A close longtime friend of mine recently set off on her first proper adventure, with her husband in tow for six months to a variety of different countries and she has quickly discovered some fundamental truths that those of us who have gallivanted around the globe know from experience.
In this world of constant social media and never-ending array of social media images of perfect people living perfect lives on a variety of different platforms, the expectation that life on the road is grand 90% of the time and difficult only 10% of the time is something most people setting off on their first overseas adventure would have.
So here I am thousands of miles away and driving her husbands car who I have aptly named Franz for his old grumpy soul; constantly responding to her messages with an awareness of every little thing she is experiencing. Some things you yourself may not be aware of before you set off on your own adventure so here are some harsh truths…and why it’s still all worth it.
Santa Cruz Rollercoaster, California/Glacier National Park, Montana
Living out of bags is exhausting
Constant travel involves living out of a bag and this soon wears thin between being shoved into tiny seats on a plane, having a screaming baby on a flight, meeting up with friends, sleeping on couches and trying to see as much as humanly possible in the short time frame you find yourself in that location.
There will without a doubt be a day where you are looking for something and have to pull half your possessions out of your bag only to find it at the bottom of all your things. Hours later you’ll have to redo this exact roll of actions, knowing full well you had seen this thing you now need inadvertently when you weren’t looking for it earlier. It’ll happen and even the best packing will have you do this action on multiple occasions. Just accept that there will be messy bag days and know it happens to every single traveler.
Times Square, New York/Dancing in Prague, Czech Republic
Perfect pictures aren’t the full story
A picture may be a thousand words, but the reality of any great image is that it has likely come about because the person in it has been through some real effort to get there. And, spoiler alert, those amazing stand on the top of a rock shots would have given those people a level of discomfort to get that image.
While commiserating with my friend who had just slept in a tent with no cooker, no bedding and climbed to the top of Yosemite Falls for a beautiful image; she said traveling is not her thing and she is finding it difficult because everyone has the most amazing time and there must be something wrong with her for feeling that way.
I don’t know about you, but if I had to sleep with no bedding in a tent and then put in a long day of hiking, I wouldn’t necessarily be loving every second of the experience either…even if the hardships were worth it in the end.
Road in Iceland/Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Routine is not possible
Unless you love waking up at a different time every day, eating something at a different time and don’t depend on quiet time to relax or anything else that comes with a regular routine, then this will be a real struggle.
Some days you have to constantly be on. From being polite despite exhaustion at airports to checking in at a hostel, to meeting a vast variety of people where small talk is the only kind of talk you’ll have. You might not have any time to yourself. Let alone a meal time or meals that resemble anything remotely like what you find comforting.
Trafalgar Square, London/Istanbul, Turkey
You can be sad while traveling
One of the most expected aspects of traveling is that you won’t miss home or your loved ones. That the world outside your door, neighborhood, country are going to fulfill and complete you in a way you’ve never experienced. That you’ll reach a happiness never before known within your own backyard. This simply isn’t true. Sure there will be grand incredible and breathtaking days, but you’ll also feel sucker punched on other days.
There will be moments when you aren’t feeling your best, sometimes determined by discomfort from outside forces or because you simply don’t feel like you in this place. That.is.okay. Admit it to yourself and then try to change your perspective to be as present as you possibly can be (you are there after all and not wherever else you want to be). This will all be a memory one day and even though you aren’t feeling fully able to appreciate it, you’ll look back that at least you got to experience that place and know it’s not for you.
Copenhagen, Denmark/Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Despite all this, get out there
So, travel isn’t perfect. It’s more similar to real life then we would like to imagine. There are good and bad days. There are easy and difficult days. Why should you still want to go and fulfill that yearning to visit the places on your list?
Because you’ll be challenged in ways you simply never could be at home. You’ll make connections that are so profoundly tied to being in the right place at the right time that you might even question the reality of fate (I have experienced this many times). You’ll have adventures that will expose who you really are in strange and unusual ways and when you land home you’ll find yourself with a new appreciation for where you come from. Even if it’s just for the familiarity of what you know and the people within it.
Hermosa Beach, California