Well, friends, let me put this bluntly: it’s been a while.
Over the last several months, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want travel and Jetfarer to fit into my career. While I absolutely love travel and want to make it a huge part of my life, I’m not so sure anymore about traveling as a full-time job.
Since I last posted, I’ve visited a few other places, but to be honest, I’ve mostly been laying low at home in Washington, DC. After backpacking around Iran, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Europe for nearly 6 months, I was admittedly really, really tired. Although my travels last year were inspiring and eye-opening, the constant movement started to grind down on my body and mind, and I realized by the end that I longed for the comfort and normalcy of home.
Which left me wondering: if travel is what I’ve wanted to do with my life, and I’m finally doing it full-time, why do I feel so burnt out?
So, I did as any normal person would do and I took it easy for a while. I gave my body and mind time to recover and return to a routine. Then, I went back to the drawing board to reflect on 2018, and make my plans for 2019.
And now, I’m ready to tackle these aggressive challenges and goals head-on.
In 2018, I Took a Leap That Changed My Life
I typically try to avoid especially heavy topics on Jetfarer because, frankly, I don’t think you all are looking for harsh realities on this inspiration-fueled travel blog. But the more I opened up about the difficulties of my personal life, the more receptive you all were to my story.
So, if you missed it the last time, here goes: in 2018, I left a “dream job” that ended up being incredibly toxic for my mental and physical health.
This was a dream job that I moved across the country for, that I endured a long-distance relationship for… one that I sacrificed a lot for, only to realize that my role was different than the one I thought I’d be entering, and my growth in the company was limited. In so many words, an oppressive corporate culture left me in a deep clinical depression, with few trustworthy comrades I could open up to.
I got therapy. I went to specialists. I took days off from work. I had difficult conversations with my bosses and supervisors. But these efforts were band aids covering an even deeper problem: the job wasn’t a good fit for me, and the only real long-term solution was to leave.
So I did. I put in my notice, packed my bags, and took off to explore the Middle East, post-Soviet Asia, and Europe for about 6 months. I lived out of hostels and guesthouses and hustled on my site to make things work. Towards the end of the year, I took on a part-time remote job and started freelance writing. I was ready to hustle to be able to live the location independent lifestyle I craved so badly. And for now, it’s actually working. I’m staying afloat financially for the most part, although some days I do miss my cushy six-figure salary and corporate benefits.
While this new freelancer lifestyle was a huge adjustment for me (and still is sometimes), I am in a MUCH better place now than I’ve been since graduating college. I love the work I do and the people/companies I work with. And yes: complete location independence has been, by far, exactly the lifestyle I’ve worked for and craved throughout my entire career.
I Realized That the Digital Nomad Life Isn’t for Me
Traveling long-term in 2018 taught me a lot about the world, and even more about myself. While I still love to travel, I don’t love being in transit all the time, and I really do miss the comforts of home when I’m away (and, let’s be real, my cat and my boyfriend, maaaaaybe in that order…). Moving abroad sounds really nice, but I just don’t think I’m cut out for full-time travel.
I realized that despite enjoying location independence, having a home base near family and friends is extremely important to me.
When I’m abroad, I first and foremost want to be immersed in my travel experiences. I’ve found that it’s really difficult for me to achieve the right balance between working and exploring while I’m away. Plus, WiFi can often be difficult to come by, and there’s literally no couch or desk in the world that feels more comfortable than my home or my favorite coffee shops.
So, this year, I’ll be officially moving back to the US, and settling down in a new city. I’m not sure how long I will be sticking around in Washington DC. The uncertainty can be frustrating at times, but I’m mostly just excited for the prospect of calling a new city home.
In 2019, I won’t be traveling full-time. I won’t even be traveling half-time. I plan to travel internationally about 3-4 months of this year, with an additional 2-3 months of domestic or local travel. The rest of my will be spent at home, trying to build some kind of routine and get sh*t done in a productive and familiar environment.
My Views on Travel in General are Changing, Too
The biggest pull on my attention to this blog recently is a growing attentiveness to the ripple effects of travel, namely whether or not it’s actually an activity that benefits the world. While I do believe in the powerful educational and personal benefits of travel, I began to wonder whether travel benefits individuals (read: privileged Westerners like myself) more so than the communities I’m traveling to.
2018 saw several popular attractions, like Boracay in the Philippines and Maya Bay in Thailand, crack down on tourism or close completely, while others like Bali and Venice became devoid of locals due to increasing cost of living and unsustainable tourist practices. It brought destruction of several US National Parks due to a lack of government care.
But more poignantly, I watched my grandmother talk about the skyrocketing growth of tourism on her tiny island in the Philippines, with worry creeping into the lines of her face. And she was right: I saw with my own eyes the uptick of plastic and styrofoam trash littered around her beachfront property, beer cans and chip bags tucked between the branches of graying coral.
Moreover, a Chinese-owned 4-story department store, much of which caters to tourists, was built where locally-owned sari-sari stores used to stand. There’s no fresh fish available in the local market anymore because the resorts buy it in bulk to fill the bellies of their foreign tourists. Is there anything left for the locals here?
Which brought me to this realization: unsustainable travel is scary. What ever happened to “take only photographs, leave only footprints?” Instead, as travelers, the footprints we’re leaving are our plastic trash and our carbon footprint. Is this really what I want to promote here?
I’m still reconciling the answer. As a travel blogger, I want to make sure I can help people see the world, but I still struggle with figuring out how to do that without destroying the very things I’m promoting. I do realize there are ways to cut plastic use while traveling and take measures to travel more sustainably, but the issue is bigger than the sum of its individual parts.
