The Things I No Longer Say

The lies I’ve started to tell…

I’m in law. I work in retail. I work in a hotel. I’m an administrator. I work in a bar. I’m a data entry person. 

These are the answers I’ve started to give when people ask (and they always ask) what I do. None of the answers are true, of course, not any more, although they are all jobs I’ve done.

I’m here on holiday. I’m just passing through. I’m visiting family. I’m visiting friends. 

These are the answers I’ve started to give when people ask why I’ve landed in a particular place. Sometimes these answers represent the truth. But they never represent the whole truth.

It’s only recently that I realised I’ve started to lie about my life.

And my lies seems to be growing in frequency.

Life before…

Things used to be simple. And I never used to lie.

What do you do?

I’m a lawyer.

There were never any follow-up questions. Easy.

Since I started travelling full time and writing about it (for the occasional bit of money), life’s changed. That was to be expected, but my life hasn’t changed for the better in every respect.

Before travel, my life played out like a heart rate monitor – largely rhythmic with the occasional positive blips (holidays) and negative blips (working weekends). All things told, it was pretty good confirmation that I was alive. Just about.

These days my life exists at opposite extremes. Either I’m running on a complete high or I’m so low I’m not sure how to get up.

Living with these ultra highs and lows for the past five years I’ve discovered there’s no accepted social schema for talking about your life. Apart from those closest to me, I’ve found myself increasingly existing in a lonely social vacuum where I don’t feel comfortable shrieking out loud about how great my life is (ergo: bragging bitch) or complaining when things get tough (ungrateful cow).

Now, you might be thinking, cry me a river. Go ahead, think that if you will. It’s your brain to do with as you please. But this is part of my point.

Brushing over the good times…

Once upon a time, pre-travel, I used to rant and rave about my upcoming holidays. I’d gush about where I was going. I’d pull up pictures online sharing the beauty of the beaches or cities I was about to see. Even in my first year of travel I’d share picture after picture of my trip, and I’d make my friends and family sit through a painful stint of photo viewing. I would, of course, supply wine to help them pass the time – I’m not that bad a friend.

But when you travel full-time, your endless travel plans get old dead quick. These days, ask me about my trip plans and I’ll likely give you a couple of line prΓ©cis: I’m off to New England. Then the Caribbean. Three months.

I get it, I wouldn’t want to hear a detailed run-down either. Especially not if I knew the Caribbean was bound to be followed by some other three to six month plan in some other part of the world.

It’s been well over a year since I shared any of those look at me, I’m at the beach kind of photos on my personal Facebook page and its been a bunch of years since I showed anyone my travel photos.

I also used to be a keen storyteller – I still am, but these days I temper my tales.

People don’t want to hear your stories when they all start with you up a mountain or under a waterfall or at a beach club in Cambodia/ Hawaii/ the Philippines / Brazil. Seriously, people don’t want to hear it. Don’t believe me? Read this article about A conversation with the annoying world traveller.

I don’t want to be that person – nobody wants to be that person – so these days I just tell a small percentage of the stories I’m dying to tell.

I’ve also learned not to be all ‘preachy’ (informative) about the things I’ve discovered along the way – about zoos and animal welfare, about the environment, about gratitude for the things that we have – like drinkable tap water; and the things we should work harder not to have – like food waste.

And then there are the tough days. It’s even harder to talk about those.

Not sharing the depths of the bad days either…

When I had a desk job that I rubbed along with but dreamed of escaping, people would sit for hours as I bitched about office life. Short deadlines, angry phone calls, files lost, paper cuts gained. I could wax lyrical about the bane of corporate life and my audience was captive (again, the wine supplied might have helped).

When you travel full-time, people simply don’t take your complaints seriously.

If I whine about 83% humidity in Cartagena I get an eye roll because all people see is the hot yellow sun sign and 28 degrees. What on earth is there to complain about 28 degree sunshine?

If I complain that I have 36 hours in transit on the way to Spain from Asia, all people hear is Spain – what possible downside could there be if sangria and tapas is at the end of the tunnel?

They’re good points. Kind of.

More than ever I’m a grateful person. At least once a day I take a moment out of life and count my blessing, of which there are many. And I’ve now got a lengthy list of those ‘positive life’ books under my reading belt (current favourite – Dalai Lama’s Art of Happiness).

But I’ve not reached the point of full enlightenment yet and until then, things still get me down. In the same way things get everyone down.

