The Great Slowening or Why I’m Going to Take a Break From Traveling for a Few Months

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I’m taking this advice
I’m tired.

I am writing this in a hostel in London. My feet are sore, my back hurts and I still want to sleep after having slept for 10 hours. I’ve just finished the big World Travel Market show in London and I’m exhausted.

I’ve been to 35 countries and territories this year already. That includes a 12,000 mile road trip this summer which took almost 3 months. Last year I visited 44 countries.

I’ve now been traveling for 2,793 consecutive days. Over the last 7.5 years I’ve been to 175 countries and territories. Not only do I travel more than most people, I travel more than any other blogger or travel writer that I know of.

That isn’t a complaint. I’ve seen and done more during that time than many people do in their life. I’ve swam with sharks, bungee jumped and have had the pleasure to have taken amazing photos from all 7 continents. The decision to travel full time is probably the best decision I’ve ever made.

However, it hasn’t come without a cost.

I’ve reached a point where spending more than 2 nights under the same roof is something of a luxury. My health is suffering from the constant time zone changes, lack of sleep, and a diet consisting of mostly of junk food. I haven’t been to a dentist or doctor in years.

My personal life is almost non-existent. I’ve lost touch with most of my pre-travel friends. I haven’t been on anything resembling a date in over a decade.

I constantly pass on business opportunities and fail to execute on projects because my travel schedule gets in the way. I have an agent who has been waiting on a book proposal for over 4 years. The list of projects I’d like to start keeps getting longer, yet nothing ever gets started because I’m constantly moving. I have over two dozen unpublished blog posts sitting in WordPress that I’ve never bothered to publish.

I’ve talked about slowing down in the past, but I’ve never been able to do it. In fact, it has become a running joke amongst people I know because I’ve been saying this for years, but I keep on plowing ahead. I’ve compared my situation to that of an alcoholic at an open bar: I have countless opportunities to travel and visit new places, and it is very difficult for me to say ‘no’.

My current pace of travel is simply not sustainable and I’ve known that for a while now. I’ve been planning to slow down but it just never seems to happen.

This time, however, I’ve drawn a line in the sand.

The last few months I’ve been completing trips that I had already planned but I’ve made it a point to plan nothing after World Travel Market in London, which ends on Thursday. I’ve said no or been non-committal to everything and just haven’t pursued any travel opportunities in 2015. The last thing I’ve made plans for was at World Travel Market, and now that is done.

Outside of going to Haiti in February with G Adventures I have no future trips planned after today. Nothing.

My plan is to go to Girona, Spain after London and stay there for 2 months. I’ll be exploring the region, but I’ll be staying put and getting some work done. Here are some my goals I’d like to get started on or achieve during my hiatus.

  • My primary goal is to get my book proposal done. Once it is done we can take it around to publishers in January in New York. The benefits of letting the book stew in my head for so long is that I now have a very clear idea for what I way to say and I think it is something which there is a great deal of need for in the marketplace. I also have a much larger audience than I did 4 years ago and many more contancts to really put together a powerful maketing plan for it.
  • I have a podcast I’ve been wanting to do for years, but I’ve never been able to get it off the ground because of my schedule. It isn’t going to be your typical travel podcast. In fact, in many respects, it won’t even be about travel. (By the way, if you know anyone who is interested in being a producer for the podcast, let me know!)
  • I have over 10,000 photos on my laptop which I still have to process. Many of them were taken in early 2013. I have enough unpublished photos to keep everyone entertained for several years.
  • I’m going to get my diet in order and try to develop some semblance of a routine. Since I’ve started traveling I’ve gained 30 pounds (13.6kg) primarily due to the horrible diet I have from eating in airports, gas stations and hotels. I’d like to get rid of all the travel weight I’ve gained and then some.
  • I’ve let my email newsletter stagnate. I’m compiling a brand new, bigger photography ebook for everyone to download and I hope to get newsletter up and running again in 2015.
  • Write more. I’ve become very reliant on my photography. Almost too much. I have hundreds of stories I’ve never written about and almost 2 dozen unpublished blog posts that I just haven’t finished. You’ll be hearing more from me over the next few months, not less.
  • This website hasn’t been updated in 5 years. It’s clunky and in desperate need of an update which I hope to get done.

Other than the Haiti trip, I have some conferences I’ll be attending in Q1 2015, but no major trips planned until next summer at the earliest.

