Three-Day Rule

On my first backpacking trip, I almost booked my flight back to Korea on the third day. It was a month-long trip, but I remembered what my dad said, “You can always change your ticket if you want to come home early.” On the third day, I was lying on my hostel bed in New Zealand, cold, lonely, sick, and scared. I was an oddball who didn’t speak English and was staying at a hostel for the first time. I never even tried the common area because believe it or not, I’m a shy person in nature.

It seemed wasteful to go back on a 12-hour flight after only three days. I came to my senses and went out exploring the great city of Auckland.

When I consulted some travel plans with people in the online travel community, someone said there is a three-day rule in the travel world. The toughest time for a solo/ first-time traveler is the third day, apparently. On the first day, you are too new to recognize anything, the second day you are busy seeing new and exciting things, and the third day, you are realizing you are in a new land alone. Exactly how I felt. Thankfully I got over my third-day fear and became the person who I am now.


Got over the Three-day Rule, had fun traveling around the North Island of New Zealand. Notice the homemade scarf by my friend Diana, borrowed jacket due to the extremely changeable weather, and bare feet. Circa 2004.
Got over the Three-day Rule, had fun traveling around the North Island of New Zealand. Notice the homemade scarf by my friend Diana, borrowed jacket due to the extremely changeable weather, and bare feet. Circa 2004.


Three-Year Rule

When I started working at the engineering firm, some of my superiors said I’ll need to change things in my third year, such as get a new certificate, transfer to another department, or even move to a different the company. The same daily, weekly, yearly routine can be boring they said (no wonder). They were not known for changes, but I witnessed some changes from time to time.

As predicted, I made my change in the third year. I planned to leave, quietly, and made my move in the middle of the year. Typical isn’t a word in my dictionary, but there is a reason why that kind of saying started. The difference was, my move was way more extreme than others.

I was one of them. At the company welcome ceremony with 140 freshmen of the year. Although I was wearing a black suit, my bright yellow high heels represented who I was.
I was one of them. At the company welcome ceremony with 140 freshmen of the year. Although I was wearing a black suit, my bright yellow high heels represented who I was. Circa 2009.


Now, I Have a Two-week Rule

I’m back in Korea at the moment, preparing for my long-term stay in Borneo. Just taking care of stuff that I could only do here. I’ve been having a great time. Stephen is in Europe on a project, but I’ll see him soon enough. I’ve been working out everyday, eating a lot of home-cooked meals, having productive meetings, preparing AWE ’14, visiting family and friends… no complaints. But three days ago, something melancholy hit me all of a sudden. I didn’t feel like doing anything, felt tired and bored, had no energy, missed my partner more than usual, and got frustrated easily. Then it hit me again, “It’s been two weeks”.

For me, two weeks is enough time to do something out of the ordinary. For me, staying in Seoul for this long is enough. A long-distance relationship isn’t new to me, but two weeks has always been the mark for this feeling. Two weeks of intensive travel makes me want to take a break for a while. Two weeks of quiet time in one little town during my long-term travel makes me want to move again. See the pattern? Two weeks has been the mark for me to go back to the ordinary.

I’ve been on the move since July 2011. Sometimes I stay in one place for a month or two, such as when I visit my family, but I’ve never truly unpacked for the last two and a half years. I finally admitted that I wasn’t a born nomad. I’m very much a home person, who likes to create a comfort zone. As much as the title ‘digital nomad’ is the coolest, I had to face the truth. I need my books, proper desk, morning rituals, tea pot, and a regular work schedule. It doesn’t mean that I won’t travel ever again—it means I want to have a home base to go back to.



24 thoughts on “The Three-Day Rule, Three-Year Rule, and Two-Week Rule”

  1. I love the idea of the 3 day rule Juno. My first overseas travel experience I wanted to get back on the plane and go home after the first few hours but didn’t because I thought my family would be disappointed in me. Now I realise that first experience has helped shape me in to the traveller I am today and I don’t regret a moment of it. Oh an very cool about Borneo soon. Can’t wait to read more about it!

  2. I agree with all three of them but especially the last one. I think two weeks are enough… we will see how this will work in three weeks. I’m heading to central america for three weeks and already can see myself missing my partner so much after two weeks. One week is no problem. The second one might be difficult but the third one you count down every single day!

    All the best Juno!


  3. I remember being in Shanghai, 3 days into my round the world trip. I came down with a mystery fever and totally panicked! The aloneness really hits you, especially if you’re sick, but I’m so glad I didn’t give up!

    1. Me too! Yes, I remember I was really sick on the third day too. It was supposed to be early summer/ late spring, but it was really cold. The climate in Auckland was really changeable. But I’m glad I got over that.

  4. I hear you on this. When I was traveling full time, I made a point of staying in each place for a long period of time to feel like there was a home base. To keep balance.

    Home base is a good thing.

    1. Certainly. Now I have a home base-and I’m trying to make the best out of it when I can. Just like the fact I don’t need to not ‘unpack’ for long period of time. 🙂

  5. I also sometimes find that I miss someone for a week, and then after that I am ok lol. Can’t wait to hear about Borneo — I loved the month I spent there!!

    1. It’s nice to wake up at a same bed every morning for a change. Also there are lots of responsibilities but I’m enjoying it so far!

  6. 3 day rule. I never heard of that before but it makes perfect sense. I think I went through the same process on my year away before coming to my senses and having a great time.

  7. Oh, the three year rule is a golden one! I spent three years at my first job in Vegas and knew then it was time to move on! As for the three-day rule and two-week rule, I’ve never thought about them before, but they make perfect sense!

  8. This is a really wonderful rule of thumb and way of looking at the world! P.S. I looooved Auckland when I went! Did you get a chance to go to Rotorua while you were there and check out Waitomo Glow Worm caves and the thermal pools?

  9. Hi Juno! I enjoyed your blog because of the exhilarating attitude you’ve got about travel. I’ve been to Seoul several times and loved it. Why you say you couldn’t stay there too long is beyond me! But, to each his own, I guess.

  10. Funnily enough, I experienced my own version of your three-day rule when I left home and traveled thousands of miles to do a teaching stint in Korea! As a fellow travel bug, I look forward to reading more of your blog. I added you on Twitter and hope to connect there sometime 🙂

  11. I’m a little late to this article but I wanted to say I agree so much! Mike and I are also moving towards establishing a home base in the states and only taking smaller trips from there (probably I’ll be traveling more than him). It’s a big change, but it’s what we need right now. Actually, now that I think about it, I’ve been traveling for 3 years just about, so maybe that’s why I feel the need to make such a big life change :).

  12. Hi Juno,

    I have to say, this was a very honest article after reading countless blog posts of how much fun it is to travel non stop. Personally, it usually takes a month of non stop travelling to want to slow down, to not have to keep moving accommodations and the whole packing unpacking task. Sometimes it’s nice to have a routine that does not involve the kind of planning that travelling requires. I guess I can safely say that wanting to return to a home base does not make my love of travel any less 🙂

  13. Never heard of these rules but I really like and appreciate them! Also, I respect your choice of being honest with yourself and knowing that you want a place to hang your hat sometimes versus the digital nomadic lifestyle. I’m right in the middle of my year long sabbatical and am currently trying to figure out where I fall in that spectrum. A great read for me. Thanks for sharing.

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