A dwindling travel budget and fear of failure.

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Photo May 08, 8 57 50 PM

Something haunts me as the thunder rumbles deep outside. Lightning streaks across the sky every so often, white-washing the rolling grey clouds like the flash of a camera. The pouring rains rat-ta-tat-tats on the rooftop and weeps down the window front — headlights and tail lights from passing traffic shimmer across that waterfall before me, creating a kaleidoscope-like obscura.

Something else, less literal, hangs dark and foreboding above my head. A cloud looms over me, darkening my mood. It is fear. A creeping fear. The type of fear that waits for the right moment to drill into your brain and tighten more and more. Each time it tightens on your mind, it strips away confidence and positive thinking and replaces with the soul-destroying “what ifs” that fester in the darkest parts of your mind.

Things that you subconsciously create to hold you back.

That fear has caused me to gnaw off my fingernails, and to lay awake at night trying to find distraction from swimming in this melancholy the past few days. Struggling to keep my head above the waters so not to drown in despair.

It is the sudden fear of a dwindling budget.

And I am sure many travelers at some point during their journeys finds themselves looking up above to see that darkness following them. That pressure weighing down on you.

When I first left the United States again to embark on this new and exciting road, I knew what mistakes I had made in the past that cut my trip short.

My year-long escape in New Zealand was cut short when I found myself dumbfounded that my bank account showed $25 as my balance. I had completely run out of money without even realizing it and didn’t even have a flight booked home. Luckily I was able to use $20 of that for a bus ticket to a kiwi picking town in the south, as well as charity from family and friends to keep me afloat until I got a paycheck. After a few months of working in a factory 13 hours a day, I had saved up a little money, and with that I decided to return home and reset. Return home to work again for the next adventure.

I vowed never to make that mistake again.

Yet, here I am haunted by that fear. Not because I have $25 left to my name — after nearly 6 months abroad I still have close to half of my original budget. But at the same time I have no income flowing to my bank account.

One of my goals coming to Thailand was to hit the ground running and to teach English here, guaranteeing me an income and prolonging my budget. And, though I have yet to start teaching, I did not abandon that goal fully. In February I took a TEFL/TESOL course and received my English teaching certificate which unlocks many doors and many ways to sustain traveling. But when I received the certificate, the end of the school year was wrapping up. Though I could have searched for teaching opportunities, it was not practical seeing that I would be coming on board a month before school let out.

So I decided to wait.

All the while I watched my budget dip lower and lower.

Seeing red rising.

I have been pretty conscious of my spending each month. The past couple of months I have managed to keep my budget under $30 a day, some days even as low as $10. So I’m not frolicking about throwing around Thai baht like I’m rich, that’s for sure.

Tracking your spending has it’s downsides though. Obviously I don’t want to be oblivious about where my money is going and how I am spending. But tracking every penny that gets used and having no income adding back to your budget is just watching it slowly disappear. Almost like watching the sand in an hourglass trickle down ever so slowly until time is up. Constantly imputing red mark after red mark. And if you let it, and can become and obsession and a fear.

And that is what has happened the past few days.

On my most recent travel newsletter I discussed this sudden fear gripping me — fear that I would run out of money again even though I am not necessarily close to doing so yet. And this feeling seemed to grow in intensity after I decided to temporarily abandon the English teaching goal in favor of my one true goal.

Finally pursuing freelance writing.

My ultimate goal when I left stateside was to find the time I needed — no, to make the time I need — to pursue freelance writing outlets and to focus on furthering my travel blog.

Except the past couple of months while doing my TEFL training and afterward, I barely wrote any articles. I was caught up with the classes or feeling burnt out and lazily lying around my apartment. I realized that, just like back in the United States, I was letting things distract me from focusing on that main goal.

So dived back in head on.

The past couple of weeks I have felt a fury inside of me for writing. It seemed as though I finally found my mojo rejuvenated and the creative juices flowing. I haven’t been able to pull away from the keyboard, and the only thing that really does is when I need to either tinkle or when I start passing out on my laptop. Sometimes food. I’ve slurped down uncountable amounts of coffee. Café dweller could be a nickname, because it hasn’t been uncommon for me to spend 10-14 hours a day writing or scouring the web for freelance opportunities.

