I don't want to travel the world for a living.
Location Independence, Musings

I Don’t Want to Travel the World for a Living

Something has been nagging at my conscience lately.  In the last couple of months, I’ve begun to feel a little bit adrift.  It’s a case of uncertain identity, I guess you could say.

Despite how it may sometimes appear, I am not traveling the world for a living.

The places I go have little-to-no bearing on the work that I do.  I write about the places I travel to, sure, but no one is paying me to do so.  My flights are all paid for out of pocket (and with the help of travel rewards), and no one pays me a day rate to hoof it through a new city while documenting the experience.

The things that actually earn me a living are not directly related to my travels, and I prefer it that way.

In fact, I want to make it perfectly clear here that I am NOT complaining.  I never wanted travel to be my job.

If I’m being really honest, that was one of my biggest fears about becoming a ‘travel blogger’ in the first place–that travel, the thing I loved so much, would eventually feel like work.

And this is where the feelings of ambiguous identity come into play.

Am I really a travel blogger?  Do I even want to be one?I don't want to travel the world for a living.

Maybe I just want to travel and drink wine.  Yeah, that sounds about right.

In the scenario above, where a blogger not only earns money through a blog where they happen to write about travel but also gets paid to do the traveling on top of that, I’m describing a ‘professional travel blogger.’  The kind of person who might earn some passive income through their site, but earns the really big bucks by doing the actual traveling and subsequently producing loads of content from those trips.

They are the ‘travel personalities’ that inundate your social feeds; they are seemingly everywhere all the time, producing videos for YouTube, stories for Snapchat, and doing ‘takeovers’ for big travel brands on Instagram.  They may still do plenty of traveling on their own dime (most of them do) but they make enough money from sponsored trips and sponsored content to sustain themselves.

I know plenty of these people, both personally and professionally.  Most of them took many years to reach the level of success they now enjoy.

And while I admire these people with every fiber of my being, I do not envy them one bit.

Press trips–and I use the term loosely here, but I’m referring to the kind of travel where your expenses are covered, your schedule is decided by your host, and you are responsible for documenting and reporting the experience in a journalistic fashion–are a necessary evil if you want to make it as a professional travel blogger.

I feel comfortable phrasing it this way because there isn’t a single travel blogger I’ve spoken to who hasn’t acknowledged that there are two sides to the coin.

On the one hand, sponsored trips offer incredible opportunities to go places and do things that we might not have a chance to do otherwise.  They take bloggers to the far reaches of the earth to see and experience the best of the best, feast on the most decadent meals, and luxuriate in the most lavish lodgings available.

Even if you’re not getting paid a day rate to be there, going on a trip with all expenses paid isn’t exactly a bad deal.  We travel bloggers love to travel, after all, so who are we to turn down such an experience?Kayaking to Les Medes Islands, Catalonia, Spain

On a 6-day press trip last year in Catalonia, Spain.  This was my birthday.  #notmad

On the other hand, a press trip comes with a lot of pressure.  A press trip is WORK from the moment you wake up in the morning until the moment you fall asleep face down on your laptop, still tipsy from whatever local spirit they loaded you up with before, during, and after dinner.  A press trip means having a packed schedule from morning until dusk, often with little time to rest between activities, and all the while you are expected to produce content in real-time to share with your audience.

Am I the only one who thinks this sounds like the ninth circle of hell?

In my short blogging career, I have only been on a handful of such trips, but that was enough for me to realize they just weren’t my cup of tea–or at the very least, that I didn’t want them to form a cornerstone of my blogging strategy.  Press trips in no way represent my preferred travel style (SLOW), and the benefit of traveling on someone else’s dime never outweighed the immense pressure I felt.

Reviewing beautiful accommodations or one-off experiences is a different story; this much I am usually more than happy to do in exchange for blog content and social media posts.  But, you will likely never find me on another week-long blogging campaign, busting my hump to produce photos and videos and stories ’round the clock, no matter how cool of an experience I’m being offered.

This may be the holy grail of travel blogging for the majority of people entering the profession, but it just ain’t me.

