“How long have you been traveling?”
I hate this question. Unfortunately, it’s a question I get asked pretty much anytime I meet anyone. It’s not that I wouldn’t like to answer it, it’s just that I really don’t know how to answer it. I usually respond with, “It depends on how you define travel.” A very University of Chicago answer, if I do say so myself, turning to semantics to dodge the question entirely.
But I don’t actually know what “traveling” means. To some it means backpacking, i.e. “How long have you been anyway from home and when will you return? To some, it means, “How long have you been out of the U.S?” This poses another problem. How long since I’ve lived in the U.S. or how long since I have physically been there?
When I was in Colombia and Argentina, I felt like I was “living” in those countries and therefore could just say, “I’ve been living here X months.”
Working From Ecuador
But recently I haven’t been living anywhere. I’ve sort of been floating around while working. I went to Ecuador for a couple of weeks and worked from a cute AirBnB up on a hill in a town called Cuenca. Every afternoon a boy with a cow walked by my window on a dirt road. I usually worked from 5 am until noon and then went out for a menu del dia (menu of the day, always $2.50) and read Love in the Time of Cholera and philosophized about life.
Then I’d plow into the most writing and editing assignments I’ve ever had at one time. One week I ended up working 9-11 hour days. Working that much makes it hard to feel like you are traveling.
My goal had been to travel on the weekends but some weekends you just need to rest. I did manage to see a small town named Banos where I went to Casa Del Arbol and did a 4-hour hike on what I thought was a well-known hiking trail but ended up being pretty overgrown and incredibly difficult. Luckily I had downloaded the entire “Serial” series which I listened to while I walked. If you haven’t listened to Adnan Syed’s case, I highly recommend it.
I also stopped briefly in Quito and met up with an old friend from Prague who has been traveling around for the better part of a year and a half. He, too, dreads the “How long have you been traveling?” question.
Working From Peru
I finally made it to Peru and explored a bit of Cusco and Lima. As per my last blog, I experienced my 5th new wonder of the world (Machu Picchu) and explored the sacred valley and the markets of Pisac. I also met up with Franklin, a friend of my friend Gian from Argentina. He was an excellent guide to Lima.
While being able to work and travel is an excellent gift, I have to say that some things are not conducive to the digital nomad lifestyle. Changing locations every week is exhausting when you are working 6-11 hours every day. It means constantly unpacking, getting organized, and worrying about the wifi being good enough to conduct online classes.
It also takes a bit of the charm and spontaneity out of traveling. It was much harder to connect with people as I wanted to be asleep by 9 pm every night in order to be awake by 4 am for work. It meant staying in AirBnBs instead of hostels at the expense of meeting other travelers. It also meant not being able to travel slowly by bus or train and having the luxury of not feeling stressed about delays and other transportation issues.
Being in one place just makes it easier to enjoy a different culture while holding down a job. It gives you more sufficient time to get to know a place. Luckily, the amazing gift of working online means I can do that from literally anywhere in the world with electricity and wifi. That’s why I’m going to stay put for the next few months.
So I moved. South America will always be an incredibly important part of my travels, and I had an excellent 13 months there. But for now…