Just so I’m perfectly clear, I am not going to stop traveling and I’m not going to ‘settle down’, which is something I’m constantly asked by people. This isn’t a retirement announcement. (I mean, how exactly do you retire from traveling??)

What I will do is figure out how to balance travel and life, which is something I haven’t been doing the last few years. It may result in my getting an apartment somewhere, eventually.

I will be visiting fewer places per year going forward, but I hope to do a better job covering them and providing all of you with great the photography and information you expect and deserve.

61 thoughts on “The Great Slowening or Why I’m Going to Take a Break From Traveling for a Few Months”

  1. Amen on the slow-down.
    You and I have been traveling nonstop for around the same time (I started in 2006) and I agree taking breaks are in order.
    One solution is to take a massive break (6+ months).
    Another (and what I do more often) is to take 1-2 weeks off (stay in one place).
    It’s a vacation from your vacation.
    Do that every 1-3 months.
    What most of your readers may not realize is just how hard it is to blog while traveling especially if you’re a place like Africa where the Internet connections suck.

    Enjoy the productive break.

    Francis

  2. You say you travel more than anyone you know or have heard of, well I should shout a little louder buddy, I travel at least as much as you, if not more :P

    Amazing photographs tho, wish I was as talented in that respect. Well played sir :)

  3. Going to Haiti, attending global conferences… Doesn’t really sound like slowing down, Gary! :)

    Sergey
    travelingmarmot.com

  4. Sounds like you are giving your mind a change to catch up yourself, huh!? Basically settling down for a while and waiting what your thoughts may have to tell you once they returned too…
    I came across an excellent quote (fragment) the other day: ” […] hold on to some direction in a madly accelerating world.”. It’s a tremendous read and I thought you may like it:

    Best of luck in reconnecting with yourself and keep embracing change and chances! Take care, Oliver

  5. Sounds like a well deserved pause. Much success with your book proposal and podcast. Sometimes it’s great to take a pause to see what the future holds. Looking forward to reading about your experience in Spain.

  6. Some times in life you need to stop somewhere on the road and appreciate what all you have in your hands. And than once your batteries are charged enough, you can always bounce back to deliver your best. Keep the magic going on…

  7. Gary, you are my inspiration, and i really enjoy reading about your travels, hope that one day i can quit my job and tour the world.

  8. The first thing I thought when I read this was “Thank God more blog posts!” I’ve been really starting to miss them, I check back every week to see if there are any, and there never are! I can’t wait to read your book! Good luck :)

  9. Catalunya is a great place to slow down for a while, and absolutely beautiful now in the fall. I’m sure Jaume & the Costa Brava Girona team have you perfectly covered, but if you’re ever in Barcelona and need local tips, non-fast-food-recommendations or even lists of English speaking doctors, get in touch! (We had an approx. two-sentence-conversation at TBEX in Athens so I’m only almost a total stranger!)

  10. Gary- It’s inspiring to read this. You are someone that I look up to and it’s nice to hear the reality that too much travel will inevitably wipe you out both mentally and physically.

    Best of luck with all your upcoming goals, and enjoying a relaxing few months in Spain!

    And on a final note, Go Badgers!!

  11. Looking forward to potential podcast…. your Canary Islands podcast on Amateur Traveler convinced us to go there and it was a great trip. And we always like your commentary on the world heritage sites. Thanks for all the great travel coverage over the years…

  12. Great post Gary. I’m happy for you – both for what you’ve already done and for recognizing what YOU need/want to do next. I have no doubt the stories and photos will continue to flow. Congrats and all the best for these next steps.

  13. Wow it sounds like you’ve had a crazy few years. I find that even after traveling non-stop for a few months I crave having a base. Good luck with slowing down :)

  14. A lot of us have envied you on your travels Gary. Now we can envy you for staying in Girona for the next two months!

    I don’t think saying enjoy the rest is appropriate because you really aren’t resting so I will say enjoy sleeping under the same roof for the next two months!

  15. Thanks for passing on the torch to me and telling me to just “go for it” Gary! And my travels won’t be as vigorous as yours. I figure I’ll be at one place for at least a month or two at a time. SO hopefully it won’t tire me out.

    I tend to go one year of settling down in one place with almost no flights/travel. And then the next year or two I get stir crazy and want to jet all over the place.

    Good for you for putting a few roots down in a few less places this year. I’ll be following your journey closely (and maybe stalking you at a few warm places you select.)

  16. Enjoy your resting period, I am sure it is much needed! You have been on the go quite a lot over the past two years. I did a trip that was only 7 weeks over the summer and I was EXHAUSTED, so I know traveling as long as you have for such a long period of time would get very tiring.

