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Why I Don’t See Everything When I Travel

Brooke at Airport around 5AM waiting for Tony & paula

In the Beijing airport around 5AM waiting and working.

About two weeks ago, I broke out in a crazed laughter as I checked my morning email. Not that it’s uncommon or anything these days given the crazy amounts of mass link exchange requests and requests from people who want to offer me content free of charge that reach my inbox.

No, this email asked me something along the lines of:

Brooke, can you tell me how you are able to travel so long without working?

To which I replied in my mind’s sassy voice:

Honey, I’m always working!

brooke working on train

The computer is always open! Even on the Trans-Mongolian train.

Remote working is probably the biggest reason why I don’t see everything when I travel.

As a blogger on the road, juggling the two roles can be tiring and time consuming — and that’s just when dealing with one blog.

Instead, I’m working on Brooke vs. the World and Her Packing List; writing posts for OneTravel, GoBackpacking, and Viator; sending off the occasional FTU newsletter; updating social networks including Pinterest, FB, and Twitter; responding to emails (they never end!); and trying hard to think of new projects.

The actual amount of work might not seem like much, but damn. These articles don’t write themselves. Sometimes, it’s just the act of writing and posting that require the time — and after sightseeing, flying, training, walking, etc., you just can’t focus quite like is needed.

And then there’s the case of the Internet just not working.

Money, however, is needed. In order to travel as much as I do (like for 3.5 months now), I have to keep on working… at least a little bit.

Even then, it is imperative to choose how much time you can afford to spend on what — travel versus work.

brooke and pat having fun

Having a fun outing in Tomsk, climbing the tower for a city view.

I have the belief that travel should be fun more often than not.

No, it’s never all fun (unless you’re hanging around that resort kicking back free drinks all day). Travel days often suck the life out of you, sightseeing makes your feet tired, extreme weather (or in my case, mildly extreme weather) can be uncomfortable, and so on. Besides all the jive that must be done for work, especially on this trip, Pat and I have the motto that if we’re not enjoying ourselves, then it’s time to move on to something else.

Why waste time on activities we don’t like? We can easily do that in normal life in Sydney!

Instead, we change gears. If sightseeing is getting old, we break off to a cafe, park, or pub and do some good ol’ people watching.

Pat and Brooke Kyrgyz people watching. Yurts behind us.

Pat and Brooke Kyrgyz people watching. Notice yurts behind us.

I don’t believe in being a “tick off the list” traveler.

Some people love it. They go from dawn to dusk looking at this and that. I can’t.

For one, the unfortunate truth of attraction lists is that many of the “attractions” are nothing more than landmarks — not really something that would be of interest to any normal person. Like the time we went to Bolgar from Kazan. We walked for an hour in search of the mosque, one of the 2 listed attractions, and it was seriously not worth it… if what we found was even the mosque.

bolgar mosque?

Bolgar mosque? We’re not even sure…

To balance out the work, fun, travel motto — we have to pick and choose activities we actually want to spend our precious time on. Not just lists. Not just because something is there. A statue is generally not important to me (there are hundreds of statues across former Soviet countries) unless it is incredibly special to look at, has a crazy story behind it, or was created by some famous artist.

tour guide moscow metro

Our Moscow Metro tour guide giving us heaps of information.

Doing too much in too little time leads to information overload.

And that, too, makes you (well, me) more likely to not appreciate what is being heard, read, or looked at. This is also known as travel burnout.

Like in Moscow when Pat and I did 2 separate walking tours (after already taking a whirlwind city bus tour), which took us over 4 hours — 4 hours straight of good, hard information and historical anecdotes. Our guide was constantly throwing out comments like, “Remember when I mentioned earlier about… ?”

Going on for the other walking tours in the same day would have just been too much info to fully digest and appreciate.

brooke getting off camel

Travel puts you in crazy situations that, apparently, my immune system can’t handle.

Packing it in, or moving too fast, has a way of making me sick, literally.

This Silk Roadistan tour has been extremely frustrating for me. I thought I was a mildly healthy individual, but the past 3.5 months have led me to think otherwise.

I am currently taking my second round of antibiotics in 3 months, this time for a nose infection (that I blame ultimately on using a Chinese nasal spray. It felt like Tiger Balm in the nose and worked like magic, but I then suffered from a bleeding nose for a couple weeks after!). I had a chest infection, got a mild case of food poisoning, and then got another cold at the end of the Trans-Mongolian train trip. I. am. awesome.

