The transition we travelers rarely talk about

Larnaca, Cyprus - Travel photography by Lola Akinmade Åkerström

When people tell me they love to travel, I hardly ever say “Oh! Me too!

I often ask them right away. “Why?”

Why do you love to travel? Is it the constant movement? The excitement of landing somewhere new? Reading signs you don’t understand in a foreign language? Interacting with locals whom you’d never interact with back home? Getting beneath a culture? Never letting an opportunity to travel for free pass by? Checking items off your bucket list? Living life to the fullest under the YOLO* mantra?

All of the above?

We all have our reasons for exploring this earth and its farthest corners and they’re all valid reasons in their own ways. Yet, I’ve noticed that this thing, this existential space called travel we all seem to love so much can also feel like an entrapment. A way of escaping and running away from it all. A way of finding one’s self. Of being nomadic. A way of finally finding one’s “true” home.

Like publicly announcing you’re on a campaign to lose 40 pounds and then having the whole world hold you to it. The world knows you’re a “bona fide” traveler. Now they eagerly await your every next step, and you start living your life trying to please and entertain others instead of staying true to your “Why?

I’ve read posts after posts about how travel has been this cathartic process of discovery. It has been for me in many ways as well.  But it wasn’t until years ago when I started identifying the “Why?” in my travels did I fully realize a couple things and start to carve out a specific lifestyle…

Paphos, Cyprus - Travel photography by Lola Akinmade Åkerström

I cornered a friend of mine during a conference in Helsinki, Finland. He’s a well-known blogger and successful entrepreneur who has spearheaded some amazing travel campaigns. We had an invigorating conversation that got me thinking and brimming with some ideas. Then I posed a question to him. “What about the in-betweens?” He knew exactly what I was talking about right away.

He understood. We’d both had babies around the same time. And we both have outstanding spouses who step in when we need to travel without babies. Usually me having to leave mine behind more so than him because he has a wife who takes care of their baby when he’s off. There was no space for in-betweens, he said. Not right now.

I get it. I too used to be an in-between who dragged my daughter to over a dozen countries before she turned two.

So what about those in-betweens?

The creatives who want both – a life of constant travel and to start a family.  The ones with the young families. The photographer who wants to travel on exciting assignments but also wants to start their own family and not feel like they have to choose a perceived prestigious career over that natural desire.

Those in-betweens who haven’t taken a break since having their babies for fear of missing out, losing followers, and not feeling as relevant as before.

There are established travel bloggers (solo and couples) and there are established family travel bloggers. What about those with very young children? Infants?

What happens to the in-betweens during their transitions and why do they feel the need to cater to the world instead of taking adequate time off to cater to the most important person in their lives at the moment?

Paphos, Cyprus - Travel photography by Lola Akinmade Åkerström

I travel. A lot. A lot more than I ever announce on Facebook or humble-brag about on Twitter. Most people don’t know I’m gone until I get back. Sometimes I sit back and wonder if it’s counterintuitive as someone who passionately writes about travel and exploring places because I usually never make much noise about it.

The excitement still courses through and envelopes me. It seeps through every pore yet it’s publicly restrained to an extent because I consciously try not to over-glamorize travel in a way that makes it this new currency.

This exclusive club that denotes status.

Even though I’ve been traveling before my first birthday, it took me 16 years to get that blue book that opens up the world sans visas in many ways. In those 16 years, I still traveled widely on my green passport, paying exuberant visa fees for each and every single country I visited because travel is important to me. That’s why Tracey Friley inspires me because not only does she get it, she’s actively doing something about it for young girls.

But to travel is not the lifestyle in and of itself for me. When I met David Miller in late 2006 who mentored me through my early travel writing process, it was then I truly got clued into actually writing about place as opposed to just writing about my travels. Physically writing about place myself and not just reading about it in travel narratives and books.

Place is key.

Exploring place is just one part of my “Why?” Writing about place – no matter where you are is what it’s about for me. Whether I’m in Nigeria, the Balkans, Lapland, Peru, off to the Seychelles, or sitting at home in Stockholm, that innate curiosity is what gets me digging deeper into a place.

