Sunday, September 25th, 2016

And Then It Went to Hell in Bulgaria

206

Veliko Tarnovo

Professional travel bloggers don’t talk about the dark times. Not the genuinely dark times.

We have the lives that people dream about. We quit to our 9-5 jobs and went off to travel the world indefinitely with the express purpose of living awesomely.

Whenever you see an account of negative times while traveling from a travel blogger, it’s usually packaged under the guise of entertainment — a cutesy, self-deprecating form of look what’s happened to me now! I’m relatable!

I know I’m guilty of it.

But those are the bad times that can be packaged into entertainment. The TRUE dark times? The times when you feel that it’s so hard to dredge up a shred of happiness, the darkness that you hide so well from the world? Not so much.

There are very few long-term travelers who can convey any kind of darkness well. One is my friend Wes, and I wish that more people did.

So it might as well be me.

Let me tell you about Bulgaria.

I wanted to visit Bulgaria. I wanted to see as much of the country as I could. But by the time I actually arrived, I know I hadn’t planned my trip well.

My two-week trip taking in Macedonia, Kosovo, Bulgaria and a night in Romania was overly ambitious. I wanted to visit as many destinations as humanly possible, despite resolving to slow down.

Two nights in Ohrid, two in Bitola, one in Skopje, one in Pristina, another in Skopje, and one night in Sofia, Bulgaria. Four nights remained before I would have to get to Romania for my flight out of Bucharest, and I didn’t want to keep packing up and moving each day.

After some consideration, I axed the Bulgarian destinations of Plovdiv, Varna, and Rila Monastery, deciding to head straight to Veliko Tarnovo and spend four nights there, working solidly the whole time. Yes, it was July, and I had been warned about Bulgaria’s searing summer heat from my friend Amanda, but wouldn’t heading into the mountains keep things at a reasonable temperature?

Not quite.

Temperatures were north of 100 degrees (38 C) — and on top of that, Veliko Tarnovo is entirely made of hills steeper than anything I’ve seen in San Francisco. Did I mention that I was staying in a hostel at the very bottom of all these hills?

In other words, it was awful. I desperately needed to work from morning to night on my biggest, most intense workload to date, with several projects due within a week, and I couldn’t find anywhere in town that had both working wifi and air conditioning. Each day, I roasted in various cafes, mopping up my dripping face with a towel as I typed incessantly.

Meanwhile, I got attacked by mosquitos in the two worst places possible — my face and on the soles of my feet. For weeks after, it looked like I had a face full of blotchy acne and I would wake up covered in sweat and dried blood from sleep-scratching my entire body.

Veliko Tarnovo

Learning From My Mistakes

If you read nothing else in this post, remember this: Macedonia-Kosovo-Albania makes much more sense for a two-week trip than Macedonia-Kosovo-Bulgaria. It’s a much better fit culturally, geographically, even linguistically. The routes are easier; driving distances are shorter.

I should have done that instead, and saved Bulgaria for another trip. One taking place in the spring or the fall.

But that’s okay. You live, you learn.

The Truth About My Lifestyle

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a post called The Reality of Being a Professional Travel Blogger. It got a lot of attention, and it’s worth a read if you haven’t seen it yet.

In the past year and a half, much has changed — as I predicted, professional travel bloggers, myself included, are now often getting paid for press trips — but most of the items on that list have remained the same.

I never forget how fortunate I am — being born healthy in the United States with a loving and encouraging family is the equivalent of winning the global lottery — and I am thankful each day that I have been born into these circumstances.

However, it irks me when people tell me how lucky I am to be a travel blogger because my career and location-independent lifestyle are borne entirely of hard work. The reason why I’m here today — not to mention one of few full-time travel bloggers who doesn’t live in the developing world — is because I never stop working.

And it is SO HARD.

Veliko Tarnovo

On Freelancing

I’m very happy that my freelance writing opportunities have increased so much in the past year. Getting a quirky little essay of mine published in The Boston Globe? Unexpected, and a springboard to so much more.

But freelancing is one thing — actually getting paid on time is something else.

Imagine spending several weeks on a major project, working 80-hour weeks and doing hardly anything else (when the posting here is light, that’s usually the reason) — and finding out that your expected payment, a payment that will amount to more than $1,000 and that will be a very welcome (and needed) addition to your bank account, will be delayed by weeks or possibly even months.

And yes, you have a contract stipulating your date and method of payment, but your client can’t pay you on time because they are stuck in endless bureaucracy that is out of their control. Contract or not, the money you’ve earned doesn’t exist yet, and whether it’s right or wrong, it won’t be appearing in your bank account.

What happens when a client informs you that for some reason your bank won’t allow them to do a transfer, and they can’t pay you via Paypal, either?

What happens when another client has a project that you could do perfectly but it needs to be done IMMEDIATELY and you will need to cancel your plans and work the next two days in order to get it done, and you could say no, but they’ll just give it to someone else?

What happens when yet another client says they massively overspent their marketing budget for the quarter and though you’ve already sent them your work, they can’t pay you until the next quarter begins?

And yes, theoretically you could hire a lawyer to chase them down and honor the terms of the contract, but chances are that your contact within the company has his or her hands tied, and your contact’s boss is stuck, and your contact’s boss’s boss is stuck as well. The budget is decided by the highest-ranking people in the company and there is nothing that can be done until they free up that money. Literally. Nothing.

You don’t want to know how often this happens to me.

Veliko Tarnovo

On Quality Work

When I first visited Paris at the age of 16, I fell in love with Montmartre and, along with my classmates, immediately got my portrait drawn at Place Tertre. We were quickly swindled by lackluster artists and soon discovered that there was a lady who was a gifted artist, drawing gorgeous portraits. She was, however, much more expensive than the roving sketchers, and I didn’t understand that.

“Is it possible that you could do it for 20 euros?” I asked the lady in French. “Because 20 euros is what many artists here say.”

“That may be, but my work is worth more than that,” she replied.

I stared at her — in shock, then in admiration. That was incredibly audacious of her — yet it made total sense. Her work was so good, she could get away with charging more. She deserved more.

I bring this story up because every day of my life, I’m emailed by different companies that want me to do work for them — writing, consulting, promotion — for free or ridiculously low payments. I tell them what that artist in Paris told me — that they can find people who charge less for their work, but if they want my excellent work, they’re going to have to pay me what it’s worth.

