120 Days on The Road.

The reality of being a freelance digital nomad and ambitious travel blogger hits me after 4 months on the road.

This is officially the longest I’ve been on the road. I’ve lived out of my backpack for four months. And while I don’t long to have a home to go back to, the romance of being location independent is slowly wearing away.

Also Read: Two Months on The Road: Highs and Lows

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Freelance digital nomad: Catching up on work and wifi in Udaipur.

The dream life

I still wake up with starry eyed dreams and endless possibilities of where the road might lead me. One moment, I’m drinking opium with a tribal shepherd community in Rajasthan. The next I’m sipping Gluhwein in the festive Christmas markets of Germany. One day, I’m watching a tiger look for its prey in the open grasslands. The next I’m marveling at the underwater life of Seychelles.

These experiences sound extraordinary on paper, and even in my head as I pen them. But the realities of long term travel – and those of being a freelance digital nomad and an ambitious travel blogger – are slowly hitting me.

The flashpacking challenge

I sit on the rooftop of a guesthouse in Udaipur, overlooking the Pichola lake as I pen this, and being here is the foremost challenge I continue to face.

Busting my freelance digital nomad budget at 2000 rupees a night, I neither have a decent standard of living (all those years in Singapore have certainly raised my expectations) nor a fast enough internet connection. To arrive here, I could change three local buses from the village in Pali I was at, eat a truckload of dust in the 4 or so hours it would take to get here, and pay a maximum of 150 rupees. Or I could take an AC taxi that would cost me 2000 rupees and 2.5 hours.

I’m forever struggling for a middle option, a flashpacking alternative if you may. And you can say that taking local buses and staying in budget accommodations is the way India is meant to be experienced, but after you’ve done it for four months straight, and seen the sheer standard of budget travel in Europe or another developed country, it’s tough. It certainly has been tough for me.

The reality of being a freelance digital nomad

Add to that the continuous struggle of never being paid on time as a freelance digital nomad. And the continuous negotiations with PR companies whose only agenda seems to be squeezing more blood blog posts out of you on unfair terms. When I thought I was finally learning to walk away, I was only learning to walk into traps of unfulfilled promises. Sigh, I feel exhausted.

I know I can hardly complain when I look back at the fabulous year in travel I’ve had, especially the last four months. I get emails every day from people who admire my way of life. But I think I’ve gone from dreaming about waking up in a different place every other day (which I’m doing now), to dreaming about having a nice bathroom to shower in! Life is strange, and atleast on some days, the grass seems to be greener (and cleaner) elsewhere.

120 days on the road have put much into perspective, and I’m determined to make some tough decisions for next year. I guess we’ll have to wait and watch how my freelance digital nomad life evolves.

Do you ever see yourself as a freelance digital nomad? How have your travels evolved over the years?

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  1. Shivya, I could never do this nomadic lifestyle even if I was younger. But I have to say that its is really gutsy of you to even attempt it. No matter what you decide to do in the coming year or how things evolve, you’ll always be glad that you gave it a shot. And thanks for the honest blog posts on both the good and bad side of long term travel. Too many posts are only all good which I know is not always the case in travel. Godspeed on your travels!

    1. Thanks Sudha for the encouraging note. I’m re-reading this and thinking, what a rant! I just needed to get it out of my system. My only aim for next year is to focus on my bucket list, which I shall post soon 🙂

  2. Honest view, sheer analyses and deep reflection….that’s how I am gonna understand this post. I know it sounds bookish, you will face difficulties, worldly comforts may lure you and a few unreasonable wants will make you crib sometimes (or a lot of the times). Still I’ll say “never give up my traveler friend”. Never!

    1. Thanks; I needed to hear that. I think I just need to wipe out things I hate about travel from my agenda – like trips that force me to follow a forced itinerary and go really fast. Not giving up on location independence just yet 🙂

  3. That’s amazing Shivya. Not everyone can do what you are doing. Everyone wants to travel, that’s human nature but travel means different to every other person. I fancy the kind of travel you do but I might never experience it because I am not meant for that. I love to travel for hours in a bus and I did try that few times, and yes I must say, it’s amazing.

    I can understand other issues that you are facing and I am sure every thing will get better with time. Your hard work as a traveller would one day take you or lead you to better opportunities.

    Keep travelling like you always do.


