Bantayan, Philippines

Why I Took A Short Break From Everything

Derek Personal Stuff 59 Comments

short break on Bantayan, Philippines
It’s me, Earl. Back again.

As you might have noticed, I took a short break from the blog. It started when I led my latest India tour back in February and continued as I took a ‘vacation’ once that tour came to an end.

It wasn’t a planned break. I would sit down and try to write in the beginning but it just wasn’t happening. Then one day in the middle of March, while on Siquijor Island in the Philippines, I made the decision to stop trying until I felt ready to write.

This morning I woke up and decided I was ready. And so I write.

Not quite sure where this post will lead so I guess we’ll both find out in a few moments.

The reason I took a break from the blog was that I simply needed some time for myself, time to concentrate on a few important aspects of my life. And in order to do that I needed to be fully present everywhere and at all times, without spending much of each day wondering how to write about what I was seeing and what I was doing.

During this period, I spent a few weeks in the Philippines and then four days in Taipei before returning to the US.

Cool stuff over there in the Philippines and Taipei by the way. Beautiful islands and beaches in one and some of the best food I’ve ever eaten in the other.

short break on Apo Island, Philippines

short break with Beef Noodle Soup in Taipei

I highly recommend checking both out at some point if you can.

The Problem

While traveling to these places, I really wanted to take a closer look at myself, to recognize my issues, to figure out what I need to improve on as a human being.

Sixteen years of travel can leave a person a tad confused and I realized that if I didn’t start taking care of myself in as many ways as possible, real long-term happiness was going to be difficult to obtain or sustain.

It’s the same regardless of whether we work in an office, perform surgery or bounce around the world working on our laptop. Life can get frustrating and lose it’s excitement if we ignore our own well-being.

So that’s what I was trying to during my short break in the Philippines and Taiwan, and still now. Take care of myself.

It’s not easy. There have been good realizations. There have been tough realizations. There are breakthrough moments and plenty of setbacks too. I’ve made mistakes, upset a few people during this process and been forced to make some really hard decisions.

The good news is that with some dedicated effort, we can always improve ourselves.

short break on Kalanggaman Island, Philippines

The Process

What are some of the things I’ve been doing to feel healthier and to be a better, happier person?

Here’s my random list.

  • Low-carb, low-sugar diet, and I feel better than I’ve ever felt as a result.
  • Breathing techniques. A friend of mine sent me a video of this Dutch guy, Wim Hof, and how he uses breathing to do things such as hike mountains wearing only a pair of shorts and spend time in freezing water without any problem. (Odd stuff, not sure if there are actually any benefits, but it’s kind of fun to try and does feel good.)
  • Reading all types of books (here’s my book list) about how to be more confident, how to keep life simple, how to deal with some of my issues and more. (If you have any book recommendations, let me know in the comments!)
  • Spending much less time online.
  • Being fully open and saying what’s really on my mind more often.
  • Saying ‘no’ more often. Feels pretty good once you realize that it’s okay to say it.
  • Figuring out what interests I have beyond travel and how I can integrate those into my life.
  • Spending more time with good friends than usual.
  • Facing my fears, in every aspect of life.
  • Enjoying the simple everyday moments instead of always looking for the next grand adventure.

Simple stuff. But a completely different, and more intense, experience now that I’m fully present and focused on myself. I’m not saying that everyone should do the above though. It’s just what I’ve been doing given my circumstances.

The Important Realization

Before – and I used to say this often – I believed that it was important to ‘check in’ with ourself from time to time in order to make sure we’re taking care of ourself properly and that we’re on the path we really want to be on. But now I realize the error in that line of thinking.

Focusing on and taking care of ourselves needs to be an ever-present part of our every day life. It needs to be the main ingredient of the foundation that everything else – relationships, work, goals and beyond – can be built upon, not just something we pay attention to every now and then.

Otherwise, life can get messy. Now I see this. Now I can do something about it.

At the moment I’m on a five-day road trip to West Virginia, then going back to New York City. We’ll see how long I’ll stay there. I do have a couple of short trips planned for May, but the goal is to keep working on myself too.