I know it might seem ungrateful for me to have any negative thoughts about this wonderful lifestyle that I possess, but it’s not always easy. Missing flights is stressful. Getting food poisoning sucks and counting your budget to continue to afford what you do is an ongoing worry. Especially if you do have a knack for missing flights: expensive.

But you have an amazing life where you get to travel, people tell me as though I’d forgotten. They’re right, of course. I haven’t lost sight of the wonder of my life. It’s just that, unless you are the Dalai Lama, there are sucky days no matter what you do.

What if you told me that your excel spreadsheet crashed losing a day’s work away and I said, at least you have shoes and can afford to eat. What if you didn’t get the promotion and I told you to be grateful for the fact you have a job, and a home and haven’t been forced into prostitution or gang crime.

What it your toilet stopped flushing and I shrugged at you, First World Problems?

Of course, I’ve had the first world problems statement thrown at me before and more than once. I could write a whole article on why it’s not right to say it…but Matt Gemmel has already encapsulated all of my thoughts right here.

A while ago I told someone I was stressed and they asked, incredulous at my words, what I had to be stressed about. The truth is, quite a lot. Chasing down your dreams isn’t as easy as it might seem. And doing it while your tenant has threatened to squat in your house and not pay her rent while you’re several thousand miles away makes it all the more challenging.

I’m deeply conscious of sharing the bad side of my lifestyle as well as the good, especially with other travellers I meet who would love to do the same thing as I do a.k.a (in their imagination) sit on a beach while the money rolls in. But people don’t want to listen. They hear travel blogger and they tell me my life is amazing. 100% of the time.

They also tell me that I’m lucky.

I’m not lucky – I’ve worked damn hard all my life.

They think it’s going to be easy. I tell them that I regularly put in 50+ hours a week. Add travel planning and days lost on public transport (which is slower but cheaper than hiring a car or taking a taxi) and I can assure you there’s nothing easy about this life I’ve chosen to live.

But still people don’t want to hear it. There are downsides? Eye roll. All everyone seems to hear is travel the world and make a tonne of money. I don’t, by the way, make a tonne of money, but that’s another article.

The things I no longer say…

It’s not the fault of my friends or my family or the people I meet along the way. I’ve chosen to temper what I say. I don’t want to alienate myself from the people around me. I don’t want to unduly encourage other travellers into an industry in which its hard to succeed. And I certainly don’t want to endure any more eye rolls or dismissive statements when I confess that things don’t always go as well as other people expect. My life isn’t always shiny. There’s a whole heap of dull scrap metal hanging around that regularly drags me down.

I like that I’m an honest person. I pride myself on it. But, until I figure out a better way to handle discussions about what I do, where I go, and the good and bad that both happen while I’m there, the chances are that if you meet me along the way, I’ll shake your hand and tell you that I’m Jo, I’m a paralegal and I’m just passing through.

That I have a life that is amazing beyond imagination and can throw me into a fit of despair all in the same day will, at least for now, remain part of all those things I no longer say.

If you liked this, you might also like:

101 Ways Travel Has Changed Me

What To Do When You Feel Lonely Travelling Alone?

Why I Don’t Regret Quitting My Job to Travel

I’ve Eaten and I’ve Prayed, So Where the F#ck Is Love?

My 20 Worst Travel Stories

Transitioning from Gap Year to Long Term Travel and the Challenges In-Between

16 thoughts on “The Things I No Longer Say”

  1. i loved this authentic article. I can relate in so many ways, and i’m just beginning to travel. Love your writing too, I’m in Belize heading to Guate, and your account of Semac Champey had me dying laughing. I’m a bit scared, but if you can do it- so can i! I have somehow unexpectedly found myself solo-traveling for the first time and I’m glad to of found your page.

    • Hi Shannon, I also found myself unexpectedly solo travelling when I first set out and it’s a good way to start πŸ™‚ I’m sure you will love Semuc Champey. I hope it hasn’t changed too much since I was there and I have full confidence that if I can do it, you can too. Have an amazing time and do come back and let me know how you get on.