I’d much rather enjoy a destination on my own terms, at my own pace, and on my own dime.  That usually means homestays instead of 5-star hotels and cheap pastries for breakfast instead of fancy buffets, but it also means experiencing a place more like a local and less like an outsider which, for me, is kind of the whole point.

My slow and steady transition to a blog focused on location independence rather than solely travel is a reflection of this.  What I’m really after is simply the freedom to travel where I want, when I want, and for as long as I want.  To mesh with the unique fabric of each new city and learn what really makes its inhabitants tick.

These are the things location independence affords me, and it’s what I want to help other people achieve.

Do you have to be a travel blogger to do this?  Absolutely not.

A location independent business can be anything you want it to be.  Perhaps this is why I’ve felt a disconnect with the travel blogging community recently–my goal is NOT to travel the world forever; at least, not in the capacity that I’m traveling now.  I don’t want to be paid in the currency of new experiences; these days, I’d much rather be rewarded with financial stability.

I’ve said this a lot in the last year or so, but the truth is, I’m tired.  Physically, emotionally, mentally.I don't want to travel the world for a living.

I try not to show it most of the time, but I’m really f*cking tired.  Five years with no home base will do that to you.

I’ve found renewed physical energy by staying in fewer places for longer periods of time, but I still haven’t gotten it quite right.

I’ve found renewed creative energy among bloggers and entrepreneurs in a wide variety of niches, from content marketing to fashion to mommy blogging.  Some of the most valuable (and unexpected) lessons I’ve learned recently have come from brick-and-mortar business owners.  Who would have guessed?

At the end of the day, I truly don’t want to travel the world for a living.  I just want to make a living while still having the ability to travel the world…but slowly.

I’ve never really loved the title of ‘digital nomad.’  I don’t particularly identify as a ‘travel blogger’ anymore.  I still feel like an imposter calling myself an ‘entrepreneur.’  And yet, I learn the most by interacting with all of these groups rather than limiting myself to just one.

Maybe we should just do away with the labels altogether…

What do you think?  Is a strong sense of identity important?  Does it help us or just make us feel boxed in?  Would you ever want to travel the world for a living? 


My biggest fear when I became a 'travel blogger' was that travel, the thing I loved more than anything in the world, would eventually feel like work.  Here's why I don't want to travel for a living, and what I really want instead!

Featured image by Sullivan & Sullivan Photography.

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42 Comments

  • Reply Eva Casey September 6, 2016 at 3:48 am

    Yeah, I definitely relate to this post. I literally just began my path towards location independence, but already I’m seeing that the whole ‘nomad’ deal probably isn’t long term sustainable. I think for most people a sense of home and community is important. I feel the same sense of uncertain identity. I love to travel, and it feeds my soul. But I also need a strong community and some stability in order to feel complete. I have no idea where I ultimately want my blog to go (or my life for that matter) but I guess that’s kind of the point right now. Do you think we have to be lost for a while, and let ourselves flounder, before we eventually wash up on shore somewhere? I think the nice thing about location independence, and reading your content really helped me realize this, is that it’s not about being a ‘nomad,’ it’s about choosing how to spend your life. That could mean working from home base just as much as working from somewhere exotic!
    Eva Casey recently posted…5 Reasons Why Solo Travel is The BestMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis September 7, 2016 at 4:50 am

      I’m so thrilled that I was able to help you come to that realization, Eva Casey! For so many people, the ‘nomad’ lifestyle still seems to be the ideal–especially when they first start blogging about their travels. It also brings with it the pressure to keep traveling, because if not, they risk losing that identity both as a traveler and a ‘travel blogger.’ The idea of being stationary scares so many travel bloggers! I also relate to your need for stability and community. Routine is also extremely necessary in order for me to build a successful business. When my days lack structure, I get so much less done and feel so unfocused.

  • Reply Sanna September 6, 2016 at 4:37 am

    I can definitely relate to this as well. During my “trial period” being nomad for four months, I quickly realized I prefer to travel slowly, on my own terms. I also decided I do want a home base. At the moment I don’t know exactly where that base will be, but a ratio of traveling 3 months and staying home 3 months would probably be my ideal life.

