Everyone will tell you about the great adventures you’ll have on your travels. Everyone will tell you about the people you’ll meet, the places you’ll see and the things you’ll learn. Instagram is filled with inspiring and colourful photos of all the beauty and fun that travel has to offer, making us green with jealousy and wanting to book our next flight. Everyone will tell you how incredible and life-changing travel is. The romantic side of travel. And I agree, traveling is all this and much more, but everything has a bad side, a Yin to the Yang.
HERE ARE SOME PARTS OF TRAVEL YOU WON’T FIND ON INSTAGRAM…
SLEEPING IN AIRPORTS
If you’re going to travel for any significant amount of time (not holiday) then chances are you are going to sleep in a LOT of Airports. You’ll become a pro at finding the spots with power plugs and wi-fi and making a makeshift bed out of your backpack and scarf. Not just airports though, you’ll become a pro at sleeping pretty much anywhere… it’s not comfortable but it’s all part of the great adventure (that’s what I tell myself anyways)!
YOU’RE NOT ALWAYS GLAMOUROUS
Don’t be fooled by the photos you see online. You are going to be so busy having adventures that the last thing you’re going to care about is making yourself look pretty. You are going to wear the same clothes over and over again. Your bag and everything in it is going to stink of dirt and sweat. You’ll probably only wash your hair once a week (or on the side of the road, like in the pic below) and don’t even think about bringing a hair straightener or hair dryer – you don’t have space for that stuff in your bag. Shaving? Aint nobody got time for that! Hostel bathrooms can be dirty, you just want to get in and get out as fast as possible! Oh and make-up? No Way! I honestly only wear make-up perhaps five times a year, it’s just not necessary when traveling. But don’t worry, everyone else on the road is going au naturel too!
SICK AS A DOG
If you are planning to travel to any developing countries be prepared to get sick at least once, if not hundreds more. Be sure to pack some Diarrhea and Nausea tablets in your bag as they’ll be your new best friend. Eating foreign food and water can play havoc with your stomach, have your medical kit prepared!
When Andy was fed blood-raw Chicken and had to vomit it up.
ONE IS THE LONELIEST NUMBER
During my travels I have met some of the most incredible people and made life-long friends. I’ve partied and explored the world with strangers who have become family. But there has been other times on my travels where I’ve felt totally alone. Sometimes it’s hard to feel a connection to any of the random people in your hostel, hard to have to make small talk to new people every single day.
The loneliest I have ever been on my travels were the first few days in Beijing, China. No one in my hostel spoke English, none of the locals spoke English and Facebook, Whatsapp and the like were all banned so I couldn’t communicate to anyone at home and I felt totally alone. I honestly didn’t speak a word for over three days because their wasn’t anyone I could talk to. It was horrible!
You probably know the bed-time saying, ‘don’t let the bed bugs bite!’ The sneaky, tiny, blood-sucking bugs that hide in beds, couches and suitcases (among other places) are feared among travelers like the plague. Don’t be fooled in thinking the more you pay the safer you’ll be, bed bugs do not discriminate between hostels and hotels (and even homestays – please don’t take these bad boys to someones house, please!!). You’d be very lucky to travel for a long period of time and not come across these little buggers!
That time my friend Charlotte was bitten on the eye by a Bed Bug in Chile.
TORTUROUSLY LONG BUS RIDES
I hope you don’t get too car sick because if you’re planning on traveling the world chances are you are going to spend a LOT of time on buses. Not just regular buses, 20+ hour-long bus rides. I’m so accustomed to long bus journeys now that I consider anything under eight hours a short and easy journey.
Some journeys are super comfortable with chairs that recline into beds with blankets and pillows provided for your comfort (thanks South America)! Other times they will be basic, dirty and over-packed buses with only windows to cool you down from the crazy heat.
Exchange rates are a complicated thing, sometimes they are in your favour and you can travel like a Queen. Other times, like this year, the US Dollar was the strongest it’s been in a very long time and subsequently cost myself and others a lot of money – almost $3000 to be exact. And I wasn’t even in the US. Don’t underestimate the power of the exchange rate.
HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND ALIENATE PEOPLE
If you have a strong friendship circle at home and you want to keep it that way, don’t go traveling. Sure, the first few times you go away nothing too much will have changed when you come home. Your friends will be excited to see you, excited to hear your stories, tell you all the goss that’s gone on whilst you’ve been gone and get back to being BFFS. But the more you go away the less people care. And I don’t say this to be rude or short but it’s the truth. And I can’t blame them. It’s really hard to maintain friendships when you aren’t around, it’s hard to stay connected when you are never in the same country or time zone, it’s hard finding suitable times to Skype. As time goes on the texts and messages become less and less frequent until almost non-existent. It’s hard to have a friendship with someone when they aren’t there (and maybe even hard to not get jealous of your friend who is out having adventures everyday when you’re slogging away at work). You’d be a fool to think that you can leave for months or years on end and think that nothing will change, but it hurts nonetheless and is one of the hardest sacrifices you’ll have to make for traveling.