  2. Hi Jo,
    As you know Sandra and I were expats for many, many years, two years in Italy, one year in The Netherlands and 22 years in Switzerland and France. Now that we are back in the UK, we have to be VERY careful who we talk to about our experiences if we are to avoid the glazed looks or the eye-rolling. People who have shared our expat experience are obviously OK. So too are our neighbours. Graham, who is an oil and gas engineer and has worked in many difficult places in the world, and Mike who is a senior Captain with British Airways. The only exception was Joe, our late neighbour, who you met. Joe couldn’t travel because of his accident but he just enjoyed the stories of our travels. He even used to get me to tell him about my business trips! Others just think you are boasting or are jealous of a life-style they don’t have the courage to try. Don’t dissemble or bend the truth, just tell it like it is. Any person who tries eye-rolling won’t become or remain a friend.

    • Hi Gary, it’s comforting to know that I’m not alone in this boat of struggling to cloak the full truth of my lifestyle when I meet new or certain people. But your advice is bang on as usual – telling it like it is is perhaps the best and only way forward. Friends will fall where they fall. πŸ™‚

  3. I totally agree and I approach life the same way. No one is really interested unless you nag about life and how hard your day has been. What if I choose not to and want to look at things positively? Or trade off ‘earning more money’ for ‘doing what makes me happy?’ Just cause you don’t clock in your 8ams and report to a boss, doesn’t mean you’re not working hard.

    • Sarah, I couldn’t agree more. I recently had a conversation with a woman and she simply refused to believe that I was happy with my life a good 80-90% off the time. Sad times we live in.

  4. Great to read this Jo!! When I was travelling a lot of my friends back home couldn’t believe that there could ever be a bad day, but I very quickly lost my rose tinted glasses. Some of the bad day memories now make me smile, my friend running madly round a shopping mall in HK because she could barely make it from one bathroom to the next with out an attack of the bad belly is one of them. Others, spending 18+ hours crammed in a mini bus with all our luggage inside crossing land borders in Asia is a memory id quite happily forget. People don’t want to think that that perfect looking amazing adventure might have bad days just as any other life journey. You’re suppose to be living the dream, so no complaining allowed. I never a wanted a bad day but it’s life, they happen. All the best for wherever you are next!!

    • Katie, glad you enjoyed this and yes, there are downsides to everything, including travel. I tried to explain it to some friends recently with a chocolate analogy – even the nicest chocolate can sometimes be unpleasant if you eat too much of it in one go. I hope your friend has recovered. I’ve also done a fair share of 18+ hour crammed buses. Thankfully, the memory has a special way of filtering out just the better parts. Happy travels!

  5. Thanks for sharing such a personal and honest post Jo! I understand what you mean and no, compared to all the terrible things in the world missing a flight isn’t the worst thing. But it still sucks! Big time!

  6. I can totally relate. I have my own Travel Business now and well… only by talking about my travels I already get the rolling of the eyes. It is hard to have your own Business but you are right: all people hear is “travel” and that is enough for them to think that this is all I do. Hang in there. I know it is not easy but what else can we do. I started to look for people like me to hang out with. Of course I love my friends but I do feel that I need to find people who think like me and spend some time with them too. It is hard thou.

    • anagusso, you’re absolutely right about finding the travel tribe and hanging out more with them. It’s so nice to not have to preface any travel related tales with an explanation about why you were taking a 12 hour bus or that you’re not boasting when you mention that sail boat you were on. And as for the eye rollers – I’ve had that a few times. Seriously?! How rude! Happy travels for the new year.

  7. Beautiful post, Jo. I do say I am a travel blogger (well, a newbie). Most people don’t get what it is and are the next question I get is “how do you make money?” (which at the moment is very little, actually). That means explaining, but at this point, I don’t mind and I find it way more stimulating than the long discussions I would have before when I had to explain why, in international human rights law, there are limitations to the right to freedom of expression when it opposes the right not to be discriminated. Ha! It is a life that is harder than it seems. I work much more now than I used before. But I like it. I wake up and I think it is ok that I have to work. It it my own little business. My own little thing. And yes, food poisoning is bad but I suppose it is better than having to fight the frustrations of dealing with Italian academics. A press trip with 50 other bloggers where I am literally moved from restaurant to restaurant is still better than that, too.

    Always remain true to yourself Jo πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Claudia! You’re right that most people don’t get it and the whole money question – it gets old really quickly, which is one of the main reasons I started to take on an alter ego with a different career. Ha ha – I’d take a press trip with 50 people over food poisoning. I’d even rather have the Italian academics than food poisoning, but that’s not an experience I’ve got to compare things with πŸ™‚ Happy travels and I wish you a whole bag of work success for the new year!


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