Why I Don’t Read Travel Blogs

travel blogs Yangshuo

Yangshuo, China

While this blog is relatively new, my goal to retire a year before my Dad retired is not. The goal has been around since October 2002, shortly after he stopped working.

Back then at age 27, I had a lot of time to start getting serious about saving for retirement. But I was not serious about retirement planning yet, I was serious about backpacking.

Fourteen months earlier, with the last $6,000 of cash in my account, I set off to travel for four months in China and Southeast Asia.  Traveling with extreme frugality, I was able to extend my trip for another ten months to South and Central America.

It was the trip of a lifetime, but when it was finished I found myself broke and living with my parents with no cash savings, a small bit of debt, and few job prospects.  Since then a lot has changed. After many life events and a lot of hard work, I am well on my way to reaching my retirement goal, to stop working completely at age 55.  It is that 14-month trip and my passion for extensive travel that motivates me to retire.

At this point in my life, my free time is consumed by house projects, family, and reading news and financial blogs.  I do not read travel blogs anymore.  Part of me wants to read and envy travel blogs of people who are traveling and writing for a living. But a bigger part of me says been there done that, I will travel like that again someday… today I need to focus on reaching my goal.

Pluto the Traveling Tattoo Artist

Back in 2001-2002 when I was traveling the world, the idea of travel blogs wasn’t around yet. The thought of traveling, writing, and making enough money to eat and sleep on from a blog wasn’t possible yet either. Or at least it was rare.

Back then there were websites, the term blog wasn’t common yet. I did, however, come across a rather impressive but primitive website that I followed for some time thereafter.

While in a hostel in Quito, Ecuador, I met a Canadian traveling tattoo artist named Pluto, who was riding his motorcycle around the world with his much younger Thai wife, tattooing backpackers to pay their way.

Coincidentally, I had heard of him months earlier in Siem Riep, Cambodia at a hostel called Smiley’s. Pluto left a bumper sticker on the cork board with his very long web address.  On his site was a travelogue of his journey and a sample of his artwork, in addition to his most impressive piece of art, his left arm.  He gave every person that he tattooed the opportunity to give him a tattoo on his arm.

travel blogs Mandalay, Myanmar

Mandalay, Myanmar

As far as tattooed arms are concerned, it was a mess! But what a piece of art it was, a personal tattoo from each of his clients over many years.  I spent one night with Pluto, holding a bright lamp to illuminate his canvas, the back of a fellow motorcyclist staying in the hostel.

Both of them were taking liquor shots for the entire inking. This guy Pluto was passionate about his lifestyle.  He said to me “Man, I could draw up a killer scorpion for that leg of yours. What do you say?”.

As a man who was at or nearing traditional retirement age, Pluto was quite an inspirational figure.

Making a significant life decision such as quitting your job and traveling the world takes meticulous planning, financially speaking.  My backpacking trip was the result of three years of saving money. The travel planning part was easy… buy a one-way plane ticket to somewhere interesting and go from there until you run out money. Getting my life in order before I left was the bigger challenge.

Why would I leave a good paying job with a promising future?  When is my lease up?  What am I going to do with my car?  What am I going to do when I return?  In hindsight, these questions were minor concerns and did not impact my planning much; I just made it all happen.  I was young, single, and adventurous.

Single Income, Three Kids, Oppressive Mortgage

SITCOM. As of not long ago, I define SITCOM.  Although I do not consider my mortgage oppressive, it is significant and daunting. Despite some negative connotation, I am a proud SITCOM. I do not have the freedom or desire to pick up and travel the world again anytime soon.

The time I spent traveling in my twenties was an incredible character building experience. I lived extraordinarily.

Now, you can say, I live ordinarily.

Having lived that way in my twenties, I don’t look back wishing I had done something different. I lived exactly the way I wanted to. Now that I am married with kids, I am also living life exactly the way I want to be.  When I retire, I will do the same.

Yesterday’s simple questions like What’s the cheapest way to get to Beijing?, are replaced with the more difficult questions What is my next career move? What are going to be the best stocks to buy and retire with? How long will this government shutdown last? How much will college cost in 2031? How will I provide healthcare to my family over the next 18 years and beyond? Will my 20 month old son always be so stubborn?  When you go SITCOM, your responsibilities multiply.  But that is OK with me.

travel blogs Cuzco, Peru

Cuzco, Peru

Conclusion

I never did get that scorpion tattoo from Pluto. I had an early morning flight to Panama to catch, and let’s face it, tattoos are not for everyone. But Pluto left a lasting impact on me. My wife and I will travel with our kids before they head off to college, and we will retire early and travel as long as our health holds up.

