The reality of traveling every month — why I’m so so grateful but also so excited for my 9-to-5.

Ashley Chang
6 min readSep 10, 2023

This story is part 3 of my series of about things I’ve been struggling with in my journey into adulthood. Check out part 1 (yoga and anxiety) and part 2 (feeling grounded and finding purpose).

digital photo from my montreal trip — a very random destination we chose as a post-grad trip

Over the last year and a half, I have gone on a trip nearly every month. I was able to do this because I took very few classes as a senior in college and had three months of free time between graduation and starting my full-time job. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity that I had to do this, I know that most people are not in positions where they can drop things to go on a trip that often. Going forward I won’t be able to either, so I’m still glad I did it despite some of the things I’ve struggled with as a result.

Don’t get me wrong, it was an EPIC experience. But I haven’t shown the whole picture.

On Instagram, I posted the most beautiful and interesting moments I captured. In catch-ups with friends, I described the most memorable and fun adventures I experienced on my travels from unique cultural experiences to funny encounters along the way.

“Getting to immerse myself amongst the locals was amazing.”

“That farmer's market was unmatched — I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“The view was so worth the trek up the mountain.”

Beyond the scenes and even unbeknownst to myself, traveling was becoming a bandaid to a lot of what actually mattered in my regular ol’ life.

Living out of a suitcase for much of the past year, I was losing track of habits I had tried so hard to cultivate in years prior. Although health has been top of mind throughout my travels, I still found it very difficult to maintain healthy habits when so much of my environment was changing around me.

Traveling made it easy to make excuses and ditch healthy habits I had worked so hard to cultivate in years prior.

Turns out that having a trip booked every month was a great excuse to break the promises I made to myself.

“I’ll get back into my workout routine after this trip” This excuse is a two-in-one: relevant for the week leading up to the trip, as well as the duration of the entire trip.

“When else am I going to get to eat this [insert unhealthy but unique to the location food] again?”

“No point in keeping a healthy sleep schedule, I’m going to change time zones soon anyway.”

“I will make money when I start work, when else am I going to be young, free, and traveling the world?”

“I’ll reach out to my friends when I’m back home for long enough to actually make plans with them.”

Clearly, I made a lot of excuses to neglect my responsibilities and typical healthy habits both while traveling and in the awkward times in between trips.

I’ve neglected some of the foundational pieces of my life from physical and mental health, finances, and even all types of interpersonal relationships.

Lessons learned

It takes a long time to build habits.

photo from the second time I read atomic habits early last year

I recently read an article by James Clear (author of the award-winning book Atomic Habits) titled How Long Does it Take to Form a New Habit? In the article, he cites a study that says that it takes a minimum of 21 days and an average of 66 days to form a new habit.

Reading the article helped me to better understand why I was unable to build and maintain healthy habits throughout the last year.

You have to work to maintain them, especially when changes happen in life.

The point of having habits is to have a system you can fall back on, one that is dependable, healthy, and consistent. I used to think that building the habit was the challenge and then it would be all smooth sailing from there. Kind of true. But I never factored in the energy and work I’d have to put into maintaining a habit as well, especially when the environment around us is ever-changing.

Shit is always going down in life. Beyond the inconsistencies of plain old living, big and sometimes life-changing things also just happen absolutely out of nowhere. Sometimes the environmental changes we experience are somewhat planned, like a trip. This is why maintaining a habit takes active work.

How can I stay consistent while adapting to inconsistencies? That’s a big question I’ve been asking myself lately. Hopefully, I’ll crack the code to that soon, and I’ll be posting another piece about my learnings in this department :)

I’m so excited for my next chapter of life.

the day I my keys to my first apartment :)

I’m actually really excited to move into my apartment in the city and start my full-time job. Whenever I express this excitement, I often get made fun of for feeling like this by a lot of my peers. I get why it sounds absurd. You WANT to stop traveling and having fun and start working a 9–to-5?

My answer to that is that it’s time. This past chapter of my life was very fun and memorable. But I’m ready to start working on myself and building the systems that will make my life feel more consistent and on track.

Life things I’m excited for in this upcoming chapter

  • Moving into my apartment
  • Furnishing and decorating my own space
  • Trying new workout classes
  • Having a consistent sleep, exercise, and work routine
  • Making new friends and fostering friendships I’ve neglected
  • Working — using my brain, talking to people, and even coding and building products that contribute to something larger
  • Finding my regular parks, coffee shop, and other spots
  • Having money flowing in and becoming more financially smart

Do I recommend traveling?

YES YES YES. In this reflection, I was a bit of a critical negative Nancy in reflecting on some things I’ve been struggling with. But I wouldn’t necessarily change my itinerary. Rather, I come away with learnings that can hopefully set me up better in the future.

I do have one caveat to this answer. Traveling is a great way to get exposure and explore, learn about the world and yourself, etc. Over the past year, I did find myself traveling just for the sake of traveling rather than with any particular intent. It was fun, but I did find myself wondering if my time and money would have been better put elsewhere like investing in my habits and hobbies.

Thanks for reading!

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Ashley Chang

22-year-old NYC-based software engineer | Writing about the life lessons I'm learning along the way.