I honestly never thought I’d be writing a post with that title because even the idea is just that ridiculous. It gets me asking myself, “For what on earth would anybody ever want your life? What have you even achieved that’s so envy-worthy?”
Frankly, the honest to God answer to that is, “Nothing. Zilch. Nada.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of how far I’ve come and grateful for the kind of experiences, good and bad, that life has handed (or thrown at) me. But there’s nothing in there that should make anyone feel that my life is better than theirs.
And I have zero qualms about saying that out loud.
I have made zero tangible contribution to anything that makes human life or culture or society or education better or richer in a world where thought leaders, artists, changemakers, adventurers, inventors, and geniuses of all types are doing something amazing every day to solve, little by little, the world’s many problems.
Still, it was recently brought to my attention that some people actually think my life is good enough for them to want to trade it for theirs. Sure, like every travel blogger, I’ve been told countless times how ‘lucky’ I am to ‘get to’ travel and each time, I brush that away as a joke
But recently, I’ve been getting that more often and I was told that the travel-life envy was real.
People are actually taking this shit far more seriously than I ever have.
So like every cliché blogger out there, I decided to write a no-holds barred, behind-the-scenes post about why my life of travel or blogging or travel blogging is totally not worth your envy.
Though some of my peers do a fantastic job of selling the “my life is better than yours and here’s how you can have it” dream, that has never been the point of my travel writing or this blog.
It has never been about what’s missing in your life if you don’t or can’t travel. It has only ever been about how to travel more meaningfully and deeply, if you’re already in love with travel, and how to make the most of even the shortest trips. It is also about how to travel even when you have no one to go with, given that you really want to travel.
The subject that’s central to my narratives is the travel itself, the people, food, culture, and nature in these places, versus who is doing the traveling.
So you see, I’m not at all important. And here are reasons why you really do not want my life instead of the one you’ve got now.
1. My Life is Not a Holiday
I know that sometimes it can seem like my life is one, Instagram-worthy, long holiday when I travel to new places for weeks and months, seemingly, without a care in the world and a 9-to-5 to hold me down.
There I am, holding out a coconut against a perfect palm-fringed beach with golden sand, azure blue skies, and a bluer ocean. Or looking at a river valley, my hair blowing in the wind, snow-capped peaks in the background. Or sitting cross-legged on the floor of a stilt house on a river in Thailand, surrounded by a feast of fresh seafood.
Seriously, how can my life be anything but a holiday?
The truth is all of that is just one part of my life, albeit a happy one, and one that takes a lot of other sacrifices on a daily basis. You shouldn’t be shocked to know that they don’t make for pretty pictures or status updates.
I’ve never painted an overly glamorous picture of how and where I travel.
I’m simply not the type to pose in a hundred different ways and outfits to create travel brochure-y images. In fact, at some point last year, one of my friends told me, “I’m tired of seeing the same jacket in all your photos, think it’s time for a change?” to which I muttered something about packing light.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see I regularly pop up on my Stories sweaty-faced, without any make-up on, in thick glasses, looking like a complete mess- because a large part of the traveling lifestyle is about being a complete mess– when you’ve just got off an eight-hour redeye flight or you’re dragging around your backpack or suitcase up a cobbled street trying to find your Airbnb or when you’ve just tried the local food and your stomach acts up in protest.
But that said, for me the pros far outweigh the cons. So yes, I focus on the positives because my blog is all about why travel is amazing.
But it’s NOT a holiday.
It’s not even a free trip or a free flight or a free hotel or a free spa treatment.
I hate to break it to you but there’s no such thing as a free lunch, not even if you’re a blogger. Especially not if you’re a professional blogger. What all of that is actually is a business transaction, an exchange of value, if you will.
Every trip is a lot of work because I’m answerable to partners and sponsors and editors and when it’s not them, it’s to myself- the person who knows she’s running an online business and can’t afford to treat long periods of time on the road like a holiday.
I check into work most days or nights, write articles, research, edit photos, post stuff on social media, network, all of this while I’m somewhere new. It’s like being a writer, editor, photographer, and social media manager and doing all of those jobs everyday while you’re also traveling through a new country in a way that needs to be more than just passing through and skimming the surface.
