I've pondered this as well. They may have spent a lot of time in that region repairing Voyager and collecting supplies before venturing deeper into unknown space. Neelix was very familiar with trade in that region and it would be logical to utilize all of his connections and resources while they could.
Voyager may indeed have be going in circles or just not going at all, let's take a closer look at how they spent their time while in Ocampa/Kazon space.
The entirety of Season 1 takes place from star date 48315.6 to 48846.5 which is Apr 26,2371 to Nov 5,2371 so just over 6 months. Using this calculator:
In season 1 they spent a lot of time broken down or investigating things, EP:1 the ship was nearly destroyed, EP:2 they are trapped in a quantum singularity, EP:3 they are stuck in a subspace fracture, EP:8 they investigate Romulans in the Delta quadrant, and all along resupplying the ship with dwindling energy reserves and fighting skirmishes with the Kazon and Vidians.
The last Kazon episode would be S3:EP1 so from the end of S1 to this point we jump to star date 50023.4 or Jan 9, 2373 so another 14 months for a total of about 20 months. This 14 months was mostly spent on bottle episodes such as "The 37's" and "Meld". In EP12 Tuvok and B'Elanna are help captive, EP14 B'Elanna is abducted so Voyager spent a good amount of time circling planets. In EP25 Chakotay and Janeway are left on the quarantine planet while Voyager cures the Vidian phage. This is probably the single longest setback in S2 as Voyager spends 6 weeks curing the Phage then heads back so there could be 3 months lost here alone.
So I guess it's reasonable that they didn't make it very far and it wasn't just bad writing. Star Fleet is all about taking their time to analyze a problem before taking action so it's totally within character for them to spend a good deal of time gaining supplies and information before venturing beyond the bounds of the then known space.