In other words, redirecting those energies into my own backyard when I can’t direct them outwards.

So keeping that same curiosity about place can help the in-betweens during their transitions before they feel they can head out again.

Or better yet, making it about place can help you carve that exploratory lifestyle that keeps you invigorated, excited and curious like you were leaving on a jet plane to Indonesia in the morning when in fact you’re just heading out to brunch at a new local eatery.

If I wasn’t leaving for a trip within six weeks, I didn’t feel pressured. Yes, I’m filled with wanderlust but it’s a controlled type of wanderlust that redirects energy into exploring my current place until I can head off to go explore someone else’s place.

Paphos, Cyprus - Travel photography by Lola Akinmade Åkerström

I recently had an interview last week with a potential client for some freelancing work. He’d found me by googling about Sweden and reading some of my articles. He liked my tone and style but he couldn’t hide his curiosity after awhile.

“So…why do you write so much about Sweden?”

I read between his lines and chuckled. Then proceeded to tell him I write about place. Wherever I find myself for extended periods of time. I don’t just exist in a place. I need to get beneath it, understand how it flows culturally, and learn from it.

I don’t just quietly exist in Sweden. I explore it deeply.

The lesson which life repeats and constantly enforces is “Look under foot.” The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are…John Burroughs

Travel journalist, photographer, and friend Ellen Barone recently wrote a thought-provoking piece- Where would you go if you only had a few weeks to live? – which I encourage you to go read. This is something I’ve pondered and the response I left on her blog was this:

If I were to travel till the end, every single day and journey would be spent with my family traveling alongside and exploring with me. The older I get, the more I realize time with the ones dearest and nearest to me takes priority. It’s not about giving up dreams but it’s about sharing them.

This is also one of the reasons why I took my husband’s last name after vehemently opposing the idea as a single woman and even waiting a few years after we were married to do so. I get independence. I get not being defined by your spouse or partner. I was fiercely so before and still am now. But as we transition through various stages, especially those of us who’ve always wanted our own families and are avid travelers, we have to realize that decisions are not made on a solo basis.

Adding his name was a subconscious way of always reminding myself that everything I do isn’t always about me and my own dreams and that the people, the person, I love the most needs to be there every step of the way supporting those dreams as well.

That when my website crashes for days and my social media accounts get hacked into and my online life gets temporarily halted and I have to cancel that trip to Dubai because my baby falls ill, that the most important people are right there by my side and they above all deserve my time and attention.

There’s a super thin line between the freedom to be ourselves living out our dreams to the fullest and just being self-involved and frankly, selfish.

So to all the in-betweens, I want you to know that I get it. I understand how you’re feeling. I was once there. Like moving from place to place and country to country, it’s only a transient feeling. That time too will pass.

In the meantime, why not consider writing about place? Your backyard? Redirecting those energies to your right now? To living in the moment?

To being present in your life instead of wanting to be some place else?

We will all be here waiting for you and will respect you even more for putting the most important people in your lives first.

Paphos, Cyprus - Travel photography by Lola Akinmade Åkerström

*YOLO – You only live once. All photos from Cyprus.

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  • Carielle Doe

    This definitely resonated with me. Thanks Lola!

    • LolaAkinmade

      You’re welcome Carielle!

  • oceanspray

    Wow. I don’t even think like this. I’m an African American woman traveler. I’m 25 and I’m back in the States for school :( I’m just dying to start truly living again. (I feel so alive and free when I’m abroad.) Traveling for me is the best experience in life I’ve ever had. I prioritize it above all else. I don’t want a family, I don’t have kids, I’m not married, so I’m happy and confident with the path God has me on.

    • LolaAkinmade

      Hi oceanspray,

      I think it’s wonderful that you feel this way and that you’ve finally found your path and calling. Not everyone wants a family and kids which is perfectly okay. In fact, there are so many transitions that we go through in life that don’t involve building a family or having kids. A friend of mine below also mentioned bereavement and illness. Sometimes, it’s important to take a break to go attend to a close family member who needs us at their most critical time of need.

