn’t get through and we’re left staring at some slightly puzzled, very uncomfortable faces.

 

Financial Woes

It’s true! We’re not rich and we didn’t win the lottery! While we made an effort to budget and save before we left, we work, and work hard, just like everyone else to make a living and fund our lifestyle. With this comes all the same concerns and worries everyone else has about making money and paying bills.

For us, though, we don’t have a steady income or regular paycheck. Instead, we rely on multiple streams of income and try to budget accordingly and while it’s not always easy, we couldn’t be happier.

Before, we would spend some extra money on a night out at the movies or a nice dinner. Now, the country we are exploring IS our entertainment and we find just as much enjoyment buying some food at a night market or street vendor.

 

An Unnatural Attachment To Technology

technology and the travel lifestyle of a digital nomad

We were debating what to title this section. Our other option was “my eyes sometimes bleed!” and yes, it is just as fitting. We can’t stop doing something work related because pretty much everything we do IS work related. This means we rarely look away from our computer screens or cell phones and virtually live through the camera viewfinder while exploring.

We are “on” almost 24/7, posting on social media, networking, completing our freelance work, commenting, commenting back, responding to emails, sending emails, writing posts, fixing pictures, making videos, researching,  and the list goes on. There is ALWAYS something to do and always the sense that if we aren’t doing something, we’re falling behind, not staying on the top of our game or not doing what we need to do to succeed.

For us, there is no concept of weekends. Actually, weekends kind of suck for us because that’s when everyone else is off work invading our favourite coffee shops and clogging up the streets, markets and sights.

And as for vacations? It may look like we are on one all the time based on the photos and stories we tell, but for us, there is no such thing as time off from the online work we need to do.

 

Internet Connection Required – Cue Panic Now!

Tied in to the previous point is the concept of internet connection. We are always taking this into consideration because, after all, we’re called digital nomads – without internet we really can’t do much.

A stream of questions run through our heads with each place we go: Where is the internet? Where is it fastest? How do I get WiFi access, a SIM card, a top up on my phone plan? How much is it? Wait, how much did you say internet was? Who do I have to pay to find some internet that actually works?!?! Why would they ever have internet this crappy!?

It is hard to “turn off” and enjoy the moment when you always need to be connected. In fact, one of the reasons we changed our plans after Christmas and stayed in our layover destination of Taiwan rather than flying to Vietnam was because of internet connectivity and internet speed.

We know, we know, it’s not that bad and many people we’ve talked to said it was good enough (a few even got a bit heated about it) and that’s great for the average tourist but for people who need quick, reliable access in order to upload and email a freelance assignment on time or work on creating new videos, pages, and posts on your website, good enough doesn’t always cut it, especially when you’re really starting to build your business and your site.

 

At this point you may be wondering, why the heck are you even doing this if you have so much to write about all the hardships of being a digital nomad? Well, to be honest, not only do the pros outweigh the cons but all of this makes what we do that much more special –  we’re sacrificing and working hard for something we love. No one said doing what you love would be easy – if it was, everyone would be doing it!

We’ve got a few more points to make before we’re done telling you all about the worst parts of the travel lifestyle so check back soon for the second half!

 

What do you think the hardest part of the travel lifestyle would be for you? Comment below and let us know

 

61 replies
  1. Simon Harding
    Simon Harding says:

    For us it was the little things just as much as the big things. I can remember arriving home and seeing a pizza place and just going mad on pizza for a few days.

    But don’t think tech-overload, connection woes, financial worries and a work/homelife balance issue is unique to a traveling life.