Right now though, time for some more breathing exercises. I might even try to take a freezing cold shower this morning.

More to come soon…

And seriously, the Philippines and Taiwan – a remarkably beautiful and yummy pair of destinations if you’re ever in the region.

short break on Virgin Island, Philippines

short break with Stinky Tofu in Taipei

How have you been recently? Any travel plans? Any thoughts on the above? I’d love to hear what you’re up to.


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Comments 59

  1. Amy

    It sounds like the break did you good, I also find that it’s really important just to clear the decks and reflect on everything regularly. I’m glad you had a great time in the Philippines and Taiwan, I love both of those countries!

  2. Karla

    It’s good that you took some time away from the online world and focused on the most important person of all, you!

    I am sure your body, mind and soul appreciated that digital detox and you stopped to live life which does not have a pause button.

    Time is precious and should be used to do things that are satisfying, rewarding and yes improve your overall health.

    I’m not online as often now and am writing a lot less which feels good. I noticed that I also get more visits when I don’t post as often as i used to!

    That has taken some pressure off and I am taking it easier.

    I enjoy watching the sunrise, sunset, have REAL conversations with people that matter the most and enjoy life!

    I am sure that you will have even more success now that you’ve recharged your batteries!

    Many safe and happy travels and keep up the great work 🙂

    All the best!

  3. A Pin on the Map

    Good for you! I am a firm believer in taking the time to figure out what is right for you and to trust your gut instinct. A healthy lifestyle is so important. It was nice to read that you are taking time for you and focusing on what really matters to you. I wish you the best of luck!

  4. Alex

    Awesome site Derek.

    I am glad you were able to recenter yourself and take some time away from everything. Happy travels!

  5. Anne

    Well, I’ve missed your blog, and I am always disappointed when I don’t see a new post; but above all, you need to take care of yourself. We all get stuck in various ways, and need to remember to stop every once and awhile, reset, and figure out what we want. Someday, I hope to become an explorer of the world, but currently I am trying to find happiness in the life I’ve stumbled into in Minnesota. The dog sure appreciates me anyway, so there’s that. No doubt you have friends everywhere wishing you well, and nudging you to share your journey, internal and external … we feel connected to you through your words, and can all relate to the search for happy/contentment/peace. Be well Earl!

  6. Sumil Dutta

    Wow !! 16 years of travel!! thats some serious mileage you have gathered. How do you manage to save/earn so much of money to travel for 16 years !!!

  7. James Cigana

    Great article Earl, I think many people including myself can relate to a lot, not just with travel, but with everyday life.
    As you said, it’s very important to check in with oneself every now and then and personally, I’ve had to do the same recently.
    Glad to see you taking the time to try new things, also, how are you finding the low carb diet? are you constantly in a Ketogenic state? and how is your overall energy level?

    James

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey James – My energy level is at an all time high and I’m still feeling better than ever. It’s been a very big change in such a positive way.

  8. Katie

    “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. I wish the title didn’t sound so self-helpy. Everybody’s different but the thing is, it sounds like you’re looking for something that speaks to you. This one spoke to me in a way that no other piece of writing ever has. So there’s that.

  9. Charlie @ Maptrotting

    Good post to spill those thoughts Earl. Everything needs some balance and you have to take care of all aspects of your life, it’s so easy to neglect one or many of them when travelling/working. We know having our eyes glued to the screen all day can drive you crackers no matter where you are located. Cheers C&K

  10. Tat

    -A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz. I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

    And if you are interested in Micronesian/Pacific Island Culture:
    -Making Sense of Micronesia: The Logic of Pacific Island Culture by Francis X. Hezel SJ
    -Micronesian Blues by Bryan Vila and Cynthia Morris

    I hope you feel better soon and find the answers and ways you were seeking, or some, since this is a life to live by learning.

  11. Brandon

    Taking time to find our inner peace is important on so many levels. I guarantee it will revitalize passions you completely forgot about as well! Can’t wait to see where your blog goes from here.

