Before I start writing about this, let me clarify that this post is no way intended to discourage people from travelling. The whole purpose is to shed some light on matters that nobody talks about, the stories behind every travellers’ dreamy and insta-worthy pictures and perhaps to emphasise the fact that travelling is definitely not for the weak.
As I was browsing through Instagram profiles the other night, I noticed almost every other account I stumbled upon branded themselves as a “traveller”, “travel blogger”, “globaltrotter”, etc. on their bio. Some of them were total #travelgoals but some were just…umm, deceptive? Of course I’m not claiming exclusive rights to the word, all I’m saying is EVERYBODY seemingly wants to become one to an extent that it has lost its true value.
You see, a lot of us earned the label the fair way – the hard way. So what is the hard way exactly? What are the dirty little secrets that wanderers go through in exchange for special moments?
HAVING TO ADJUST TO SITUATIONS
I really think this is the key to success in this exhilarating nomadic world. I cannot emphasise enough how being flexible to situations helped me whenever I ventured on a voyage. Sometimes, things just don’t go as planned.
Me and my girlfriends travelled to a small island in the Philippines without prior booking. Worse luck there were NO rooms available at 12 midnight and we had to spend the night in the car, accompanied by mosquitoes while we illicitly parked at a some resort’s parking (hiding from any passersby) because we were too scared to park outside.
Sad to say our misery did not end there. The next day was no different although we did find a tiny shed by the beach, thanks to the really kind lady who even lent us some pillows and blankets. We slept on a bamboo bench, curled up into human-balls since it could only accommodate half bodies of 4 grown up ladies. And then the storm came in. Long story short, I spent the night praying the waves don’t wash our home for the night and that we do not encounter uninvited guests.
BEING EMOTIONALLY AND PHYSICALLY PREPARED FOR MISHAPS
Let’s be frank, life is a B. I remember losing my 3 months old phone at the Kuala Lumpur Airport and I almost had a panic attack because I also missed my flight just before someone stole my phone. I had a meeting the next day and I basically got my life tangled in less than 24 hours. Luckily, I had an extra phone and managed to make calls, rebook my ticket and inform people of my sudden change of plans.
Misfortune has its own way of showing up at your door, specially when least expected. It can come in the form of missed trains, stolen money, rude roommates, dishonest vendors and the list goes on… And truth be told, misadventures like that can be real bummers.
I know a lot of people who travelled with little to no money or people who quit their jobs to travel the world. But did you really think it was that easy? I’ve read tons of blog posts about how a couple survived on crackers or how an IT graduate cleaned toilets abroad just to get free accommodation.
Not everyone’s born with a silver spoon and even if you were, even $1 million will eventually run out. I’ve had my personal experiences of going broke – I lost my only card in Fort William, Scotland during a weekend followed by a bank holiday. I had enough cash to pay rent for pitching my tent and to eat McDonald’s everyday until I got cash transferred.
FORCEFULLY BECOMING SUPERMAN/SUPERWOMAN
Travelling doesn’t only force you to be independent but also to become physically strong. There are times when you have to carry your own suitcase or those walks that seemed like it would never end. Heck, even 13 hour bus rides require a bag of patience and a ton of determination!
For instance, we had to walk up and down the mountains of Bali to truly enjoy rafting. After that day, I couldn’t feel my legs but given the chance, I would do it all over again. Because what I saw was a breathtaking hidden paradise, it was so beautiful to be riding the wild river in between the mountains and the jungle. Life’s rule is simple: you have to work hard for beautiful things.
DEALING WITH PEOPLE
I think meeting the wrong people is every travellers nightmare. It’s hard because human behaviour is unpredictable. Imagine trying to reach a destination but the taxi driver decides to throw you out because he can’t understand English, along with uttering Chinese profanities. It might sound like a joke to you but trust me because it happened to me in Macao.
On top of a new place, you also have to deal with the new people and their traditions and customs. And not just that, if you’re unlucky, you even encounter other travellers who are, for the lack of better word, total scum****.
I’ve stayed in so many hostels which means I might have stayed with all kinds of people by now. The drunk, the loud snorer, the super talkative one who wouldn’t let you sleep or simply the ones who refuse to even respond to a ‘Hi’.
Tbh, it could be your roomie who always forget to flush or the guy who sold you a ‘promising’ tour package only to be ripped-off in the end. But I always keep my purpose in mind and believe me, it takes a lot of tolerance to be able to go on your day when there’s another person trying to constantly ruin it.
God knows how many goodbyes I’ve bid and hellos I’ve said since I first started travelling. It might sound like a child’s play to say ‘bye’ but it isn’t. With the word comes an overwhelming catalogue of emotions – sadness, satisfaction, disappointment, excitement for what’s next, heartbreaks and so on.
That also means I’ve left my heart in so many places and ‘coming home’ becomes more of a challenge (because “what did I miss?”) than going away. You say goodbye to people you’re just starting to love or to places you’re just beginning to familiarise.
I’m pretty sure there’s so much more that I missed in this post but what I assure you is beneath all those lies a treasure. All those challenges only contribute to making yourself better. I lost my phone and I learnt to watch my valuables with an eagle’s eye. I was thrown out of a cab and I learnt the bus routes.
Travelling is NOT for the weak but it IS for the learner, for the adventurers and for anyone who can take challenges head on. 🙂
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