      Travel is important to me (after all, I am a full-time working travel writer and photographer) so I’m always on the road despite this post. I’m currently traveling at the moment (Mauritius, Seychelles, and Dubai) with my toddler as well. And my daughter has been to quite a number of countries already.

      The point of this post is to let people know that it’s okay for us to allow ourselves time to transition through various stages of our lives and not feel like we’re missing out on something. Traveling for me isn’t about “I’ve been there and done that” and posing in front of things to prove it even though I’ve been to over 50 countries. The number isn’t important. The cultural experience and why I travel is what is.

      As long as you’re happy and confident on your path as you’ve mentioned, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

      Safe travels!

      • oceanspray

        Your blog is meaningful and visually stunning. (I appreciate beauty as I’m an artist as well.) I would love to meet you and women like you when I get travelling again. Thank you for your thoughtful response to my comment. Cheers, oceanspray

        • LolaAkinmade

          Thanks for your kind words oceanspray!

  • Felicia Shelton

    The only thing I can say is that you’ve done it again. You’ve managed to write something so true that speaks exactly to where I am in my life and I have to say thank you. Thank you. As you know I have moved from Paris and back to my beloved Virginia and I can honestly say there is no other place I’d rather be than where I am right now. I have a beautiful home with a lush, colorful garden, clean air to breath and lovely neighbors. The best thing about it all is that I have family nearby, people that have loved me, love me still, since the beginning and it has made all the difference. Will I continue to travel? Of course! The difference is now I have a compass that points me home not just hither and yon’. I love having a home more than just jet-setting around the world. As the Swedes say: Borta bra men hemma bäst!
    Bisous!

    Felicia

    • LolaAkinmade

      Absolutely Felicia! And I’m so glad you were able to connect with this post as well. It addresses that constant need to always be somewhere else instead of truly appreciating where we are at the moment. I’m so glad you’re feeling this way as well.
      Lets catch up soon. I’m currently traveling at the moment.
      Hugs

  • http://www.sojournerwalker.com/ Sojourner Walker

    I really appreciate this post. Thank you! I have a two and a half year old and am expecting my second next month. This year, for the first year, in perhaps a decade I have not left the country once. Somehow, my compliant little infant and bubbly one year old, the same guy who flew from JFK to Narita without uttering so much as a cry, once he turned two, became a fickle and frustrating travel companion. Then there is pregnancy, another fickle and frustrating travel companion. But in this year I’ve learned to re-discover New York City, where I live, on my own terms and with my husband and son. It’s been a truly remarkable adventure in its own right.

    • LolaAkinmade

      Congrats Sojourner!! How exciting regarding the new one on the way. And yes, I agree with you. Once they hit 2 years old, all bets are off. I’m currently in Seychelles with my toddler and traveling over 20 hours and keeping her entertained and calm always proves challenging. We will always be travelers and this post is just telling us travellers that it’s okay for us to take a few months off, maybe even a year to tend to our little ones until we’re ready to hit the road again.

  • http://www.mightytravels.com/ MightyTravels

    Excellent post which has given me much to think about. YOLO!

    Torsten @ http://www.mightytravels.com

    • LolaAkinmade

      Thanks Torsten! Absolutely on the YOLO aspect too.

  • Pingback: The In-Betweens | eBunite

  • EB

    This resonates with me. Thank you for this.

    • LolaAkinmade

      Thank you EB!

  • http://www.MyBeautifulAdventures.com/ Andi Perullo de Ledesma

    Love love love this post. You have no idea how deeply it resonated with me.

    • LolaAkinmade

      Thanks Andi!

  • http://ellenbaronejournalist.com Ellen Barone

    Lola, this piece speaks to me on so many levels; as a wife, a traveler, a writer, a nester and as one woman to another. And I love how you’ve carried the conversation from my blog to yours. Thank you. In your willingness to speak honestly about the “in-betweens” you have encouraged us each to speak freely, confidently and unabashedly about the “why” behind our life decisions, to give ourselves fully to our relationships and to put our center of gravity in the present moment. With gratitude for all you do and who you are.