    -Cheers

  12. Linda

    We are like a plant. Roots, plant some roots. Gotta have some roots. We are well balanced when the roots of our tree can support our beautiful expanded canopy. If not, we just have to prune back.

  13. Rachel

    Hi Earl,

    Great hearing from you again. The timing of this post couldn’t have been more perfect. I read it just after having done a beautiful hour walk a long the coast, during what is supposed to be my vacation from my current version of a life of travel, where I spent the majority of the time thinking about my future plans and probably missed out on a lot of the beautiful view and at the very least did not enjoy it as much. Since I was on a 5 hour bus ride when I finally read it, I spent a lot of time contemplating what you wrote and realized just how poorly I have been taking care of myself and how unhappy I have been these past few months. It made me realize I need to make some changes in my life some of which I have already started doing, others have been put off until I am done with my mini-vacation from my current temp home country.

    On a completely different note I am glad to hear that you took a break and took time for yourself. It always seemed to be an important thing to do on a regular basis, or else you seem to loose yourself to the world around without noticing the damage it may be causing you.

  14. Dave

    It is very important to focus on your health and happiness. A very similar thing is happening to me right now. I have been in Southeast Asia for a couple years now primarily in Sihanoukville and have really been stuck in a rut lately (and going to the bar way too often). Sometimes a complete and total change is needed. I just recently decided to start eating healthy and get out more (during the day; not to the bars) as well as throwing in some exercise and my mood has already taken a turn for the better. Still trying to figure out where to go next though (I’m thinking Nicaragua or Mexico, although the Philippines could be fun).

    Reading some of these fantastic blogs help a bunch as well. Keep up the killer writing!

  15. George Bezushko

    Well thank you for letting us know – I was getting concerned by your online absence, and we do worry and care about you! Great to read about how you are doing!

  16. Rahman @ Destination Iran

    Welcome back. all of us need some time to contemplate and see within ourselves more deeply. I used to give myself some break after several months of tough translation jobs. I really needed to be away from anything requiring my brain working hard. At the end of such retreats, I felt back on the track too.

  17. Luna

    I love this – the self-nourishment pieces of life. And I like your random list of things. As for books – I read anything by Paulo Coelho when I’m travelling (self-help in poetic fairytales basically), so I’d recommend Aleph if you haven’t read it yet!

  18. Gigi

    So glad you got to have a break. We all need them and I think those of us running our own businesses tend to forget.

    So, books! I would love to leave you with some of my favorites:

    For fiction, my all-time favorite, which is history and philosophy and a deep look at the human condition through the eyes of four main characters, each telling the story the way they know how: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

    Also fiction, if you like fantasy and Britain and magical worlds that feel possible, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is my pick. It’s brilliant.

    Also fiction: Nick Hornby’s Long Way Down is a compelling story about a handful of strangers who find themselves on the same rooftop about to commit suicide…and who talk themselves out of it and become parts of each other’s complicated lives.

    If you have an interest in WWII fiction, the Book Thief, The Aftermath, and Exodus (by Leon Uris) are all brilliantly done and very different.

    For travel memoirs, Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven is wild and un-put-downable.

    Since you’re taking an interest in food, another great memoir is Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which is the story of her family attempting to eat local for a year.

    An interesting North Korea memoir by a Korean-American teacher is Without You, There Is No Us.

    If you have any interest in body language: What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People

    And if you just want to be made to think, anything by Malcolm Gladwell fits the bill, as does the original Freakonomics.

    Happy reading!

  19. Trever Nelson

    China Airlines and urgency to leave istanbul…has your ‘Final Destination’ come full circle? Will you cheat the system again…is that why you need a break and time to think?!?!?!…

  20. Trisha Velarmino

    I use to over extend myself and burn out, destroy relationships with my constant pull away because I cannot sustain them. Now I know why I did that — I’m the most settled and happy version of myself that I’ve ever been. That’s what I’d like to believe in. Happiness is not only important — it is necessary. Empty people have nothing to give away to others. Glad you are slowly finding your way “home”! May the force be with you, always! Xx

