Take it from someone who is halfway through a six-month overseas adventure, travelling is not as easy as you might think. Travelling is frustrating, messy and downright confusing, and when you are doing it alone it’s also nerve-racking as hell, but it’s all worth it. Travelling affords a deeper understanding of the world we live in and of ourselves to permeate from within. If we get really lucky, the challenges we face along the way allow us to grow as individuals.
Exploring is beautiful, but you need to know there is an underside to travelling that no one really talks about and that needs to change.
However, when deciding to travel it is crucial that you prepare yourself for the down days and trust me, there will be a few. Not every day is going to be as relaxing or as breathtaking as you might think. Travelling is exponentially different to holidaying and it is imperative that you know this before setting off on your three-weeks, three-months or three-years abroad. Exploring is beautiful but you need to know there is an underside to travelling that no one really talks about and that needs to change.
When planning an overseas trip we tend to think about only the positives; the great weather, the picturesque destinations and of course, the all important Instagram shots. We imagine ourselves swimming in crystal clear waters, trekking through lush greenery and getting lost amongst skyscrapers. We fantasise about cool bars, nights out, cocktails, food and the advantage of having no responsibilities. There is no reason not to focus on these perks however, we should not let our minds be consumed by them. Travelling, especially in the long term, is as rewarding as it is arduous and not allowing ourselves to prepare for the mental (and sometimes physical) struggle that comes with it is causing a huge hindrance to our actual experience of these destinations.
In order to cope with stresses in our day-to-day lives we often seek solace in our relationships, passions and personal interests. After an anxious shift at work or a worrying day in class it can be helpful to know our homes, beds and friends are usually a short distance away. Confiding in someone, taking a long bath or heading to our local gym usually allows us personal time to vent and recuperate, allowing ourselves to feel reenergised and new. When travelling, dealing with stress is not as easy. If you have gotten lost, missed your flight or spent all day feeling confused and on-edge, attempting to unwind becomes rather hard. If our phones do not work, our friends are in a different time zone, we may not know the area or anyone in the hostel – how do we vent? The answer is, we don’t. Instead of finding a way to relax travellers tend to push these feelings to the side and attempt to convince themselves that they do not matter in the scheme of where they are or what lies ahead. More often than not, when travelling, people believe that their feelings are not as valid as they would be at home for they are lucky enough to be experiencing the world, whilst others are not. This type of thought allows negativity to build up inside a person, truly hindering anyone from fully absorbing their surroundings and enjoying their trip. This suppression of emotion whilst travelling needs to be eradicated.
If you are planning to travel for any period of time you need to be aware of this. You are going to have bad days. Whether you are at home or on the other side of the world, surrounded by friends or completely alone, you are human and you are going to become frustrated, or melancholy or downright depressed at one point on your trip. You cannot change this. What you can change is how you deal with it. Expect these feelings and allow yourself to experience them, deal with them and then let them go. In order to get the most out of our journeys it is important that we plan our travels without romanticising them or comparing them to others. This is not to say that we cannot draw inspiration from our favourite travel writers or Pinterest boards, it is just a reminder to limit the expectations you might be placing on your trip and yourself. Travelling is more than a collage of highly-saturated, sun-kissed pictures, it is days spent in transit, terrible showers and wearing the same pair of pants for three days in a row. Even our favourite travel bloggers have down days abroad that we don’t see online. The key, when travelling, is to remember this and allow yourself to take it easy when you can.