I do. It gets lonely out there traveling by myself, spending entire days without talking to anyone sometimes, hanging out in countries where I don’t speak the language and am obviously a foreigner.
My work suffers and I make a lot less money than I could if I stayed in one place for a while; sometimes I don’t make any money at all. It’s funny how people expect you to do something for them when they pay you.
Sometimes I feel like the restaurant critic who knows that no one will understand the challenges of his work. “But you get to eat for free all the time!” his friends will protest when he tries to tell them he gets tired of it or that it can be hard.
Yes, I am so fortunate that I get to write and travel. Believe me, I love it. But like that guy who eats at nice restaurants all the time, it doesn’t always work out the way everyone else imagines it does.
Sometimes the hours go by in a blur, on red-eye flights to Frankfurt and Hong-Kong where the continents drift by on the navigation screen in front of me. But other times the time passes very slowly.
I sit in bus stations and third-world airports and on park benches all over the world, waiting for something to open or for someone to help me figure out how to get to Bucharest or Lagos or San Jose.
I try to make good use of the time reading and writing, but when I’m tired and jet-lagged, I mostly just wait. There’s no expense account to pay for drinks and nice meals, and finding healthy food on a budget can be challenging in some countries.
Dealing with critics, as any good leader has to do from time to time, makes me tired, too. It’s true that the more impact you have, the more you will be criticized. Expect it. Unless you’re hiding out in average land, the critics will find you and tell you why you’re wrong, unimportant, irrelevant, and so on.
I realized recently that my greatest weakness as a leader is insecurity. Sometimes, I’ll admit to those of you who are following this adventure, I care more about what people think of me than I care about making the right decision. I know that’s not good, and I’m working on it.
A 4-Step Encouragement Mantra for the Journey
(Note: I wrote this in first-person, for myself… but please steal and modify it for yourself.)
- I can do it.
- I could always have a regular life somewhere.
- But I’ve chosen a different path.
- And I won’t give up.
My friend Jove is running a 100-mile trail race this Saturday. I’m a runner too, but not like Jove. He runs at least 50 miles a week on average and is nice enough to let me come along for a “short” 10 mile run once in a while whenever we’re both in town.
One recent weekend, he ran 18 miles on Friday, then hiked 13 miles on Saturday with a 50-pound backpack, ran 18 more on Sunday before hiking 7.5, then hiked 6 miles back out on Monday.
Jove runs without music, and he runs almost every day. I asked him the other day, how do you stick with it? This is what he said:
I haven’t really found a lot of times where it’s not enjoyable, but this year the few training down spots I’ve hit I’ve just tried to remind myself what a monumental task a 100 miler is. Also, if I get out the door and start running, I usually feel better about running. If I’m a couple miles in and still feel bad about running that day, I’ll put the long run off for another day. I haven’t really had to do that too much this year though.
The past two 5 0ks I’ve run, I’ve hit a low spot around miles 15-17, where the initial steam starts to fade. Luckily, I’ve managed to catch people at this time in both runs, which puts some wind back in your sails and reminds you that 5 0k isn’t easy for anyone.
OK, that’s cool. I don’t think that will help me run 100 miles at once, but I can use it for a marathon. Or perhaps for the train ride from Moldova to Romania when the customs guys barge in and turn all the lights on at exactly 3:00 a.m.
Two Steps Forward
Oh, one more thing. Sometimes we fall back on our world takeover plans. Things go wrong, Bangladesh doesn’t issue a visa, we get tired, etc. The only response is to keep going; the only trick is perseverance. You may take a step backwards, but you have to keep taking steps forward.
Yes, I feel like giving up sometimes. But I know I won’t. And I hope you’ll stick it out too.
This post first appeared on The Art of Non-Conformity.