    Can’t wait to see the new changes!

  17. Gary,

    Phew. Well done making the decision to slow down and focus on you and other projects you yearn to take forward. I wish you a nice, relaxing break and look forward to your updated website and content.

    Camie

  18. Hope you enjoy your time in Girona.
    I will be looking forward to more stories, perspectives and insights from you (I miss those)

  19. Enjoy your repose in Girona, Gary. My wife and I recently moved to Kenya from Ethiopia and the forced slow down due to the protracted housing search here has allowed me more time to work on a book, which has been a blessing in disguise.

    You, Jen and Chris have been a great source of inspiration on This Week in Travel over the years and I’m excited about your planned podcast. Best of luck with finishing the book proposal and the hours of photo editing ahead.

  20. Gary, I’m sooooo excited to hear this!!! Can’t wait to hear the updates from Spain as you tackle this wonderful To Do list.

  21. Sounds like a great plan, Gary. Love the blog, your work, your travels, and the traveling ideals that you constantly embody. A much needed “break” is well-deserved. All the best!

  22. My first question: why did you do in the first place? I would have stopped after a few months, not seven years!

    My second question: is it actually possible to retain any lasting memories of a particular place? Or is all just a blur?
    A street scene from China Town in San Francisco intermingled with a food alley in Singapore and a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur…

    I can’t see any point in this – other than “greed” and some weird sort of personal aim to break some record(s).
    Sorry, no sympathy!

    • I’m not asking for your sympathy.

      I’m not you. Just because you would have done something doesn’t mean it applies to everyone.

      Thanks for passing judgement, however, about something you know very little about. Clearly you are the benchmark on which all travelers should measure themselves.

  23. So the Badger is finally burrowing a bit! Congrats, Gary, and enjoy your well-deserved rest. We’re just starting our homeloose life, and happy to take the slow route…

  24. Gary, funny but I heaved a sigh of relief after I read this. As I followed you in your travels, I sometimes hoped you’d decide to slow down before nature forces you to do so. Have a great time as you work towards your goals. I look forward to thr blogposts, podcasts and book. :)

  25. Enjoy your long deserved break & unwinding in Girona. I look forward to slowening down soon and working on a few key things.

  26. I dont know if you have any control over it but the links in the “You Might Also Like” section at the bottom of your post are REALLY OFFENSIVE – we have a hitchhiker offering sex for paid holidays, naked people having mud smeared on them and worst of all, a selfie of a guy with his dead girlfriend.

    If that kind of entirely unrelated to photography advertising is needed Im not bothering to come back here and like I said, I doubt you have control of it, but you should be made aware of it, its disgusting tabloidism of the worst kind.

    • It is a product called Outbrain, and you are 100% right, which is why I’m going to get rid of it in my redesign of my website.

    • I just eliminated all external links in my software. It was pissing me off too. Thanks for bringing it up and spurring me to change it.

  27. I remember being amazed at the amount of travelling you did when I met you at ATMEX in 2013. You were planning a break then ! Great you are Now taking time and in a lovely place. Enjoy and surround yourself with home comforts. Good bed and great food. Ethna

  28. Glad to hear you’re really, actually, truly slowing down. :-) I’ve seen a lot of the earlier-generation bloggers really slow down lately, myself included, and it’s good to know that you’re as human as the rest of us are! And Girona — no better place. Love that city.

    I’ve been home for the past two months, the longest I’ve been anywhere in a few years. Not gonna lie, it’s been FANTASTIC. I’m almost done with a big project I’ve been putting off for years. It’s taken a lot of time and effort and I never would have been able to do it while traveling.

    Great decision.

    • Thanks. The pace just wasn’t sustainable.

      The work/travel trade off was something I identified as far back as 2008. Whenever I’ve taken a break in the past my traffic and following has actually gone UP because I’ve been able to sit down and create more and better content.

  29. I don’t know how you do it. I love travel, but can’t stand Airports or public transport, so I prefer to travel to new places locally on foot mostly. Like you mentioned, trying to eat a diet of whole foods is difficult when on the road.

    Look after the physical and emotional. Make close friends, climb a mountain and feel your lungs burn. Travel is who we are not where we are.

  30. Always good to take a break. After a year of moving almost every month, I’m ready to settle down for a while (hope this plan works out soon). Some of us need a bit more structure and routine to make the adventures more memorable.