Or they could choose to pay less to work with a blog that functions as little more than a content farm of poorly written sponsored guest posts to an audience a fraction of the size of mine.

These are major companies that do billions of dollars worth of business each year. A bank that many of you use. A credit card that a handful of you have in your wallet. A beverage that quite a few of you have sipped at some point in the last month.

And yet they choose the content farm almost every time. Because it’s cheaper.

There are lots of problems with this scenario — the fact that many companies don’t pay professional bloggers remotely close to what they pay professionals in other industries, the issue that newer bloggers have no idea what to charge and end up undercutting the rest of us. It’s not easily solved.

Veliko Tarnovo

On Introversion and Misanthropy

I’m an introvert. This does not mean that I’m socially inept or shy or misanthropic — it means that I require time by myself in order to reenergize. Spending extended time with other people wears me out, especially with people I don’t know well, and if I don’t get enough alone time, I get agitated.

Extroverts, by contrast, need to be around other people in order to reenergize and go crazy if they spend too much time alone. Most but not all of the travel bloggers that I know identify as introverts, despite what the pictures of the conferences and meetups look like!

I love my own company, and that’s why I’m a good solo traveler. In the past year or so, however, the work has been piling up to higher levels than ever before. The stakes are higher. I’ve been putting in far more hours, and I’m held to far more obligations.

Because of this, I’m spending a disproportionate amount of time chained to my computer as I travel the world. But instead of wanting to get away from the screen, the more time I spend there, the more time I need to spend there.

My zest for travel? It’s nowhere near the level that it used to be. I now judge locations on their wifi quality. (South Korea is FANTASTIC, by the way.)

At times, I don’t recognize myself. What happened to the girl who would always choose the party hostel for the express purpose of making friends? If I were traveling through Southeast Asia today, would I have made the same wonderful friends that I made three years ago? Probably not, and that makes me sad.

Nowadays, when someone at a hostel starts talking to me, I’m ashamed to say that I do everything I can to get away.

Veliko Tarnovo

On Relationships

I got engaged at the end of June. Since then, I have seen exactly one person that I knew pre-engagement (excluding online friends): Jane, who happened to show up at my hostel in, yes, Veliko Tarnovo. In true blogger fashion, we were sitting across from each other on our computers and didn’t notice for a good hour.

I showed her my ring. She told me she loved it. And it made my heart ache.

I’ve never dreamed of a princess wedding. My wedding will be determinedly offbeat and unusual. But there’s one bridal tradition that I always thought I’d have — revealing my engagement ring to a crowd of my friends and family and having them squeal over it.

That feeling really doesn’t transfer over Skype or Facebook. And I won’t see them for a long time. Sure, there are blogger friends that I’ve met and will continue to meet along the way, and it’s amazing that I get to run into them all over the world — but it’s not the same as having a core group that you see all the time.

I miss having friends that I see once a week or so, friends that I meet up with for coffee and dinners and drinks. I had that in London, but again…I miss my home friends.

This has been one of the harsher trade-offs for my lifestyle lately, and it’s something that I’ve been craving more and more. I haven’t been handling it as well as I did a year or two ago.

Veliko Tarnovo

This is not an easy lifestyle.

Every week, I receive between 5 and 20 emails from people telling me that they’re ready to try becoming a professional blogger.

Well, good luck. You’ll need it, and I’m not saying that sarcastically. Most people who think they can hack it end up quitting before they’ve been at it for a year, which is a big reason why most companies won’t work with new bloggers. How do they know that a new-ish blogger won’t be giving up in a few months?

Even if you think you can handle everything I’ve mentioned in this piece so far, you are starting fairly late in the game. It’s going to be a lot tougher for you than it was for me.

But it’s a lot more than that. It’s a question of whether you can handle the darkness that seeps in despite you living the life of your dreams.

Veliko Tarnovo Cat

Battling the Darkness

After battling the reality of long-term travel and entrepreneurship for weeks and months, the darkness will sink its claws in deeply. The joy that led me to this career has been harder and harder to harness.

It used to be that a compliment from a reader could make my week. Now? Well, now, you don’t want to know.

Bulgaria was capped off with the train ride from hell — seven hours in a sweltering train car even hotter than Veliko Tarnovo itself. I broke down and sobbed over everything — how hard it’s been lately, why it feels like nobody will take me seriously, how I miss everyone.

That was my lowest point in years.

Times like this will make me think that my unconventional life has run its course. Things like furnished apartments and shopping for cute clothes start to look far more appealing than they did years ago.

BUT.

When you weigh all that against the fact that I haven’t worked in an office for nearly three years, everything falls away.

Even the fact that I’ve visited 45 countries doesn’t hold a candle to the fact that I’m self-employed. That’s why I celebrate my I-quit-my-jobaversary (September 14, 2010), not my travelversary a month later.

This is SO worth it. Despite the difficult aspects of this lifestyle, the good times are so unbelievably good, but it’s been so long that I’ve forgotten how bleak the alternative is.

I cannot forget that. Not ever.

My current lifestyle is leaving a lot to be desired, though. Maybe that means I need to take time off from work (I haven’t taken any time off in 14 months); maybe that means I need to change my habits. Maybe I need to stop moving and stay still for awhile, though I don’t have more than two weeks anywhere until the end of October.

The darkness is seeping in, and I can’t let it take over my life.

Comments

206 Responses to “And Then It Went to Hell in Bulgaria”
  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m more of a healthy living blogger but I’m starting to do more work in the travel industry and I can see how a lot of these ‘small’ issues would end up snowballing into huge ones later on. Take care of yourself & take a break!!

  2. Ali says:

    I’m nowhere near where you are with blogging, but I’ve seen glimpses of what you’re talking about. I learned early on that being a professional blogger wasn’t really for me. I’ve been on a few good press trips, gotten several things sponsored (because of your TBU presentation!) and made a tiny amount of money through my blog. But I could already feel the weight of what that could all become if I continued to pursue it as a career. I think it’s great to do what you love, but sometimes that makes you not love it anymore. You have to somehow find the compromise – what can you do to earn money while keeping your self respect and still be able to enjoy your passions. Definitely DON’T let that darkness take over, it’s not worth it. (I’m sure you’ve heard about the blogger who just killed herself a few days ago. I didn’t know her at all, but I bawled at how sad the situation is. She couldn’t handle the darkness in her life.)