And press and blogger trips? You can’t even imagine how different that is from being on holiday. On my last one I spent nine hours on a flight, followed by two hours in a minibus, an hour on a train, another two hours on a boat, a few hours learning about local culture and attending a cooking workshop before I could check-in to a hotel, shower, and change out of the clothes I was wearing when I left home in Dubai. Plus the airline forgot to put my bag on the flight. Yes, I was still taking notes, and photographing details, because that is what I do as a professional.
In new cities, I’ve sat cooped up with my laptop for entire days in my apartment instead of exploring, socializing or partying or chilling on the beach. Back when I still did hostels, I’d sit in the common area intentionally avoiding eye contact, hoping people would just leave me be to finish my post.
It’s always hard to explain to people I meet on the road, that ‘this blogging thing’ is as serious a job as any other and no, I cannot do it later because bro, you think it’s going to be an epic night of partying.
FOMO does not exist in my dictionary because I made choices.
Moreover, no one on my Instagram feed wants to see photos of me at home in my PJs, with my hair in a bun, working away on my laptop for hours trying to make my deadlines.
No one wants to hear about how hard it is to get editors to reply to my emails when I’ve just pitched what I think could be the best story of my career.
And absolutely no one cares that every piece of travel writing or photo or video requires hours and sometimes days of work- research, story crafting, fact checking, and editing before it gets published, whether it’s for a client or my own blog.
That’s just mopey and you don’t come to my blog or Instagram feed looking for mopey, do you?
2. Let’s Talk About Money (and it’s not pretty)
“Does it pay well?” is the one question I get asked a lot when I introduce myself as someone who does this for a living. The honest answer is “Of course not.” At least not yet.
The daily hustle is very much a part of my reality because if I stop hustling even for a week, I might not make any significant income that month. Which is why I’m always trying to market my skills as a freelance writer, photographer, and develop new relationships. Unfortunately, as a real-life introvert, I’m not really great at this.
My income fluctuates from month to month and while sometimes it’s really great, at other times it really sucks. There’s a couple different ways I make money- affiliate sales, ads and sponsored posts, brand partnerships, press trips, freelance writing, and photography. Having greater income stability is definitely a big goal that I’m still working towards and while there has been progress, I’m not quite there yet.
That said, there are travel bloggers who make six-figure incomes. But just like in every profession, not everyone is great at everything, success is hardly ever overnight, and there’s a learning curve.
And while money is definitely important, that wasn’t the reason I chose this career over my high-paying finance job that I was actually qualified for (I have a Masters in Applied Finance and graduated top of my class).
I just didn’t want to ever be the person who said, “I wish I had your/his/her/their life.”
I wanted zero regrets and by building this lifestyle, there’s nothing I wish I could’ve done- because I just go ahead and do it. Even if it means that I make far less money than I did once.
What you also might not realize is that traveling turns out to be cheaper for me than staying home, because I live in Dubai, a pretty damn expensive city. With my current income, I could live far more comfortably in other cities, cities that are more suitable to my preferences such as those having green spaces or easy access to nature (trails, lakes, rivers, or mountains) and a slower pace of life.
But my relationship status prevents me from moving permanently at the moment. So I’ve found my happy midway by setting up temporary bases in other cities for weeks or months when I just can’t bear to be in Dubai.
3. The Life of a Freelancing Travel Blogger Can Be Lonely
My closest friends are people I met on the road and others I met through working in travel media or freelance writing and they’re scattered all over the planet. Hardly anyone ever passes through my (expensive) part of the world.
I have a whole lot of friends in Dubai and it’s not like I’m an anti-social loner. But I’m miles away from the people who really get me, my tribe, so to speak. These are the people who know what it means to be in my shoes because well they either are or have been there. Our connections and conversations are affected neither by distance nor time.
In Dubai, I don’t leave my house for days, trying to knock out articles and blog posts for my blog and for editors. That means I don’t meet other people for days, sometimes weeks, when my workload is unusually heavy. If you work in an office where you have people around and someone to talk to in person over your coffee breaks, think of how strange and lonely that can be.
4. Not Always Being Around Tests My Relationships
This shouldn’t be a shocker to anyone. Not being around for extended periods of time because I’m off exploring a new country and slow traveling on another continent means that I routinely miss my families’ and friends’ birthdays. And I’m hardly ever in Dubai on my own birthday because travel, to me, is the biggest gift, and that’s what I like to give myself.
