Eternal Arrival
Wellness

Why I’m Breaking Up With Backpacking

When I quit my job to travel full-time, I kind of imagined that I would be a backpacker for the rest of my life. I know, I know: how naïve can a girl get?

The truth is, I think it appealed to me so much because I skipped from youth to adulthood a little too quickly. When I graduated, lack of employment options for English graduates pushed me into a field I never expected or frankly even wanted: teaching special education.

Suddenly, I was responsible for shaping all these little lives – at the age of 21 – although I could barely take care of myself. The weight of it was heavy, but I shouldered it anyway, believing it the only way to keep living out my New York City dream.

As I traveled on my school holidays, I met a breed of people I never met before: carefree backpackers seeing the world for months at a time. I decided then and there, after a life-changing trip abroad to Southeast Asia (yes I know, how basic of me), that that was what wanted I wanted to be.

Girls with umbrellas in Myanmar

Fast forward two years later, and I’m realizing just how much greener the grass was from that side. I may have missed the boat to be a backpacker. The truth is, as I near 30, backpacking no longer holds the same allure it used to. Maybe because I’m secretly an old. I often turn down invites to go partying because actually, I’d rather lay in bed at 10 PM watching the Walking Dead before winding down the night with a nice, soothing podcast. I actually strongly considered packing my onesie in my backpack before realizing how utterly ridiculous that was.

Or maybe because backpacking tires out this closet introvert. I hate having the same tired conversation: “where are you from?”, “how long are you traveling for?” and hate myself for not being socially creative enough to break outside of that, either.

Maybe because if I have to hear someone in their early 20s say in with shaman-like seriousness that they decided to “live for experiences and not things” again, I may very well lose what’s left of my mind. Partly because I’m aware that that is me, too, and I hate that my special snowflake badge is being tarnished.

But more than anything, I’m realizing that I have finite reserves of energy. Who I am at the beginning of a months-long backpacking trip does not really resemble the person at the end of it. In the beginning of a trip, I’m so excited for all the adventures that await me that I’m constantly planning and moving, making the most of every moment. By the end, I’m planting myself in one location for as long as I can, desperate to catch my breath.

I think I may finally be ready to say goodbye to backpacking.

This isn’t to say that I’m throwing my backpack into a bonfire and becoming a checked-suitcase, cruise-ship traveler. Just that I’m slowly realizing that it’s not healthy for me to live a life of constant movement.

Another thing I miss when I backpack is my friendships. Everyone always told me that when you travel alone – you’re never really alone, because you’re making friends everywhere you go. The first part is true; the second, not so much.

The truth is, I can count on one hand the people I’m still in touch with who I met in hostels, out of the hundreds or maybe thousands of names I’ve learned and promptly forgotten. While those friendships are special to me and will always be, I crave more stability in my life.

When I say I’m breaking up with backpacking, I’m not trying to say I’ll never stay in a hostel again: far from it. Sometimes it’s the best option when you’re traveling solo or in an expensive country. But I am admitting I am no longer capable of these months-long schleps around the world.

As an anxious person who struggles with bouts of depression, I’m learning that the stress of having to be “on” all the time isn’t worth the benefits of backpacking. I’m chronically exhausted, easily frustrated, and always behind on my work. While I may get to check more countries off my list, I’m often too tired near the end of my trips to truly experience them.

So what does that mean for me and this blog? I’m planning on establishing temporary home bases and traveling from them for the time being.

After doing some U.S. travel, which I’m really looking forward to, I’m planning on catching my breath at home in California for a few weeks before moving to Budapest for the summer and fall.

I chose Budapest for two reasons: I’ve never been there before, and it’s in a central location to lots of countries I’m fascinated by. I’ll be based around there til November, leaving the EU periodically to keep my 90-day Schengen visa valid.

After Budapest, I’ll be spending my favorite holiday in the world — Thanksgiving, naturally — at home before spending two months in Bali, then finding another base somewhere in Asia for a while. My goal is simple: I want kitchens to cook in, yoga studios to practice in, cheap flights to escape from, and friends to meet up for drinks with.

But most of all, I want to know where the fuck my phone charger is for a change.

Full-time travel sounds amazing, but the reality is more complex.