  21. May Hauer

    Thanks a lot for your post! You are so right. I am/ was? feeling this way as well. My realization is that is ok to feel vulnerability. It’s ok to admit you are not feeling well and ask for help. It doesn’t make you weak, it makes you strong cause you are willing to fight to feel better. I saw you on Adventurouskate snapchat! Ii’m so happy to see you guys are friends!!! <3 My 2 favorite travel bloggers hang out! It was pretty cool! 🙂 If you have snap please let me know. I would love to follow you. Thanks again for the post. May

  22. Monica

    Missed your presence, but I completely support what you need to do for yourself. I’m almost in my mid-30s, and I can tell you, people start having families around you and you see less of them, unless you have kids too! I hope you continue to find life’s nourishments!

  23. MinhTu Van

    Well said! Thank you for sharing this and glad to hear you took the time for yourself. Your well being is important! The blog will be here, the internet will be here, your readers will be here; it’s essential that you are well and happy, so that you can continue to share your adventures with us. Keep us posted on how the breathing technique goes! 🙂

    My world turns upside down with recent medical news. So I’m making changes drastically on my diet and lifestyle as well. No alcohol and sugar. Organic and mostly vegetarian foods. Fresh juice everyday. Yoga everyday. I’m already feeling the energy level going up! 🙂

  24. Molly Diethorn

    Hi Earl,

    So good to hear from you! Glad to see that you are making changes for the better care of self love for yourself. All very good tips/pointers on things to work on and think about. I’ve been a follower for years, and have enjoyed your thoughts. This past year has been a huge transition for me; mentally, emotionally, physically and in employment as well. Some of the things that I’ve been doing are the same as you, saying no, spending time really considering what and who is best for me, etc. I’ve found that being consciously present in each moment of the day and trying to not think ten steps ahead has been a huge help in my anxiety about the future and where it will lead. And as always, positive thinking and attitude will really do wonders for many aspects of life. Recently a trip to New Zealand helped to reaffirm those musing, especially with travel partners who weren’t the greatest Again, very glad to hear from you and hope all is well!

    Best Wishes,

    Molly
    Coal Center, PA

  25. Bea

    I recently went to see a Medium who said that I should read the book ‘E squared’, this then led me to ‘Just ask the universe’ and currently reading ‘Money and the law of attraction-learning to attract wealth, health and happiness’. I honestly can say that these books are changing my life for the better. I love to travel and always looking for the next adventure but my life now feels like an adventure even when I’m not physically going anywhere. Enjoy your travels, within and beyond yourself 🙂

  26. Faith Dugan

    “Enjoying the simple everyday moments instead of always looking for the next grand adventure.” This is so important, it took me many years to learn this and you will find more peace. Always looking at the next move, you can loose what is in the present.

    Another phase of your life journey, important to take care of you and learn more about your inner spirit. And disconnecting from everything particularly the internet is important for everyones well-being.

    There was a time when I was feeling so disconnected and my brain was foggy all the time. I removed myself from the internet and the news and started listening to brain wave music. Did wonders. It was amazing,when I first started listening to the music I could feel my brainwaves changing.

  27. Joanne Joseph

    Welcome back!

    And yes, it is both needed and healthy to take a break from time to time. I recently took a two week break from blogging and it felt great. Instead of looking for photo ops that would be interesting to share, or thinking about how to describe or write about my day – I simply enjoyed the moments. It is both refreshing and needed. Wishing you abundant good health, physically, mentally and spiritually.

    JJ

  28. David

    Wife and I live in Winter Haven Florida. Sometimes we just feel like we are all “Winter Havened Out” and its time to get out of Dodge for a while. Get out clear your mind of the
    usual stuff, see different people and see different things, relax, get ideas that might be incorporated in our day to day lives. We usually do it by flying into a place for a week or ten days, rent in an aparthotel, walk or take a taxi and try to do the destination in depth. We try to get right away from the internet, emails, phones. Problem is you return and it is amazing how many unanswered items there are facing you. Frequent and periodic times away from the regular life does a person good.