And even though I am in a foreign country and spending my days as of late sitting in a café, my mindset is that the hard work will pay off if I keep focusing on the goal and putting forth all of my energy.

But, like the budgeting downside, that also had an opposite effect as well.

The number of emails I have sent out to companies to write for has been in the hundreds. Every freelance travel writing opportunity that has reared its prospective head, I’ve zeroed in on. The problem is, I haven’t received many responses back. And the responses that I have, the companies aren’t actively looking to bring more writers on board.

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I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Passionate endeavors rarely are. I know that freelancing is like a war zone and you’ve gotta’ fight for opportunities. Or it is who you know. Yet I was finally giving it my all and receiving nothing back. It was demoralizing. I know I can’t expect instant payoff, but I couldn’t shake it off. And as much as I kept telling myself, “it’ll be fine, just keep pushing” the fear of failure was beginning to take hold.

What if I wasn’t good enough? What if they don’t like my writing? What if I can’t find any work and have to give up? What if I have to return home?

That damned phrase “what if” — something I’ve tried to eradicate from my vocabulary — was suddenly grasping my spirit with a death grip. I was beginning to think that maybe I should just give up the hunt for now and take the “easy” route by teaching. Not that teaching English is remotely easy, but it would almost be a guaranteed gig.

Surely I could teach and write? Well, if I did that then I would be focusing most of my time and energy to something else. Again I would be getting further and further behind on my main goal. I’d be supplementing the fear of failure or running out of money with a guarantee. A safer bet.

It’s a sick cycle.

I had been raised in a family where my father was a conservative and headstrong realist. He knew the hardships of life well, and though I do not know what his pursuit of happiness may have been once upon a time, I know that he ended up taking the guaranteed route. Throughout my childhood and into adulthood, he would constantly tell me when I had a lofty dream that it was nonsense. He would tell me to “get your head out of the clouds“. He would emphasize that it would be too high of a ladder to climb.

I used to despise the way he would crush any dream I had that wasn’t a “normal job“. These days I don’t blame him though. Life was hard and we struggled to get by. Maybe he knew how it felt to pursue a dream and have reality slap him across the face. Possibly he knew the effects of a failed attempt at something different, and he just wanted to protect me from that hurt. Maybe one too many failed attempts at it broke his spirit.

But I didn’t face other fears and other “what if” worries to leave the United States for nothing.

So how the hell do you beat this fear? 

That fear is the reflection of your own ultimate being. When you sit there daydreaming, envisioning this person that you want to be doing all of these spectacular things you want to do, what happens? You see yourself as this unreachable entity that far surpasses the limits you have mentally imposed. Suddenly, fear crawls across your skin and you feel like cowering away from what you saw. Cowering from your own greatness.

As that fear takes hold, you may instantly deem it as some crazy idea or unattainable goal. But what you saw — that is the person you are meant to be. That fear that you experience when you see yourself doing something amazing; a slight tingle in the back of your neck and maybe even causing your heart to beat faster — that is the test. Fear of risks stems from fear of something great inside you. That is the a challenge to your fortitude to see if you want it badly enough to face the fear. The fear of failure. The fear of trying out that wild dream you have, but going into it already telling yourself you won’t make it.

Don’t let fear beat you, because on the other side of that fear, is who you are meant to be. And only you can beat it.

It’s full steam ahead now.

I am tired of constantly beginning to pursue my passion only to allow fear to make me turn back and do something safer. I’m tired of thinking I have to do something else to be able to keep inching toward it. The truth is if I focus on it fully, I can gain much more traction.

Though I have been feeling demoralized lately, by writing about this fear that has been haunting me, it has actually helped refocus my mind.

There was also a good opportunity that came my way from the recent writing blitzkrieg I’ve been on. Opportunities I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of if I was focusing on other things. Hipmunk, a nifty flight booking company, has recently asked me to be one of their “destination experts” to create content for their website. And I am super stoked. Though it won’t pay all of the bills, it is a small start to being able to sustain my travels with my writing.

