We had just ordered our pizza and were hungrily sipping on our drinks, desperately waiting for our food to arrive after a long day at the world’s biggest travel trade fair. It had been a day of small talk and business appointments, but as the evening commenced our press badges and business selves were slowly vanishing.
We started chatting about non-work related topics, but naturally always returned to the same old one, the common favorite: Travel. — Have you been to the Algarve? Can you repeat how to say cheers in Hungarian? What did you think of Bratislava?
I suddenly realized that I was sitting on a long table inside an Italian restaurant in Berlin-Mitte, and every single person of the more than twenty I was sitting amongst had most likely been to Italy.
Is this real life? You go to a pizza place with twenty other people and everyone knows what a real pizza in Italy tastes like?
We didn’t discuss if any one us had been to Paris before — of course we all had been — we discussed if we had seen a cabaret show there. We shared insider tips for the best coffee shops in London never assuming that one of us hadn’t been there yet.
The beauty of these travel blogger gatherings is that you never have to explain yourself. If you’re planing to move to another country, or travel in the Middle East, people are always supportive. They get it. They understand you just need to go and leave everything behind sometimes.
Like many times before, meeting other travel bloggers left me scared and inspired at the same time.
These people have little belongings, little things to tie them to one place, and seemingly little obligations. I admire the life those digital natives live, but I’m also highly intimated by it.
Because I know I couldn’t do it.
Whenever I met someone new during those few days in Berlin, I hesitated to answer the dreaded question: “So, do you blog full-time?” — No, I don’t actually. And I don’t think I ever will.
It’s not like I don’t dream of the independent travel life every once in a while: Those long Central European winter months have me longing for sandy beaches and I’d love to switch my dull grocery shopping routine for new flavors and foods I can’t pronounce.
But still, I also like the amenities of having a fixed life — including a job that challenges me just like it inspires me, a social life, and trashy TV Tuesday.
I sometimes worry that I have to justify my decision to stay in the same place for so long though. Especially among freelancing travel writers and photographers, it sometimes feels like I’m wasting my time sitting on a desk in the same old office for 8 hours a day.
Back in that Italian restaurant in Berlin, when I carefully uttered that my job contract might tie me to my current town for another five years, they starred at me in disbelief. I know, five years is a long time. Too long maybe. It’s terrifying.
I’m constantly torn between saying “Screw the system, I’m leaving right now!” and “Just give me a little while to figure all these grown-up things out — and then I might go travel long-term eventually”.
The truth is though, despite desperately wanting to see the world, I don’t want to become a digital nomad. And even though I start stuttering of insecurity when asked about my potential future as a nomadic freelancer, I have my reasons to not become a full-traveler, and I consider them good ones:
I’m not quitting my job to travel, because I’m really lucky: I have 28 vacation days and live in a country with quite a lot of public holidays. This May I’ll spend two long weekends abroad without using a single of my vacation days thanks to public holidays.
I’m also lucky, because my job is not a corporate one: I’m not working in a cubicle, but in my own cozy office where I decorated the walls with prints of medieval art. It also only takes me less the 30 seconds to walk from my office to a heavenly equipped and slightly moldy-smelling (I like that though) library. And most importantly: I really love working with medieval art and literature.
I don’t quit my job to travel, because my work and travel are actually intertwined: I can only understand and analyze artifacts that I’ve seen in person. When I told my boss that I haven’t seen the Bayeux Tapestry yet, she exclaimed that I just have to book a trip to Northern France as soon as possible. She travels a lot herself and thus even gives me tips on museums and new exhibitions.
Medieval ivory casket research in Vienna
To be honest, if it weren’t for my job, I sometimes wouldn’t even know of the all medieval gems that are shattered all over Europe (and beyond), and certainly wouldn’t be able to read 13th century manuscripts. My job not only provides me with new things to add to my travel wish list, but also helps me understand what I’m seeing when I visit the museums, libraries, and churches of Europe.
My job is forcing me (in a good way) to learn more about culture every day, and combined with regular travel I’m understanding the European continent a little better every day. And this ultimately is what I travel for.
My feeling torn between wanting to travel and wanting to build a solid life for myself often makes me look insecure about my life’s choices. And sometimes I am doubting if I’m doing it the right way. But as soon as I start weighing out the pros and cons, I know I wouldn’t want to have it any other way right now. At least for now.
Have you ever considered to quit your job to travel?