To non-travelers this will probably make you laugh/angry. Whenever I complain to my mum that I’m tired she always laughs and says ‘You’re tired? You’re on holiday, how could you be tired?’ Firstly mother, this traveling business is nothing like a ‘holiday,’ a holiday is something that resembles white sand beaches, staying in nice hotels, eating at restaurants, sleeping in comfortable beds, having hot showers and relaxing. Traveling is almost none of those things… except maybe the white sand beaches.
Secondly, do you know how exhausting it is having to carry your life on your shoulders? My back will never be the same. Do you know how exhausting it is having to find somewhere safe and clean to sleep each night? How exhausting it is to have broken sleep in hostel dormitories? How exhausting it is to have to introduce yourself and make small talk to twenty new people each day? How exhausting it to be constantly thinking about your safety and on guard all the time! How exhausting it is having to stay under budget ALL the time? Sometimes a girl just wants to chill. This traveling stuff is a LOT harder than it looks, okay? (Though of course totally worth it)!
So you want to travel the world, huh? Do it! It’s the best thing you’ll ever do. But you’re going to have to save a lot of money and in order to do that you’re going to have to sacrifice EVERYTHING. Are you prepared to do that? Yes? Great! Read how I saved a lot of money to travel long-term.
You’re going to meet a lot of incredible people on your travels, some who will be friends for life. You will also likely meet a ‘special someone’ on your journeys across the road. It’s the stuff that movies are made of, right? You meet on a train to Paris, you fall in love and the rest is history. How much more romantic and exciting can it get?
I met the love of my life in a hostel in Sydney and we’ve been traveling together for over three years now but before I met him I had my heart-broken on a boat in Antarctica and there is nothing worse than having your heart-broken in a foreign land with no friends or family to hug you as you cry – trust me.
The locals on my flight back to Buenos Aires were so worried about the sobbing Gringo that I was given Tarot cards, Worry Dolls and cups of Tea from complete strangers. Seriously! I couldn’t speak enough Spanish to tell them the reason for my tears but their kindness meant a lot.
FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD
When you think of going on holidays you probably think of all the nights you’ll spend eating at fancy restaurants with a view of the beach or the city skyline. I won’t lie, on a rare occasion some nights are like that, but in between them are hundreds of nights spent cooking in a dirty hostel kitchen. Often the hostels are missing cutlery, strainers or can-openers meaning you’ll have to get very creative with how you cook (not to mention rusty/broken knives, like below).
In order to stay on a tight budget you’ll most likely be eating a lot of carbs – Pasta, Rice and Bread will be your new best friends because they are cheap, filling and easy to find everywhere. Are they healthy? No. Do they get repetitive and boring? Yes. But my go to Tuna and Corn Pasta is easy to cook, requires few/easy to find ingredients and saves me a lot of $$
IT’S NOT ALL ONE BIG PARTY
Sure, some of the funnest and wildest nights of my life have been in bars and clubs scattered around the world but if you want to travel for a significant amount of time then it’s completely unrealistic for these nights to be a regular thing. No matter how cheap the country you’re in is, money adds up fast and a couple of beers and cocktails later you’ll have spent a significant amount of money. Do that every night and you’ll be back home in no time.
A lot of nights will be spent at the hostel either chatting around the kitchen or in bed reading books by 9pm. Limit your partying to once a week and you’ll be traveling much longer (not to mention feel better)!
I could not have traveled as much as I have without hostels, they’re awesome things. They save you a load of money, the staff know the best places to recommend and you meet awesome people. I love hostels for many reasons but sometimes hostels suck!!! When someone in your room comes back from a big night of partying and turns all of the lights on at 4am and have a loud-ass conversation to all of their mates, that sucks! When you have a couple having sex in the bed above you – so awkward! Sometimes you’re going to share a room with the loudest snorer in the world, and you will not be able to sleep a wink. And just because the website says the dorm has six beds in it doesn’t mean there is enough room for six beds in it… or 22 beds for that matter. And sometimes you’re going to share with crazy people, really old people and really dirty people – you can’t choose who you share with! You may also get stuck having to stay at a really dirty, falling apart hostel like the one in the pic below where I stayed in Rio, the rooms were covered in mold and bed bugs, but it was the cheapest place we could find during Carnival.
It can be really, really fun and it can also be really, really bad. You have a 50/50 chance…
Yep, traveling sucks sometimes. It can be hard and exhausting both mentally and physically. But is all the hard times worth it? The 40 hour bus rides and the regular food poisoning? YES! Absolutely yes! If it wasn’t worth it I wouldn’t have been traveling for 7+ years. I would be at home, comfortable in my clean bed with a fridge full of food and a stable income. But despite all the hard times travel is still the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m not complaining, I take the good and the bad as a package deal.
These are the things about travel that no one tells you about. These are the things about travel that you won’t see on Instagram – but a photo of you vomiting your guts up just doesn’t look as nice amidst the photos of beaches and mountains, you know? That’s what Snapchat is for…
OVER TO YOU. WHAT ARE OTHER PARTS OF TRAVEL THAT ARE HARD? TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!