    As for your friends, I can relate. I have made a few friends in Germany, but no one close. I really miss my friends back in the US, and it’s hard to deal with sometimes. I did have them around when I got engaged, but even then I wasn’t ready to tell work that I was leaving, so for months I went into work without my ring and I had to pretend my life was still the same.

    Take time for yourself. As another introvert, I understand how important that is. Try to find time in your schedule to slow down and relax. And yes, take time off from working. It’s amazing what you’ve been able to build here, and I know how wonderful it is to not be working in some soul crushing office, but don’t let freelancing and blogging crush you too.

    Thanks for opening up and sharing with us. I hope you find some ways to get out of that darkness.

    • Thank you, Ali. I appreciate your kind words, and I’m so glad that my presentation helped you get some sweet blogging perks of your own.

      Other bloggers have talked more about keeping a separation between their blog and their career, blogging just for the fun of it again. How lovely that would be.

      And yes, I did hear about Anita’s passing, albeit not until after I had written this post. So incredibly sad.

  3. eemusings says:

    Oh Kate. It definitely sounds as if you need a break. I hope you find the time and space to recharge sooner rather than later.

    We are just over halfway through our own RTW trip and now in a bit of a slump (which sounds horribly ungrateful!), not helped by a whole lot of travel planning dramas over the past couple of weeks. Thank you for this post – it really resonated with me today.

  4. Bradley says:

    Awww, first world problems….

    I would suggest slowing down, take a break. Go to a cheap country and relax for a month. Your readership will not suffer and you could give some valuable posts on the pros of staying put in the same place for a while. I hope you feel better soon!

    • First world problems: getting down to $181 in your checking account with a $176 loan payment due next week because your clients are not paying you on time, breaching their contracts in the process and knowing that you can’t afford a lawyer to go after them.

  5. I’m glad you’re sharing the back side of writing and freelancing that so many people don’t seem to understand. It requires so much hustle and dependence upon things outside of your control — I don’t think people fully grasp that it’s not for the faint of heart. Nor do they understand that when they offer to do it for cheap or free, then they cheapen the whole writing and blogging industry.

    As far as your travel habits — don’t forget that your travel style is bound to change as you get older. In the past few years, I’ve traded party hostels and crashing on friends’ couches for B&Bs and even (gasp) nice hotels. Comfort and privacy has become more of a priority than crazy experiences. I still enjoy travel as much (if not more) and have no desire to change.

    Anyway, be sure to take care of yourself — you will do your best work when you feel your best.

    • It does, MG. And it doesn’t seem to be getting any better — though over time the assignments have been increasing in size and prestige and my reputation has been improving, I am still not immune to the ugly parts of freelancing — particularly the parts that involve GETTING PAID ON TIME. Sheesh.
      Do you know how much money I was owed up until yesterday? $9,461.05.

      Part of that was due to banks making mistakes, but most of that was due to circumstances completely out of my hands. I recovered about one third of that yesterday, to my great relief.

  6. Michelle says:

    I get so many emails from people thinking that they will get rich quick from blogging. They don’t think about the negatives, they just assume that it will work for them and they will make thousands in the first month!

  7. Naomi says:

    What a refreshingly honest post Kate. I think with blogs it is all too easy to mask up the problems and brush them to one side. However, despite what others might think, this sort of lifestyle is not always fun and games. It{s these sort of posts that I think is testament to your blogging success, keep up the hard work!

    • Thank you, Naomi. You’re certainly right — while bloggers have a right to share whatever they want, I think many people who talk about full-time travel blogging without bringing up the negative aspects are doing their readers an enormous disservice.

  8. *hug* It does sound like you need a break – I remember feeling exhausted just reading your initial travel plans this year, let alone all the work on top of it! I do admire you though, especially for continuing to see the positives 🙂

    Despite working in a different field, I can also completely relate to missing having a group – and your group – of friends to see all the time; it’d been nearly two years abroad and four years moving around constantly, and it finally hit me recently – to the extent that I actually came home from Italy last week, to be closer to everyone and figure everything out.

    I hope you feel better soon! 🙂

    • Good, Alex! I’m glad that you went after what would make you feel better, even if it was taking a flight to England. Hope things work out for you — and interested to see what you do next!

  9. Since my move to Hong Kong a month ago, I have blogged approximately 3 times. Before, in London, I was averaging 10-12 posts a month. The reason? I have been busy with my settling into my new job and life, yes, but really, it’s more about the fact that I have been taking the time to enjoy myself offline, not reporting every little detail or photographing every little experience I’ve having with the express purpose of posting about it on the blog. A full day goes by that I don’t check Facebook — I find I’m behind on all my friends’ albums and status, which is crazy because I was always so acutely aware of what my online friends were doing.

    I FEEL FABULOUS. Unplugging, stepping away from the computer, and focusing on the things and people around me has been so wonderful. I’ve barely thought about my blog and am just enjoying my new surroundings for what they are. I still miss my home friends after 7 years abroad but I am meeting new, cool people every day! While travel blogging is your career, it really might be nice for you to step back for a few weeks, even if it might make things a little lean financially for a short time. And slow down!!! Your hectic pace surely has something to do with your exhaustion! I recommend you come chill out with me in Hong Kong — I’m dying to show you what a cool place this is!! x

    p.s.: I miss our London coffee dates at the Fox & Ginger! Good times, my friend!

    • It sounds wonderful. I myself have been feeling less of a desire to Instagram as much as I usually do (until today, when I came upon about six different products Psy was endorsing…that will be a good collage).

      I miss our London coffee dates, too! And I can’t wait to see you in Hong Kong! Will be pushing it until the spring (I do not have the mental capacity to begin China at this time), but it will be glorious!

  10. Steph says:

    I think a lot of it IS a by product of being so busy with travel. The past few months I’ve also had more freelance work than ever before (in addition to the fast approaching wedding-eee), and it has been stressful but at least I’ve been planted pretty securely in one place where I can easily do my work and not worry about internet etc. I can’t really imagine doing the work I’m doing AND traveling every couple of days. Sadly that just doesn’t seem feasible as a lifestyle anymore. So I’m working more, traveling less, but I’m pretty at piece with it because when I DO travel, I can appreciate it more.