    1. Thanks for the hopeful note, Krishnam! I just needed to get this rant out of my system; 3 days of coming to see the family and I can’t wait to get on the road again 😉

  4. This is the post I had been waiting for….to know what’s been going through your mind…about the decisions that you have taken/will take…the bumps along the way, behind those pretty pictures. Whatever you decide for the future, Shivya, I am sure that would be the best for you. Cheers to the nomad in you!

    1. Thanks Sangeeta! I suppose there’s nothing in life without bumps, but it sure helped to put this out there and share the flip side of budget travel in India.

  5. Again a great post that is straight from the heart… best of luck my friend ! Wishing you an inspiring 2014.

  6. Love the honesty in this post. I’m sure you will get through this challenging time and find a good and sustainable way forward. Sending you some hugs and good luck!

  7. The idea of not having a ‘base’ to go back to always scares the hell out of me. No matter what you eventually decide, hats off to you for living this life for so long. It is definitely not the same, living this way in Europe. India has its local challenges (and perks, of course). But really, how fascinating it must be… The possibilities are truly endless!!!

    1. I can imagine, but once you do it, it’s really not that scary. You’re always thinking, looking ahead and it’s an awesome feeling. My dream is to take this lifestyle to other (cheap) countries like in Southeast Asia next. Fingers crossed it works out!

  8. Roberto Amaral says:

    You have a “home” / “family” here… 🙂

  9. Stay steady girl whatever you choose. I am trying to remember my comment on your first log of being on road indefinitely , guess something like ‘don’t let this decision to not make another one when you feel like’ . Wishes and lucks . – Nandan

    1. Thanks Nandan; I indeed remembered your comment on that post while I was writing this one. But to be honest, it’s not the long term travel that I’m tired of. It’s the sacrifices that budget travel in India involves – that’s what I need a break from, and that’s what I’m dreaming about as I type! Thanks for your support as always. x

  10. because there is no middle ground for dreams; u are either living it or u are not. I’d say this is probably your middle ground, bursting budgets & sacrificing the sanitation, BUT doing what your heart desires & breathing out in fantasy! 😀

    1. Fair enough! And I’m going to continue doing it, it was just good to get the occasional frustration out there for everyone who thinks I have such a perfect life 😉

  11. The star is shooting and from the hip! First of all I love the image of your writing seat, I could be inspired in a place like this and perhaps a writer’s block might just evaporate in the winter sun. I was reading your ” Questions You May Have ” section, funny and very informative. I guess you have set many feet itching all around the nation with your posts. You are doing what you like and that’s all there is to it I guess. I mean sure heaps of people would say they’d love to do what you do but it certainly can’t be everyone’s cup of tea even if they manage to acquire the courage. When you say 120 days on the road keeping it together, most of us see only : 120 days not in office!

    1. Haha, I know just what you mean. Part of why I wanted to pen and post this rant was to share the realities, the not so glamorous sides of travel with people who think that a life of travel is without any odds. Hope it has put things into perspective!

  12. Apurva Vohra says:

    Your weary feet pushed you into looking at this objectively. Fair enough!
    But, hey, if you had been practical and objective you wouldn’t have been where you are today:)
    I just want to remind you, you have been an inspiration to tons of people in the nation, infact, you proved that whatever we wish for can happen , if we make it happen..
    Kudos to that, so whatever you decide, you have already left footprints in the sand of travel

    1. Thanks for the encouragement Apurva. The lows of travel are rare, but when they hit, they hit hard. I needed to get it out of my system as much as I needed to share the flipside of long term travel with everyone who aspires to have such a life.

      Don’t write me off travelling just yet! The sands have blown over 🙂

  13. It’s refreshing to hear your honesty Shivya. And even if you do get tired of long term travelling and blogging, I am sure you will look back on this journey with an immense satisfaction that nothing can replace. It’s wonderful and absolutely gutsy of you to have set out on this journey at all, and to have made the most of it. Of course, all good things slowly come to an end…and even taking that decision to close a chapter and begin another afresh is a tough one. All the very best to you…you have and will continue to be a great inspiration for many.

