Travel for Travel’s Sake

Just a little over a year ago, I decided to take the leap and give full-time travel writing a chance. To the day in 2013, I was finishing an incredible press trip in Costa Brava, Spain with Charming Villas Catalonia. Somewhat in a panic, I wondered if I’d ever get another invitation. A few days later, Jordan and Maui came calling, and things have been rolling ever since. I couldn’t be happier with the opportunities I’ve had in the last 365 days. These experiences have truly been blessings.

Leah Travels1 2

The start of 2014 has been incredible, but also incredibly busy. In the last 74 days, I’ve amassed the following travel numbers:

3 continents

7 countries

42,196 air miles

19 legs

11 different airports

6 trains

1 carriage ride

6 ski resorts

20 hotels

Looking at those numbers, it’s difficult to fathom that just a year ago I had anxiety about my ability to consistently work with destinations and brands. Of course, these opportunities didn’t just fall out of the sky. I spent about two months organizing the Paris and Bordeaux trip. And the most recent trip to Austria and Switzerland had been in the works since November.

There’s a whole lot that goes on behind the scenes. Travel writing and blogging isn’t just about visiting incredible places and posting the photos on Facebook. If approached in a professional way, it’s actually not only physically tiring, but also mentally and emotionally exhausting.

Yeah…Yeah…Yeah…I can imagine a chorus of eye rolls right now, but it’s absolutely true. As wonderful as my experiences are, there is rarely an opportunity to just sit back and relax. A nine course Michelin-starred meal must be documented, and a five-star hotel must be toured and photographed. Meetings with guides and PR people are all but a given, and there are perfectly choreographed itineraries that must be followed. E-mails and deadlines don’t care if you’re traveling, and the social media monster must always be fed. An alarm set for 5:30 am is not uncommon, nor are lights off after midnight. That doesn’t even include the actual writing once I return home.

There’s always work to be done. Essentially, I am a small business and the only employee. Truthfully, I’m not complaining. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Imagining a life teaching high school English turns my stomach, and frankly, I’d rather live in a Paris subway than to have that life again. However, at the moment, I’m tired.

A few days into the Austria leg of my Best of the Alps trip, I decided I wanted a vacation. I’m sure many of you think my entire life is one vacation after another, but I assure you, it’s not. But I digress. One call to Lufthansa and my European trip was extended an additional five nights. In that moment, I felt a different kind of excitement, one that I’d not felt in quite some time.

In my brief bio on the right of this page, it reads, “Leah’s about doing and not just seeing stuff and believes that the journey is just as important as the destination.” During the last several months, I’ve sort of forgotten the last part about the importance of embracing the journey. My focus was so much on getting the best photos and documenting the tiniest details that I didn’t take the time to truly appreciate the moment. What I needed to do was put the pen and camera down and say, “This is pretty freakin’ cool.” Instead, I was writing rough drafts and article titles in my head.

I am currently lying on my hotel bed in a European city. It’s nearly noon, and I’m wearing a robe. Last night, I had a lovely dinner, complete with wine. I didn’t write down what I ate nor did I take a single photo. This morning I woke up early and took a stroll around the empty city. My Nikon remained locked in the safe. I lingered over breakfast, and I’ll take advantage of the beautiful weather by taking a walk this afternoon. Then again, I might just remain in my robe.

I’m not totally obligation free; I am working with a few hotels on this trip. Old habits die hard, I suppose. But other than that, I’m on vacation. I’m traveling for travel’s sake and not for the stories and photos that will result. I plan on catching up on some writing and recharging my batteries, which is sorely needed. Upon my return to Texas, I hit the ground running again. I’ve recently inked two deals that I am VERY excited about, but that will also keep me incredibly busy. I’ll be announcing those details soon.

Leah Travels1

These five days will be a rewiring of sorts. The DSLR will remain in my hotel room, and I will not pick up a single card from a café or shop. My social media will be pared down significantly, and I will live more in the moment. I will remember what it’s like to travel for travel’s sake and carry that lesson with me on my next working trip.

Wish me luck!

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49 Comments
  • @mrsoaroundworld
    March 16, 2014

    I am glad you came to this conclusion, and I hope you enjoy your break. We all got to where we are coming from different places – so it is all very subjective. The important thing is that you enjoy it – whatever you decide it is right for you

    • Leah Walker
      March 17, 2014

      Thank you, Ana. Yes, everyone’s way of doing things is different–not right or wrong–just different. Though, I could probably not take myself so seriously and enjoy the ride a bit more. 😉

  • Jenna
    March 16, 2014

    Traveling for the sake of travel is why you loved travel in the first place. It’s so important to connect with that again. Enjoy your time. I’m looking forward to learning about your next projects that you hinted at in this post!