    • LolaAkinmade

      Thanks so much Ellen! It’s only through open honest conversations about life can we truly start carving out lifestyles that work for each of us and stop chasing other people’s dreams. Nothing is ever greener on the other side. As someone said, it could be fake grass.

  • Amanda Kendle

    Lola, this is a brilliant post, and I’ve been thinking about it all day, since I read it this morning on my phone while being pestered for breakfast by Mr4. It is also impeccable timing as it’s a year ago that I left for my last trip to Europe and I blogged on my return from there about how I can’t be a “modern day travel blogger” in the sense of always being in new destinations and blogging it all as I go – it was a bit of a revelation to me (and our conversations in Dublin contributed to that, so thank you!).

    Now I’ve seen the importance of carving out my own small niche of what I can contribute to travellers and want-to-be travellers and I can do it while based here in Australia with my son at school and with only occasional travel. I feel more at peace about it than ever and it actually doesn’t even bother me so much now that I can’t travel as much as I (notionally) would like to. Of course, that doesn’t stop me plotting to spend six months in Germany in a few years (with a side trip to Sweden I hope, and many other places!) sending Mr6 (can’t imagine him being that old but it will happen) to school there.

    Having a child changes SO much it’s inconceivable! But it makes me look at travelling in a totally new light and I feel like I’m travelling for him now, to show him what he can learn from the world and to hopefully give him the lifelong love of travel my parents gave me.

  • Amanda Kendle

    Lola, this is a brilliant post, and I’ve been thinking about it all day, since I read it this morning on my phone while being pestered for breakfast by Mr4. It is also impeccable timing as it’s a year ago that I left for my last trip to Europe and I blogged on my return from there about how I can’t be a “modern day travel blogger” in the sense of always being in new destinations and blogging it all as I go – it was a bit of a revelation to me (and our conversations in Dublin contributed to that, so thank you!).

    Now I’ve seen the importance of carving out my own small niche of what I can contribute to travellers and want-to-be travellers and I can do it while based here in Australia with my son at school and with only occasional travel. I feel more at peace about it than ever and it actually doesn’t even bother me so much now that I can’t travel as much as I (notionally) would like to. Of course, that doesn’t stop me plotting to spend six months in Germany in a few years (with a side trip to Sweden I hope, and many other places!) sending Mr6 (can’t imagine him being that old but it will happen) to school there.

    Having a child changes SO much it’s inconceivable! But it makes me look at travelling in a totally new light and I feel like I’m travelling for him now, to show him what he can learn from the world and to hopefully give him the lifelong love of travel my parents gave me.

    • LolaAkinmade

      Amanda, you inspire me in so many ways and just watching how you’ve elegantly transitioned over the years has been inspiring to watch. It’s about carving out that lifestyle that works for each of our families. We will never stop being travelers. In fact, we might even apprecitae travel more as we experience it with our kids.

      I love your last line about how having a child makes us look at traveling in a totally new light is so spot on.

  • http://www.adventurouskate.com Adventurous Kate

    Lola, I’ve read this post three times already. Thank you for writing it and for covering this topic sensitively.

    About four years ago, I got several signs in a row telling me that it was time to leave Boston and go after my dream of traveling long-term. For the last few months, I’ve been getting signs that it’s time to start reigning it in for the sake of my mental and physical health as well as my loved ones.

    Thanks again.

    • LolaAkinmade

      I’m so glad this resonated Kate! It’s something we hardly ever talk about within our community yet one of the natural progressions as a travel blogger growing a family.

  • http://www.adventurouskate.com Adventurous Kate

    Lola, I’ve read this post three times already. Thank you for writing it and for covering this topic sensitively.

    About four years ago, I got several signs in a row telling me that it was time to leave Boston and go after my dream of traveling long-term. For the last few months, I’ve been getting signs that it’s time to start reigning it in for the sake of my mental and physical health as well as my loved ones.

    Thanks again.

  • Melissa

    Words so true. It’s definitely a lot to think about. Thank you for the thoughts.

  • Melissa

    Words so true. It’s definitely a lot to think about. Thank you for the thoughts.

    • LolaAkinmade

      Thanks so much Melissa!

  • Melissa

    Words so true. It’s definitely a lot to think about. Thank you for the thoughts.