  11. I know where you’re coming from, Kate. Some of it’s called getting into your 30s, when there’s a natural urge to settle down and find a home base/comfort zone that will be there when all the dizzying travel ends.

    The tragic suicide of fellow blogger Anita Mac, who ironically wrote a travel-focused bucket list yet apparently took her own life after a broken love affair (http://traveldestinationbucketlist.com/2013/08/22/what-do-you-do-with-a-broken-heart/) reminds us all about the importance of finding balance in life even as we’re chasing our dreams. Such a loss…Anita was only 43.

    • I was so sad to hear about Anita. I didn’t know her personally, but she was a reader here and she seemed to touch many people’s lives through her own blog.

      Balance is key. So is mental health.

  12. Emily says:

    Maybe you should think about taking a break for a while? There are alternatives between traveling the world and spending all your days in an office. It sounds like you really need a year back in the states to see friends and family and see if you still have the love for traveling that you used to. I appreciate the lifestyle and it does take a tremendous amount of energy. I know I would be burnt out if I was doing what you’ve been doing for as long as you have! Good luck!

    • Yikes. A whole year in the States? I don’t think that’s quite what I need at this time (not least because after Mario comes home, he’ll be going back to work at the BBC in London). It is time to take a break, though. We’ll see what that will mean.

  13. Daisy Wong says:

    Thank you for showing your vulnerability, it is very courageous. I love that you shared about the darkness, sounds like you are seeing the darkness as a gift to you. Congrats on what you have accomplished so far. I hope to see you in Thailand.

    P.S- take a break and do nothing!!

    Daisy

  14. We once had a friend and fellow RVer who continued as a “full timer” into her eighties and long after she was widowed. When she died, we sent condolences to her family. Her daughter responded with a quote that seems somehow relevant to your blog. She said,” My mother was often by herself, but she was never ‘alone'”. Please do lot lose what made you chose the lifestyle. Although you presented an important and well written description of the dark side…I still prefer the more evanescent Kate.

  15. As a freelance writer who’s based in Asia, I’m guilty of prioritizing rest days and leisure travel more than work. My rate is such that I can afford to work only 10 hours a week and still be comfortably off. Slow down, otherwise, it’s burnout time. I don’t think you’d like to end up seeing traveling as “work.” 🙂

    • Yes, Aleah, that’s something that seems to never be mentioned by other full-time bloggers: the majority of them live in the developing world, often in places where you can live well on less than $1000 per month. That certainly takes off the pressure to earn and the pressure to work too hard.

  16. Georgia says:

    Kate, I’ve been reading your blog for a long time now and it’s horrible to hear that you’re going through such a tough time. As readers we only see the glossy, exciting and envy-inspiring side of your blogging, rather than what goes on behind the scenes.

    As a journalism grad I know all about the problem with getting paid for your work, it’s a total nightmare and completely unacceptable, but impossible to prevent. It’s just sad to know that you still struggle with it despite being a well-established travel personality.

    I hope you manage to take a step back and relax a little. Your readers will always be here for you, I don’t think we’re a fickle bunch, and we’d rather see you happy and healthy than burnt out.

    x

  17. alf says:

    You loved Macedonia and Montenegro as much as I did, I would have made a bet you would love Bulgaria as well. You definitely have to come back and enjoy it in a slower place, and with a better weather. Myself, I spent last August in Macedonia at well over 40 Celsius, but I braced up and enjoyed my time there, granted I did not have to work, though.

    And don’t cut out Plovdiv! Being a relatively unknown city in the mind of travellers in general, for me it was just a stopover between Sofia and Istanbul one year ago. I ended up finding a temporary job there and sticking around as long as my visa allowed. The pace of life, the friendly people, the good food and beer, the massive and dramatic landscapes (of which you seem to have seen a bit in Veliko Turnovo), this country passed from being just some place that was between countries I really wanted to visit, and became one of my favorites, and my favorite city was one I never even heard of until a couple months before arriving.

    Also, considering the countries that you have liked, you should try to go to Georgia as well.

    • You’re very right, Alf. I need to go back to Bulgaria and do it right. And Georgia has definitely been interesting me as well lately! Armenia, too…

      • Marie says:

        Next time you visit Bulgaria i recommend spring. An visit Plovdiv. Go up one of the hills that Plovdiv is build on at night time you will always see people with guitars. Plovdiv also has quite an alternative night life and foreigners usually appreciate it.

  18. Dana says:

    I can’t imagine how tough doing what you do is. I would never be able to be in constant motion like that. However, I will say that they grass isn’t always greener on the other side. As far as having a core group of friends that you hang out with weekly? Just because you live in one place (and even if you live in the place where you grew up where all of your friends live around you) it doesn’t mean you will see your friends that often. It’s part of getting older. Seems like all of my friends are so busy that I never see any one of them more than once a month. I try all the time to get together with my friends but they’re always doing something else or just straight up don’t respond to my invites. In fact, I only had 4 friends show up to my bachelorette party earlier this year…

    Anyways, I just comment to say that I know what you do is difficult but the things you would give it up for might not be how you expect. If your passion is still in traveling, I’d say stick with it!

    • Oh, you’re very right about that. I don’t mean the whole group getting together — I just mean seeing a few different friends each week, either for a coffee or a drink or a meetup somewhere. That’d be nice. 🙂 You make a very good point. Thank you, Dana.

  19. Clazz says:

    What an honest post, Kate! I’ve always been an aspiring journalist, and with my extensive plans to travel, I’ve given travel blogging serious consideration. However, I knew from the start that to keep myself on the road would require a lot of work and really, it pisses me off that people think, ‘this would be awesome, I think I’ll start a travel blog to fund everything’. No. It doesn’t work like that, you do a hell of a lot of work outside of the blog itself, and you don’t have to be in the industry to realise that, but people will always have their pipe dreams, eh? Your post here has identified everything that I’ve wondered about with regards to it (not to mention how competitive the industry is). What would worry me most is losing the passion to travel; feeling like I’m doing things because I have to, and most of all having expectations from other people, let alone myself.

