Photo: Will Hatton
I’m leaving the trail. The time has come. I need to escape Backpackistan for a few weeks, to feel the wind in my hair and get the hell away from my laptop. Everywhere I turn I see the same thing: travelers glued to iPods, Kindles, laptops, phones … all so far from home and yet determined to remain a part of it. Not that I judge them for it, because downtime is crucial if you are to remain on the road without going insane. I just feel that many backpackers are lazy when it comes to their downtime; rather than reading a book, or chatting with fellow adventurers, they feel the need to post wild status updates on Facebook, to like their friend’s recent activity, or check out Tinder to peruse the local talent.
In the beginning, when I first hit the road nearly seven years ago, I would rarely check Facebook. I would send an email once every couple of weeks to my folks, and that was about it. Over time, my writing has evolved into something I am proud of. I have developed the skills, I hope, to share my adventures with those who would listen and to hopefully inspire some to travel themselves. I love to write and I hope to continue recording my little adventures with the hope that I don’t die on one of them.
One thing I have learned on my travels is that I am almost always inspired. The hustle and bustle of big cities, the laid-back backpacker ghettos, the extreme sports, the extreme people, the new crowds every day. There is so much color, so much life on the road that I am almost always reaching for my tattered notepad to capture a key moment, record a new friendship, express my feelings about a new place. When it comes to turning on my laptop and writing my notes to work on a new article, I have started to notice a pattern; I am distracted by Facebook, Twitter, and emails from potential partners.
If you’re doing this every day of your travels, you’re not really traveling. (Photo: Thinkstock)
The support I have received online has been extraordinary. Since I first re-launched my blog in August I have landed freelance work with two amazing companies, been hired as an ambassador for South America Backpacker Magazine, received sponsorship from clothing and gear companies and, most important of all, developed a loyal following online. My readers are some of the most amazing, diverse, inspiring people I have ever gotten to know. I have received messages from people asking for help with everything from choosing a good backpack to traveling around India solo as a female nomad. Hearing about people’s travel plans, their aspirations, their hopes, never fails to excite me.
Lately, I have noticed more people at hostels with a slightly drunk, almost zombified look upon their faces as they stare at brightly lit screens. I fear I may be edging closer to joining their ranks. I have decided to head into the hills, and I have a treasure trove of articles ready – 30 titles and counting, all stories that need to be told. Some are funny, some dark, others useful and one or two, I hope, inspiring. Travel blogging is what I want to do with my life; I love to travel and I love to write. What nobody told me is that, doing both at the same time while managing a successful blog is actually a huge time commitment. I have decided to step back, work on my articles, and spend less time glued to a screen replying to potential gear sponsors. The time for global domination is near but it is not now. At some point, I intend to settle somewhere for six months and to give full-time travel blogging a real shot. To see if I can actually make some kind of living as a writer, my dream (other than joining the army) since I was a kid.
Even professionals travel bloggers have to turn off their devices and immerse themselves sometimes. (Photo: Thinkstock)
The point of this article I hear you ask? There are two points, I suppose. The first: if you are an aspiring travel writer; for the love of God, write. Write at every possible opportunity, record everything you can, even if it is on a tattered napkin. Record the details as they come and then weave the story together later. Be realistic with what you hope to achieve, if you want to run a successful travel blog (something I feel I am on the verge of), you have to treat it like a full-time job. Unless you are exceedingly lucky and someone actually pays you to travel you will need to consider planning some down time (with reliable internet access) to work on your site, your social media presence, your brand. Over the last few months, I have worked hard on my online image. Now, I feel it is more important to actually travel – to get out there, get among it – and to record what I find so that I can write about it later.
The second point: if you are a traveler, as many of you are, think carefully about how you spend your downtime. I understand there is a certain comfort in keeping in the loop with events back home, staying in touch with friends, but do you really need to check Facebook every day? Ultimately, Facebook will be waiting for you when you get home, albeit with a totally new layout.
And so, I shall be dropping off the radar for the next couple of weeks, I will be hiking deep into the jungle, machete in hand, in search of the legendary Lost City in Sierra Nevada, Colombia. I shall be journeying into the hills, above Minca, to laze around in one of the biggest hammocks in the world. Over Christmas, I plan to stay in a decadently opulent ex-cartel mansion, a brand new hostel, helping them with their marketing. I feel I need to step back, to stop being blinded by this bright screen, in order to give full justice to the events I am witnessing, the people I am meeting and the places I am exploring.
As a wise man once said, “Too often…I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen.”