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48 Comments

  • Reply
    Courtney Minor
    April 19, 2017 at 3:35 am

    ALL THE THOUGHTS I’VE BEEN HAVING LATELY

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 19, 2017 at 3:47 am

      Ahh it’s so good to hear it’s not just me!! <3

  • Reply
    Jessica
    April 19, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    I envied you for going abroad, but I envy you even more for being honest with yourself and giving it a rest.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 20, 2017 at 1:49 am

      Thanks Jess <3 I'm finally learning how to take care of myself like a big girl!!

  • Reply
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown
    April 20, 2017 at 7:04 am

    This is why the serial expat life is for me… I spend a few years in a place and then on to the next one! I couldn’t handle traveling full time. I’m honestly just too lazy to move around and pack and unpack that much 🙂

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 20, 2017 at 8:38 am

      That’s such an awesome way to experience the world! I have such bad fear of missing out that expat life would be kind of hard for me — I have such a hard time sticking to one place. Ugh, yes, the packing and moving is definitely the worst part of full-time travel — which is why I’m so looking forward to having a home base, even if it’s just temporary!

  • Reply
    Christina
    April 21, 2017 at 8:18 am

    GIRL I feel this post on a spiritual level! I am such a granny in disguise and while I do enjoy getting my vino on every once in a while, I can’t for the life of me keep up with some of the backpackers I meet, especially when I reaaaally need to snuggle into bed and write a million blog posts (not possible with hostel Internet!) You’re so right though – the grass is always greener on the other side. When I travel on my own, I typically like staying in hostels because you meet so many more friends that way, but I quickly become exhausted from all the surface-level socialization that I just wanna book a hotel and hide forever. BUT once I do that, I feel so antisocial and lonely. Definitely a balancing act. You’re not alone!!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 22, 2017 at 4:04 am

      Oh god yes, fellow granny in disguise! I too love some wine or beer but I really can’t go hard like the kids do these days or I’ll have a headache for days — so not worth it, especially when I have to stare at my computer for hours the next day!! I hate when I feel like people are silently judging me in hostels when I hole up in full-on writing mode. There are days where I get inspired and manically write like 3 posts and redesign half my site and don’t shower… and damnit, there’s nothing wrong with that (okay, maybe the not showering part is a little gross, but I worry that if I stop and shower all my ideas will leave my head! Totally rational, right?). TBH, I’m such an introvert that when I treat myself to hotels I usually don’t end up feeling lonely, just relieved. I often feel more lonely when I’m surrounded by people who I’m too tired to socialize with, actually! But I think that once hostels become a more once-in-a-while thing rather than the norm I’ll be so much more excited about meeting new people and socializing that I’ll enjoy it again. Just need to detox from them for a while. Hopefully it goes better than my coffee detox… ha!

  • Reply
    Jean
    April 22, 2017 at 3:57 am

    It’s all about checks and balances. At least your responsible enough to accept that this is how you are feeling and trying to do something about it. Perhaps basing yourself in one place for a few months would do you some good?

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 22, 2017 at 4:24 am

      Thanks Jean, yes, and I haven’t been so good on the checks and balances. I definitely think a home base would do me a load of good. I have a bit of travel with my friend upcoming this month, but after that, looking forward to treating myself to some well deserved rest in a home base 🙂

  • Reply
    Kelly
    April 22, 2017 at 3:58 am

    Yes to all of this!! I suffer from depression and moving around all the time is not great for me. Plus, I hate all the superficial conversations and have no energy for them because I know i’ll never see them again. That and my tolerance for BS has declined with age. Thanks for sharing how I feel. Great post!!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 22, 2017 at 4:32 am

      It is so hard to balance constant traveling with depression. I just got back on a medication that’s been helping me loads, but I kept forgetting to take it because I was moving around all the time… then I’d start to feel crappy because I hadn’t taken it for a few days and then I’d get mad at myself for forgetting. Not a good cycle to get into! Thanks for reading and sharing <3 It makes me realize I'm not crazy for trying to travel with depression, just that I may need to do it differently than others.