    Everyone has the same battles, the only difference is where you choose to fight them!
    Simon Harding recently posted…Time Travel in London with Timelooper AppMy Profile

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      So true – sometimes something as simple as a pizza (or a burger) can really strike a chord! We hope that’s the message we got across – that just because we travel, doesn’t mean we don’t face the same hardships as others 🙂

      Reply
  2. Nikki
    Nikki says:

    GREAT post! Dusty and I are sitting in a pub in Omaha Nebraska (with free wifi!!!) feeling everything you’re feeling. So true. Cheers guys 🙂

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      Absolutely! We’ve got part 2 coming up soon and even with the two combined, there’s more we could write. It’s like anything really, there are always pros and cons, it’s just nice to be able to show people a well-rounded view of what we do! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Linda Bibb
    Linda Bibb says:

    Another downside of constant travel is being limited in what you can carry. Whenever we changed locations we found ourselves purging our belongings so our luggage would meet airline limitations.

    As much as we tried to assimilate and make friends with the locals, they already have their circles of friends and family. We seemed to end up befriending expats wherever we went and many of them ended up moving on. So as you said our most familiar friends are often those fellow travel bloggers who we know online.

    I’m looking forward to reading your next story.
    Linda Bibb recently posted…River Cruise Journal – Day 5: Wine and MelkMy Profile

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      Great points! We touch on the limited luggage in our second part to this post – it’s definitely a blessing and a curse! We also noticed that the expat community is often the easiest to become a part of, even if for just a short time, although we try hard to meet and befriend locals!

      Reply
  4. Anna
    Anna says:

    I love travelling but I don’t thing I would ever do the digital nomad thing. I like to have a base and travel to and for from this base! I’m in awe of anyone who follows that lifestyle though and no I don’t believe it is pretty and it is work 24/7! Oh and I know that thing about the weekends even in my daily life…in the post about the restaurants in Boston I mentioned that I had to visit a popular brunch place on a weekday (since I wasn’t working while being there) because I could eat (and take photos and review) in my own pace and not having to face a queue!
    Anna recently posted…Foodie’s Guide to BostonMy Profile

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      It’s definitely an interesting lifestyle! We understand completely – we always feel bad if we’re at a restaurant on busy nights trying to take all the photos we need and holding up the tables! We try and go on off days as well, if we can.

      Reply
  5. Anna
    Anna says:

    Great post! I am not really a full time traveler, but rather an expat who travels a lot. I move from one country to another to live for a while…long while. And at times it feels even worse than being on the road all the time as I need to settle a little, organize life for a year, two or more…then leave everything behind. I cannot stop though…there’s so much to see, right? And I love it, but I also miss some foods, friends I make in long term stays.

    http://www.postcardsfromtheworld.com
    Anna recently posted…The guarded city of ArequipaMy Profile

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      That would be difficult! We find it hard after only 2-3 months in each place. We can’t imagine building a life over a year and then moving on! We’d imagine it’s as wonderful as it is difficult.

      Reply
  6. Natalie
    Natalie says:

    We aren’t full time travellers but after recently travelling overseas with our kids, everyone remarked how lucky we were and how we all looked like we were having the time of our lives. Which we were, but there were things they did not know- for example, that the kids fought with each other EVERY DAY. Over petty silly things of course. And times when the kids were bored out of their brains sitting at the airport. Or when they just wanted McDonald’s for dinner and not the local cuisine. I think social media has a lot to answer for!
    Natalie recently posted…Weekend Reads. Inspiring Travel. #3My Profile

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      Social media is great for sharing all the happy times and beautiful photos but often paints an unrealistic view of everyone’s lives (not just the travel lifestyle). As long as you got some good shots of the kids smiling, hopefully that’s the main thing you all will remember! 🙂

      Reply
  7. Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru
    Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru says:

    There are definitely aspects of full time travel that are not so fun. But we’ve found it’s hard to convince certain people that you’re not on permanent vacation, so we’ve abandoned the try. Even when we’re right in front of them working away, we’ll get, “You work so much!” Well, yeah. We’ve got to earn a living just like everyone else. Crazy! 😉
    Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru recently posted…West Sussex Village LifeMy Profile

    Reply
  8. Bethany Dickey
    Bethany Dickey says:

    All so true! I’ve been travelling for about 3 months and some days I feel like my English is becoming terrible…half the time I’ll greet people in Italian!

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      Haha it’s true! We’ve actually incorporated so many random words into our regular repertoire that we are often responding to each other and asking questions in other languages!

      Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      It’s true, there’s a dependency there no matter what you do! We’re just trying to get to the point where we remember to focus our eyes on something else every once in a while! 🙂

      Reply
  9. Toni | 2 Aussie Travellers
    Toni | 2 Aussie Travellers says:

    It’s good to see an account of the other side of travel as a lifestyle. When I was much younger and loved diving I remember saying to a dive instructor what an amazing job he had, he said he hated it and ‘work is just work’, I was blown away by that. I think for me the biggest thing in living the lifestyle is remembering to always appreciate it and if you start to lose the passion to change it up and find what energises you.
    Toni | 2 Aussie Travellers recently posted…Tasty treat or wonder food? Sesame Maple ToffeeMy Profile

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      Absolutely! We do this because we love it and wouldn’t change a thing. We couldn’t agree more – it’s important to find your passion and keep finding those things that keep you excited!

      Reply
  10. kami
    kami says:

    I’ve been considering leaving everything behind to become a digital nomad but after lots of thinking I know it’s not for me, for all the reasons you’ve listed above. I just like my life, friends and work here in Warsaw too much and part of the traveling experience for me is returning home. I somehow feel I have best of two worlds that way. And I really admire everyone who has decided to become a digital nomad!
    kami recently posted…Kosice street art – an urban gallery in SlovakiaMy Profile

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  11. Karilyn
    Karilyn says:

    I haven’t ever lived on the road full time, but I can agree with all of these only because I have a child and I feel like I never have a weekend, never can get caught up on anything and am always living through my technology! We were expats for 10 years in India and experienced much of the other things you listed too. We loved our life and lifestyle, but it didn’t mean that we didn’t also miss our friends back home, the ease of ‘normal’ life, etc. My idea – travel for 3-6 months of each year!
    Karilyn recently posted…Camping at Malibu Creek State ParkMy Profile

    Reply
  12. Sally@Toddlers on Tour
    Sally@Toddlers on Tour says:

    Back in the day when I backpacked full-time we backpackers said travelling brought you back down to the basics: food, clothing and shelter. we carried our clothes on our back, when we arrived at new destination the first thing to do was find accommodation and the next was food. Back then there was no blogging (we sent postcards and visited the post office to see if our family had sent a letter via Poste Restorante) there was no internet or email – only 20 years ago.
    Sally@Toddlers on Tour recently posted…Hawaii with Toddlers – the Do’s and Don’tsMy Profile

    Reply
  13. Melissa Giroux
    Melissa Giroux says:

    Great post! Long term travel is a big thing. Life back home is still going on and I missed a lot of «big» events. So I totally agree with: there is no place like home. My home: Quebec! 😉 I have to admit, I miss our Canadian food and long friendship too. As I am starting a travel blog, I also agree with the bleeding eyes part.

    Travel isn’t just about having fun. It is a HUGE challenge out of your little cosy zone.
    Melissa Giroux recently posted…Travel without A Big BudgetMy Profile

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  14. Claudia
    Claudia says:

    One of the things I miss the most when I travel long term is actually having a routine. Having those days when I wake up at the same time, eat breakfast, work, lunch, work more, train in the pool and… you know, just the usual life. It may be boring, but at times I am so tired of not having that when I travel that I can’t wait to go home. Besides, I always miss my cats too much 🙂
    Claudia recently posted…How I went from being a bored academic to a fun and free bloggerMy Profile

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      Travel is definitely a schedule-buster! We have the most random schedules sometimes, and then no schedule at all! But it can be interesting when we get a chance to see a city in the middle of the night when most people are asleep, or at the crack of dawn when a place is just starting to come alive for the day – times when we normally wouldn’t be awake and exploring 🙂

      Reply
  15. Anna | slightly astray
    Anna | slightly astray says:

