If you look at Instagram you’d think that travelling is all about lying on beautiful beaches (hotdogs or legs anyone?), soaking up culture in historic cities (wearing a long flowing dress, natch) and drinking beers with your new travel buddies (boomerang of clinking glasses!). Which, yes those things are likely to feature heavily on any given trip. BUT it isn’t all Instagram moments, things can and will get a little ugly which no one ever tells you about travelling. Here is the truth about long-term travel.
5 Things no one ever tells you about travelling
1. You won’t come home with any of the clothes you left with
This has nothing to do with the fact you will find such amazingly cheap clothes in hawkers markets or be tempted to have something tailored while travelling around Vietnam, although that is definitely the case too. No, everything you own WILL get trashed. Look at it this way, you only have a limited number of clothes in that backpack, the shorts that you were in love with at the start of your trip will look and feel like the ugliest piece of crap when you’ve worn it 100 times. Maybe you caught them on a piece of metal jumping off the rickshaw, or a mouse ate through two of your nicest dresses (sob, I’m still not over that) or you fall off your bike into some very orange sand that is impossible to get out of your vest (gutted). And the sweet little old lady who washes clothes for 80p a Kilo is guaranteed to stain/bleach/shrink or lose at least some of your clothes. The moral of the story is, don’t take anything too expensive and don’t get too attached to your clothes.
2. You will get sick.
It doesn’t matter if you only eat a raw vegan diet, or just eat western food (don’t do that), or just eat local or 100% stick to brushing your teeth with bottled water and bath in hand sanitizer and mozzy repellent, you will get sick at some point. And this isn’t just about developing countries I’ve been in hospital in both Australia and Switzerland and both times I was really, REALLY glad I had travel insurance. I used World Nomads who specialise in long-term travel coverage and they were amazing.
3. You don’t know what the fuck is happening half the time, but you just have to go with it.
A mixture of language barrier and cultural differences means that you can be confused as hell on any given day. But this is especially in relation to getting on transport or tours. Soooooo many times I’ve been stood in a bus station or on a pier having bought a ticket and gestured to go stand somewhere, but there’s so many people, bags being dragged all over lots of shouting in a language I don’t understand, being pushed and shoved I just hope and pray I end up in the right place. I’ve also been ditched miles out of town on more than one occasion and had to figure out how the hell I get to where I’m staying, usually with local taxi drivers swirling around itching for a tourist to rip off. Offline maps have been an absolute lifesaver at times lie this (I use maps.me) and Uber/Grab/other local taxi app also come to the rescue.
A sleeper bus in Vietnam
4. You will crave the weirdest foods/drinks from home.
Possibly something you don’t usually consume, but deprived of the chance of consuming it at will makes you go crazy for it. Crumpets, tea & toast, orange squash, salt and vinegar crisps and Brie prayed heavily on my mind after about the first month on my recent trip. When I lived in Switzerland it was tuna sandwiches in soft white bread without loads of gherkins (which I love btw, just not in my tuna sanger), in Oz it was Pickled Onion Monster Munch. I could even remember the last time I’d eaten them but man did I ant them so bad.
5.You won’t feel like you’re having the time of your life every. Single. Damn. Day.
You’re on a tropical island, sipping coconuts in a hammock, you’re living the dream right? Well yes but it’s not all #Livingthedream all the time. Travel can be overwhelming, some times underwhelming and can all feel a bit “routine” after a few months. It’s impossible to feel on top of the world every moment for months on end. I definitely felt like I was just going through the motions after 6 weeks in Vietnam, following the well worn tracks of most other backpackers to northern Vietnam then on the horrifically long bus to Laos, the thought of which was making me miserable. We switched it up and went to Hong Kong for a week, stayed in a nice hotel and drank cocktails in swanky roof top bars, which gave us the much-needed boost to carry on. If you feel like you’re getting in a rut, or are knackered from all the moving around, change it up a bit, or treat yourself to something. We all need a little self-care from time to time.
Travel is amazing and I’d still encourage everyone to do it, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right? It might not seem like it at the time when you’re spewing your guts up at the back of a sleeper bus! But like anything there are ups and downs it isn’t all Instagram moments.
What do you wish someone had told you about going travelling?
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