    I definitely agree with everyone else that you need a break, whether you slow it down in a cheap place in Asia, or head back home for a while soon. Please take care of yourself! 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Chazz! I think you have a good viewpoint of it. This is not an easy career path for anyone, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone attempt it unless they’re willing to make it their full-time existence. Anything less than that won’t cut it.

  20. Kerry says:

    Kate, I am so sorry to hear you’re feeling this way right now. You’re absolutely right that freelance writing is more difficult than people imagine, and I bet you’ve internalised a little bit of that too, like, “why do I feel so tired and sad when I’m living the dream?” I totally do that: “I’m living in London! with a great job and husband! why am I grumpy?” Well, it’s because I’ve still got to eat and make time for myself and friends and do the dishes and put out good work and worry about money just like everyone else on the planet! Dreams can be just as much hard work as the rest of the world and it’s not easy to remember that when you keep telling yourself how lucky you have it. And…we are lucky…but lucky doesn’t mean you stop needing sleep or peace or good food or anything else.

    It’s all right to take some downtime for yourself, even if it means a little less income, even if it’s just two full days of doing nothing for anybody but you.

    I know things will get better for you and I hope it’s sooner rather than later.

  21. This is refreshing to read Kate. Thanks for being so candid and open, I agree that your fans would rather see you happy, so do whatever it is that you need to make yourself happy…even if that means eventually becoming only semi-nomadic.

    Best of luck!
    Christina

  22. Jocelyne says:

    Wow Kate, it takes a lot of guts to show the world (or your readership) that kind of raw and powerful emotions. Especially emotions that most people ignore or don’t want to deal with. I think we all go through a dark period in our lives. Some last longet than others. I can tell you one thing- hearing you say you have these times- you a famous travelling blogger with everything going for her- makes me realize that these feelings can truly happen to anyone. Owning up to them, facing them down and confronting these difficult emotions are what will get you through. don’t forget to ask for help (call your friends from home!!) and know that everyobody goes through this! Thanks for sharing Kate and yes please always remember how tiresome and long office jobs can be (I write this as I sit at my windowless desk….).

    Keep going girl! You got this 😉

  23. Karine says:

    Kate, your life is evolving to something more powerful. Don’T be afraid of what’s going on; experience the feeling and let it go. After that, you’ll feel re-energized! Take care of yourself. {HUG}

  24. Shannon says:

    Kate – This post makes me want to come give you a big hug and split a bottle of wine. You touched on so many good points that I also relate to, especially the “quality over quantity”, valuing yourself and pricing your work accordingly, and what you want changing over time.

    I think it’s natural for your travel style (or food/life/art/insert your passion here) naturally evolves over time and with the changes happening in your life. You’re a different person now than you were when you set out for Southeast Asia nearly three years ago, and that’s a good thing! I hope you can find time to relax and recharge and figure out what the next best step will be. I always love reading about your adventures, I am sure no matter what is next will be wonderful. Sometimes the adventures in life are less about where and turn into “who”. 🙂

    We miss you and I hope we get to see you and meet Mario in person once you’re back stateside!

    • Shannon, what I’d give for a hug and a bottle of wine and a cuddle from your little gal! As a photographer, I know you feel the pain of being undervalued and undercut by people who don’t know better.

      Thank you for your kind words and we will definitely see you when we return to the NYC area in the spring.

  25. Katie says:

    This took guts to write. So refreshingly honest that I teared up
    Take a break if at all possible. I really hope that you feel better soon.

    X

  26. Mario says:

    Hello Kate. How come you describe one whole country as hell just because you dont liked the wifi and you could not find a proper place with air conditioning? Are you serious? Are you aware how many people will believe your subjective perception and when they hear Bulgaria they will say “crap, its hell up in there, no reason to visit this place”? You are annoyed by mosquitos and walking across hills and no airconditioning and you call yourself a traveler? adventurer? Cmon… You dont even gave yourself time to explore the many wonders of Bulgaria and you write this topic and tell the people Bulgaria is hell? Seriously, as а Bulgarian i was really affected by this article. One of many dislikes from me girl 😐

    • Helen says:

      Hey Mario,

      I really don’t think Kate was saying Bulgaria was awful, just that is how she felt when she was there – tired, overworked, crazy deadlines etc. I wouldn’t take it as a slight on your country in any way.

      Bulgaria still looks pretty great, and this wouldn’t put me off. I just would maybe not take a ton of work to do whilst I’m there.

      Helen

      • CB says:

        Mario,

        I’m a pretty strong woman but I must tell you that if there are 3 things on this planet that will cause me to unravel they are:

        1. mosquitoes
        2. extreme heat (85 degrees F (30 C) here today had me RUNNING home to the air conditioner.)
        3. humidity

        People from cold climates generally do not do as well in the heat as people who live in warm climates.

        I consider myself a real traveler but I’m a human being, too. My son studies on the patio in the depths of winter (i.e. snow on the ground) in a T shirt. He also cannot handle high heat.

    • Martin says:

      Good on you Mario. I read this from a tweet and nearly balked. No WIFI?! No aircon?! Etc how the heck does one survive. How do guide book writers manage? How do pro anythings survive in remote locations, with deadlines etc. Answer is they do. And have done for decades. As i said I balked reading this. There’s little about being a pro here. Sign up for some tours, life will be easier and no one will know.

      • Considering that Lonely Planet just laid off the majority of their guidebook writers, there are a lot fewer of them managing these days.

        But considering how tough you are, Martin, I’d like to stick you in a 100-degree room with a deadline for the biggest project of your life moved up three weeks because your client misjudged the amount of time they need, giving you four days to complete what you expected to take at least two weeks, and I’d like to see how well you do.

    • Mario, if “Bulgaria is hell” is the conclusion you drew from this post, you clearly didn’t understand it very well.

  27. Sherri says:

    thanks for this ! as a women we all understand. Maybe not the “i travel the world as my job’ part but the ‘leave me alone i want to cry and what happened to me ? ‘ part. Life if full of peeks and valleys. And honestly, sometimes when I read your posts (Which I love) I get tired myself…so much running around. I read your blog because I love seeing where you travel and in reading your blog we learn that we like you too, and that’s why we come back to reading from a personal blog Vs a companies travel site…the personal connection. So now that the connection is made I would love to read your follow up blogs about meeting with all your friends after a long summer and sharing their crazy stories about their crazy family trips this summer OR a blog about a staycation in your home town OR the best place to take a nap!!!! . And also, I work from HOME and I just saw one of my best friends for the first time in 1.5 years…and she lives 40 min away! life…kids…jobs….boyfriend makes life busy it happens to the best of us. Stay true to yourself and I’m so glad I’ve gotten to know you…even if it is via blog!

