One of the most iconic sights in the United States is the Golden Gate bridge. I was finally in San Francisco. Years of looking longingly at the photos and wanting to see it in real life. After a bit of research, it sounded like a city I’d love to explore. Trams and hills with beaches and bays. Great food, good bars and different neighbourhoods. The only problem was I couldn’t stay awake.
I’ve been thinking about how to explain this for a few months. I don’t want it to sound like I’m being ungrateful at any point because that is far from the truth. It’s been quite a hectic period. 2016 was a rollercoaster ride of many amazing experiences but it left me feeling exhausted. I don’t mean ‘I need to have a good nights sleep’ tired, I mean ‘I need to change something quickly before I burnout’ exhausted. This has been an important lesson on how not to balance my life and I’m glad it all happened the way it did.
I was a bit stressed out lying on the bed in San Francisco. I counted the hours until I needed to board a bus headed inland. Not enough time. There was never enough time. I should be out Instagramming a drink in a cool bar or going to one of the best lookout points in the city. When was sunset? Could I catch a tram somewhere to go live on Facebook as the sun went down then go to a nearby bar for a cocktail. An Instagram worthy cocktail made by a mixologist, of course. Who the hell had I turned into? Why was I doing this to myself?
The truth was I had made this trip bigger and more complicated than it needed to be. I was also feeling some pressures to look a certain way or post specific things that weren’t very authentic. I had a few situations online where I had pretty mean comments and one where I got totally trolled. I was blamed for things other travellers had done, judged for how genuine my reviews were and even blamed for supporting the torture of Tibetans by previously visiting the country. These comments and online situations can really knock your confidence. A culmination of all of the pressure I was getting to do this perfectly and pressure I was putting on myself started to strain.
I had contacted Visit California and was already doing a press trip with Tuolumne County so maybe I could make it some epic journey. I was trying to do California with no car for a start! The verdict on that is, its definitely not easy. I thought I could promote public transport, national parks, historic areas and do some hiking whilst simultaneously having a relaxing, back to nature, sipping cocktails in a hot tub type holiday. Who was I kidding?!
I didn’t get to see San Fran that day but I was lucky enough to go back for two nights after I went on my press trip. I had a great time exploring historic state parks and Yosemite but it would have been easier and less stressful without me building it up to something so difficult. I had scheduled social media several times per day and hosted a Twitter chat from the tourism boards account. Every photo was taken carefully and for most of my time, I was at work.
I can’t complain. Each experience and opportunity was what bloggers dream of and I was getting them by the truck load. This wasn’t what I started travelling for. It wasn’t why I started a travel blog. I’d completely lost sight of what I was really doing. I needed to strip it all back to basics again.
What changes did I make?
As 2016 ended and 2017 started, I decided not to do any press trips or paid hotel stays for the first half of this year. Its been a good decision and the anxiety has lessened. I am back to exploring my home region and telling others about the North East of England.
Endlessly grabbing airplane food, snacks on the go or a buffet breakfast in a hotel to last all day is not a good diet. I really haven’t been eating very healthy and I can feel it in clothes that are too tight and also general health and fitness levels.
I’m starting to get better with this one. I’m working on it every day. Walking and my Fitbit birthday present was the beginning. I also had a car crash recently and its meant I have to walk more. I’m adding veggies into my meal and preparing as much as possible for work lunches when I’m at home. This is a great money saver and keeps me eating healthy. When I’m overseas, I’m looking up places that serve whole foods and less fast foods. Its been an adjustment but I’m changing the way my lifestyle is with travel so my eating has to adjust too.
My 9-5 job stepped up a gear or five! More travel and more responsibility was the challenge I had wanted for a long time. I had asked for it and somehow it had started to happen. The mixture of elation, relief and dread was interesting to say the least. What if I fell flat on my face and couldn’t do it? What if I did a rubbish job and had to re-think what my strengths were, and for the hundredth time change jobs?
I was winging it a bit and each new business trip or new task was intimidating. I was over-thinking each aspect of the job and worry or not, I was out there. Turns out, I really loved it. As I found my confidence and started to work it all out, I knew it felt right. Networking, speaking to great students, building business relationships. It was something I didn’t realise I could already do. I had doubted myself for a while but I was getting good feedback. I still worry and have to ask a million questions but I’m gaining skills and understanding the job more each day. Finally, I feel challenged and like I’m in the right place in my career.
Blogging was going so well that I started having trouble keeping up. Too many press trip offers, hotel reviews, restaurant reviews and freebies galore. Great right? Yes, of course. If I’m being honest here, its also pretty stressful.
Do I give up blogging? It was a very sad feeling when I had to ask myself that question. I had wanted to write and loved travel for over a decade. Just as it was sky-rocketing, I was contemplating giving up. I don’t want it to sound like the first hurdle was tough and so I just rolled over and had a crisis. I was still going. Months and months of travel and writing and more travel and social media. No breaks. I was coming home from my 9-5 job and starting my blog work. Weekends weren’t for rest, they were for the next event or mini break or just a chance to catch up on blog posts and twitter.
Holding my press pass, I felt quite proud. I’d built this through hours of hard work. I knew it couldn’t continue the same way but I wanted to be happy for what I had achieved in the three years since starting. By the end of September, when the stats were all in, the #PTTravel community I was leading on Twitter was reaching 1 million users per month. Huge achievements and I was very grateful. I will always write and travel and I’m committed to a part-time travel lifestyle. I just need to find my balance.
From NYE in Switzerland to see in 2016, to NYE in Iceland to see in this year, I had done far more travel than I expected. I felt like this was not the part-time travel lifestyle I was going for and promoting. I’d said yes to everything that came along because I was worried I would miss an opportunity.
San Francisco was the point I knew I needed to slow down. So as I sit here, I have since turned down opportunities in the Maldives, trekking in Russia, exploring more of India, Africa and going to Albania. I have said no to several opportunities with companies and travel brands due to blogger burnout. I’ve asked to stay on mailing lists and I will get back to doing some blog work in the next few months. I have learnt to say no and to choose the work I do carefully for the travel blog side.
There is so much work out there when you are passionate about travel and writing/promoting. Opportunities still come in so I can choose which ones I say yes to now. I don’t need to be so anxious that it will end if I say no to one. I will start choosing trips and brands that are good for me and who I really believe in. I’m lucky to have worked with a lot already but don’t need to do the same volume as last year. I would like to be an ambassador for certain places each year and concentrate on those two/three areas instead of going to lots of countries.
Finding My Balance
I’m working on this but have made some good changes in the past six months.
I’m very passionate that real part-time travel can help me to balance and I am happy to promote this to others as a lifestyle.
I think self care, eating healthy and a bit of regular exercise can help with lowering my anxiety, stress and keeping myself in a good physical and mental state. Meditation, quiet time and some rest days are all part of my new routine.
Saying no sometimes helps me to make the best choices and ignoring some of the online negativity is also very important. I choose to look for positives and learn from mistakes.
How do you find your balance? Have you ever taken on too much? Do you like to travel or explore on weekends as a part of your lifestyle?