Why I’m No Longer Travelling Full Time.

For a long time, I’ve wandered the world in search of the perfect place to call home.

But subconsciously, I’ve always waited for places to reveal their imperfections, and push me away. Chiang Mai got too busy, Guatemala was too far, New York was too expensive, Uttarakhand lacked an international flavor, Tbilisi’s visa norms had become too random, and so on.

Deep down, I guess I knew that a perfect place does not exist. But leaving one meant seeking another, and then another.

Even as I felt increasingly guilty of my flying footprint, I tried to continue my life of long term travel by substituting frequent flying with adventurous land journeys. In the years before the pandemic, I travelled overland from the Persian Gulf via the South of Iran to Armenia. Used public transport to cross land borders across Central America, Southeast Asia and Central Asia. And spent weeks travelling from Thailand via Myanmar to India to speak at a responsible tourism summit.

Then of course, the pandemic hit, and left me no choice but to stow away my bags and travel aspirations. Gradually, as the world returned to “normal,” I thought I could seek my old life too. But when I got back on the road, I realized that nothing was the same. I had changed, my professional dreams had changed, my personal aspirations had changed, the road had changed, and travelling itself had changed too.

After seven years of living out of two bags (and whiling away two years of being grounded), I feel ready to pursue a different kind of life. Here’s why I’m no longer travelling full time – and what that means for my professional and personal life:

Contentment in a slower life

kayaking in goa in the monsoon
Never imagined my life in Goa could be an impetus to stop travelling full time!

My partner and I have been frequenting Goa for many monsoons – but we always let its imperfections gradually push us out.

When we moved to Goa during the pandemic, it was a move of circumstance, not choice. But something shifted between then and now. Goa gradually showed us a slower life we didn’t know we could fall deeply in love with.

We live an earthy life in the midst of nature, close to a beach with some of the world’s most magical sunsets. Weekends are for hiking in the mist-laden ghats, or kayaking in the mangroves, or swimming in remote waterfalls. Our supply chains are all set up – organic produce from farms across Goa and India, deliveries from zero waste stores (we’re spoilt for a choice of not one but three!), and a ton of incredible vegan choices from home chefs, vegan kitchens and eateries. There are beach workouts, hammock mornings, musical nights, yoga classes, working from cozy cafés, and plenty of like-minded souls to socialize with.

While travelling in Europe earlier this year, I constantly dreamt about this life in Goa! Though compounded by many other factors, this has been my biggest impetus to swap my nomadic life for a slower one.

Also read: The Joy of Slow Travel

The environmental footprint of travel

reducing carbon footprint by flying lesser
As someone who travels a lot – both professionally and personally – I feel incredibly guilty of my flying footprint.

It’s no secret that the world is getting pretty f*cked. 2022 alone has witnessed a record number of extreme weather events – heatwaves across Europe, floods across Southeast Asia, avalanches in Uttarakhand, and so much more.

It has been pretty sobering to go back to school, and learn to calculate the carbon emissions and ecosystem impact of the choices we make – collectively and individually. With the numbers in my head, I can no longer justify a life of long term travel where flying is almost a necessity. Visa ending, fly out. Seasons changing, fly out. No work opportunities, fly out. Difficult land borders, fly out. Nowhere to go back to, fly out.

I’ve justified some of this flying by the potential impact writing about local responsible travel experiences can have – but in all honesty, I’m hardly able to buy my own argument.

I don’t think I can give up flying altogether. My income relies entirely on travelling (though I’m trying to pivot, atleast partially), and I’d still love to travel once in a while for personal fulfillment. But now that I’m no longer pursuing full time travel, I’m already flying a lot less – and hope to cut it down further in the coming years.

Also read: How I’m Financially Sustaining My Digital Nomad Lifestyle

Instagram and the purpose of travel

experiences while travelling the world full time
Grateful that I’ve been travelling for sometime, and had a chance to experience the world before Instagram.

If you know me, you probably know that I’ve long shared a hate-love relationship with Instagram.

On the one hand, it has pushed me to explore meaningful storytelling through short form videos, narrative captions and photography, and allowed me to build a tight-knit community of like-minded travellers, some of who have turned into great friends in real life. It has given me opportunities beyond what I could have imagined, and helped increase my income many-fold in the last few years.

But on the other hand, I hate what it has turned travel into. I cringe every time I see travel reels that objectify places, and photography that merely uses the destination as a backdrop. And we’ve all seen the impact of Instagram play out real time on communities and natural landscapes across the world.

