I’ve been backpacking and living in hostels for close to 18 months now, and it’s an experience I wouldn’t change for the world. I’ve met some amazing people, seen things that are literally mind blowing and done things I never thought I would (like a skydive, can you believe it?) but one thing has really taken a hit during this period; my writing.
No matter where I go or what I do, I always try and find at least a little time to do some writing, just as I used to do back home. There are some pretty big differences between those two situations, though, and it has slowed me down quite a lot.
With the launch of my new website, and a plan to really start pushing this area of my life forward, I felt it was a good time to lay it all out.
I hope this will be of some use to you!
Not having a dedicated space to write
Every “home” that I’ve lived in has featured a dedicated space to write. Sometimes that comes in the form of a desk, other times it’s a table but it can also just be a corner or area of a room that I can get comfy and sit for hours if need be.
Most of the last 18 months have been in hostels, and if you’ve ever stayed in a hostel, you’ll know what I mean. For those who haven’t; you pay for a bed rather than a room. There are social spaces but not necessarily quiet ones, and since my laptop is a bit old, I need it plugged in constantly. That gets difficult and so I’m confined to my bed.
That’s right, I write in my bed. It’s generally not the comfiest option and these are bunk beds, so there aren’t many ways to get comfortable. Not only that, there are other people to contend with.
Right now, for example, I’m writing this in the dark while others are sleeping.
When you constantly change rooms and hostels, it’s always different and that’s a bit unsettling. It means new people to adapt to (even if you do remain in the same place) and you just don’t know how anyone will react. It’s part of the travel experience I love but it can be distracting.
No consistent routine
Moving on so much means new jobs, and a change to your routine. Sometimes its day work, other times evenings or mornings – hell, I’ve even worked nightshift for a few months while in Melbourne! Switching from different schedules takes time and saps a lot of energy and motivation, which, for me, is counterproductive.
Now, if I sit down and force myself to write (or do anything, really) I will. Eventually. However, what I found back home was writing at the same time every, or at least most, days meant that I was able to dive in easier and get more done in a shorter amount of time.
That doesn’t and won’t work for everyone, which is fine, but I did find it worked for me. If I could write full-time, maybe it wouldn’t be as big an issue for me. That’s the dream, and if I get there, I’ll let you know.
For now, I try and stick to a regular time and if I’m not working, I try a couple of times each day so that when my schedule does change, I hopefully have a few options to fall into.
Losing my preferred ‘setup’
As a part of my dedicated writing space, I had a particular setup I liked. Now, I’m not one for listening to music while I write. Sometimes, I like it but, in most cases, music distracts me and I focus more on that than the words I want to put to page.
There are times, especially if a song or genre resonates with me in that moment, that I’ll listen to music but mostly that happens outside of the writing and I use my memories or the emotions evoked when writing.
What I prefer is to have a TV show or movie on in the background. This is usually something I’ve seen numerous times before so as not to distract me but I can glance up every now and then and know what’s going on before returning to my work. Sometimes, I notice something completely new or inspiration strikes or that particular moment helps me solve a problem.
A lot of the time, it’s just noise.
Now, however, I just have my laptop. That means, to create that ‘noise’ I have Netflix or something similar running in the background but to have a glance, I change windows on my screen. It’s longer and disrupts the flow.
Yes, yes, I know; such a lousy problem to have, right?
I agree, but it is a problem. It’s something I’m trying to adapt to and get over but it’s not proving as easy as that so far!
So, what have I done about it?
I wish I could tell you that I found some great secret that let me fix all of this in one go, but that’s not the case. Life doesn’t work like that.
All I’ve done is redoubled my efforts to sit down and write. Some days, I’m lucky to get 100 words done but others I can get a lot more. Even a little helps and I won’t turn it down – especially with what I’m doing right now.
It means not going out or drinking every night like a lot of people I stay in hostels with. It makes me seem antisocial and boring, I guess, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay. It might be having a goal, or being a bit older than most people I meet backpacking – it doesn’t really matter.
The important thing is I’m happy with my life and the things I’m doing. That’s just another step on this path.