    Have you read Gloria Steinem’s biography My life on the road? Lots of thoughts on what travel does to you and what finally having a home base meant for her, which was really interesting to read about. 🙂
    Sanna recently posted…Diving in Tulamben (Or “Why can’t Sanna hold the camera still for one single second?”)My Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis September 7, 2016 at 4:52 am

      I have not read her biography, but now I’m very intrigued! It sounds like something I would enjoy very much. I am interested in staying someplace for a trial period of maybe 6 months to see if I fall in love with being stationary or if I get itchy feet again. I really don’t think I will know until I actually give it a try!
      Leah Davis recently posted…Four Days in ParisMy Profile

  • Reply Carly Hulls September 6, 2016 at 4:54 am

    A thousand times yes to this post! I flit between being a ‘travel blogger’ ‘expat blogger’ whatever the hell a ‘lifestyle’ blogger is and don’t quite fit with any of them, but I love writing about travel, just on my own terms. I’m appreciating more and more having a home base to recuperate between travel adventures, and ironically, being in one place is what’s bringing the most opportunities for writing – go figure right? I’m all for getting rid of labels and taking inspiration and support from all corners you can get it – and if you can build a lifestlye and income from that all the better 🙂

    • Reply Leah Davis September 7, 2016 at 4:56 am

      “I love writing about travel, just on my own terms.” <-- Couldn't agree with this more! I love sharing my stories, but feeling pressured to mention X, Y, and Z or to meet certain requirements really sucks all the fun out of the process and makes it feel like it's not my own. I think a lot of travel bloggers say the same thing about their businesses--that they always grow so much more when they're NOT traveling (because they actually have the freakin' time and energy to work on it! WEIRD!). Very true for me, too. When I'm traveling, I want to focus on the experience, not work. When I'm in one place, I have time to reflect on those travel experiences and actually write about them. It's also this reason that you will never see me blogging about my travels in real time!

  • Reply Jodi Robinson September 6, 2016 at 5:00 am

    Hey Leah! I really appreciate this blog post, as I haven’t even left yet on my nomad/lifestyle independent quest or launched my blog, and I’m already feeling the pressure to be “on” 24-7 and beginning to question my decision to start a blog. Without even getting into press trips, do you feel this way about travel blogging in general? Meaning – do you feel the constant pressure to post content on the blog and social media and does that also wear on you? This is becoming my fear, and like I said, I haven’t even launched it yet! Great post and thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Reply Leah Davis September 7, 2016 at 5:06 am

      Hey Jodi! That’s a totally valid concern, and something that I have struggled with at times. Lately, I’ve given myself a lot more leeway to write about the things I want to write about and OMIT the experiences that I’d rather keep as my own. That means I do lots of stuff that never makes it to the blog. This did two major things for me–it gave me back a sense of privacy by not sharing every detail of my life, and it freed me of that pressure you’re talking about to always be “on.” I don’t use Snapchat anymore. I don’t put pressure on myself to write full blog posts about EVERY experience I have. As an example, I just did this amazing full day boat trip while in Ibiza with friends. I took my camera with me and was photographing the whole day (because it was a really beautiful place and I enjoy photography anyway), but I won’t be writing a blog post about that specific experience, even though I could easily; those photos and that day are just for me and my friends to enjoy.

      What works for me on social media is to take loads of photos of a place on a day when I make the conscious decision to produce content. Like I said, I enjoy photography anyway, so this doesn’t truly feel like ‘work’ to me. Then I can stretch those photos out over long periods of time, both on Facebook and Instagram!

      • Reply Jodi Robinson September 8, 2016 at 4:27 pm

        Awesome, thanks for the response! That’s nice to know that you don’t always feel like you have to be ‘on’ then and that you are allowing yourself some space. Agree about photography, I love it as well. Although I have so many more questions…haha. I guess we will see how it goes when the time comes. 🙂

        • Reply Leah Davis September 9, 2016 at 3:29 am

          Happy to help! Just do what makes you feel good! It took me way too long to learn that 🙂

  • Reply Heidi Siefkas September 6, 2016 at 9:21 am

    Long-term traveling, living out of a suitcase or backpack is exhausting. Been there done that! I’ve spent the last few months recharging my batteries and writing my third book. While my team edits and designs away, I’m back on the road. Next week it is Yosemite and later this month my 19th trip to Cuba.