Festivals and holidays don’t mean much to me because I’ve always found them to be a bit superficial. Like “let’s all be happy together today because the date on the calendar tells us that it is what we must do.” And I’m not religious at all so don’t even get me started on religious holidays and festivals.
Of course, all of this takes a toll on my personal relationships and no one’s to blame. As a natural progression of my selfishness, my relationships have found other people to confide in while I’m away and I’ve, sometimes, made new and deeper connections while on the road. Sometimes they become overly sensitive and I can’t keep up.
But I love travel far too much to not do it, even at that cost. And I tend to think of it this way: my closest, most valuable relationships will rise above this to emerge stronger (and they have) while the others might be better off without me. I’ve always encouraged my loved ones to chase after what makes them happy and I’d hope they’d want the same for me.
5. I Don’t Travel Like You Do on Vacation
And that’s why I’m not crazy about traveling with you- because I wouldn’t always enjoy it.
I don’t get the fanciest hotel I can afford. I don’t go on a shopping spree right before a trip so I can look great in the photos. I don’t book hotels months in advance and have a set itinerary. You wouldn’t find me tanning on the beach in an all-inclusive resort. I don’t take a million selfies (partly because I have zero selfie skills). I don’t go the swankiest restaurants in a new city. I don’t go out to bars or clubs each night so I can enjoy the nightlife (and get wasted).
Because if I did that all the time, my travel budget would smack me in the face. (See point #2.)
I would not be able to last three months in Europe on a freelancer’s income if I did something fun, adventurous, and crazy every single day.
Last summer, when I spent a month in Stockholm, I cooked three meals a day in the shared kitchen of my hostel because it was too expensive to eat out. When I spent weeks exploring the islands in the Stockholm Archipelago, I bought bread, vegetables, cheese, and pasta from the supermarket because the only one or two restaurants on each island were crazy expensive.
And you’d never find me zipping through six capitals in nine days on my Europe trip because I only ever travel slowly. How else would I get the good stories, engage with locals, and taste enough of the food and culture to write pieces about them that are not fluff? You know, stuff that someone would actually pay me to write?
While travel for you is downtime- a vacation from your routine life and job, for me, it’s life; it’s when I’m alive, alert, and focused with all of my senses. Every taste, sight, experience, conversation has an effect on me that’s magnified. Getting to know a new city or hiking a new forest trail solo, for me, is a high as good as falling in love. That’s what travel does to me.
When life can be like that, who wants a vacation?
6. Work-Life Boundaries Don’t Exist
Travel is life and travel writing, blogging, and photography is work, and often, the lines between the two don’t exist. I try but over time I’ve learnt that running your own business online is very different from working for someone else where come 6pm, you can shut down and switch off unless there is an emergency.
I’ve got to follow up on leads, reply to emails, schedule meetings, post on social media, and work on articles even after 6pm and on weekends and holidays and when I’m traveling someplace with shitty internet, if that is what my client or schedule demands. I don’t have a big business presence backing me up. If I’m not available, my client will find another freelancer who is.
I’m still working towards getting to that point where I can command my own work hours. But I love the travel and the work too much to let opportunities go because of the extra or unexpected hours I need to put in. This is my passion and I’m fortunate that it is now my career.
What’s a little more hustle when my dreams are so big?
With all of that, please don’t think I’m complaining.
Overall, my life is pretty awesome, which is exactly why I choose it every single day. But just like any other lifestyle and career, there are pros and cons and not everything is as rosy as you may imagine. I gave up financial stability and a retirement plan for immediate happiness and a career that lets me travel when and for as long as I want. I don’t know if that was a smart choice, I guess we’ll know in a few years.
But if you’re in a stable job and working towards buying your own house or raising a family, you have an equally great life, even if it means dealing with an annoying boss or bawling babies. As long as that is your dream. That kind of adventure takes more courage and commitment than I’ll ever have.
I’m not stupid to not realize that my life comes from a place of privilege- travel is a privilege but the fact is that today anyone with a decent amount of money, an income, and a handle on their basic financial situation can travel. There is nothing special about it anymore because travel and travel planning are both easy and affordable. And after everything I’ve told you, I doubt you want to be a professional travel blogger. If you’re still crazy enough to want that, here are some Blogging Resources.
While I take my work very seriously, I can’t for the life of me, take myself seriously at all.
So don’t wish you had my life, just buy flight tickets more often and I’ll be happy to help you plan trips that give you more bang for your buck. Deal?