So I will keep at it.

I will keep working hard and even though that fear will surely creep up on me, I will not let it destroy my confidence. I know my goals and I know my self-worth and I know I can do this. And even with my budget dipping lower, I cannot let that stop me from moving forward. I will not be afraid of failure. Because through trial and error you can fail a thousand times, but if you keep at it, eventually you will succeed.

You can only be a failure if you quit.

Photo May 07, 7 56 03 PM

What is your greatest fear while traveling? Have you ever felt this way?

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Comments

  1. Caro

    I certainly have and that’s why workstays were our rescue! We stayed in Thailand for two months with free room and board in exchange for producing a video and doing some light teaching at the local school. We did a ton of others too, in Turkey and Portugal. Definitely something to consider!

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      Oh wow, that is such a rad way to live cheaply! I really hadn’t ever heard of these workdays until recent, so I will definitely have to look this up in Europe!

  2. sarah @ Live Dream Discover

    I’m sure I’m not the only person thinking this but… “OMG it feels like you’ve just gone into my head and pulled out every thought I’ve had for the past couple of months!” You are not alone! I don’t know if that’s good or bad but it is fact nonetheless.

    Seven months ago I sold everything and set out to exactly what you are doing. I’m still trying to put into words exactly what that is because I don’t think ‘traveler’ fits (budget and desire for immersion into communities dictates that I stay put in one place more than I travel) and I’m a little tired of the term ‘nomad’ (it is a pretty accurate description but it’s just been over used and now has lost it’s meaning to me).

    I too still have a good chunk of my travel budget left but I’m terrified of not being able to generate an income before that runs out. Unlike many travelers I am not taking a ‘gap year’ or a break from my regular life, I truly want this to be my long term life plan. My only goal is to find a way to generate a modest income doing something that I love to do and can do from anywhere in the world. I am willing to consider many things but writing is my true love. I was told by writer friends and family that it’s next to impossible to make a living writing and that may be accurate but my needs are pretty basic so I don’t need to earn a fortune. So, like you I’m going after my dream.

    As I said I know we’re not alone in this so maybe we should form a support group! Lol! Seriously though, hang in there and keep hope alive that you will find a way.

    I completely understand that knot in your stomach but as Mark Twain said “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Hence the name of my blog 🙂

    1. JustChuckinIt

      Wow…our stories are so very similar Sarah! Well, at least in terms of endeavors with the blog and worries about budgeting. Totally freaks ya out! Ha, yes, maybe bloggers do need a support group to always refer to when times are getting tough and money and energy is dwindling. Hello, my name is Ryan and I am a Freelancer… Hahaha.

      Love that quote as well, thank you for the encouragement!

    1. JustChuckinIt

      Really REALLY appreciate the link to that Susan and also your words of encouragement. Surely helps inspire my confidence, many thanks and I will hold tight to the dream!

  3. rebecca

    Super inspiring! my favourite of your articles yet. I loved the paragraph So how the hell do you beat this fear?
    I can certainly relate. Being an aspiring freelance graphic designer to travel I often get the same feelings you spoke about in that paragraph.
    You have a very optimistic way of looking at it and no doubt will succeed.

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      Many thanks Rebecca, glad you enjoyed it! Yes…I needed to shake the fear out of my and figure out a way to not to let it keep me down. Glad I’m not alone but I wish you well in your endeavors too!

  4. Adam Finan @ Tropical Nomad

    it’s tough going when the money is running low but yout articulate style of writing should help in finding work freelancing.

    When I started out freelancing – I wrote + published in WordPress for clients @ $10,,30 of these in a fortnight was the rent paid in thailand. Quickly progressed to the stage where I had to much and could charge more so keep the head up! Options are out there. I always see entrepreneurs in Chiang Mai looking to ire interns to help with online businesses. Head to Punspace and ask around. Writers are always needed as everyone else is doing other stuff!

    As for free travel.. I done a post covering most of the major options http://tropicalnomad.com/travel-the-world-for-free/

    You are heading to Italy I seen and there are lots of options all over Europe.

    Best of luck!

