Reflections

One Year of Travel Later, What the Hell Am I Doing?

November 9, 2016

Alternative, rejected title: “No Home, No Boyfriend, No Job, Now What?!”

I’m writing this post from Nepal. If you weren’t aware that I’m completely behind on the blog, you should be. Also, you should know that I wrapped up stints in Southeast Asia and Europe, and then I flew home to North Carolina for a whopping three and a half weeks before heading back out into the world of travel.

One Year of Travel - Trailing Rachel

I know what you’re thinking and the answer is yes, my hair always looks this good on the road.

“Wait, You’re Leaving Again?”

Yep! I couldn’t stay. Not yet anyway.

In fact, I knew before I left Europe that I wasn’t ready to settle back into life in Raleigh. But I did feel like I needed to go home to visit my family and friends that I hadn’t seen since January. After South America, another eight months of travel just passed by so easily. How does time fly like that?!

Because I’m loving it.

A part of me wonders if I’ve ruined myself for life. Will I ever be able to go home and be happy and content? This is a topic I’ve talked to several other solo female travelers about, and it’s actually pretty worrisome. The past year has made life at home for me just seem so …lackluster? uninteresting? the exact same as when I left? I struggle to find the right word, because I do really love most things about living in North Carolina and I miss everybody there. I’d hate to downplay that fact because Raleigh is a great place, but being back (and attempting to find a job, new apartment, etc.) just doesn’t seem nearly as exciting as the days I spend out here traveling.

Since I am kinda approaching thirty, this does all seem a little bit scary. I don’t have an answer for what I want to do and where I want to live (yet!), but I do know that now just isn’t the time for me to go home for good.

Am I living a YOLO-esque lifestyle? Yes. Could I potentially have regrets later on? Maybe. Does it feel absolutely right, right now? Definitely.

One Year of Travel - Trailing Rachel

“Uhh, so you and Charlie…”

Yeah, we broke up. Several months ago (in case you didn’t catch my subtle yet cryptic use of links in this post).

I wasn’t sure whether to address this on the blog or not, but I figured you guys should know the truth after the boldness that was my piece about how I’m not traveling with my boyfriend. In hindsight, I did feel a little silly about that somewhat idealistic post, but now I just realize that it’s truly how I felt at the time. I was pretty damn confident in my convictions then, but things have changed a lot over the past thirteen months.

If there’s any moral to this story, it’s that romantic relationships definitely can survive long-term travel and months of time apart IF both parties are totally and completely on the same page. However, if there are any cracks or uncertainties in the relationship, then several months of separation will most definitely put them on glaring, full display. But separation also brings a lot of clarity. It helps you learn what you really want. (And I mean, let’s be real, it’s a lot easier to break up when you’re in different countries than when you’re living with each other.)

I’ll always be grateful for the unwavering support that Charlie showed me when I wanted to leave to travel solo. He was selfless and caring the entire time. He was excited for me and my dreams and plans. And he’s still working his ass off at home, as usual, because those are his dreams. We are on good terms, and he’s still a fun, attractive, super nice guy… who I am not worried about at all. Wait, this is not a classified ad for him – let’s move on. Next topic.

One Year of Travel - Trailing Rachel

unrelated, neutral-on-the-emotions photo with a vintage filter

“How the heck do you have money left?!”

Why does everybody keep asking me this? Just subscribe to the newsletter – put your email in the sidebar to the right! – and you can see exactly how I spend my money on the road. I’ll send you a link to my budget. It’s very thorough. (And you can read more about how I handle the financial aspects of my travels here if you really want.)

I’ve been subscribing to the $50/day budget and pretty much nailing it. I’ve even lowered that amount for Nepal and India to $35/day because fifty dollars is way too much for the cheap standard of living out here.

One Year of Travel - Trailing Rachel

So how do I have money left? First of all, I saved a lot.

Second, I write down everything I spend. And I mean everything – I’m a weirdo about this. Every beer, every snack, every time I give a beggar money, and every bathroom I have to pay to use (hate that!). I jot it down in the Notes app that comes on the iPhone and later I enter it into Google Sheets. Nerd alert.

Third, I don’t do a ton of expensive activities, or stay in super nice places, or shop while I’m out here traveling because I’m not exactly on vacation. (The first time I went to Thailand, I spent way more in two weeks there than I did on a month during this trip!) I stay in hostels or cheap guesthouses, and I don’t move around too much, too fast. Also, there’s no room for much more stuff in my tiny backpack anyway, so substantial souvenirs are out of the question. (Okay, I am gonna buy some beads and maybe a “cashmere” shawl in Nepal, just because…)

And finally, most importantly, I travel to cheap countries. South America, Southeast Asia, the Balkans, and Nepal/India are super affordable destinations. Spain, France, and Croatia, not so much. But I’ve managed to balance them out!

One Year of Travel - Trailing Rachel

I’ve been working about as hard as this dog. Not to be confused with “working like a dog.”

“Are you, like, working while you travel?”

Nope, not yet. I haven’t actually been able to trade the freedom of doing whatever I want each day for sitting still long enough to get a job. I have written a couple of freelance pieces that I’ve been paid for, and this blog does occasionally get some small cash from affiliate links (if you purchase through them, thanks!). Nothing to write home about though.

I am hoping to change that in the near future though by applying for freelance work online and trying to build a client base. So, ahh, if you know anyone who needs any writing or content creation done, feel free to contact me!