In the last few months, the cringe factor of Instagram has been so high that it has put me off travel in a strange sort of way. I’m constantly asking that if by being somewhere, and writing about it, am I just an equal part of the problem?

Also read: What I’ve Learnt About Growing Organically on Instagram

A new professional journey with Climate Conscious Travel

trekking in the mountains leaving the traveller transformed
I like travelling because it has the potential to transform our worldview, but I can no longer ignore all the negative impacts of travel.

In recent weeks, when I’ve mentioned to friends and family that I’m no longer travelling full time, their first question is, but how can you continue to be a travel writer?

Luckily, even before I decided to do away with my digital nomad life, I had already set myself in a new direction.

I’ve been really fortunate for all the travel opportunities that’ve came my way. I’ve stayed at some of the world’s most incredible eco-lodges and spent time at some exemplary community tourism initiatives. But the more I write about sustainable tourism, the more aware I become of the long journey that lies ahead of the tourism industry to become truly sustainable. Besides, in the midst of a climate emergency, climate action, awareness and resilience are the need of the hour – yet far from the agenda of most tourism destinations and businesses.

I realized I could no longer wait around for things to be better, so I could write about them – though there’s value in calling out what needs to change, and some of my colleagues in the travel writing space are doing it brilliantly.

So I went back to school and began to reskill – and realized I could play a role in accelerating the change, atleast in some small capacity. I’ve been consulting a tourism business on calculating and reducing their carbon emissions, and designing community based offsets for carbon neutral trips. I’m co-creating a sustainable tourism storytelling project with a European partner. And there is other exciting work in the pipeline.

I recently decided to formalize some of this work in the form of Climate Conscious Travel – which works with businesses and destinations to develop sustainable tourism solutions that centre communities, conservation and climate action.

I’m still trying to find the balance between travel writing and Climate Conscious Travel, and sometimes feel overwhelmed juggling the two. But I’m looking forward to all the possibilities that are emerging.

An evolved slow travel dream

meaningful slow travel
I hope to balance meaningful work with a slower life in the coming months and years.

What does all this mean for my travels – both professionally and personally?

In the short term, I’ll still continue to travel for meaningful assignments and speaking opportunities – and club them with short trips that support responsible tourism businesses and community initiatives. I hope to slow travel once every few months, though the frequency will be a lot less than before.

What I dream of now, is being able to live in a place not for a few months at a time, but a few years. That would give me enough time to build a sense of community, meaningful connections with locals, and supply chains for organic, zero waste, vegan food – while keeping my footprint low, and savoring a slower life.

I know that with an Indian passport, that might just be a far-fetched dream. Either way, I’m excited to see how this journey shapes up.

How are you feeling about travelling these days?

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25 Comments

  1. Keep at it, Shivya! It is inspiring to see you let life take its course without holding onto identities, letting yourself be vulnerable and just being you. I am sure a lot of beautiful things await you on this leg of your life’s journey. All the best! Look forward to reading more about your sustainability projects.

  2. Stephen Gamber says:

    Thank you for sharing. Intriguing to hear how your thoughts on travel have changed.

  3. Anjuli Kaul says:

    You have been a household name for a long time. I travel a lot in India. Only by train :). Congratulations on your shifting priorities. Anjuli, Goa

  4. I love you journey and your writing! So much of your story’s trajectory and vision of the future echoes with mine, even though our journey happened through very different life experiences. Local, organic, community, story-telling, conscious, curious, evolving…. and ultimately hopeful.

  5. You are an inspiration, truly. If you’d like to spend some time with us in Canada (Toronto), contact me. We have lots of room and an open-door approach to guests. Your partner is welcome too. I love hearing about your journey, and I struggle with some of the same things in regards to travel, which I love. Keep the thoughts flowing!

  6. Rajendra NargundkarRajendra says:

    Makes sense. I am less enamored with international travel than I used to be now, part of the reason being the Indian passport that requires too many formalities just to get a tourist visa.. another maybe age and wisdom! I have to travel for work as long as I work, but will be choosy with discretionary travel in future.