  31. I guess, with travelling, as much fun as it is, can get tiring sometimes.
    Well, anyhow, all the experiences are worth it though.
    I’m looking forward to a future with lots of travelling!

  32. Thank you for finally admitting your humanity :-) seriously, you’re making the rest of us travel bloggers look lazy…

    In all seriousness, though, I’ve noticed that a lot of long-term travelers report simply being worn down – like rocks under a waterfall, it just wears you down over time. Even as a “slow traveler” (moving somewhere new every six months or so with my wife), the balance between new and routine is a good one. Still, like you, it’s become quite difficult to find time to do all the stuff I want to do… At least three books are currently on hold just because I haven’t had the time to sit down and even create an outline…

  33. Gary, I have been traveling and working abroad for about 30 years and I have scaled it back a bit and now only travel about 155 days a year. I want you to consider getting with me and starting on Purium. It has changed my life. I have lost 30 pounds and have never felt better.Here is page on FB.

  34. Gary,

    You continue to live the life well lived; pace is important and good for you to adjust as needed. I thoroughly enjoy following the adventures of this Wisconsinite loose in the world and look forward to seeing and reading your ongoing works.

    Karen

  35. Gary, These are awesome goals. I really admire your dedication to “getting out of the box” to try new things … and most importantly your new found dedication to working to write book proposal. If you haven’t read “Waiter Rant,” you may find it helpful. I don’t get paid anything to recommend this to you. The blogger turned his day job into something extraordinary, and it all that is document in his book. Good luck! — Jay D. Krasnow

  36. Sounds really good.
    We have been on the road for one year and it is already pretty hard. I hope you get everything done!! Enjoy!

  37. When I first saw this link on Twitter I freaked out a little, but after reading this post I’m excited for you to get your bearings back. Traveling is amazing, but it’s so important to take care of yourself first. I’ll also be anxiously awaiting the many posts you have yet to share. I’ve always wanted to hear more about your thoughts and experiences to go along with your beautiful photos. Take care, Gary! Looking forward to the content you publish in the coming months!

    Jessie

  38. Your photography is so artistic!

    Time to enjoy the places you visit. Your schedule would seem like work to me. And would now be impossible at my age.

    Do you have an e-mail address for personal travel questions? I have a question. I assume my e-mail address is visible to you somewhere.

    Maudina

  39. Good luck with all this, my friend. We’ll hope to catch up with you in Girona and we’ll go out for some vegetables. Take care.

  40. Gary – Excited to hear that you will be catching us up. I am really curious to hear about the rest of your road trip through Canada and the Western US. Hope you enjoy the change in routine!

  41. I haven’t travelled full time like you, but I find I get exhausted from the 2 or 3 trips I do a year. If your health is suffering, it’s probably a good idea to take a break. You’ll want to be in tip-top shape for all the exciting projects you have planned! Good luck!

  42. I remember you talking about website changes when I helped you tweak your site a couple of years ago. Slowing down is never stopping its just enjoying things that little bit longer in each spot.

    • Tell me about it…

      Good thing is that I’ve had plenty of time to think of what I’d want. Problem will be building it, because some things haven’t been done yet.

  43. I have always wondered how you did it. I travel once or twice a year and i get exhausted. It is amazing you have done it as long! Time to get some rest :-)

  44. Hi Gary,

    Good for you, I’m glad you’ll be taking some time for yourself. It was nowhere near as long as you’ve been traveling, but my wife and I got burnt out being constantly on the move after 8 months of traveling in South America. It is hard for some people to understand the stress that constant movement and change causes. I’m excited for your posts and pictures.

    As for the podcast, you might try contacting Dan Benjamin at 5by5 (5by5.tv). He runs a network, but I believe they provide production support and find advertisers if that is needed. They’re a great network with really high quality shows.

    Looking forward to seeing more content from you.

    • Thanks.

      I’m not certain I want or need a podcast network. I have pretty big following to promote the show and I have enough contacts in the travel industry so I could sell ads.

      What I really want is someone who handle the backend in terms of audio editing and working with iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, etc.

  45. Sounds wonderful! You may be slowing down, but still sounds like wonderful things are to come. Best of luck finding that balance.

  46. Gary,
    I’m so glad for you! This is a wonderful news! I think you’ll benefit out of it a great deal. Time for post-processing of all your travels is necessary for you to do everything you now wish to implement.
    I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you!
    Soon you’ll know how slow travel makes you feel better and more productive.
    Take care,
    Agata

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