The grass is always greener on the other side. I think.
I thought this one day last year while frustrated with my inability to happily balance my work and my relationship. (I’m not in that relationship any more, and I’m honestly not sure how much my struggle to achieve work-life balance affected the ultimate outcome).
We were house-sitting at the time, and my partner (who didn’t have a location independent business) was at loose ends. I had two choices, as usual: stay behind and work while he went out and had a good time, or close my computer and sacrifice work in order to spend some time exploring the world beyond our (very foreign) doorstep. Somewhat begrudgingly on this day, I chose the latter.
At first I thanked my partner for getting me out of the house and away from work, so I could embrace my penchant for exploration…which is the reason I travel full-time to begin with.
And then, I cursed him. Having discovered all kinds of lovely things and taken many pictures on our day’s adventure, now I had even more work to do, and even less time to do it.
I should have counted myself lucky to be doing such lovely couple things. And yet, there I was, cursing my partner, wanting to spend time with my computer instead.
The Location Independent Conundrum: It Doesn’t Look Like Work…
Location Independent careers aren’t easily understood, when it comes to the brass tacks of getting work done. Even I still don’t entirely get it; I type words on my computer, send them off in emails, and numbers show up in my bank account. Throw in various (unrelenting) social media requirements, and it’s hard for somebody to watch me sit in front of my laptop and actually believe that it’s work.
But trust me – it’s work. Pure, hard, unadulterated, unending work.
I’m no longer a particular fan of hospitality exchanges (such as Couchsurfing), because people I stay with don’t understand my need to work. They think I may need to tap away on my computer for an hour, and then I can explore their home town (since I’m on vacation, right??), and enjoy their company and hospitality.
But I need more than an hour; more like five hours each day. After years of returning to my hometown in Canada to visit, I believe I’ve finally “trained” my family and friends to understand that I’m not “on vacation”. In fact, I’ve only just come to realize for myself that my lifestyle is an eerie combination of work and vacation, all wrapped into one confusing little package.
In the case of traveling with a partner who doesn’t have a similar career, it can actually lead to jealousy. You got it – my computer is like “the other woman”. I feel guilty every time I turn it on, and I feel guilty for saying “just one more hour of work…please”.
Location Independent Couples
There are of course exceptions, such as super-blogger-couples. The secret recipe here is that both partners have a location independent form of income – either separate businesses, or even the same one.
In these cases there is much more understanding between partners about the necessity to work and the ability to balance work and life and travel.
You Have to be Offline to Explore
The flip side to all this is that, in order to have something to write about, a travel blogger has to be out there experiencing it. I can thank all my (non-location-independent) previous partners for forcing me to get off the computer and out of the house; and having somebody to experience the world at large with – and to reflect on those experiences with – in turn creates invaluable prose. I would never have seen the lesser-known side of Panama if I wasn’t with a partner who had a knack for blending in with various cultures, and who helped me to do the same.
Then Again, Couple-Time Takes Time
At the same time, being a couple doesn’t mean you’re always intrepid explorers (even if you’re both traveling – another lesson I learned from a previous partner). Some couples like to hibernate and do couple-things; I remember traveling in Spain with a friend and a couple; the couple regularly disappeared to go back to their hotel at 5pm, leaving us bewildered as to why they’d leave the party before it even began. Couple-things are nice, but it doesn’t do much for blogging.
Solo Travelers Make Better Bloggers…or Do They?
All this waffling merely fuels the debate: do solo travelers make better bloggers?
When left to my own devices as a solo traveler, I don’t always see as much of the world beyond my doorstep as I could (or should). But I have much more time to integrate the experiences I do have, thus (maybe) writing better articles out of it. It’s also easier as a solo travel blogger to go at the pace that suits me best (for example taking time to get the best pictures), and it’s generally easier to meet people on the road as a solo traveler.
Blogging – and all things online – is crack for the addictive personality. When left to my own devices with a fast internet connection, I don’t actually get more work done; more than once I’ve closed my laptop after eight eye-crossing hours with little to actually show for it.
I learned this (in spades) while living in Peru and afflicting a few digital detoxes on myself in the form of multi-day Andean treks, full-day plant medicine ceremonies, and week-long retreats. My online world didn’t crash down around me while I was gone, and with some focused attention, I got through what I needed to in order to catch up.
It helped me (re)learn one of the primary rules of time management, which is to focus your efforts on the things that matter, with the limited time that you have.
Conclusion (or Lack Thereof)
I’ve been writing this post on and off for over eight months. The headline and tag line (about the grass being greener on the other side) was written in haste while angry at my partner and frustrated with the perils of work-life balance. But now that I’ve seen the grass on both sides of the fence, I still haven’t decided if solo travelers actually make better bloggers.
Although solo travelers have more time to spend online (for lack of having a partner to please), it doesn’t necessarily mean that their time online is spent productively, nor is the time offline necessarily enriching.
But nor does having a partner make for a better blogger. It depends on the relationship, shared passion for travel, respective careers, and ability to integrate the plethora of information and discoveries that await beyond your doorstep.
What do you think?