And yes folks, if none of that pans out and I keep up this traveling thing, I probably have a few months left before I need to consider getting a legit J.O.B. The dream, however, is working from this laptop.

One Year of Travel - Trailing Rachel

Man I love mangosteens. Irrelevant.

“What now? And what next?!”

After a few weeks in Nepal, I’ll fly to India for about a month. And then, no plans! That’s kinda the beauty of it. I’ll figure out where I want to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve and go do that. It’ll probably still be somewhere in Southeast Asia for the cheap food and drinks (you know me). I’m dying to get back to Chiang Mai, and KL always feels like a comfortable city to return to. But Bangkok and Thai beaches are always in the running.

After that, I’ll probably need to start thinking about sitting still somewhere and earning some cash.

One Year of Travel - Trailing Rachel

“So, have you…?”

Yes… I’ve met someone. More on that later.

Maybe.

Any questions, advice, or words of wisdom on what to do after one year of travel? I’d love to hear it!

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10 Comments

  • Reply Katie November 11, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Rachel, it is actually scary how similar our lives have turned out. After writing on my own blog ‘Why I am travelling without my fiancé ‘ and him being super supportive of my one year trip, we ended up breaking up six months in. I’m still travelling – 17 months so far – and also slowly working on getting more freelance work. Also met someone, a guy that wants the same life as me. I’m happy for you!

    • Reply Rachel November 17, 2016 at 6:42 am

      Oh my gosh Katie, I just went back and read some of your old posts! So scary similar. The change was definitely tough, but now I feel so much more calm and secure in my decision to keep traveling. Looks like you’re making it work! Congrats on still traveling for so long – I hope to do the same! (And I’m really enjoying having someone to share my travels with now. It’s been wonderful.)

  • Reply Anna November 13, 2016 at 3:00 am

    We talked about it before, but seriously, I think travel has ruined “normal life” for me. I turned 30 now and I feel like I should know what I want to do in the future, but I still have NO idea. And I’m pretty much homeless and boyfriendless now (not jobless anymore, but yeah… trading the freedom is really hard sometimes, especially when I’m on vacation and it feels so nice not to even have to open up my laptop. But I am happy that I can still freelance to keep myself from going back to an office job!!), and thinking about what I should do next that will be best for my future. I still don’t even know where to spend the holidays! I’m leaning towards staying in KL and traveling locally, so if you do want to come over here, I’d love the company again! 🙂
    Anna recently posted…A new decade: on being my own heroMy Profile

    • Reply Rachel November 17, 2016 at 6:57 am

      Yeah I have no idea when/if I’ll go home for good now! I do need to start slowly picking up work, but just knowing that it’s doable really makes me hopeful. And NO. NO MORE OFFICE LIFE EVER. I’ll get up with you about the holidays for sure. It’s looking like KL (at least for a little bit) after India.

  • Reply Alissa November 30, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    Hi Rachel! Just recently found your blog. I really enjoyed reading this post – thanks for sharing your experiences and for your vulnerable and honest post. I hope that you enjoy your travels over the next few months – I know that there is pressure to have Life figured out (especially when traveling, honestly, because every conversation with a new person tends to bring up the “what do you do?” question) but I honestly feel like very few people actually have a plan, but rather just roll the dice and see what happens, be it a job, travel, etc. I’m in a similar (but not quite as open-ended) situation as you are, and I know that personally it’s hard for me to give myself permission to not think about these big questions. But at the same time I’m enjoying getting to be unapologetically selfish and live in the moment as a solo traveler, and just taking advantage of my time off. It’s a balance, but I do think that travel helps clear one’s head and gives some perspective for possible next steps. Wishing you luck in your journey and looking forward to reading more of your blog!! 🙂
    Alissa recently posted…First Steps In MexicoMy Profile

    • Reply Rachel December 1, 2016 at 5:04 am

      Ah thanks so much Alissa! That means a lot. And yes, I have trouble giving myself permission not to think about the future and “big questions” too. Sometimes it feels like I’m ignoring them, but really I’m just enjoying traveling so much. I know I should’ve used this year to figure out what I really want to do, but I haven’t gotten that far yet – it’s been more like learning tiny life lessons a little at a time. I hope your travels are excellent as well!

  • Reply Natalya December 28, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    Thanks for this post, Rachel! Just discovered your blog, and maaan, anticipating the ‘what now?’ moment after a good number of months of travel seems so scary, but also so symbolic of how much those experiences transform you in those several months! I am just now starting to save for, hopefully, a year of travel in 2018 in Southeast Asia! Am soaking in the blogosphere at the moment and getting excited, will keep taking notes! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Reply Rachel December 30, 2016 at 12:27 am

      Thanks Natalya! Oh you’re going to get so deep into the travel blog realm while researching and planning – I know I did! But seriously, you’re going to love traveling! SEA is so cheap and beautiful and it’s SO easy to make friends along the way. Quitting my job to travel has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

  • Reply Brittany Rawls May 9, 2017 at 9:33 pm

    Love all of your blogs!! So so impressive and motivational-you are living my dream life!

    • Reply Rachel May 10, 2017 at 3:43 am

      Ahh thanks Brittany! Do it! Just save up your money and do it! I can’t encourage people enough to just say fuck it and do it. There’s literally nothing to worry about! It is THE best decision I’ve ever made.

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