This is not a travel blog. This is the small corner of the Internet where I go to brood and complain. If this were a travel blog, I’d probably be a petite blonde with too many bracelets, and give advice like “Follow your bliss!” And there would be cute graphics like this everywhere:
So no, I am not a travel blogger, but I am completely obsessed with traveling. I got back from South America two weeks ago and have been extremely depressed ever since. (Seriously. I loved it there.) The only thing that has helped me feel better was booking my flight to Istanbul last night, and skimming the calendar for a long weekend in the fall when Scott and I plan to visit Charleston, South Carolina.
I’m always met with the same reactions whenever I share my travel experiences: “I’m SO jealous!” “That must be AMAZING!” “Uhhh can I please have your job?! It would be so cool to travel for work.” (BTW traveling for work is NOT the same as traveling for fun.) And yes, traveling is hands-down my favorite thing to do, but before I started doing it I had a lot of assumptions based on…well…the Internet, and specifically how other people made travel seem. Here’s what I would go back and tell myself, as nobody told me the realities of travel lurking behind what you see on Pinterest and Instagram:
- Travel is stressful. You should fully expect to plan a trip, spend a lot of money on it, and then expect at least one thing to go awry. Actually, you’re lucky if it’s just one thing. Once you arrive at your destination, you’ll have a blast, but the
process of getting there may be dull at best and miserable at worst. Delayed flights, missed connections, lost luggage, jet lag, crowded planes, long lines, and germs will be your companions until you set foot on that cobblestone street or sandy beach. You may arrive at your hotel to find that you forgot to bring the right plug adapter, or the A/C is non-existent, or you don’t know how to use a bidet. You may find that the locals stare, or talk too loud, or that the food is too spicy or too bland. You will miss the securities of home. This is the price you pay for real traveling, for having experiences that test you and fling you out of your comfort zone, which give you resilience and photos and memories that when you look back at them, you can only say, “Wow, I can’t believe I did that.” Which is why…
- It’s not for everybody. While I’m glad I chose to live abroad and subsequently gained an appetite for traveling to new places, I can completely understand why it does not appeal to other people. Traveling and going to “find yourself” in another part of the world (whatever that means) is a pursuit that is respected, even revered, by my millennial generation. But don’t feel bad if you can’t or don’t want to travel! Don’t feel like you have to travel to “find yourself!” If you would rather go to concerts and get your nails done every week and the idea of backpacking through Central America makes you want to vom, I respect that. Especially because…
- Travel is not glamorous, at all. Throughout this post are some of the photos I’ve shared on social media from various trips I’ve taken. They all look beautiful, right? Well, I’ll let you in on a secret: these beautiful moments comprise maybe 10% of the time I spend in these places. The other 90%, I’m frantically trying to communicate with people who don’t speak the same language I do, I’m sweating like a dog or chilled to the bone, I’m lost, my feet hurt, my thighs are chafing so badly that the skin has broken, the clothes in my suitcase are wrinkled and/or moldy, I’ve been waiting in line at customs for an hour and a half, or I’m being questioned by the border police in Kosovo. (True story.) Nope. Not glamorous at all.
It’s not that expensive. I never even considered traveling or studying abroad in college because I just assumed it wasn’t affordable. I hear a lot of people say: “Oh, Costa Rica? I’ve always wanted to go, but I don’t have the money.” I got my round-trip flight there for less than $400. That’s about as much as it costs to fly to many places in the United States. As for lodging? Hostels. They are NOT sketchy, they are practical and can be really fun if you choose the right ones. (I recommend Hostelworld.com.) And if you want some privacy, book a private room instead of a bunk at the hostel–they are often cheaper than hotels, but you still reap the social benefits of being able to meet fellow travelers who are of a similar age and on a budget. Even if you prefer hotels or Airbnb, many destinations are way cheaper than hotels you would find in the United States. Some of the top-rated hotels in Istanbul are a mere $25/night. (Yay!)
- You probably won’t “find yourself”–but you will make the best memories of your life. I hate to burst the other millennials’ bubbles out there, but I’m largely the same person I was before I started traveling the world. However, it’s absolutely true that I have gained perspective and knowledge by being exposed to other places. Visiting the Balkans, and Bavaria, and Basque Country, and the rainforest, and UNESCO World Heritage sites are among the best decisions I’ve ever made and hands down is the best way I could imagine spending my time and money. I don’t travel to enjoy myself, I travel to scare myself to death.
Just 118 days until Istanbul. *Le sigh*