    • Reply Leah Davis September 7, 2016 at 5:09 am

      Sounds like you’ve got a pretty good work/life balance going for you, Heidi! I’m ready to recharge in one place and get some work done after my crazy summer of hopping from one place to the next. Enjoy your upcoming travels! 🙂

  • Reply Charlotte September 6, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Hey! I don’t usually comment on posts but this just resonated with me way, way too much not to say anything! I’ve just started working on a website (I guess it’s kind of a blog plus personal portfolio?) but I’m not too interested in ever making money this way, or even from sponsored trips. I’m working freelance as a social media strategist and content writer, but only part-time. I’m currently looking for more work so I can be working full-time and be 100% location independent. I really do want to ideally keep my work and my travels as separate as possible. I love travelling so much I wouldn’t ever want it to feel like a chore! Love your posts, it’s so inspiring for someone like me who’s trying to become location independent! Keep it up 🙂

    • Reply Leah Davis September 7, 2016 at 8:07 am

      Aw thank you so much, Charlotte! I’m honored! When I first started out, it felt natural for me to write all about my travels, but the longer I blog, the more I realize I can’t do that forever (and don’t want to!). I hope you find the extra work you’re looking for so you can become location independent! I’ll be rooting for you! 🙂

  • Reply Shannon - SoleSeeking September 6, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    This post really clicked with me. A lot of travel bloggers talk about giving up their boring 9-5 job for a life on the road, but I find having a full-time job that allows me to travel on my own terms ideal. I love writing and travelling but I never want these passions to feel like a job. I would be curious to experience a press trip but can imagine I’d quickly become frustrated with the requirements to be online frequently. I find social media exhausting which is why I’ll probably never ‘make it’ as a blogger. How can you enjoy travelling if you’re staring at your computer screen for most of the time?! There are many travellers who make a living off their blog and write some great content, but there are many who lose their blog’s integrity in their pursuit of blogging fame and fortune.
    Shannon – SoleSeeking recently posted…Descent into the Deep: A Daring Four-Wheel Drive in Canyonlands National ParkMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis September 7, 2016 at 8:10 am

      Haha I definitely feel you about social media being exhausting! But rest assured, there are bloggers out there ‘making it’ without having their faces all over social media all the time. I enjoy sharing other peoples’ content on Facebook as much (if not more) than sharing my own, which is one way I stay sane! My goal for the next year is to build up some passive income streams that will allow me some more relaxed “travel time” where I can enjoy the moment without the pressure to create. I can’t remember the last time I really unplugged during a trip!

  • Reply Alyssa September 6, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    I agree with you. Making travel (and blogging) my business started to take the fun of what I was doing and the trips and such didn’t really go with what my blog was about – living abroad and accessible travel. Not everyone can access press trips! On the note of labels, I cringe when someone introduces me as a blogger ha! I just happen to have one. But labels are a tough thing to do away with when it helps people identify with you and what you do on your site. Well, keep on doing what you love, great post!
    Alyssa recently posted…8 Practical Communication Tips for Travelling With Your SOMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis September 7, 2016 at 8:14 am

      That’s a good point that applies to me, too. Sponsored trips rarely align with my lifestyle, which is slow travel and location independence. If someone invited me to spend a week working at their coworking space, now THAT I could get on board with! 😀 And you’re definitely not the only one who cringes at the word ‘blogger!’ I think the stigma will start to fade over time as more people prove it’s possible to make a good living as a blogger. But we’ll see!

  • Reply Maria del mar September 8, 2016 at 5:01 am

    Thank you for sharing your honest article. That is the beauty if us, we are all different. There is no case for us to fill but our own. I enjoyed reading you. I am adding you to my bloggers’ list to follow.