    • Leah Walker
      March 17, 2014

      You’re 100% correct. Travel is my favorite thing in the world, and though I’ve not lost my love for it, I recognize that I just need to take a couple of days to relax. As for my next projects, I’ll announce them in the upcoming few days. 🙂 Thank you!

  • Cacinda Maloney
    March 16, 2014

    I completely understand and have to be careful with myself as I do the exact same thing. I have a few weeks left of being home and then my whirlwind begins and won’t stop till mid May. Wish me luck as well, and I hope I have the wherewithall to build in a couple of days in between or after that I do just what you are doing, sitting in my hotel room in my robe, or walking the streets with no camera in hand (well just not to overuse it) and no photos of my food!
    Thanks for an honest story and I cannot wait to meet you in person!

    • Leah Walker
      March 17, 2014

      Yes, you should build a few days in, if possible. I really think I’m going to try to do that more often. It’s been great just hanging out and not being on a schedule for a few days. I can’t wait to see what you have going on this spring. Maybe our paths will FINALLY cross!

  • Walter
    March 16, 2014

    So true, we can only confirm what you are saying! We run a similar “shop” in a husband-and-wife type setup. But we can’t make a living off of it, hence it remains a full-time hobby besides two full-time jobs…

    The advantage is that we can stop whenever we feel too tired or we can pay for our trip and not bother about a related article. But yes, it all looks great and it IS great while at the same time travel blogging can be very exhausting.

    We have a habit of taking pictures of hotel rooms not only before but also after we turn them into our office away from home, i.e. with two laptops, 5+ cameras, tablets, etc. Sometimes we show off those pictures in order to give some behind the scenes impressions.

    And yet it’s rewarding to meet with people from around the world 😉

    • Leah Walker
      March 17, 2014

      I suppose I could say no whenever I’d like or just not pursue leads, however I always feel like I might not have the chance again and continue pressing. I have a short trip in two weeks, but nothing confirmed after that. Of course, that could change in the next five minutes. 🙂

  • I’m so glad you are getting this break. I often see my travel friends going nonstop and I actually do worry (yes, it is the mom in me, I admit it). I try to balance out the work trips with our vacations, not just for my family’s sake, but mine as well. It’s exhausting always being “on” when you travel. We love to see new places and explore. I’m fortunate that my boys do slow me down a ton, but the work does pile up. I’m coming off of almost a month of travel and I am actually happy for the first time in 2 years to be staying put for a few weeks so I can catch up on work, life and actually read what others have been doing (like you) and get ready for my next travels. Sometimes we really do need to just check out of our travel lives so we can travel. Have a great vacation!!!

    • Leah Walker
      March 17, 2014

      You’re so right. I’ve noticed you’ve been traveling a lot, with kids in tow. I don’t see how you manage. My hat’s off to you. Enjoy your time at home for a bit.

  • Gran Canaria Local
    March 16, 2014

    So empathize with you, Leah. Press trips are notoriously tricky to arrange. And then we spend our travels frantically trying to document every moment. Scribbling furiously on our notepads and snapping away on our cameras. You so deserve to take some time out.

    • Leah Walker
      March 17, 2014

      It’s just like with anything in life. Sometimes we just have to say “stop” and be for a few minutes. It makes us better for the long run, I suppose.

  • noel
    March 16, 2014

    Good for you, a rest between grueling trips is well deserved, especially when there is so much logistics and details to always iron out….the main parts of every travel trip and story never exposed but essential to getting the most exposure….rest now and check out a few travel blogs 🙂

    • Leah Walker
      March 17, 2014

      Have a travel blog in particular I should read, Noel? 😉

  • Vid
    March 17, 2014

    Leah,

    Reading through the post, I could relate to all of what you said. It’s almost always about “getting the best shot” or “jotting down notes”, but Savi and I try to keep a few days in every trip where we don’t do any “work”. You are right in saying that old habits die hard and inevitably some work stuff does creep in.

    ” and the social media monster must always be fed.” – lol, it is definitely a very hungry monster.

    Happy to see that you are taking a break (of sorts) and enjoying the city. A leisurely coffee, a cake, and a book should make your afternoon worthwhile.

