As I sit in bed and write this post, we have only three more nights until this round the world trip is over. This time next week we'll be back in Tokyo participating in a weekend festival. I've yet to fully process what this means.
When we left Japan 18 months ago, I was devastated. How difficult it was surprised even myself. After all, I'm a traveler at heart. Wasn't this sort of attachment lethal?
During the four years we had been living there, there were times when I had mentioned to Hai that I was worried we weren't getting to see many of the countries still on our wish list by spending so much time in the one place. Not that we were stagnant in Japan. We went on domestic trips often and used our days off to attend festivals and try new things. I even spent six months during 2011 outside of Japan – three months working on a cruise ship that was circumnavigating the globe and another three months at an NPO in Bali, Indonesia.
When we made the decision to pack up and hit the road full-time again, it felt like it was the necessary thing to do in order to satisfy this desire to see more of the world, to continue checking off all those places while we had the chance. It wasn't as if we felt we had gotten all we wanted out of Japan and it was time to move on. In fact, it was like we were just getting started. Perhaps that was the hardest part. We were just gaining momentum with our blog and monthly photo walks, and then, as the end date got closer, suddenly time passed too quickly and we were already on to final events and goodbye parties.
I kept telling myself that these heavy feelings would disappear once we started this epic adventure. After all, on our first round the world trip together back in 2006-7, I didn't want to go home. That trip still goes down as one of the most extraordinary of our lives. We often talk about those stories, and many of them that I have subsequently written up have become some of the most read posts on our blog. Yes, once we got back to full-time travel, we'd get our travel groove back. And even though I wasn't ready to admit it to myself yet, I thought once we made the move, there was a good chance we could end up basing ourselves in any number of places around the world. We love travel. We love adventure. Who knew what kinds of opportunities would open their doors to us as we journeyed around the world? Maybe time would allow me to let go of Japan.
What I knew for certain that would come out of this trip were stories, and the idea of diversifying our blog content more was something that did excite me, even when I felt down about leaving Tokyo. While I did write up many stories from previous travels in various countries while in Japan, there were times when I pondered whether our blog was becoming too “Japan-centric”. We had a travel blog. Shouldn't we have content from all corners of the globe? As it stood, the Asian section had new content several times a week, while the African, American and European sections remained limited.
While no two trips are alike, I had this image that the story-telling aspect would be the same as that first trip, only this time instead of an email list to friends and family, I'd be speaking to a wider audience via our blog. I love to write. I love to share. And it was something I was always excited to do even when working full-time in Tokyo. I would finish work at 10pm, get home around 11pm, eat dinner, and then it would be onto writing up my next blog post. I'd work until the wee hours of the morning after teaching for 9 hours and it wasn't a burden. Sure, it wasn't always easy keeping to my own self-imposed deadlines, but I powered through because I was passionate about what I was writing.
Going into full-time travel with a full-time blog was far more difficult than I ever could have imagined. During that first trip, I wrote when I wanted. Every two to three weeks I would sit for a couple of hours at an Internet cafe (remember those? Haha) and I would summarize what we'd been getting up to recently. It probably went into far too much detail than some people cared for, but writing those memories down was so enjoyable for me and it is thanks to those extensive notes that I have been able to rewrite many of them for the blog years down the line as if they were yesterday.
This time round, we were trying to build something bigger and there was the pressure of needing to get content out. Despite all that we were experiencing, I just couldn't get content out as fast as I did in Tokyo with a base, two days off a week and a constant Wi-Fi connection at home. It was overwhelming now. And I felt that we couldn't experience as much because of the constant battle between seeing the place we were in and getting work done, which wracked me for one with constant guilt. You'd see the look of disgust on other travelers' faces in the hostel kitchen when they'd just come back from a full day sightseeing to hear that we had just been working that day. They couldn't understand why we'd be working when we were in another country. We found it difficult to get them understand that we weren't on “holiday” and this wasn't something temporary. This was our lifestyle and we had to balance travel with work. Even the travel part now was complicated with the constant need to try to document everything.
Now don't get me wrong, despite how these pressures took their toll, I'm eternally grateful for these adventures and this trip has most certainly not be in vain. In fact, I don't think any trip can be. It's been a huge learning experience and not only that, I HAVE had a great time along the way. Sometimes it's easy to forget all the things you have achieved when you haven't had any time to look back. And while I haven't been able to get out as many stories as I would have liked, taking a quick look at previous posts and photos reminds me of just how much we have experienced over the past year and half. We've come a long way. I think I will only begin to truly realize this once we get back to Japan and I start to process some of these experiences and, yes, finally get more of them onto the blog.
From a business perspective too, this trip has allowed us to grow immensely. Our publishing schedule may have been subject to how the accommodation Wi-Fi was that night or whether our bus made it to our destination on time, but we never would have had all the opportunities we have had to grow our blog without leaving Japan and being able to be physically present in the places where the industry is at. We have been able to attend two TBEX conferences, two World Travel Markets and to be here in Sri Lanka for TBC Asia because of that decision. Not to mention all of the opportunities to actually meet fellow travel bloggers we have been chatting to online for years. Despite how much we rely on the online world for what we do, it's a reminder that we can never really replace the face-to-face.
With three back-to-back conferences though, I'm feeling physically and mentally exhausted. And as much as I love Sri Lanka (seriously, we have so many experiences to share with you!), I'm now counting down the days to returning to Tokyo. It's time for a different approach to our travels and I think a base is what we need to realize it. One of the things that frustrated me most about trying to juggle everything on the road was the fact we never had much time to plan. Now you probably know we are not huge on set plans and I'll always continue to say that leaving ourselves flexible and open to opportunities that arise is our optimal way to travel, but what I mean is not having time to do the basic research that allows you to get the most out of a destination, like leaving something so late you can't actually do the activities you want to or missing the best parts due to poor planning.
What my ideal travel scenario would look like would be to have a base to call home and keep all of our stuff between trips. While there, we plan our next adventure and have the time to reflect and write/process content from the previous one. Then just go on the trip and experience everything possible knowing that we have this catalogue of posts ready to go whenever we want to post them. Then go back to base, reflect/write, get our bearings, and repeat.
There's something else I have realized on our travels too. That it doesn't matter if a substantial amount of our content is on Japan. We love Japan. We've decided to live there. We have a lot to share about it. It's a niche that we are looking forward to embracing in 2015 and we already have so many ideas for the year ahead.
Tokyo is a place we feel very comfortable in, but we are also constantly learning new things. It continues to be foreign in a good way, which is the perfect place for people like us who like a challenge to keep things interesting. This change in travel style doesn't have so much to do with wanting to feel “settled”, but rather a means of creating a work/life flow that maximizes productivity and enjoyment.
So after all of that, did I *forget* about Japan and yearn for a base elsewhere? No.
But was this whole journey amazing and totally worth it? Hell yes!
This chapter may be coming to a close, but the next one is only just beginning.
Until we get a chance to write up our next Sri Lanka stories, here's a quick teaser vid of some of our antics while on elephant safari.
Thanks, as always, for your support and see you soon from Tokyo!