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On traveling and ”being online too much”

”Tiu, what on earth are you doing online again?” That was the message on my Facebook timeline from a yet another friend with good intentions. ”Isn’t the point of traveling to actually travel, not to make a record on the number of countries you can sit in front of your computer!” she continued. I sighed and started to type a response.

”Dear Friend With Good Intentions,
I understand that you are writing this from Finland, which is currently as cold as a witch’s tit in a brass bra. I feel you, sister. I’ve been there. During those darkest months everything you do during your waking hours is done under artificial light. The only relief from the depression is to start fantasizing about rad beach parties and driving your rental scooter around Asia with the ever-blazing sun above you. During those fantasies you noted that I had posted something on Facebook and you took it to your heart to send me a message to remind me that ”with all due respect” I’m doing it wrong. But you forgot the flipside of the coin.

At the beginning there was a dream…

I was busting my ass off to save every penny I earned for this dream of traveling around the world. I made everything in my life revolve around this one single dream and at the same time made a surprising amount of compromises and sacrifices to get what I wanted. We all now know how that story ended: One day I found myself sitting in Departures with the love of my life ready to embark on the journey of a lifetime.

The first week was spent recuperating from the sacrifices made in previous weeks. All I wanted was the comfort of my good friends in London and nice stay-at-home evenings with pizzas and movies.

Then came Asia and again the first week flew by recovering from the previous week in London. All I wanted was a room with air con and a nice place to eat. Already at that time we spent a fair amount of time on the internet. Recuperating is best done over there, since it has certain elements of comfort: lots of familiar faces and information for spooking the insecurities away. Everyone wanted to know how the first weeks had been, which made being online even more recharging.

We didn’t get a long time to rest tho’ before we were asked to participate as volunteers at New Life Foundation. For the next two weeks we weren’t online, even tho’ we spent even more time hunching over our computers than we usually did in our everyday life back in Finland. (I bet nobody really noticed my online absence during that time.) But at the same time we were socializing, helping a great organisation, doing yoga and meditation and excursions. Ideal traveling experiences but it still all revolved around computers. We found out that making new friends while traveling is so effortless that you would have to intentionally insult their mothers to keep them at bay.

We got back from New Life to Chiang Mai and a funny thing happened: We realized that we liked traveling. Thoughts began to arise about how to use our skills to help other people while earning enough money to keep traveling. The realisation that we were actually traveling for a whole year started to sink in.

Sometimes it feels like that not many people understand how much time a year really is. We are not here for a two-week vacation where you have to saturate your adventure-deprived soul with every little bit of extreme experience you can find. A year means that you are not in a hurry. A year means that there is time for those cheek-drooling-ball-scratching-I-forgot-when-I-last-showered AND shit-we-took-the-wrong-bus-and-ended-up-on-a-wild-Kakadu-hunt-in-the-Amazon experiences.

A year of traveling also means that you have a budget. The money has to last for a long time and every penny you spend is a penny you are never gonna see again. I can’t (or I really don’t want to, actually) return to my office after my travels to earn those pennies back. Constant exploring, moving around and finding activities is expensive. Staying put, living routinely and chillin’ out is not. So since the daytime temperatures can get really hot, it is more pleasing to just crawl into the shade and think about all those new and exciting prospects of traveling more than year and becoming a chronic drifter. And alas, we are back on the internet – the cheapest and most convenient place to do research on future destinations and plan vagabonding strategies while sipping mango smoothies on the guesthouse terrace.

The mango smoothie didn't make it into this picture :(

Looking at it from this perspective, it starts to make sense why we are online frequently. To make more money we need to find more ways to use our existing ninja skills with computers. But what adds even more to our internet time is exactly that – our skills with computers. The IT world is notoriously fast-moving. If you want to keep your skill level (or even level up!), you need to study and work on personal/freelance projects – and that means more time online again.

So taking into consideration of all these arguments for being online during our travels, defending it starts to feel silly. The fact of the matter is that these IT leopards just can’t change their spots. For us it is a way to make ourselves better, to relax, to educate ourselves, to make future plans and to simply stay in touch with our friends. It’s regrettable if this offends anyone’s ideas of ”true traveling”. But we wanted from the very beginning to make absolutely sure that we stay honest to our own hearts’ desires. We need to find our own traveling pace and style and listen to our own rhythm. This is a challenge that all travelers eventually have to face. For us, chasing experiences constantly is exhausting. The mind becomes muddled and you actually end up missing many things happening around you because of sensory overload. Some people have a higher tolerance for it, certainly, but I also think you need some downtime to absorb your experiences.

I think that in the end ”the right way” to travel is actually just finding your own way to travel.

IT leopards. They do exist.