    • Reply Leah Davis September 8, 2016 at 6:51 am

      Hi Maria, thank you for the kind words! I agree with you, we each have to find our own way 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  • Reply Daniel Grocock September 9, 2016 at 7:15 am

    Thanks for writing this, i’ve been following your blog since February. Im working towards becoming location independent. I work as a designer and I love travel, I did some solo trips over the past 3 years and I just started to publish content from those trips. I also don’t like the idea of relying on travel/visiting new places constantly just to be able to create content for my blog. It’s not a sustainable solution for me and I must say that one thing that has really given me peace of mind with this topic is knowing where my home (base) is at all times.

    • Reply Leah Davis September 9, 2016 at 7:37 am

      I feel exactly the same way, Daniel! There are so many other ways to create income that allows you to travel, without NEEDING to constantly travel. I’m still searching for my home base, but I hope to find it soon 🙂

  • Reply TJ September 10, 2016 at 8:23 am

    Wow Leah I needed to read this. I’m a new digital nomad but I already feel the strain of it all. I am am realizing I don’t want to be a “travel blogger/vlogger” as what I do for a living and want something beyond. Thank you for being honest and expressing thoughts I’ve had but was too afraid to admit to. Love you boo, now going to read your consulting side hustle post 🙂

  • Reply Sabrina Barbante September 10, 2016 at 8:39 am

    Great post And very motivational! I am a compulsive traveller And compulsive writer… I travel And write To live And Not no make a living. Well, I earn from my blog And wish I’ll get more (so greedy ah?) but The important for me is to To live And both Travelling And writing (read blogging). Love your blog. i’ll follow

  • Reply Brenda September 10, 2016 at 8:51 am

    This is a perspective I haven’t though about. Definitely, the fast pace on which press trips or travel which are work related are not for everyone. I must say I definitely work on a slower pace, I cannot even take my computer out sometimes while traveling because I feel blocked. I am not sure either if I want to do this for living, but I totally want to do it at a pace I feel comfortable with.

    Thanks for such an inspiring article!

    • Reply Leah Davis September 13, 2016 at 12:42 pm

      Thanks so much for the comment, Brenda! Agreed, press/work trips are not for everyone.

  • Reply Carey September 10, 2016 at 10:01 am

    Girl you stole my heart with this read! Enjoying it and slowing it down, thats the key I have learned. I also feel ya on being burnt out. Our bodies ( along with our age) just don’t quite function like 21 yr olds anymore…. I am physically and mentally exhausted as well!

    • Reply Leah Davis September 13, 2016 at 12:43 pm

      Aw you’re so sweet Carey! Looking forward to some rest time in the states, maybe we can even meet up and feel old and exhausted together 😉

  • Reply Daniela September 10, 2016 at 10:34 am

    I loved to read your blogpost. So many people dream about that life but don´t really think about the other side, the one you never see in all those happy pictures or videos.
    I love travelling but I´m not sure if I could travel the world alone for longer than 3-6 months. I´m sure if you have a partner or friend on your side it will be a bit different but for now I´m totally happy with 1-2 weeks vacation, weekend trips and day trips.

    Greetings,
    Daniela

    • Reply Leah Davis September 13, 2016 at 12:44 pm

      You know, now that I have traveled for so many years in a row, I am reaching a point where I think I would also be okay with just a few weeks of travel a year and weekend trips! At least for a few years, haha who knows, maybe my feet will get itchy again 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Daniela!

  • Reply Marysia @ My Travel Affairs September 10, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Great post, I have always had an income source out of travel blogging and therefore I can do whatever I want without feeling the pressure of making it big. I can still enjoy it or actually forget it for couple of months if I’m too busy travelling. Sometimes, especially after attending a travel conference and meeting all those big bloggers who are doing so well my ambition kicks in and I spend fe weeks obsessing about it but than I just decide not too stress. Life is easier this way. At least for me!
    Marysia @ My Travel Affairs recently posted…Travel/Life Update – September 2016My Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis September 13, 2016 at 12:46 pm

      That’s really nice to have income outside of the blog. I do as well, although I’ve always wanted my blog to be a source of (primarily passive) income to supplement whatever else I was earning, so I can’t necessarily abandon it for long periods. That’s okay, though, it just means I have to find things to write about that don’t leave me feeling burnt out! And I totally know what you mean about seeing what other bloggers are doing giving you extra motivation. Works for me too!