  • Reply
    Bri
    April 22, 2017 at 4:26 am

    I feel you! I personally don’t think I could ever travel full-time because I need a stable home base to function lol. This was beautifully written!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 22, 2017 at 4:40 am

      I hear you, Bri! I’m starting to realize I need one, too. Looking forward to seeing how Budapest treats me 🙂 And thanks so much for your kind words! <3

  • Reply
    Tanya Korteling
    April 22, 2017 at 4:32 am

    Great post, to which I can definitely relate. Much as I do still love travelling, my husband and I have decided to settle in bases for 3 – 12 months at a time then travel around that place whilst living there and travel on the way to the next destination! I actually think it’s a good thing as you really get to know a place, it’s people and culture when you have it as your base for a while

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 22, 2017 at 4:42 am

      I totally agree, Tanya, and I think you and your husband are smart to realize that. It’s hard when I can be so focused on seeing as many countries as I can and checking new places off my bucket list. But it’s not sustainable long-term, and I have my whole life to see the world 🙂 I just booked my ticket for Budapest now with some travel to and from there (a week in Poland on the way there and 2 weeks in the Baltics and Finland on the way back) — can’t wait to see how quasi-settling helps me!

  • Reply
    Brooke
    April 22, 2017 at 4:34 am

    It’s great that you know what kind of travel style works/doesn’t work for you; I love slow travel and making deeper connections; sometimes it’s hard to explain to people why I’d want to spend weeks in one place rather than breeze through the sights. You’ll only enjoy your travels if you’re in the best mental and physical condition. So cheers to you!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 22, 2017 at 4:47 am

      Yeah, I understand you 100%! I always want to embrace slow travel, but the truth is that I get super excited about seeing new places and get a bit of FOMO about not seeing enough… and then I speed right back up again, until I get too tired and end up planting myself somewhere, too tired to even sightsee! So I’m hoping having a home base that I’m paying rent for will finally make my itchy feet stay in one place long enough to really understand ‘slow travel’. And I totally agree – travel is both mentally and physically demanding so you really need to be in peak condition! Time to get my butt back to yoga classes, ha 😀

  • Reply
    Rhiannon
    April 22, 2017 at 4:46 am

    I LOVE this post! I love that you’re being honest with yourself, and noticing when it’s time to take care of yourself. I suffer with anxiety, and although I’m not a backpacker, whenever I travel I tend to stress myself out. I have always admired backpackers for everything they do. For instance, I’m a hotel girl. I could never stay in a hostel, I wouldn’t be able to handle it! I’m super happy that you’ve made this decision, and so excited for you for the rest of your travel experiences! 🙂

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 22, 2017 at 2:20 pm

      Thanks Rhiannon! I have anxiety as well, and it’s taken a lot to learn not to stress myself out when I travel — just ask some of my old travel companions, haha 😛 I quite like hostels, actually, but after traveling long-term I think I need more “recharging” time. If you ever try hostels I think a great compromise is getting a private room n one — you can retreat when you like and socialize when you want to! Anyway, thanks girl, and I’m so excited as well! Hope to have you follow along the journey! <3

  • Reply
    Perri
    April 22, 2017 at 4:51 am

    OMG I so relate to this!!!!! After my boyfriend and I did our first backpacking trip in SE Asia for four months.. I was like I don’t think I can do another one of these.. I really like where your headed with this, I’m feeling the same. I’m also going to be based in Vienna by summer and doing smaller trips around Europe!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 22, 2017 at 2:22 pm

      Yes, four months is a LONG time! My longest backpacking trip was 5 months and I even cut it short by a month because I was so exhausted. That’s so exciting about Vienna! Let me know if you’re headed to Budapest – it’s only a few hours away. I may re-visit Vienna – it’s such a beautiful city and I feel bad I only gave it a weekend so many years back!

  • Reply
    cristina
    April 22, 2017 at 5:01 am

    I can really relate to this. I have very similar feelings but I’m only 21 haha. Just feel like setteling down and be with my husband and of course a lot of travel too but not that extreme. Lately I’ve really been hating moving from one spot to another, I just hate the luggage thing. Always carrying a heavy backpack, not that nice ahah.
    Good post.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 22, 2017 at 2:23 pm

      UGH, yeah, the heavy backpack is really what gets me! I’m so exhausted of constantly carrying and repacking that damn thing. There is definitely something to be said about settling down — or at least unpacking, haha!

  • Reply
    Laura
    April 22, 2017 at 6:33 am

    I completely get this! When I was backpacking I was on the move every few days and it’s exhausting. Know I’m older the way I travel is changing. The thought of spending months on end in hostels now knackers me out, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t stay in them ever again. I’m just too much of an old lady to keep up! It’s so important to know when to stop and make changes when we need to.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 22, 2017 at 2:27 pm

      Yeah, I feel exactly the same, Laura! I don’t mind staying in hostels, really, but just the life of moving every other day and living in them for months on end has gotten to me. Old lady pride! <3

  • Reply
    Charmaine
    April 22, 2017 at 7:14 am

    I totally get it. That is why i try to work abroad for at least one school year so I have a base to move around. Good on you for realizing what’s going on and when enough is enough. It’s a tiring journey to be on the road! Even for me I’m tired of language and cultural shock right now. Good luck !