    Cheers

    Vid

    • Leah Walker
      March 17, 2014

      That’s great that you build in those days. I think I may start doing that myself.

  • Charu
    March 17, 2014

    I actually cannot travel non stop. I am very particular about remembering my travels and need that “simmer” time to reflect and appreciate and gather the facts. Non stop travel makes me a robot, and while I love travel for travel’s sake, I guess I appreciate strong memories even more!

    • Leah Walker
      March 17, 2014

      It’s certainly something I’m starting to discover. My hat’s off to those nomads that are constantly on the road. I don’t see how they do it. I think it’s important to reflect on what you’ve experienced to truly appreciate it. I plan on doing that a little more in the future.

  • It sounds like you work really hard and deserve to be able to enjoy a few days of no strings attached rest and relaxation! Good on you for prioritising a bit of “me” time!

    • Leah Walker
      March 29, 2014

      I do love my work, so a short break is about all I can stand. There are worse problems to have. 🙂

  • Brianna
    March 17, 2014

    We all need to put down the camera from time to time to savor the experience and not live it through the lens and the keyboard

    • Leah Walker
      March 29, 2014

      Amen to that! Now, if I can just remember the sage advice.

  • Mary Anne
    March 18, 2014

    I suppose I am just as guilty at times… but when it’s time to cut loose… boy, I cut loose. So I leave you with my favorite word. Balance.

    • Leah Walker
      March 29, 2014

      I’ve never been good at balance. I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. It’s something I should make a priority of.

  • Daidri
    March 18, 2014

    Ahhhh! I’m so thrilled to hear you are taking some time just for you. Blogging for only a year now, I’ve wondered if we are really able to shut off the “next story” consistently brewing in our heads and simply enjoy a vacation. But balance, I believe, is the key to a truly happy life and we all need time to recharge. I hope somewhere in all this you’re treating yourself to a massage. 🙂 I’m excited to hear what you have coming up next but for now, enjoy your time!

    • Leah Walker
      March 29, 2014

      Thank you, Daidri. I’m not sure we’ll ever truly be able to turn off the “next story” mentality, but it’s a nice dream. 😉

  • Jennifer
    March 18, 2014

    Good for you, Leah! I was just saying to Tim that we really ought to plan an actual vacation for ourselves sometime in the next year. It is hard – though thoroughly enjoyable – work to be a travel writer and it isn’t one big long vacation. If we’re doing our jobs right, we just leave readers believing that is as. After all, we’re here to inspire them to get out and travel! Enjoy your much needed and much deserved break.

    • Leah Walker
      March 29, 2014

      You’re exactly correct. If we’re doing our job well then all is Champagne and chocolate 24 hours per day. I don’t think that point can be stressed enough.

  • Erin at The World Wanderer
    March 18, 2014

    There is such a difference between a working trip and vacation. It’s hard to turn off the travel writer mentality sometimes, but even so, I think it’s good to leave your camera in the hotel.

    When I went to Miami for my birthday, I really tried to just be on vacation and not work, same thing with Barcelona. Sometimes, we just need a little break. People who are not in it don’t entirely understand, unless of course, they have traveled with us. Enjoy the break! You deserve it.

    • Leah Walker
      March 29, 2014

      Yes, I think that those not in the business get a completely different impression once they’ve been on a trip with us. I was just talking to my friend who went with me to Ireland a few years ago. I was just starting out travel writing, so it was nowhere close to what I do now. Even then she was surprised at how time consuming it all is.

  • Lance | Trips By Lance
    March 19, 2014

    I couldn’t take vacations before I was trying to be a travel writer, but I just don’t know how to slow down or take time for myself. It’s good to hear you taking a moment to catch your breath. I’m always paying attention to what you have going on and it has me exhausted just thinking about all the behind-the-scenes work you are putting into being able to be in all these places to tell these stories.

    I don’t wish to be people. I don’t envy others. However, I’ve paid closer attention to your journey the past year than any other blog I follow, and that’s a lot of blogs. I might eventually get off my arse (I just read “High Fidelity” and that’s how he spells it and I like it) and write the thank-you post I’ve been meaning to do for some time. And the timing is right considering I’m up for best new blog of 2014. But none of my journey would be happening if not for you. You’ve been a great mentor who has answered many questions over the past year. You certainly haven’t had to do that. So I’ll take this moment on your blog to publicly thank you for your advice, help and inspiration as I’ve started this journey as a travel blogger. If anyone deserves a little vacation it’s you. Relax, have fun and keep on keeping on. I hope you have plenty of Tabasco to get you through the journey.