    • Hahaha! This made me laugh, Sherri. BEST PLACES TO TAKE A NAP — coming soon!

      Thank you for your very kind words — I appreciate them greatly. When I write for my readers, I’m thinking of readers like you.

  28. M says:

    Thank you so much for your transparency, Kate. I wish you all the best in your future travels!

  29. Obviously I’m not a “successful” blogger because I’ve been doing it for over three years and maybe get 200 hits per day. But I still love – love — blogging. I don’t doubt that you put a lot of hard work into your blog, making it the success that it is today. Your writing is easy to read, you include great photos, and you open our eyes to places in the world that many of us will probably never see. That said, I think the solution to your problem is simpler than you might think:

    You just need to step back, breathe, and find the joy again.

    Find somewhere cheap to hole up – make plans for your wedding – look forward to that little town or city where you and Mario might want to settle for a while until the bug hits you again – go home and visit friends – stop worrying about growing bigger and better and making more money just for a little bit because you’re losing that wild thing that was making you love your life, and you’re turning it into a portable cubicle. And you don’t want a portable cubicle. 🙂

    • Thank you, Katie. This is great advice.

      I would like for us to be able to talk about wedding planning without inevitably talking about how much it’s going to cost us and how many years we are going to have to delay our wedding for that reason. Sigh. Already hugely stressful.

      You’re right. I don’t want a portable cubicle. I need to recover.

      • Okay quick (but totally related) side story: I wanted a destination wedding. Justin was cool with it. We talked to our respective immediate families and closest friends, and everyone said they’d be there. So I planned it – minimal cost because entertaining is just cheaper in certain countries. Of course, having a big formal affair didn’t concern me, and thank GOD we didn’t have Pinterest back in 2005. Then Justin’s parents told us they couldn’t afford to travel. So we balked. I cried. Then got to planning this big wedding in Omaha, Nebraska, so they wouldn’t have to go anywhere. Of course, once it moved local, a TON more people wanted to come and it just kind of blew up. My dad paid for a lot of it (we still swung it for a total of around 8K), but in the end, I was sorry we didn’t just buy his parents their tickets, which still would’ve been less expensive and much less of a thing people felt like they “had” to go to. Don’t get me wrong – we still had a blast and the wedding was beautiful, but if we had stuck to our guns and did what we wanted, it would’ve been a lot less stressful, cost a lot less money, and we would’ve gone into this partying it up with our very closest friends and family.

        I guess my point is that the planning will be as stressful as you make it. If you really want a huge party, by all means – go for it! But don’t make yourselves broke over it trying to put on a show. And of course you could always do something a little untraditional, like maybe requesting cash instead of gifts (especially if you two don’t have a home base), or contributions towards a honeymoon. It’s YOUR celebration – get creative and remember it should be FUN! Not stress.

        • Wow. I have seen that before — with people who think that having a backyard wedding will save them cash, only to learn that renting everything from chairs to porta potties ends up being far more expensive than hiring a normal venue!

          Thank you for this. I know that nearly all of my family members won’t be able to make the trip, and it’s important to note that just paying for their ticket will be cheaper than a Boston-area wedding.

          Mario is all for requesting cash (cash is traditional in Malta) but I put my foot down — we are NOT doing that. Maybe a honeymoon registry. 🙂 Thanks!

  30. Erin says:

    What a well written, brutally honest piece this is. Thank you for taking the time to write it and for showing the reality of travel blogging. It’s very hard to grasp the reality of the lifestyle of travel blogging when very few are so brutally honest. You have answered questions I’ve long had and helped open my eyes to the true life of a travel blogger/freelancer. Thank you!

  31. Alison Chino says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this Kate! I think it’s incredibly generous when professionals share more of the ins and outs of their work, as well as brave. Cheers to you for your willingness to be both of those. It’s a gift to us as readers and fellow bloggers for certain.

  32. Emily says:

    Some days I think I’d like to pick up and travel the world indefinitely as a blogger, but then you really put it into perspective. I really love your honesty, Kate! Maybe one day I will do some travel blogging, but for now I’m sticking with blogging about finding happiness, with travel as an important habit.

  33. Thank you for your brutal honesty Kate! It’s real refreshing amongst all the travel blogs I read. I literally only started up my blog weeks ago, but in no way do I have the intention of ever doing it professionally. I genuinely love blogging & I never want that to change or become work to me. Sounds like you need a breather though, take some time for yourself girl before you burn out 🙂 x

    • Thank you, Jacquie! I would LOVE to get a break soon…

      • Lana says:

        Dear Kate,

        I just stumbled across your blog today. I’d say serendipitously. I applaud your bravery and your honesty. The darkness, the aloneness and fear are all part of the human condition and not just a travel blogger’s. Many people like to hear the truth because we all share it. Most people don’t like to tell that truth because it makes us feel vulnerable and afraid that people won’t respect or love us anymore. While some may prefer your “effervescent” self, I am grateful for your authentic self.

        I have been a self-employed trial lawyer for 30 years who has always traveled mostly sola 2-3 months a year outside of United States (to try to ) maintain my well-being. It felt much more like a need than a luxury although most others didn’t see it that way. In 2013, I withdrew from or referred out almost every case and finally committed to fully live a Life Experiment. For years, I’d fantasized that I wanted to live in Italy. Despite my strong connections with brilliant, diverse, loving friends, and family here, I really wanted to leave the United States. I’ve always needed both passion and peace, wanderlust and a solid foundation, good times and just good-stories-later, and I thought I could maintain that balance while being away for extended periods. I flew only on a standby pass and spent about cumulative four months in Italy with a bit if other travel. I kept my home. The Italian gypsy-girl fantasy most assuredly did not equal the reality. The longer I was gone, I found myself feeling more disconnected from people whom I have known for so long and whom I adore. Yes, after so many years of developed friendships, I can return and we laugh and talk and resume, but it’s not the same as having someone to drink too much wine with and talk about men and family drama and all the rest, just because we need to hang together. Even my favorite country in the world, Italy, began to grate on me like a like a familiar, irritating companion. Her charming attributes became the flaws which I picked at like a bad sore.

