Exploring the world is exhilarating, self-revealing, adventurous and, often, incredibly frustrating—not unlike a complicated relationship.
Travel isn’t all stopping to smell the roses, sun tanning on a gorgeous beach with friends, or sipping wine beneath crimson sunsets. For every amazing experience, there will be a time you feel uncomfortable, lonely, confused or afraid. It’s dishonest to glamorize the real, daily difficulties of backpacking. Long-term travel can be extremely taxing—not just on your wallet, but on your physical abilities, mental health and emotional balance.
For as much as I love travel, sometimes I hate it. It’s just you and the world and they all speak different languages and have different customs and as much as the guidebooks help, there is no instruction manual. You’ll get lost and afraid and make the wrong choice because you didn’t plan ahead and you get ripped off and overcharged for almost every single breath.
It’s beautiful and horrifying and a whole conglomeration of emotions I’ve never experienced before in a place with people I don’t know and a culture I can’t understand.
For me, the mornings are the worst. I wake up, sticky with sweat in a hostel bunk bed, strangers surrounding me snoring softly and I wonder, What the heck am I doing here?
And then I go outside.
The mountains boom “Good Morning,” the sun hangs high in the pure blue sky and the people are friendly, the waves crashing, the food is amazing and suddenly I feel at one with the world, like everything in my being is saying, “You belong.”
Travel, why you gotta play me like this?
I guess the truth is, relationships that are all smooth sailing are rarely deep, self-exploring experiences. If you never had any fights, or bad days in your relationship, could you ever really grow?
It’s the same in my relationship with travel. For all the incredible ups—international best friends, exciting new experiences, adrenalin-pumping adventures and moments of pure bliss—there are times travel feels so hard and confusing and exhausting that I question why I do it at all. Those are the times that teach me who I am and who I want to be.
Relationships are a choice. I choose to spend my time and money on travel because I love and value it. I choose to work through the tough times, because they make those clear-blue sunshine afternoons and beach sunsets that much more rewarding.
If you’re currently abroad or planning to travel, remember—not every moment, day, week or experience will be good. But if you love it enough, a long-term relationship with travel is so, so worth it.
I absolutely agree with you! I have written a similar post on my blog where I talked about the good, the bad and the ugly… As if, the worst moments of my trip where times where I felt lonely and alone and wish I was travelling with someone, but the best moments of my trip where made possible because I was travelling alone… Helps you appreciate it how you need both to really enjoy the highs!
Thanks for your comment Anne-Marie! This post is especially true for me today. A few days ago I arrived to Seoul for a four month semester abroad. I was so tired and discouraged when I first arrived, I nearly booked my flights home for the next week! Now I’ve decided to stay and enjoy the good and the bad. I hope you will too, wherever your travels take you!
[…] written quite a few posts about the anxiety and uncertainty I often feel when travelling. All of those emotions were blown out of proportion when I arrived in […]