I’ve always naturally gravitated to exploring a single location for longer periods of time, and I have a feeling it is because of my body’s natural need for stability.

And that is why I…
…pick and choose, stay put for longer, and sometimes miss out. But at the same time, I am able to see and experience some amazing things on the road, and not go broke in the process. It’s a trade-off, but not really a bad one if you ask me.

What’s your travel style?


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12 Responses to Why I Don’t See Everything When I Travel

  1. Emily in Chile July 16, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

    And this is why you’ll find that my itineraries include things like the best restaurant and where to stop for an afternoon coffee πŸ™‚ I definitely try to pack as much in as possible but not at the expense of actually enjoying myself.

    Feel better!

    • Brooke July 23, 2012 at 6:54 am #

      I like your style! Love (and often need) an afternoon coffee stop to get me going. I often have a case of the 3pm sleepies.

  2. Kristin July 19, 2012 at 6:10 am #

    I guess I don’t have one set style of travel. It depends what my trip is for and how long I’m there. I have a tendency to try to fit more in (when I probably shouldn’t) if I’m on a short trip, but I like to pace myself on longer trips. You’re right, you just can’t keep going out and ticking things off a list day after day for that long!

    I feel your pain on getting sick if you try to do much. That happens to me quite often, mainly with my stomach. If I start getting really tired, and then add some stress in there, and maybe some dodgy food, my stomach gives up and I end up feeling sick for quite a long time. Anyway, I hope that you’re able to fully recover once you get back to Sydney!

    • Brooke July 23, 2012 at 6:56 am #

      We’re back in Sydney, and I’m not sure how to feel… :/ I know what you say about the stomach. Mine is also very sensitive to stress/change, and it really sucks feeling sick to your stomach!

  3. Megan July 21, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

    I found that the longer I travelled, the less likely I was to go too far out of my way to tick off those big landmarks and ‘must-sees’ – I was so much happier people watching from a cafe or just wandering the streets and watching locals go about their everyday lives. The local market, for example, tells you so much more about a place than a museum or a gallery.

    I’ve had travel burnout – it happens particularly when I visit Europe and the States – I want to see everything, go to every show and gallery and church…it’s crazy. Slowing down makes you appreciate a destination more, I think.

    • Brooke July 23, 2012 at 7:04 am #

      Yeah probably the same regarding longer trips. And yes, people watching and markets are so lively and interesting and give you a true look at the culture in action. Love them!

  4. Erica July 24, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    I love to travel slow. Of course we still have to experience what it is like to travel long term, but even on holidays we preferred not to see everything but instead enjoy our time and just walk around. You’ll usually find the better sights that way. Everybody knows what the “big sights” are, they are in every travel guide. It is the un-known localities that are interesting I think. Less exhausting, cheaper and leaves more time to work!

    • Brooke August 2, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

      I agree, Erica! Sometimes just being able to chat openly with someone who lives there is more enlightening than seeing a big sight!

  5. Our Dear Lady Expatriate August 2, 2012 at 12:00 am #

    Seeing how hard you work on your writing career is really inspiring. I wish more bloggers would show ‘behind the scenes’ perspectives like this – it’s really encouraging to new bloggers, and really informative as well.

    Thanks for the insight!

    Oh yeah – and totally agree with coffee breaks…. and wine breaks! Mmmm.

  6. Merry1 October 27, 2012 at 9:47 am #

    Brooke I admire you for being able to stay put for long periods…I am the absolute opposite I have to see everything in as short a time as possible failing which I feel my mission is not complete and I may have to return to that Country which is a no no.
    On a trip I was left in Bangkok with nothing to do for 6 days, Bangkok is a good stop over place with many low cost airlines flying out of the city. On the spur of the moment I decided to fly Air Asia to Yangon in Myanmar, I got hold of a tour company who got me internal flights, booked hotels and a driver, it was 3 years back and very cheap then, and I saw all the places in Myanmar I ever wanted to see, Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Heho, Inle Lake, I took a flight each day I was there, early mornings and late nights, it was worth it for me and only last night I was perusing my photos what a wonderful memory of a great country. However………….on my return home I had big time burn out, after spending 3 days virtually sleeping it off I finally returned to normal. I think it can work for some if youre on a roll go for it but long term as you work and travel I can understand completely.
    Thanks for your good topics and tips. I downloaded your – I can’t speak the language today, great stuff.


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