    • Leah Walker
      March 29, 2014

      I’m completely shocked and humbled by your message. I had no idea that I had such an impact on your path. It’s inspiring to see how your blog has developed. As a professional journalist you are a great writer. I’m just glad that so many others are discovering your site. It’s quality, and that’s really hard to find in the blogosphere. Thank you again, Lance.

  • Pola (Jetting Around)
    March 21, 2014

    Good for you, Leah! As much as we may love travel blogging, it’s fantastic to just go somewhere obligation-free (or almost free) and just chill. ENJOY!

    • Leah Walker
      March 29, 2014

      Thank you, Pola. It’d be great to just chill with you again somewhere in the world. 🙂

  • Traveling Ted
    March 21, 2014

    I hear ya. Sometimes you just have to tune out, load up the fanny pack, and go.

    • Leah Walker
      March 29, 2014

      You are the king of that mantra. Teach me, Traveling Ted!

  • D.J. - The World of Deej
    March 21, 2014

    Great piece, Leah. A similar realization came to me several months ago, and I haven’t quite been the same since. I remember the exact moment: sitting at the dinner table with my family and my brother asked what my favorite hole at Pinehurst had been. I could only remember two or three of them, let alone pick a favorite. All because I had been too busy taking pictures, and not truly enjoying the moment and committing it to memory. Hopefully this recharge is exactly what you need!

    • Leah Walker
      March 29, 2014

      To not remember your favorite hole at Pinehurst is a disheartening thing for an avid golfer like yourself. I understand exactly why you disappeared for a bit. However, I’m glad to have you back!

  • Craig Zabransky
    March 21, 2014

    “I Live for Life’s Sake, not to do what other people want me to, but rather what makes me smile. The great affair is to truly be alive”

    Not sure why I just penned those words… but it just felt right after your reading your post… Anyways, enjoy your time.

    stay feeling alive, Craig

    • Leah Walker
      March 29, 2014

      Craig, you’re always full of….such inspiration. 😉

  • Lisa
    March 28, 2014

    I guess we all need to remember to take real break. We need to recharge our batteries to keep at the things we love. Good for you!

    • Leah Walker
      March 29, 2014

      Yes, I think the important thing is to be full strength to give all we have. Otherwise, we just wind up doing everything half-assed. 😉

  • Megan
    April 6, 2014

    Good for you, in your robe at noon. It’s cliche’ to say you have to “find a balance” in everything you do, but it’s true. I’ve seen so many travel bloggers/writers get burned out and jaded because it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the *process* of it all. It can be overwhelming. I learned I have to spend a day or two on the other side of scheduled things (if I can) to process what I’m about to do/just finished and allow time to write it all up when I get home. Of course, I haven’t actually put that into practice, but it sounds like a good idea..haha. Also, my family gets really annoyed at my constant note and picture taking and they’re happy to tell me to *stop* (and then I have to sneak out later). Oh, well. As you said, a day doing this beats a day in the classroom. Happy travels, Leah.

  • Tim
    April 7, 2014

    I have been traveling for a while now and can completely relate to your passion. It can fill a life with excitement and wonder. I look forward to following along with you.

    • Leah Walker
      July 2, 2014

      Thank you so much, Tim. Safe travels!

  • Loz in Transit
    April 8, 2014

    Eeeek! You’re actually describing my worst fear, to have incredible moments and not being present to actually enjoy the moment. I know it’s part of the work and only certain types of people (i.e hardworking, passionate) get themselves in position to earn such obligation-filled but privileged adventures. I think the only solution might be to work really, really hard at being someone’s “+1” 🙂
    Keep it up Leah, don’t lose the passion and enjoy the time to appreciate what’s in front of you wherever you are which is the reason most of us travel in the first place. Keep living [and enjoying] the dream.

    • Leah Walker
      July 2, 2014

      Haha! Being someone’s +1 sounds awesome, but I’m too much of a control freak to give this up. I love it so!

  • Joe Vargas
    July 2, 2014

    Leah,

    I just found your site and love it already. This story highlights the importance of downtime no matter what you do to pay the bills. I can’t wait to read more about your travels.

    Your story and life are what I hope to be doing in the next 3-4 years.

    All the best,
    Joe

    • Leah Walker
      July 2, 2014

      Hi Joe. I got your email and will reply shortly. Also, thank you for your comment. It’s a labor of love, that’s for sure.

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