To a casual social media observer, our travelling adventure looks like one incredible experience after the next. It looks as if every day is more fun than the last. The truth is it’s not really like that – there are certain realities of travelling that ever long term adventurer will be familiar with. There are bad times to go with the good, and on occasion it can be tough. I’m writing this blog post in an attempt to dispel the myth that long term travelling is just like a long luxurious holiday break.
If you look through my Instagram profile, you’d be forgiven for thinking that every day is amazing. Now don’t get me wrong, we’re having an incredible, once in a lifetime adventure and I love travelling. I don’t want people to think I’m complaining. However, I feel an obligation to let people know there’s a bigger picture here. There’s are certain realities of travelling that we don’t often share. If you go travelling, here are some of the difficult realities of travelling you should expect.
You’ll get sick. Whether it’s something you ate, or you got caught in a storm in a t-shirt, at some point you’ll be ill. And you’ll be thousands of miles from any home comforts. Today is the 7th day we’ve been holed up in a guesthouse in a remote Thai island (read about that here). We’ve got second degree burns from the sun in Thailand. We’ve spent more time applying aloe vera and in hospitals in the past week than we have outside. Mary even needed a wheelchair.
You’ll spend an ungodly amount of time actually travelling. Every 2 to 3 days we spend an entire day on a bus, train or boat. That’s just what you have to do if you have a lot of places you want to see. They’re often hot, sweaty and don’t be surprised if you have to stand for 5-6 hours.
You’ll never find the perfect place to stay. Either there’ll be no hot water, no air con, it’ll be dirty, there’ll be ants, the bed will give you a bad back or a whole host of other things (we once had a bathroom infested with giant cockroaches). Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
You’ll never get enough sleep. Everything you want to do starts early. You’ll either be getting up early to avoid the heat or to board a long bus to the next place. You’ll stay up late to meet other tourists.
You won’t do everything you planned and you won’t see everything you wanted to see. Sometimes buses don’t run for no apparent reason. Often attractions are closed for no reason. Sometimes you’ll miss the train and sometimes you’ll be too hungover to do anything.
You’ll be homesick. I wasn’t sure I’d get this one, but it’s inevitable. Living out of a backpack gets difficult quickly. Constantly moving around, never settling anywhere for more than a week, it really makes you miss your family, friends and home comforts. To do this, you really have to be ok with not being settled for any length of time. You never put roots down anywhere – it’s one I personally struggle with.
These are some of the real realities of travelling. You have to realise that all this, it’s just part of it. You can’t travel without this stuff. It won’t all be fun; you won’t laugh 24/7. In my opinion, it’s actually not for everyone. But I think you should do it anyway – the upsides just far outweigh the downsides. Yes, it’s sometimes hard and yes, sometimes you’ll just want your own bed. But it’s all worth it for those incredible, once in a lifetime experiences. A great many worse things will happen to you in your life than having “the runs” on the side of the road while a group of Cambodian schoolchildren stand and laugh.
When you’re 80, you’ll be so glad you put up with months of dirty hostels and lumpy beds. You’ll look back and laugh at the hard times. You’ll truly appreciate the great times.
If you’re having extreme highs and extreme lows when travelling – that’s good. It means you’re doing it right.
If you’re having more highs than lows, you’re doing just fine. Remember, you’ll look back fondly at the low points one day too.