        However, I consider the Experiment a grand success. Others would say that because at times I seemed even miserable, that it was a failure.

        What you have written resonates with me now. It seems that quieting yourself, getting centered again, having faith in yourself that you will be able to take care of yourself as you apparently always have, despite companies not paying as contracted, may be helpful. The next phase of your blogging and of your life will occur “as it is supposed to.” It seems that you’ve had a phase of grand adventures, blogging success, and marvelously, you found love. And by the way, I love the part about being able to sit together alone. I would say that your darkness is an exquisite gift. Elizabeth Lesser wrote a book, “Broken Open,” which opened my heart to this understanding. I hope that your sadness that you described some months ago has passed and that you have eased your way into a happier new place and phase.

        The only thing we can’t recover is our time. The money, your job, travels–there’s time for all that after you are well. I hope that you can get back your joy.

        I’ve kept detailed travel journals of 25 years, mostly about people, relationships along the way, and fortuitous spontaneous adventures. Data about famous sites, or who fought whom, when and where, holds little interest for me. I have contemplated incorporating these journals into a blog and perhaps a book. I am grateful for your emotional honesty, explanations about business pitfalls and opportunities, and, oh, yeah, your travel writing! Thank you for sharing your writing, especially the honest parts about how you feel as you journey through your life.

        I hope that this finds you feeling well, passionate and at peace. Lana

  34. It’s pretty common to be that overloaded as a freelancer, but as one that writes about their experience, I wonder how much you really *enjoy* where you are whilst you write your post about it – whilst thinking about a million other things you need to do? Do you really get time to enjoy all the countries you visit these days? I hope so otherwise 3 years out of an office actually means “3 years out of an office but 3 years in the office on the road”.

    Best of luck getting on top of your workload (there is always a light to the end of the tunnel!) and in getting paid. I always pay freelancers on time. There are some of us out there that do and when you find them – work for them more and forget the slow/non-payers.

    • I do have to point out that the state I was in Bulgaria was an extreme one — it seemed like every freelance assignment I had was due either on August 1 or 2, and one of the projects suddenly pushed up a deadline by three weeks, which really threw me into a bind. I was a mess then. It hasn’t been that bad since, though I have had some late nights before deadlines pass.

      I appreciate that you pay freelancers on time!! Um, are you hiring? (Not sure how much I’m kidding.)

  35. Helen says:

    I’ve only been blogging for a short time, so can’t completely understand, but having just started I know how much work it is. I work full time and also blog about my previous and current travels. Sometimes I’m so tired I can barely move and all I’ve done is stare at my computer all day. It’s very hard to switch off.

    Most of my writing has been retrospective. I often wonder what it would be like if I was blogging as I went full-time. Would I experience all of those crazy/carefree travel moments that I have done before? I hope so, so if I didn’t I’d be sad about that too.

    Nothing wrong with having one of those days when we feel like everything is crumbling around us, and being alone, far from home and under crazy deadlines will only make it worse.

    Hope you get to take a ‘holiday’ from your ‘holiday’ soon.

  36. Most of us go through black holes at one point or another. A travel friend suggested I read ‘The Inside Out Revolution’ by Michael Neill when I hit a low in the Philippines. I’m not so much into psychobabble but he had a really interesting take on perspective and how very little in life is real, it is just the importance, stress and meanings we apply to situations that create our emotions and reactions. Might be worth a look…together with some time on a beach…with the promise of a nice a/c room to go back to…

    I hope at the very least getting this down in words was cathartic.

  37. Emma Brookes says:

    I guess the old saying ‘You can have too much of a good thing’ is true. That is certainly how I felt when I got back from a six month travelling adventure. I love it, I really do. But I guess it’s like anything it becomes less amazing unless you come back to it with fresh eyes.

  38. Caz says:

    Great post, though a little terrifying to read as I sit here frozen to my desk and wondering if I should quit and run like you.

    Recently I’ve been thinking about the reason I started following your work – because you were a Solo Female Traveler, and that was what I needed to learn about specifically. As you evolved, became busier, more popular (and started travelling with your fiance) I started to wonder if you were still relevant to me, but your honesty in this post is so refreshing, and it reminds me why I love reading your work in the first place. Risk and reward.

    • Thank you, Caz, and I do hope you stick around. As much as I love my fiance, I’m always going to be traveling solo from time to time — just not all the time. Solo female traveler is a label I’m going to wear for life.

  39. Alouise says:

    Thank you for your honesty with this post. I think sometimes it can be easy for readers to assume travel bloggers have a perfect life, or are living the dream, but there are always negatives to any lifestyle and career. I think being honest to yourself and admitting you’re feeling a bit burned out is a good start, and I’m sure you’ll find the world and your readers will still be there if you slow down.

  40. Angela says:

    What a well written post!!!! I have been following you for a few months now and getting into blogging myself. I am truly inspired and in awe of the organization that goes behind the scenes. Especially because I am not a full time blogger, so I have time to catch up while I am not on the move. I am glad someone shared to true struggles of travel blogging or blogging in general.

  41. Geek Goddess says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for a year or so, and next month’s trip to Croatia was selected, in part, because of your posts and photography. I’m spending a week there, mostly in Istria.

    But I’m not envious of your life. I like my nest, my local friends. I’ve got a really good, well-paying job and lots of vacation time (not lucky, I worked in my industry for 30 years to get here). I’m more interested in going to one area and seeing it well, like 8 days based out of Avignon with a car and a map. I can see why you’re exhausted, and a bit burned out. I usually work when I’m traveling, but the travel isn’t my work. Also, I’m older than you -you’re my son’s age!

    I wish you well and hope you settle into your new direction.

  42. Such a wonderfully honest post. Thanks for sharing. Definitely sounds like you need (and have most certainly earned) a break! Traveling for work is still work, and everyone needs a holiday from work. I’m an expat on a Caribbean island at home in Canada on holidays, and people can’t understand how I need a holiday from the beach. Umm..well..I work 6 days a week 9 hours a day at that beach, I’m hot and sweaty 24/7, the bugs eat me alive and the water/power are shoddy and often out. I love it and wouldn’t trade it for my office job again….but it’s work, and everyone needs a holiday from work!