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      I really appreciate the compliment Adam, very much! Looking forward to exploring these outlets in Europe and seeing what kind of opportunities are waiting for me to discover them! Since I am moving on from Thailand living cheaply won’t be so easy, but if I want it, it’ll happen. And I do. Cheers mate!

  5. Franca

    First of all Congratulations for getting the writing job for this website, it just shows that the more you want something, the hardest you try to achieve it the higher the chances are to get it.

    We constantly have to look at our spending too, but there are many ways to keep your costs down. We did some volunteering in Chinag Mai for instance, or you could Couchsurf which is also great to get to know the locals. Also we recently discovered house-sitting too. Keep your mind open to new opportunities and be flexible and you’ll be fine 🙂

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      Cheers Franca! I agree and appreciate the encouragement! I’m thinking about getting into couch surfing again and might need to more often until an income stabilizes! Thanks!

  6. Lisa - Wee Wanders

    Congratulations on Hipmunk, amazing news! I’m scared about money too and I haven’t even left yet! I reckon that I will have enough money to see me stay somewhere between 4-6 months depending on lifestyle choices.

    I’m just hoping and keeping my fingers crossed that I will find opportunities along the way that will allow for long-term travel.The unknown is really scary…but I’ve also never felt so excited, and so alive!

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      aw thanks for the congrats Lisa! Was a huge opportunity that I was excited to have come my way! Yeah, I budgeted for 6 months and here I am on top of the budget still! But just the sinking lower shocked me a bit and worried me. I have my fingers crossed for you as well! And I’m right there with ya on that feeling!

  7. Suzanne Fluhr

    Can you limit the amount of time you teach so you still have the time and energy to focus on your writing? If you want to be immersed in the community, I would think that teaching English will bring you into contact with some interesting locals. You can also write about teaching English! Try marketing yourself to other bloggers to take care of their social media—another way to bring in some cash without burning through all your time. Ironically, if you bring in some income, you might find that frees you of the anxiety that might be blocking you from doing what you really want to do. Then there’s my mother’s advice when I had just had a baby and was wondering what would become of me. My mother said, “Don’t worry. It will work out.” In my sleep deprived, overwhelmed state at that time, I thought she was being immensely unhelpful, but, fast forward 30 years and I’m happy to say she was right. Write on!

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      Hey Suzanne! So happy you stopped by! I couldn’t really limit the amount of teaching unless I do it online which I will look into as well, but maybe tutoring on the side which would give me some freedom! That is a great Idea though, I’ve been looking into social media jobs as well. I really love that outlook your mom instilled in you and I will try and keep that in my mind. Thanks again!

  8. Katie @ The World on my Necklace

    Stick with it! You are a talented writer so just keep giving it all you got and if it doesn’t work out then at least you would have tried. I have just started blogging but as I have a full time job, I don’t have the fear as I don’t need to make money off it, but I do have days when I think ‘What’s the point’ – there are so many other travel blog already out there. What it comes down to for me is that I love writing and if I only end up with a few people reading my blog, I think it will still be worth it. Thanks for sharing your struggles, it’s not an easy thing to do.

    1. Author
      JustChuckinIt

      Love the encouragement Katie! Awesome, thanks for that! Yes…I will try and try and try, I can’t let fear of that prevent me from not! Yes, I agree, sometimes it gets demoralizing but I’m sure you have something that will help you stand apart, and I will try to as well! But I agree…if I can make a difference in a few peoples lives it is worth doing.

  9. Mary @ Green Global Travel

    Just keep at it. You’re a very talented writer, and as long as you continue to make time for it you will be able to reach your goals. Don’t let the fear keep you down. You can do this! Fear should be your motivator. 🙂 Continue to manage your time when you find new ways to earn income. You will get there. Stay positive. 🙂

    1. JustChuckinIt

      Always appreciate the praise you give, it definitely helps with my conference and I am so happy you enjoy my writing. I am learning to fight my fear! And Also, trying to turn it into a motivator. =)

  10. Jorja Alcorn

    Wow such an inspiring post! I can say that you have that talent in writing which only a few blogger really have. If only I have that writing talent I might try traveling while earning. Haha! Just keep going.

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