New times require new travel strategies.
I have two modes of operation now: information collection and information processing. I travel in two month bursts through multiple countries doing research, interviews, and collecting content, then I sit in a room for the next month writing about it all.
One mode cannot exist without the other, and it’s really not efficient or effective to try to do them both at the same time.
I used to travel and publish continuously, but both of these activities were far less demanding then than they are now. I would travel slow, spend a month here, three months there, two weeks back here, and write and publish as I went. I took out time each day where I would sit and work, processing my notes into blog posts and articles.
Ultimately, I now basically do the same thing, only the two phases of this operation have now been separated. I travel fast, rarely spending over a few days in each location, and fill my days with meetings, visits, and other on-the-ground, intel collecting activities. There isn’t much time to sit inside and write — it’s full blown contact all the time. Then I return to a base of operations, write, and publish.
As I previously explained in an interview on RolfPotts.com:
I eventually realized that if I was ever going to successfully complete larger projects, such as books or working for larger publications, I was going to have to start setting up longer term bases of operation — places that I have all set up and fully stocked that I can come back to after research trips and jump right into writing. So I now rent out apartments by the year within regions that I’m focusing on. I spend around ten days to two weeks per month out traveling, experiencing what I’m writing about first hand, and then the rest of the month in the home base researching, writing articles, blog posts, and chapters for books, as well as setting up projects for the next time I’m out traveling. Of course, these bases of operation have a tendency of being on the beaches of subtropical islands.
These two separate phases suit my character. I’m most comfortable waking up in the morning, beginning one thing and doing that one thing until I go to bed at night. The vacillation of these phases keeps that “one thing” fresh and engaging. I go out and travel hard until I’m worn and weary and ready for a break, then I find a room to hid in, where I work until I can’t take it anymore.
Where the base of operations that I set up in are located is almost irrelevant. The only thing I do there is sit at a desk, staring at four walls and a laptop. Honestly, the less interesting the place is the better.
The irony of travel writing is that it’s best done from a desk.
More from the interview on RolfPotts.com:
When in interesting locations the last thing you want to be doing is spending time in your room on your laptop. But if you don’t put in that time then you’re going to be vastly unprepared to do anything of significance when in the streets. Setting up research projects, getting in touch with the right people, scheduling interviews, and doing pre-contact research takes a massive amount time, but it’s an integral part of travel writing. While, conversely, you need to be out in the streets talking to people to really get to know a place and obtain the depth of experience needed to write deeply about it.