  29. Victor from Victor's Travels

    Hi there Earl,

    Great article 🙂
    It’s very easy to lose track of your values and to get out of touch with the person you want to be, when you’re in a certain routine with all it’s frustrations and self-imposed limitations. A period of time just focusing on when you normally would do but don’t actually do it gives you a good perception of who you have become, and it makes it easier to adjust where necessary. Good job putting this in words 🙂 I wonder if you’d agree with my article called “Is full-time travel really the dream?”, I’ve linked it in this comment.

  30. emily

    life is a work in progress and can only be lived one moment at a time…keep on taking car of yourself and let it unfold!

    just took our one year old to mexico and had a phenomenal time!

    cheers!

  31. Erica Simoneaux

    Hi Earl! So glad to hear that you are taking time out for yourself. I enjoyed reading the part about cold showers. I am reading a book called “Original Light by Snatam Kaur”. She practices Kundalini yoga and part of her morning ritual is a cold shower. I have yet to try this technique but I will soon! There must be something to it!

    Thanks for your inspiring post. I’ve recently started working on being present in the moment and not trying to plan my very next move. Oh and learning HOW to Breathe..

    Erica Simoneaux
    Jensen Beach,FL

  32. Andree-Anne

    So glad to see you are back!
    Also thanks for the reminder that taking care of ourselves needs to be a constant effort. As many mentioned before, you need to be there for yourself in order to be able to be there for others. Also, I am looking forward trying to the breathing techniques.
    As usual, thanks for the inspiration.

  33. Alyson World Travel Family

    Hi Earl. We were in Sri Lanka for a month in January. We had one particular restaurant we liked on the beach. Every night this solo dude was there. We’d watch him as he’d approach a table for two. ” Great sunset tonight!” or ” Beautiful isn’t it?” He’d open conversation so that he could join the couple at their table. ( But never approach us, we have kids, too scary ! ) From there he’d go on to tell them how he’d been travelling for 7 years ( Q applause!) and how nobody could believe he was 30 ( he looked older!). He was a grade A asshat. I love your stuff, so I’m not sure why I feel the need to tell you that. I guess I thought you’d find it interesting. Notes on how not to be an asshat, sort of thing.

  34. Don

    Hi Earl,
    It’s great to have you back & I completely understand where you’re coming from as to taking care of yourself. I’m coming back from a mini-stroke & naturally I want to get back to “normal” as quick as possible, but that’s not what my body says 🙂 I’m taking each day as a gift enjoying that I have that day to live. DO take time for yourself! We will survive, but miss you, but it’s important that you do what you need for your life. Peace my friend.

  35. Margaret

    Well done for taking the time out for yourself. Try reading “The Tibetan Art of Serenity” by Christopher Hansard. Nice read

  36. Scott

    Remember the old adage that you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else? Well, what applies her is you have to take time for yourself before taking time for anything else, and as you say taking time for yourself is something we need to do 24/7.
    Everything else will fit into place.

    I say NO way too often (even have a pen that I can press and it yells NO). I need to practice saying yes more!

    Next trip: Norway in 11 days

  37. Travis

    Hi Earl,

    Welcome back, man. A couple books that I would recommend (you’ve probably heard of one or both) would be Mastery by Robert Greene and The 4 Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss.

    The 4 Hour Workweek is interesting as a perspective on work and how much we really need to do… or not do.

    Mastery has been an awesome read for me because the author has made an amazing effort to distill the experiences of famous successful people into gems of advice that culminate in an overall pattern for achieving your potential and becoming a “master”.

    I highly recommend these books to anyone who wants to widen their perspective on life. Also, I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of this but I’ve been writing multiple blog posts in advance so that I can publish regularly without having to worry about coming up with content each time… something to consider if you’re feeling a bit burnt out.

  38. Alana

    It’s always good to take a “vacation” or “time out” of sorts. A psychologist friend of mine once told me, “If you don’t take care of you, you can’t take care of anyone.” A preacher friend of mine said, “Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap.” So true. Rest and refreshing is essential for human existence. Life is confusing, self-discovery takes time, self-improvement takes even longer, and sometimes we just have to take time out to get ourselves straightened out. Glad to see you back!