  7. Really lovely piece and I feel like it’s come at the right time for me personally. Travel has been a big part of my life and the pandemic was the longest I stayed local for more than few months for the first time since I was a baby, really! At first it felt constricting but over time, I’ve truly come to appreciate all the wonderful things in my area and country, take more meaning from relationships with people close to me, and just genuinely enjoy slowing down and realise my FOMO is a pressure that I don’t need to feel. Travel is a part of who I am but not entirely who I am. The environmental impact has always been on my mind but, personally, I was too selfish to really make it a priority to think about, but the pandemic gave me the time and space to do so.

    Sorry to hijack this comment with my own experiences but I just wanted to say how much this resonated with me and to thank you for writing it.

  8. What a beautifully thought out and written blog. I can relate to a lot of what you wrote, especially finding those Instagram worthy shots which I have in the past tried to find when travelling. Finding places to discover closer to home during the pandemic has made me appreciate what is in my own country. There is still so much I would like to see but reading your journey reminds me that looking for eco-conscious ways to do this is important for the earth and all of us on it. All the best with your future plans!

  9. Kethireddy Srinivas says:

    Just don’t stop traveling.And let us know your travel experience,good things about the places you go.

  10. Anita Faria says:

    This article really resonated with me. I travelled constantly before the pandemic, because I worked remotely, and even before 2020 I was already feeling strange about it. Being forced to be still for 2 years gave me the time to learn to enjoy the joys that being in one place can bring. I think that we all need to slow down, and I’m happy that you will continue to contribute to the world of travel, because thoughful voices like yours are very much needed. Wish you all the peace and happiness.

  11. Divya Hasti says:

    Honestly, when I read the title, it was surprising or rather shocking given the fact you lived that digital nomad lifestyle for such a long time. The transition must have been tough, for sure. But I’m happy you made this choice, amidst everything that has been happening around. I can’t wait to see how this new journey unfolds, and what learnings it has in store. It sounds wonderful, this way and idea of actually slowing down. Wishing you the best for this.

    And hoping Climate Conscious Travel project, takes off well; sounds exciting and promising. ❤

  12. This feels so relatable especially after pandamic. Being a photographer I always loved travelling and now something has changed and I almost doubted and forced myself to travel again to go back to my old “cool” self but all I wanted to do on my recent trip to Morroco was walk in a small town rather than the big ones and understand the culture a bit more. Thank you for writing this. 🙂

  13. My thoughts resonate with you, Shivya. Travel is supposed to bring happiness, make us grow, help us relax, open ourselves to new experiences & people, to mention a few reasons. Instead, it is about making a statement on social media. In itself, sharing over SM is not bad but in its current state, a lot needs to change. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  14. Zac Stafford says:

    I love this! My wife and I started full time travel in 2015 and also just decided to settle down – in Maine! It’s tough to make this decision and I feel every word of your post.

  15. I have never imagined that Goa could be a get away for not just parties but living a slow paced life as well. I would love to hear more about your current locality.

  16. Great read, important topics!
    Although I stopped flying in Europe, I recently took a plane to a Spanish island and realized why I love slow travel so much. The environment, the weather changes slowly and you adapt to it during the trip. In today’s world, everything is moving so fast. I firmly believe that slowing down, taking it all in and being present is worth more. Cheers to the concept of slow living and slow travel. 🥳
    Enjoy the journey, Shivya!

  17. Congrats! It’s hard stay at a certain place after getting used to being on road. Hopefully, you’ll also adapt quickly to this new situation.
    Wishing you best.

  18. It’s tough to make this decision and I feel every word of your post. Wishing you best

  19. Your transition from a life of constant travel to embracing a slower, more sustainable lifestyle in Goa is deeply inspiring.

  20. “A beautifully articulated journey into a new chapter of life. 📝🌈 ‘Why I’m No Longer Traveling Full Time’ captures the essence of change, growth, and the evolving definition of home. The author’s storytelling prowess makes it a compelling read for both avid travelers and those contemplating a shift.”

  21. I also love travelling to much but I have no enough resources but hope so that soon I will become financially stable and fulfil my dreams.

    1. Shivya Nath says:

      Hope so for you too Sahil! Earn, save, travel, repeat was my mantra for so long that it feels like the only way of life now!

  22. Thank you for sharing your story with such authenticity and grace. Your words serve as a reminder to embrace wherever life takes us, whether it’s on the road or in the comfort of our own homes.

  23. This really resonates with me, especially post-pandemic. As a writer, travel has always been a passion. Thank you for sharing this.

  24. You have been a household name for a long time. I travel a lot in India. Only by train :). Congratulations on your shifting priorities.

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