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 22, 2017 at 2:29 pm

      I was thinking of doing that (was planning on teaching in Korea) but I decided to do some traveling first. But when I think I’m ready to slow down for a bit, I think teaching abroad will be a good way to catch my breath and dive into a culture — while also buffering that bank account! But yea, the language and culture shock is real, and exhausting! Where are you based?

  • Reply
    Rebecca
    April 22, 2017 at 7:30 am

    Really well written piece. I love how honest you are as so many blog posts about travel make it seem as if it’s one constant fairy tale, and if you start to feel that that’s not your experience, you think there’s something wrong with you.
    I now do as you’ve suggested: base myself Ina country I love (in Europe) and travel there periodically, plus enjoy bouts of going home to the UK and smaller trips.
    But I love having a base with people I know and love. Plus: there’s a lot to be said for having a solid foundation.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 22, 2017 at 2:33 pm

      Thanks so much Rebecca – that’s exactly what I was going for. Sometimes I (irrationally) feel so lucky that I’m able to travel full-time that I shouldn’t complain about it, but I think you’re right. I read so many blog pieces about how solo travel will be amazing, how you’ll never be lonely, etc. and while I definitely agree with some of it, it’s more complex than that. It always is 🙂
      I’m so glad you and other people have had luck with basing yourself somewhere and traveling around there. There are some visa things I have to work out eventually if I want to make some place in Europe my full-time home. But I’m excited to give it a try!

  • Reply
    Jill at Reading the Book
    April 22, 2017 at 10:45 am

    Hi Allison! I love that you’re working out how to travel YOUR way. We’re all so different and it’s so easy to get swept along by what we “should” be doing rather than what’s right for us! Have fun exploring the world in the way that makes you happy!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 22, 2017 at 2:34 pm

      Yes, definitely! FOMO is real and it can really ruin your travels. I need to stop getting roped along by maps and wishlists and checklists and start listening to myself more 🙂 Thanks Jill <3

  • Reply
    Sarah Kohl
    April 22, 2017 at 11:36 am

    I know exactly how you feel. I quit my job after an exceptional trip to Asia thinking I would join the backpackers of the world and find a better life. Turns out, having a home base and traveling to destinations on holiday is somewhat more enjoyable for me. I think you’ll be happy with this new change in your life and it certainly doesn’t prohibit you from being a travel blogger!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 22, 2017 at 2:37 pm

      Yay, it’s not just me! I definitely think a home base in a foreign country with frequent travel will be the sweet spot for me. I have one big backpacking trip in the works that I’d like to do in 2018 but aside from that – I definitely want more stability in my travels.

  • Reply
    Meg
    April 22, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    You do you, Allison! Nothing will be gained by judging your travels by another person’s yardstick. Glad to hear you have worked out a travel balance that will keep you happiest.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 22, 2017 at 3:57 pm

      Thanks for the support, Meg! <3 I totally agree - no point in measuring myself against others, what matters is that I'm content! 🙂

  • Reply
    Sarah
    April 22, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    Ahhh when I was reading this I honestly felt like I could have been reading my own diary. I managed four months of full-time travel before I couldn’t hack it any more and needed some stability. Can definitely relate to that initial excitment for new adventures drying up over time and the pressure to always be present is so tough, especially when you have such limited time to get to know people and make first impressions. Hope you find what you’re looking for in Bali – it sounds like it’s the perfect place to root yourself for a while.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 23, 2017 at 2:23 am

      That’s so nice of you to say, glad you could relate to this post. At first I felt it was only me who didn’t think the life was as amazing as I first expected it to be. I feel like I can really see it in my blog posts — I had so much to say about Nicaragua, Belize, and Cuba and now that I’m sitting down to write about Guatemala I have like nothing to say because I didn’t experience it as fully as I would have if I had had more energy. Totally understand on the pressure to be present thing – I’m a very dreamy, in-my-own-head kind of personality, and it frustrates me when I don’t get my daily dose of internal monologuing, LOL. I hope so too — I think it’s going to do me wonders <3