    Hello from the Weekly Postcard! 🙂 I can definitely relate to a lot of this! It’s ridiculous how much time is spent in front of a screen rather than actually traveling and sightseeing! But I still wouldn’t trade that for an office job :). The thing I miss the most is probably no longer having friends around. It’s mostly just me and my boyfriend alone together 24/7. Once in a while, we made a friend on our travels and it’s such a nice change to have other people to chat to! But then it is sad to say goodbye to new friends after just a short while.
    Anna | slightly astray recently posted…Breakfast around the world, Vol. 1My Profile

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      We know the feeling! We spend a large amount of time doing work – but it’s work we love and enjoy so it’s not a hardship really! Aside from our eyes…they seem to suffer 🙂

      Reply
  16. leah, best travel gear
    leah, best travel gear says:

    Yes, this resonates and offers a more balanced view of travel writing. It might look like a ‘vacation,’ but it’s not. I have so much gratitude for the opportunities travel writing gives me, but there is a massive difference between this and ‘vacation.’ It’s not all boat drinks and sunshine. Like anything else, there is a flip side. But–I have to say that I’m extremely grateful to be doing it. And I also wonder, will I ever be able to have a real vacation again? Could I even sit still or shut my mind up long enough for that at this point? : )
    leah, best travel gear recently posted…DynoMighty Passport CoverMy Profile

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      That is a great point! Travel is now synonymous with the work we do, looking for different stories and angles and taking photos…perhaps a “vacation” isn’t something we’ll ever really have again!

      Reply
  17. Lauren @ Justin Plus Lauren
    Lauren @ Justin Plus Lauren says:

    It’s definitely not easy. It must be all worth it in the end for you guys or else you wouldn’t do it, but it is hard work and a lot of people don’t seem to realize that! I know that kind of lifestyle isn’t for me (why I’m a part time traveler) but it’s awesome you’re able to make it work! 🙂 Whereabouts in Canada are you from? We live just outside of Toronto.
    Lauren @ Justin Plus Lauren recently posted…5 Places to Enjoy Nature in New York CityMy Profile

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      It does have its pros and cons and we can’t say we’ll always be living the full-time travel lifestyle but for now it’s great! We’re from just outside of Toronto as well! We always think of you two as you’re based at home and we’ll definitely be in touch when we head back!! Hopefully our paths will cross!

      Reply
  18. noel
    noel says:

    There are plusses and minuses in being a nomad and seeing the world in your pace and lifestyle. I love travel but doing constantly would be a real drain especially with internet and other obligations while traveling on the road.
    noel recently posted…Glyptotek museum, CopenhagenMy Profile

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      It is definitely draining and we find ourselves enjoying the times we stop for a while in one place but we love the constantly changing environment and challenges that come along with it!

      Reply
  19. Ngaire
    Ngaire says:

    I can relate to this post so much, if fact I’ve been planning a similar post for my blog (trying to avoid sounding negative). I travelled solo for almost 8 months and love solo travel, but when things went wrong (and boy sometimes very wrong) it’s so hard between language, navigating, different cultures and not having anyone to help you. Now I’ve moved back to my home country and still completely unsettled just striving to some day soon be settled and have the comforts home is meant to bring.
    Ngaire recently posted…The travel contrasts we experienceMy Profile

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      Completely understand! It’s not easy, especially when you are a nomad at heart! We’re excited to see how our lifestyle grows and changes and know it’s not going to always be easy or comfortable!

      Reply
  20. Emily
    Emily says:

    Ughh you guys this is exactly what I’m dealing with at the moment – all the things from BOTH posts. It’s a low and it’s rough. I’m even at the ‘maybe I should get a home base from which to travel from’ stage. I started looking up making money from Airbnb lol. I think it’s partly trying to make something of my blog – the stress of not actually making anything from it, not know HOW to many money from it, the insane laundry list of things to do that never seems to get done, etc and so forth. Though from this great post, I see you understand as well 🙂

    Reply
    • onemoderncouple
      onemoderncouple says:

      We absolutely understand! It’s a tough go and the hardest part is pushing through those toughest moments. We think you’re doing all the right things and you know we’re always here as a sounding board or to help brainstorm, etc!

      Reply

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