    Oh Earl, I hope you find what you’re looking for. Maybe it’s just me, but when I read some of your posts, I sense behind your words a deep hunger. I sense that you’re desperately searching to find something… That missing thing that will fill up any inner void, give you true peace and lasting fulfillment. I hope you find it, or it finds you, dear friend.

    Happy trails to you!

  39. Rico

    Hey, Earl…

    Question for you if you’re up for it. A while back I made the decision to roll over and take a plea bargain on a “theft of government property” crime I actually did not commit. I did it for personal and financial reasons, and at the time, I didn’t really think it would change my life all that much. It did. I was given a 5-year probation, which will be over in about a year. Once that season of my life is over, I really want to take a long trip and just kind of clear my head. The problem is, it seems there’s a lot of restrictions on where a felon can travel (something I did not consider when I took the plea bargain). Do any others in your tribe have experience with this kind of an issue? Do you have any recommendations or advice?

    Rico

  40. Belle Cordovez

    Don’t worry about us. Worry about you first! Although I must admit I was eagerly anticipating to hear your stories from the Philippines. It’s good to hear you had that breakthrough realization while in Siquijor, the mystical island. Haven’t been there yet but it’s supposedly mystical powers did its effect on you. 🙂
    So you were talking about breathing techniques… I recently had my first panic attack and what came to mind after a few moments of anxiety filled thoughts was deep breathing, yes, I also happened to have just watched a video of Pranayama breathing specifically the alternate nostril technique. It helped! I slept after a few minutes of doing it. Now, every time I am stressed, I just do it wherever whenever and it puts me in a zen mood. Try it. Take care!

  41. Andi

    Great post! I went through that a few years ago, wandering through SE Asia wondering where I’d end up. Then I realized a few of the same things you did – check in with yourself every day or you can get lost in the shuffle. I ended up in Taiwan and you’re right – great place! Glad you’re back!

  42. James Johnson

    Nice to have you back, Earl!

    Have you done much with Meditation in the past? I had a go at that Take 10 Challenge from Headspace and I’ve been hooked ever since.

    I’ve struggled with some mental health issues and challenges over the last year and it made it much easier to get over the hurdles. Perhaps it could be a good idea to look at while you’re on this journey of self improvement?

    Either way, stepping back from the world every now and then to catch your breath makes a big difference!

    James

  43. Claire

    Great to have you back!
    I totally understand. and as you said it does not matter what you do. I have a 9 to 5 job and was feeling the same. I am leaving very soon to take a break, do things I really enjoy and take care of myself.
    Your list in the Process section is almost exactly what I am going for!
    I wish you all the best. Take care.

  44. Joann

    Hi Earl!
    I recommend The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday, it’s a good read 🙂
    You can also check out Essentialism by Greg McKeown (not yet done with the book but love how it constantly point out the importance of saying ‘no’ in order to say ‘yes’ to what truly matters).

  45. George

    Great post Earl, it’s good to have you back! I always make sure to keep Peter Pan close to hand for those times when things seem to be getting tough. Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves of the magic in the world. Can’t wait for your next post

  46. Candice - Desert to Jungle

    So good to hear what you’ve been up to lately and that it’s been about stepping back from the online world, your obligations to others, and taking a look at your own needs. You’ve built your own business, and your fantastic blog, from scratch, you’ve helped other people realise their travel dreams. There’s got to be a time for looking after you.

    As I used to say to my clients (I used to be an NLP coach and hypnotherapist): when the oxygen mask drops down, you’ve got to put it on yourself before you are any use to anybody else. Take time for yourself and take care of yourself.

  47. Claudia

    It’s good to have you back!

    The Romans used to say “mens sana in corpore sano” – healthy mind in a healthy body. Taking care of your health, to begin with what you eat, how much you exercise etc, is a good way to begin to take care of yourself. Surely don’t overdo it. But I know for a fact that I feel much better after 1 hour of training at the pool than before.

    And it is good to detox from the internet, the blog, and – well – everything, at times.

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