  • Reply
    Alyson
    April 23, 2017 at 6:16 am

    We’ve been backpacking full time for 4 years. And I’m 50. Just saying……..
    I love it, it’s our favourite way to go, but we do avoid gap year kids and almost never stay in hostels.
    We’ve also developed a base in Romania where we can ditch the stuff and take breaks, we sat out all of last winter there, skiing and working. That gives us a nice balance. It’s in my blood, part of me, I just have to keep on exploring. Hi from Egypt 🙂

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 24, 2017 at 3:50 am

      Oh wow, props to you! I think the key is that you have your base in Romania where you can take breaks and drop off stuff. I hate always having basically everything I own on my person at all times! That alone gets so tiring 🙂 Plus, traveling alone all the time can definitely get inside your head! Egypt sounds amazing, I hope you are enjoying it!! <3

  • Reply
    Steph
    April 23, 2017 at 8:49 am

    “But most of all, I want to know where the fuck my phone charger is for a change.” – haha, yes this.

    Your plans for the rest of the year sound great. I don’t have the energy for anything other than really slow travel. Last year I rocked up in Athens and ended up staying for 8 months. I reckon 3 months is the sweet spot for me.

    And I totally think you should take your onesie.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 24, 2017 at 3:52 am

      So glad you feel me on the phone charger – I always get SO irrationally angry every time I rifle through my bag . looking for it! 8 months in Athens sounds incredible. I really want to visit Greece for a longer time – I spent a week in Corfu last year and loved it. 3 months sounds like a long time to me, but I guess that once you settle in, time ends up going really quickly!

      And honestly? I think the onesie may just have to come with me on my next trip!! I love it too much to leave it behind!

  • Reply
    Nicole Arnott
    April 24, 2017 at 4:19 am

    Love this, Allison! I’m heading to Central America on a long trip with my boyfriend soon but, after spending 2 months at home with our families, I’m craving the comfort and stability of home. I really want to stay somewhere for a month and travel for 2 weeks, rather than backpack in the traditional sense to find a sweet spot in the middle!

    I love that you almost brought your onesie- I wore mine almost everyday when I was back home in the UK!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 24, 2017 at 4:22 pm

      Thanks, Nicole! You and your boyfriend are going to LOVE Central America. I want to throw Antigua and Granada’s names into the ring for places to stay for a month — both are lovely (though Antigua is a bit expensive) and fairly central locations. Nicaragua is definitely easier to travel around because distances are much shorter. I think you have the right idea and it’s good to listen to what your heart wants and needs! And yay, a fellow onesie club member!! <3 Please bring yours to rectify the fact that I callously left mine behind, haha 😀 Although Central America is so hot you probably won't need it!

  • Reply
    Wendy
    April 25, 2017 at 8:48 am

    Allthough I was never the backpacking type, I think it’s age-related. The older you get the more comfortable you want tot travel.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 25, 2017 at 2:50 pm

      See, that’s not quite it for me. I don’t mind riding crappy buses or staying in cramped guesthouses…. it’s more the constant socializing that really exhausts me. But I definitely love a bit of luxury when I travel — who doesn’t?!

  • Reply
    Eva
    April 28, 2017 at 8:59 am

    I totally understand this. I am a few 😉 years older than you, and I get tired of backpacking just thinking about it. My last trips have been completely different (horse riding, hiking in the desert, etc.), but I am considering going on a longer trip next year, so I am quite anxious to see how that goes.
    I have met Janet way back in 2009 in Ireland and have followed her blog since and came across yours when you guys met last year and she mentioned you on her social media.
    I live in Nuremberg, and I believe there are cheap flights from Budapest, so if you want to visit for a few days, I’d be happy to lend you my couch :-). Also, Budapest has been on my bucket list for years, maybe this year I will make it there, maybe we can meet up?
    Anyway, love your blog, especially the honesty about the not so pretty sides of traveling long-term.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 29, 2017 at 4:49 am

      Those trips all sound really amazing, especially hiking in the desert! I wish you good luck with your longer trip next year and all the energy in the world 😛 It takes a lot of out of you but there’s no denying it’s the best way to see a lot on a budget.
      So funny to hear your and Janet’s story! I’m actually with her in NY right now and I made her read this comment, ha 🙂 I would love to visit Nuremberg from Budapest, and I’ll definitely keep an eye on cheap flights! The same goes for you if you find yourself in Budapest at last! And thanks for the sweet compliments, it’s much appreciated!!

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