    1. Thanks for your support, but hey, I’m not going to stop travelling / blogging. They’re the only two things I love, and as with everything else, there are bad days. I’m far from giving up so let’s leave the end of the chapter for another time 🙂

      1. That’s perfect then 🙂 Keep travelling and regaling us with the wonderful stories!

  14. Thanks for being so honest. At one stage I had seriously decided to do a year of travelling but it never materialized due to financial constraints (and a little bit of family and the char-log-kya-kahenge). It s a regret and I have lived these months vicariously through you. Even if a tough choice needs to be made- I am glad you took the jump and will not have regrets.

    1. I’m glad to hear you lived these months through my lens; there’s more to come, I promise. Just that I’m going to try harder to put my foot down and not settle for things I know I don’t like. And you know, it’s never too late for you to start living that dream now, have no regrets my friend, just do it.

  15. I can fully identify with you, this travel fatigue takes its toll. So it seems now is the time to take a break travel and sit at home for sometime doing (and writing) nothing. You can decide later on ..

    1. Came to see the family for 3 days and I already miss the road so much! I think it was just one of those days that I needed to rant about; thanks for all your encouragement 🙂

  16. Travelfreak says:

    Dear Shivya

    Very genuine post. Nomadic life is first a mindset and then a lifestyle. And almost all long term travellers go through similar emotions as you are. That is the process of switching from a lifestyle to a mindset.
    These emotions are very real – desire for your room, bathroom, money, transport and all the rest. Travelling can be very exhaustive and not just glamorous all the time as it seems.
    When I started travelling, I felt the need to rush from one place to another. But then I met an experienced traveller who told me to take my time in one place for as long as required to slow the pace otherwise I shall tire of travelling. Travelling is not only about knowing a destination but also learning about oneself.
    Keep going and it would be all okay.
    Good luck!!

  17. Well done on a brave post – sometimes when you travel a lot you feel you’re compelled to enjoy every second, like every place, say hello to every new person etc. I did a 4.5 month backpacking stint a couple of years ago and it can be tough sometimes – still, as you say, it is definitely worth those tougher days for all the travel you get to do!
    Good luck with your travels for next year 🙂

  18. Kara Freedman says:

    I’m wondering about the deals with PR companies – when they pay for your flight / room / etc., is there often a blogging requirement like you mentioned in this post?

    As everyone above has said, I’m sure you’ll make the right decision whether to continue as you are now or to slow down or to find a home base. Good luck!.

  19. Shivya, you are an inspiration to me! 🙂 I am one person who can be called a reluctant traveler – I hate changes, I am afraid of trying anything new and I am super paranoid about the things I ‘may’ need when I step out of the house.. But I love to meet new people, make friends, chat away about random things and sometimes just to walk or sit in solitude.. I absolutely fell in love with the idea of slow (and solo) travel after I came across your blog and a couple of others that I have been following for a few months, but never had the courage to take a holiday alone and with the sole purpose of relaxing rather than crossing off a place from my list of places-to-visit-in-this-lifetime.. The more I read your experiences, the more real it seemed that I would one day be able to do so myself.. And I did – I took off (from Delhi) to Coorg in the last week of December, spent a couple of days with friends and the rest on my own doing nothing but taking walks, reading and writing.. It was the first holiday of this kind for me and I have come back with my batteries recharged.. 🙂 So thank you so much for writing all that you have and making it possible for others to draw motivation from you.. Keep up the good work! 🙂

    1. You really made my day Mathangi! I sometimes ask myself why I put in so much effort documenting my experiences on the blog, in a ‘what’s the point’ kind of way. This is exactly the point 🙂 I’m sure you’ll go and share your travel experiences with more people (or maybe others will read this comment), and if each one of us can motivate just one more person, it’ll be a different world. Thank you so much for sharing your experience here. Hope to bump into you on the road some time. Take care!

  20. I am a dancer and dance writer, and I first came across your website through your post on vegetarian food in Europe, while I was in Berlin. Initially, reading about your approach to life, I was cynical, because it seemed like you couldn’t possibly earn a livelihood doing what you do. But now I see how you do it, and believe in it, and I must say it keeps me inspired too. I started commenting on this post because I totally empathise with unreasonable writing demands and irregular freelance payments; I’m in the same boat right now. But I also want to say thank you – somewhere, following your blog over the past few months has changed my approach to ‘livelihood’ and ‘work’ and I’m increasingly trying to find ways of making the things I love work for me instead of spending my time being upset about how they could never possibly take me anywhere. So, thank you for this life lesson, and I hope that you keep doing the things you love. And oh, Happy New Year!

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