If I retire with a small fraction of the adventurous spirit that Pluto had when I met him in Quito, my retirement will be glorious. For now, I am planning carefully for tomorrow, and not looking back at yesterday wishing I was still on the road.  If I do occasionally stumble upon one of the many well-written, wonderfully photographed travel blogs out there, it makes me think about how great my trip was a decade ago, not how magnificent today is and the coming years will be. And that’s why I try not to read them.

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11 Responses to Why I Don’t Read Travel Blogs

  1. FFdividend October 16, 2013 at 11:29 pm #

    wow I am so jealous that you go to do that. I I hope to do that kind of traveling when I retire and living of my dividends.

    • retirebeforedad October 17, 2013 at 7:40 am #

      It was a great trip. But I did make some major sacrificies because of it. Mainly my career at the time. It also postponed my retirement savings. But the pro’s very much outweighed the cons at the time.

  2. Pretired Nick October 19, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    Travel is my biggest weakness. I want the money back I’ve spent on travel, yet I don’t really regret any of my trips. Weird contradiction.
    I love SITCOM. Never heard that before. Nice!

    • retirebeforedad October 19, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

      When you travel for leisure (as opposed to necessary travel like holidays), that’s what life is all about. Getting out there to explore and enjoy yourself . I never regret any of the money I have spent traveling, and never regretted a beer I drank while on vacation either! Thanks for checking out my site and please come back again. I’ve been looking over yours as well. Great way to think about non-traditional retirement.

  3. Hotels Saudi Arabia November 9, 2013 at 11:54 am #

    great

    love your blog a looooooot

    • retirebeforedad November 9, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

      Thank you for reading! I appreciate your comment.

      -RBD

  4. thefirestartercouk December 3, 2013 at 2:28 am #

    Pluto sounds like my kind of guy, that is taking unconventional living to the extreme. He could teach Chris Guillebeau a lesson or two.

    I travelled to Quito, Cusco et al in 2008. It was the trip of a lifetime, but I’m not sure I’d do it again, if only for the fact that there are too many other places to go to I haven’t seen first!

    No doubt that put my early retirement plans back a few years, but they were non-existent back then anyway so it’s a bit of a moot point. No regrets at all, as you say!

    • retirebeforedad December 3, 2013 at 6:53 am #

      Firestarter,
      Glad you found my article about traveling. Pluto was a funny dude. He tattooed this guys back while I held they lamp, and they were all taking shots while I needed to catch a 6am flight. But the scene was too funny to go to sleep. I’ve had some great travel experiences, but its not the lifestyle for me these days with kids and a wife. I do want to take the kids traveling to cool destinations some day, but not until they are older. When I go somewhere I always say I’ll be back, even though there are so many places to visit. In retirement, I really want to take a good 20 years to travel everywhere I can with my wife. Its going to take money, youthfulness, and a lot of planning and tolerance. Today I am happy in the suburbs with my wife and kids, waiting until they head off to college.
      -RBD

      • thefirestartercouk December 5, 2013 at 1:51 am #

        All about the delayed gratification, I am feeling that! But also enjoying the time with the wife and kids as they grow up. Sound like a win / win situation to me 🙂

  5. NZ Muse April 10, 2014 at 6:38 am #

    ” If I do occasionally stumble upon one of the many well-written, wonderfully photographed travel blogs out there, it makes me think about how great my trip was a decade ago, not how magnificent today is and the coming years will be. And that’s why I try not to read travel blogs.”

    Yikes. I’ve been back for 6 months and I definitely find blogs a great way to relive the excitement of my travels. I don’t know if I will continue to do so though, if at some point it will become more painful than enjoyable…

    • Retire Before Dad April 10, 2014 at 7:20 am #

      NZ Muse,
      I stayed very much in touch with traveling through websites when I returned, and took quite a few more shorter trips after the big one. But once I started having a family, its was kind of counterproductive to read travel stories of other people since I won’t be creating my own any time soon. I have some nice travel calendars I look at at work. But now I’m focused on saving money and raising these kids. I’ll travel again. I admit sneaking a peak at travel blogs every once in while, but not for long!
      -RBD

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