    • Indeed, Rika! I’m actually looking forward to one of my upcoming work gigs — returning to Bologna — because it will feel like a vacation! Being in a city I know well, close to restaurants I love, in an apartment where I’ll stay for two full weeks…

  43. Kevin says:

    The best post you’ve written in a while Kate. This one came from the heart, and I’m sure it hits home with a lot of your readers. Ironically, this story is more encouraging than any cutesy travel story of yours because it reminds me that you’re not a perfect travel machine; you’re a human just like me! As a newbie travel blogger, I’m so impressed with your candor here. Thank you for this post.

  44. Andrew says:

    Kate,
    First, congratulations on your website and travel blog. Remember, any career worth having is going to require a tremendous amount of work and long hours. Having trained as an oral surgeon (current OMS and novice travel blogger), I can recall those painful eighty hour work weeks in residency but it will pay off in the long run. Hard work is generally rewarded whether it be now or in the future. Second, in regards to people undercutting your value, welcome to capitalism and the business world. As more and more travel blogs appear, as with any business for that matter, competition will be fierce. There is always someone who will do your job for less money. That is what is great about a free economic society- there are opportunities for everyone. Third, I have noticed the so called ” long term wanderers” always eventually settle down and have a home base. It is natural. Despite the greatness of traveling to different places, its gets old moving from place to place. Home is where the heart is for a reason. It is nice to have a place where you have consistent people in your life – ie family, friends. Also, at some point, I think long term travel causes people to become immune to the actual beauty of a place they are visiting. How can you continually appreciate a place you are visiting if you visit so many places in such a short time?

  45. Priscilla says:

    Bravo! Considering one of our “own” committed suicide recently, always pay attention to the dark side.
    People who don’t do what we do forget that everywhere we go and neat every part if our day we are “working” – taking photos, thinking of angles, stories, marketing, writing proposals, editing, gathering content. Sometimes, we need to go “home” regroup and rest from the pace. No one can work and travel and travel and work exclusively…we have to live and be quiet sometimes!
    Take care!
    XO,
    Your travel mom and friend! 😉

    • Indeed, Priscilla. So sad to hear about Anita.

      I’ll be in touch with that dark side — things can easily spin out of control when you think you have a handle on things, as has been shown again and again.

  46. Vegemitevix says:

    Oh Kate, I completely get this. I know how you feel, yes I really do. Though I wasn’t blogging at the time many years ago I travelled alone for over a year after a difficult break up, until finally I really needed something that was a base. A home, if you like. I also understand about companies not paying what your work is worth, or promising you payment and not delivering. I too, have encountered this over the last twenty years of freelance/consultancy life. I know constant travelling sounds and even looks glamourous but isn’t very often so.

    I also understand the needing time to yourself to recharge, I’m like that also and go nuts if I cannot have that time alone.

    I wonder though whether you are concerned that stopping will mean that you are no longer a traveller?

    I have a theory on this. I believe it’s all about a spirit and way of approach not about your abode and how long you’ve been there for. The changes in your life – your engagement etc – are wonderful but they are still changes and change is itself confronting. Sometimes we need to change our approach, take a step back for a while to formulate a new plan for moving forward. Is there a chance you can stay put in one of the culturally ‘easier’ destinations in the near future? How about a few weeks in Far North Queensland together? Maybe that’s just not possible, but I really hope it is. Thinking of you. Vix x

    • Thank you so much, Vicky! I appreciate this, and it’s so nice to hear from someone who knows how hard it is.

      I think you might be right. North Queensland won’t be happening — our Oz time will be limited to the Northern Territory, Sydney, and Melbourne and then we’re off to Bangkok — but I think we’ll be taking time to unwind in Southeast Asia, where we’ll be for several months and where we can unwind on the cheap. 🙂 Thanks again!

  47. Charlotte says:

    Great post on what it’s like to be a professional travel blogger…I travel blog as a hobby but have always been curious about how the professionals do it, and this is one of the most honest accounts I’ve read.

  48. kathy says:

    North Queensland, no you don’t want to go there – floods, cyclones, snakes, blue ringed octopi, sharks…

    Come to Tasmania instead. Lots of great options for exploring and travel blogging. It’s quite a small place by mainland (standards) and we are coming into the best time of the year – spring and summer. It’s also the flavour of the month because of its burgeoining food & wine culture, big wave surfing and a a private museum called MONA. In January MONA FOMA (curated by Violent Femmes bass player Brian Ritchie) amazes and suprises us. Also cleanest air in the world.

    Here’s something to think about: http://www.mona.net.au/

    http://www.mofo.net.au/

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juIM8TdrTBw

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oH_SI3nseYM

  49. Teri says:

    Kate, I’ve often wondered how you did it all and always looked and sounded so bubbly and excited in your posts and photos. I was so happy for you and Mario, finding each other and your personalities melding so well. With the schedules you keep I would have been psycho by now.
    I have no advice for you because you figured it all out for yourself. Your post posed a problem and proposed a solution. Perfect. I have faith in you that you’ll get through the doldrums. Like so many other commenters (OMG there are loads – you are the most lovable blogger in the universe) what I really want is to give you a hug. The more I read your adventures and posts like this one, (love your answers to other travel bloggers questions too) the more I see what a truly experienced, interesting person you are and how that translates into us fitting into your suitcase and being there with you.
    Just follow your own advice and I know you’ll snap right back to the “light.”

  50. I respect you for opening up the way you did in this post. I think a lot of bloggers (especially new one’s like myself) need to hear this whether we want to or not. I know it’s easier said than done but hopefully you can find some sort of balance. Like you said, the good times are so good. Hang onto those. Don’t let the darkness take over. It’s not worth it!

    We definitely appreciate all of your hard work. Hopefully, you can start taking more time for yourself over these next few months. Traveling to 45 countries is great and all but if you don’t get the time to truly enjoy it.. what’s the point?

    Take care and happy travels 🙂

    • Oh, I think it’s critically important, Lauren. There are too many travel bloggers who give unrealistic expectations to new bloggers. It’s an extraordinarily difficult thing to do.

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