Can a full-time traveler or digital nomad take a holiday? What does a holiday look for somebody with barely a fixed address to begin with?
On discovering that I’d be traveling back to my home town of Toronto for a visit and to attend the TBEX conference, a friend of mine said “Thank goodness you’ll be taking some time off. You deserve it!”
I often hear variations of this comment, especially when it comes to traveling back to my home town.
But it doesn’t really feel like a holiday. In some ways, visiting family and friends – although social and enriching – is hard work, especially when I try to juggle it with the ongoing (and relentless) requirements of the travel blog industry.
Then again, I’m not sure I really know what a “holiday” is any more, given my lifestyle. In some ways I’m always on holiday; in other ways I never am.
This post was originally published in 2013. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
Holidays of Old
Before becoming a full-time traveler and digital nomad, holidays were simple. I applied for time off work, chose a desirable destination (usually somewhere warm to escape the Canadian winter), and used a vacation planner to create a trip that would require as little thought or stress as possible.
All-inclusive vacations were ideal for this; in my former years, I enjoyed all-inclusive vacations in Mexico (a few times), Cuba (a few times), and even the Mediterranean.
I’d spend the first few days defrosting and decompressing, and by the last half of the week I’d be rested enough to make an excursion or two before retreating back to my few precious remaining hours of simple resort life. It was over all too soon, but I was happy to take whatever I could get.
Although hard-core travelers might balk at this and suggest that all-inclusive vacations are poor excuses for seeing the world, they served their purpose from a “holiday” point of view:
- I had time off to relax
- I didn’t have to think about anything or worry about travel logistics
- My meals were prepared, and drinks served at will
- I had a change of scenery to let go of stressors at home
- I got to “discover” a new place
- Not a lick of work was done
- I didn’t return from my holiday needing another holiday to recover from a busy travel itinerary
The 3 Types of Holidays for Full-Time Travelers and Digital Nomads
If you’re always on the go, experiencing a travel lifestyle that many would equate with “holiday” life to begin with – but you’re also concurrently always working – what constitutes a holiday?
1. Digital Detox
Turning off the computer is certainly a holiday from work. But unto itself it’s far from a holiday; my forced digital detox while recovering from a head-on collision was far from enriching or relaxing.
Likewise my time offline while riding the Trans-Siberian train for a week in 2011 left me twitching by the end at the very thought of how much catching up I’d have to do when I eventually arrived in Beijing.
Then again, these are relatively universal concerns, especially for entrepreneurs; if you take time off work, there’s likely to be a backlog awaiting your return. (I simply don’t cope well with this.)
For me, simply switching off the computer isn’t a true holiday. There needs to be something more. (Or less).
2. Traveling Without Recording
If my business is to travel the world and record my experiences (through writing and video), some might suggest a holiday would be to travel somewhere and NOT record my experiences. To leave the camera behind, and stop mentally constructing posts about what I’m doing.
There’s something to this. When I choose to forget about how I’m going to translate my current travel adventure into a post or video and relinquish myself completely to the moment, I often relax more (and have a different experience).
But isn’t this odd? Isn’t a holiday something to be remembered? Photographed? The first thing most traditional holiday-makers do is whip out their cameras, write in their travel diaries, and thus “enjoy” their chosen destination.
3. Traveling Without Moving
There is a certain pressure on any travel blogger or travel writer to actually get out there and experience something to write about.
In some ways I reflect back on my time in Switzerland as a holiday. Not because I took any time off work – in fact, I spent many hours daily at my computer. But because the accommodations were so comfortable and my responsibilities so few, I allowed myself the time to simply “be” in Switzerland – and I coined it traveling without moving. When I wasn’t working on my computer, I watched movies, enjoyed a regular fitness routine, slept in, cooked lovely meals, and read books. It was like my own all-inclusive resort (minus the housekeeping and culinary services).
I still generated quite a bit of material on the experience; but given my two months there I “conquered” very little of the country, surprising many onlookers who assumed I’d be criss-crossing the country many times over.
Once again, this is somewhat contrary to the “holiday” concept; I worked, and I didn’t really go anywhere. And yet, it felt like a holiday. (Of sorts).
Combined Holiday Elements
Given the above three criteria – which each lend an aspect to how a digital nomad’s “holiday” might differ from the norm, a holiday for me is quite opposing to the traditional view. I want the ability to stay on top of work if I wish, but I also want to escape the mindset of having to translate my experiences into something readable or viewable, and relieve myself of the perceived obligation to see and do as much as I can.
And in keeping with the realities of a “holiday” structure, I also don’t want to do this perpetually. It’s nice as a break, but I also enjoy aspiring, inspiring, and sharing. And with a “holiday” and refreshed batteries, I can crack-on again with new motivation.
My Friend was Right
The more I apply the ideas above, the more I realize my friend is right. My time visiting with family and friends is the perfect holiday for a digital nomad travel blogger like me. I have time to reflect on my travels and lifestyle, get a little grounding and context in my life, and since Toronto is my home town I have very little to write about “immersing” into this familiar place.
It’s a Mindset
Sometimes a simple mental shift can be as much of a holiday as anything else.
While “relaxing” in Switzerland, I took to the mountains one day. I had no intention of documenting my solo climb, but I had so much fun recording and editing the video of my experience that it was pure, unnecessary, unadulterated fun. In fact, most of my posts from Switzerland were borne of similar experiences.
Does a Full-Time Traveler Deserve a Holiday?
Does a full-time traveler or digital nomad even deserve a holiday? Living the dream life of so many people, working (often part-time) from the comfort of whatever scenic vista lies beyond, and experiencing the world head-on hardly begs the need for a break.
At least, not the traditional idea that most people hold as a vacation or holiday.
Such are the joys of lifestyle design.
What constitutes the perfect holiday for you?