  • Reply ellis veen September 10, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    I loved this article. I just started my travelblog out of my passion for travelling. Fotrthe reasons mentioned in this article i am not planning to make a living from my blog. I rather share my stories and give independent advice while travelling my own way.

  • Reply Naidne September 10, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    Such a refreshing read about the life of a travel blogger (or not, as the case may be!). Great to get an honest insight into press trips too – I always thought they were the holy grail of travel blogging! In some ways, short trips suit me, as it means less time away from my family. But I definitely enjoy getting to see the ‘real’ location as opposed to all the tourist hot-spots. A tricky balance for sure!
    Naidne recently posted…What to Pack for a Holiday in Fiji!My Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis September 13, 2016 at 12:47 pm

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Naidne! Agree with you, it is a tricky balance to find!

  • Reply Karin September 11, 2016 at 4:03 am

    Hello Leah, I don´t know you, but let me tell you – I really connected with your article. (And I´m not faking it.) I am nowhere near in my life to where you are at the moment – I have almost no online jobs lined up with zero stability and I have little savings, but I´m taking the leap and want to travel indefinitely in the future…months? Years? Who knows. I also write a travel blog; but pro travel blogging as such is something I am looking at from the outside like at a cake with pretty icing I don´t feel like biting into. I love to write and I would like to make some income from it, but I´d also prefer my blog to remain my own space to explore ideas and places. I am not interested in staying in fancy hotels, so what´s the use of writing about them? I prefer to eat in local eateries in the streets to fancy buffets (Ok, I don´t say no to a fancy meal either ;-)) and I like to roam freely, without booking tours and guides. So the experience I´d be getting in exchange for writing about it is actually not very tempting. What I do care about is to find my readers – my blog is very small at the moment, but I see the main point of it in connecting with others and their thoughts.
    I would much rather teach, translate and write and pay for my travels, than fake it on the blog and run exhausted after yet another social media. Thank you for putting this into words, I think it is something that really really needed to be written.

    • Reply Leah Davis September 13, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      Hey Karin! Thanks so much for commenting, I’m really pleased you connected so much with my post. And I’m really excited that you decided to take a leap of faith and travel indefinitely. Location independence is certainly attainable for the person with the right attitude and motivation. It sounds like writing for other outlets on a paid basis would be the perfect option for you–I know the feeling of wanting to keep your blog for personal explorations and not have your content influenced by things you’ve had comped or been paid for! I hope you find the perfect balance of work and travels to meet your needs and keep you happy. Good luck!

  • Reply Karla September 16, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    Very honest and heartfelt post Leah!

    I, like you, love travel and have been blogging about it for the past five years. However It is not in my plans, nor my desire to travel the world for a living.

    This year has been particularly difficult and has had its share of moments when all i wanted to do is to go somewhere to forget about people, situations, problems. A.K.A real life.

    Mind you I LOVE my profession (translating AND writing) and yes I do look forward to having days off or taking a week or two away from work to recharge my batteries.

    I have been fortunate that my travel writing has caught the attention of some big companies (airlines, hotels, DMOs) who have invited me to review their services, products and promote them on my blog.

    Like you say, Press Trips are not holidays, they are HARD work! Every single hour of the day is almost planned and you end up being more tired and overwhelmed than if you visited a destination on your own (and at your expense).

    Competition in both the travel blog and travel writing sphere is tough and everyone is always chasing numbers and the more the better.

    I’ve kind of slowed down a bit and disconnect more frequently these days. I take time to really live and enjoy what is right in front of me.

    Life is a one-time show and there is no way you can get time back, so better enjoy it to the max.

    Glad to read that things are working out great for you!

    Keep it up 🙂

    K
    Karla recently posted…What To See and Do in Cancun, MexicoMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis September 16, 2016 at 5:47 pm

      Hi Karla! Thank you so much for the thoughtful reply. I love that you are taking more time to disconnect these days. That is something I really need to work more deliberately at, because I still feel glued to my phone and bordering on panic attacks when I don’t log onto my computer for even a single day. Things are working out for me, I like to think, but there is always room to grow and improve. Thank you for sharing your experience! x

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