In my travels and, subsequently, in this blog, I want to make sure I’m promoting the right kind of travel, not simply pounding out 3,000 words at a time to optimize for search engines and get viral posts on Facebook.
So…Where Does Jetfarer Fit Into This?
Jetfarer has always been about helping YOU (and all of the ambitious young professionals like us) see more of the world during your limited vacation time. It’s about making travel work for you and learning about new, growing destinations that are actively seeking tourists.
Depth over Breadth
To solve this growing dilemma, I’ve decided not to promote short-term long-haul travel on Jetfarer anymore. The days of visiting a dozen countries in 15 vacation days are over. No more weekend trips to Tokyo from the USA or cheap flight deals to Europe over a 3-day holiday.
Instead, I’m shifting my focus to deeper, more meaningful travel experiences over breadth. I hope to research and promote destinations that welcome visitors and are hoping to build tourism efforts (rather than places like Barcelona who want nothing more than an indefinite break from tourists), and underrated itineraries that are closer to home (e.g., the USA and Canada).
These will include a mixture of independent travel and really unique group travel experiences (like my recent trip to Iran) that I think would make travel more accessible and seamless for my fellow Jetfarers. I used to be SUPER opposed to taking group tours, because, y’know, I’m an ~*independent traveler*~ and all, but I actually think that certain group tours offer a great mixture of convenience and flexibility that takes the burden of trip planning off of you, a busy full-time professional.
Outdoor & Adventure Travel
I also hope to focus more on adventure and outdoor travel this year, sharing more of the beautiful places I visit on here and on Instagram. To do this, I’ll be writing a lot more about hiking, camping, adventure activities, etc. in each destination I’m visiting. With these outdoor resources, I also plan to incorporate a lot about national parks, state parks, and road trips.
Photography has been an extremely powerful vehicle to share these travel and outdoor experiences with you all, and I hope to create more of a platform on here and on Instagram for sharing my own photos AND photos taken by Jetfarer community members. For those of you who are interested in learning more about photography, I’ll be sharing my tips on shooting and editing more often as well.
(Psst: Don’t forget to follow Jetfarer on Instagram for a real-time look at my favorite travel photos!)
It’s an non-sexy, uncomfortable topic. I know. But sustainable travel is critical to making this industry a long-term option. There are a lot of things that we, as travelers, need to be aware of to make sure we’re not destroying the beautiful places on earth.
Overtourism is a big one. I’m not going to promote Bali, or Venice, or even my beloved Iceland to you because these countries are facing the harrowing realities of overtourism. If I do write about more popular destinations, I’ll be discussing ways to visit them in a sustainable way.
Another hot topic is single-use waste. Plastic is one part of the equation, but there are others, like styrofoam, chemical waste, and carbon emissions. In order to travel sustainably, we need to understand how much waste we’re producing and take important steps, like carbon offsetting and foregoing single-use waste.
Colonialism (and its associated attitudes) are a topic that’s finally getting the attention it deserves. As a person of color and a daughter of immigrants growing up in predominantly white areas of Virginia and Texas, I’ve experienced some of these attitudes and microaggressions first-hand. Needless to say, I take it personally when I see tourists using these same condescending attitudes towards locals and other travelers in the same manner. The worst part is that most people don’t even know that they’re doing it. Traveling responsibly is about compassion, and this includes keeping our privilege in check in situations where it’s so easy to default to judgment or condescension.
Lastly, I hope to focus on locally-owned, eco-friendly businesses and experiences. Countries want tourists because they help to boost local economies, but if you’re constantly giving your money to foreign-owned businesses, it often isn’t going to locals. I’ve written about how to bargain with locals before, but I hope to focus more on the topics of knowing where your money is going and tourism practices that are detrimental to communities. Knowing where your money is going is arguably one of the most important parts of traveling, both domestically and internationally.
Getting Down to Business
For me and for Jetfarer, 2019 is the year of business. I’ll be working on growing Jetfarer a lot from a business perspective, so that I can continue to provide the detailed resources and information that you love so much on this site. Through advertising, affiliate marketing, and some new products (stay tuned!), I’ll be really focusing on making Jetfarer a sustainable business and brand.
To do this, I need your help. If there’s something you’d find helpful or useful, tell me. If there’s something you don’t like about Jetfarer, tell me. I love hearing your feedback – both positive and constructive – and I’m always listening out for ways to improve this website. Help me help you make Jetfarer the best resource out there for intrepid full-time professionals!
But You, Jetfarers, Are My Number 1 Priority
If you’ve stuck with me this far into this ramble, I hope you’ve come to realize that my #1 priority is and always has been you, my community of Jetfarers. We’ve seen through interviews, guest posts, and more that YOU are the heartbeat of travel and the future of the industry. YOU are the people who inspire others to travel. And that’s why I firmly believe that it’s important to continue to build this website around you, your needs, and the content that you enjoy reading.
This year, I want to get to know you and I want to give you the chance to get to know me. I want our community to be one of friendship, trust, and shared experiences. We’ve got our Facebook group (which you should definitely join), but I want to continue to make the discussions in there more useful and engaged.
I also want to continue my website features of awesome things Jetfarers are doing. If you want to tell your story or know someone who does, shoot me an email so we can give you a platform to share that story.
A big, heartfelt THANK YOU to those of you who have stuck with Jetfarer from the beginning, as well as those of you who have just recently joined us on the journey. I’m so excited for the year to come, and to continue growing this community of the most inspiring and amazing people in the world.
With love and gratitude,