  • Melissa

    Words so true. It’s definitely a lot to think about. Thank you for the thoughts.

  • Melissa

    Words so true. It’s definitely a lot to think about. Thank you for the thoughts.

  • Melissa

    Words so true. It’s definitely a lot to think about. Thank you for the thoughts.

  • Melissa

    Words so true. It’s definitely a lot to think about. Thank you for the thoughts.

  • Melissa

    Words so true. It’s definitely a lot to think about. Thank you for the thoughts.

  • Max Hartshorne

    Lola we published you way back when. This is a refreshing and well written take on a familiar topic. I read it with interest. Great to see your impressive images and your success so long after we had your story on our site, GoNOMAD.

    • LolaAkinmade

      Max – It’s so great to hear from you and I wanted to say a huge thank you to GoNOMAD for taking a chance on me and publishing my early work. You guys have been integral and part of the growing process. So thank you once again!

    • LolaAkinmade

      Max – It’s so great to hear from you and I wanted to say a huge thank you to GoNOMAD for taking a chance on me and publishing my early work. You guys have been integral and part of the growing process. So thank you once again!

  • Max Hartshorne

    Lola we published you way back when. This is a refreshing and well written take on a familiar topic. I read it with interest. Great to see your impressive images and your success so long after we had your story on our site, GoNOMAD.

  • Max Hartshorne

    Lola we published you way back when. This is a refreshing and well written take on a familiar topic. I read it with interest. Great to see your impressive images and your success so long after we had your story on our site, GoNOMAD.

  • Monica-USA

    Wonderful pictures and your message about family is right on. Good luck.

    • LolaAkinmade

      Thanks Monica-USA! Always great to see you here. Your support has been so appreciated.

    • LolaAkinmade

      Thanks Monica-USA! Always great to see you here. Your support has been so appreciated.

  • Abi

    “We will all be here waiting for you and will respect you even more for putting the most important people in your lives first.” Quite. And that’s for transitions for other reasons, too. Sadder reasons like bereavement and so on…

    • LolaAkinmade

      So true Abi. so true.

    • LolaAkinmade

      So true Abi. so true.

  • Leigh Shulman

    I am honored to know you, Lola. It’s not often I meet others who can understand just what you say here, and this is such an important message to spread in a world that too often see things in absolutes or opposites.

    I agree there is this idea that constant movement is the measure of travel, and that having a family and travel are mutually exclusive.

    I tend to believe — as clearly you do as well — flexibility of mind, openness to new experience and the ability to appreciate place truly define a traveler. You can see every country in the world twice and never truly see. Or you can spend your life in one small town and yet be open to the world.

    I think we’re both lucky that we’ve been able to experience both the movement and the stillness and can recognize that everything goes in stages. As does childhood, parenthood, and just about everything else.

    Besitos to you!

    • LolaAkinmade

      Thanks so much Leigh and you know I feel the same way about you.

      I absolutely love this -> “Flexibility of mind, openness to new experience and the ability to appreciate place truly define a traveler. You can see every country in the world twice and never truly see. Or you can spend your life in one small town and yet be open to the world.”

      That’s truly what makes one a traveler and we’re definitely both blessed to fully understand and live this.

  • Candace Rose Rardon

    Lola, ever since I met you in Copenhagen, I’ve so respected and looked up to you as a writer and photographer – and it’s been amazing to follow along and watch your journeys unfold. It’s also been equally amazing to watch your journey as a mother unfold! And I just want to thank you – as another female place-loving writer :) – for setting such a beautiful example of how to continue doing what you love while also beginning to raise a family.

    The thought you ended on – about being present in our lives instead of constantly counting down ’til the next trip or the next adventure – is so powerful, and one I’ve really been learning myself this last year or two. Since arriving on Salt Spring, I’ve been doing a lot of sketches of the yurt and walks I go on here, and I recently realized it’s the first time I’ve ever sketched or paid such close attention to ‘home.’ And it’s been truly rewarding!

    And I just have one last quote that I think you might appreciate, from John Burroughs – “The lesson which life repeats and constantly enforces is “Look under foot.” The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are.”

    Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us, Lola. xo

    • LolaAkinmade

      Candace – I knew we’d become friends the minute I met you in Copenhagen. It was your light. Your inner light that radiated out and drew me in.

      As I told you in Dublin, just seeing how you’ve flourished, witnessing your immense talent, and watching you continue to grow warms my spirit and it brought me to tears right then and there :)

      I feel blessed because travel has been more about experiencing, connecting, and interacting with others instead of trying to find out who I am as a person because I’m grateful to already know my values, beliefs, and inner truths which remain unwavering regardless of how much and how far I travel. If anything, travel softens my heart even more and makes it meeker.

      And that quote by John Burroughs, how spot on! Thank you so much for sharing it. I love it and will probably edit the post to include it at the end.

      Thank you so much!

    • LolaAkinmade

      Candace – I knew we’d become friends the minute I met you in Copenhagen. It was your light. Your inner light that radiated out and drew me in.

      As I told you in Dublin, just seeing how you’ve flourished, witnessing your immense talent, and watching you continue to grow warms my spirit and it brought me to tears right then and there :)

      I feel blessed because travel has been more about experiencing, connecting, and interacting with others instead of trying to find out who I am as a person because I’m grateful to already know my values, beliefs, and inner truths which remain unwavering regardless of how much and how far I travel. If anything, travel softens my heart even more and makes it meeker.

      And that quote by John Burroughs, how spot on! Thank you so much for sharing it. I love it and will probably edit the post to include it at the end.

      Thank you so much!

  • http://www.dreamingofargentina.com Ailsa Ross

    Beautiful! Thank you for writing this piece that I’m sure will resonate with so many, Lola.

    • LolaAkinmade

      Thank you so much Ailsa!

    • LolaAkinmade

      Thank you so much Ailsa!

  • http://www.dreamingofargentina.com Ailsa Ross

    Beautiful! Thank you for writing this piece that I’m sure will resonate with so many, Lola.

  • http://www.dreamingofargentina.com Ailsa Ross

    Beautiful! Thank you for writing this piece that I’m sure will resonate with so many, Lola.

  • http://www.dreamingofargentina.com Ailsa Ross

    Beautiful! Thank you for writing this piece that I’m sure will resonate with so many, Lola.

  • http://www.dreamingofargentina.com Ailsa Ross

    Beautiful! Thank you for writing this piece that I’m sure will resonate with so many, Lola.

  • http://www.dreamingofargentina.com Ailsa Ross

    Beautiful! Thank you for writing this piece that I’m sure will resonate with so many, Lola.

  • http://www.dreamingofargentina.com Ailsa Ross

    Beautiful! Thank you for writing this piece that I’m sure will resonate with so many, Lola.

  • http://www.dreamingofargentina.com Ailsa Ross

    Beautiful! Thank you for writing this piece that I’m sure will resonate with so many, Lola.

  • http://www.dreamingofargentina.com Ailsa Ross

    Beautiful! Thank you for writing this piece that I’m sure will resonate with so many, Lola.

  • http://www.dreamingofargentina.com Ailsa Ross

    Beautiful! Thank you for writing this piece that I’m sure will resonate with so many, Lola.

  • http://www.dreamingofargentina.com Ailsa Ross

    Beautiful! Thank you for writing this piece that I’m sure will resonate with so many, Lola.

  • http://www.dreamingofargentina.com Ailsa Ross

    Beautiful! Thank you for writing this piece that I’m sure will resonate with so many, Lola.

  • http://www.dreamingofargentina.com Ailsa Ross

    Beautiful! Thank you for writing this piece that I’m sure will resonate with so many, Lola.

  • Oneika the Traveller

    Beautiful food for thought!

    • LolaAkinmade

      Thanks Oneika! Something to start thinking about as you start your next transition next year ;)

    • LolaAkinmade

      Thanks Oneika! Something to start thinking about as you start your next transition next year ;)

  • http://www.girlgonetravel.com/ Carol Cain

    I love this. Thank you for sharing your journey.

    • LolaAkinmade

      Thanks Carol!

    • LolaAkinmade

      Thanks Carol!