This purpose of this post is to highlight a different side to extended travel. There are challenges and not so glamorous parts of a backpacking trip that I feel are worth mentioning because it is part of the experience of life, you can't have the good without the bad. Many of us are guilty of a dreamlike idyllic holiday in our heads, away from all our stresses and problems. Truth is, they follow you and new things arise despite being removed from "normal" life. Some of my examples I have thought of or experienced:
1. A strict daily budget
For me, I saved enough money in order to average out to a daily budget of around 30 Euros for each day. This includes, transit within a city, museums tickets, hostels, food and drinks. I plan to stay with friends and family where possible to get the best experience because for me the places I visit are experiences determined by the people there. Other things I plan to use to save money are couchsurfing and some working programs WorkAway and WOOFING. It's all about diversifying! No hotels, no fancy restaurants every night.
2. Family Problems or Tragedies
There is a possibility that a family tragedy may occur while you're on a trip you've planned for months or years. Someone could pass away unexpectedly or become ill etc. A whole list of random and terrible can things pop up in your family or with friends. Life happens no matter where you are or what you're doing. It's an awful feeling being removed and thousands of miles away, feeling like you can support in the way you want to or normally would. Maybe taking some time to grieve for a few days would be reasonable if you were home, but while traveling, you've got to keep moving because flights are booked and the visa restrictions won't be flexible. Deportation is something to be avoided. Feeling like carrying on with exploring a new destination while others you care about are in a difficult place is what seems like the only option. I found patience and taking some time to not stick to the schedule is best, take it easy, be flexible. In the end, worry about what you can control and don't stress about what you can't.
2. Getting Sick
Chances are pretty high, you'll get sick. Could be a minor cold or a prolonged stomach illness. Being sick without your own bed to crawl into is not fun. Bring all the medicine you can think of. Praise to the French Pharmacie!
4. Bad Weather
The weather is something unpredictable and can change the experience of a place. It's nearly impossible to avoid bad weather so being flexible and having little to no expectation is key. If you happen to find yourself in a place like Barcelona, where it's 4 degrees below zero (in Celsius of course), the city changes, people turn inward and the homes are not equipped to handle usually cold weather. Poor insulation and small space heaters are not what typically comes to mind when you think of Spain. Seeing your breath inside and wearing most of your clothes and jackets to sleep to keep warm isn't the ideal Barcelona. But you have to accept it. Yes, I know I chose to visit Spain in January but still, this is something to consider! If you want to do a prolonged tour on a small budget, it's impossible to hit the peak season in each place you visit. So, enjoy the snow, skip through the rain and be prepared to mix up your itinerary to accommodate a cloudy day and icy streets.
5. Missing a Connection
Yeah, that doesn't need to be explained. Don't miss a flight or a train because it will screw up everything else after that. It hasn't happened to me yet, but it very well could. A train delay here or there isn't too bad but I don't want to pay through the nose for am extra unplanned night at a hotel somewhere because I got to the airport late. Just go early!
Stating all of these things, isn't meant to be me throwing myself a pity party about how hard traveling is. Traveling is a privilege and I am thankful for every day I get to live out this dream. This trip is something I have dreamed about since I was probably 13 years old. The reality is different than our dreams sometimes. Mentioning the challenges is my intention to present an alternative narrative you might not see on a social media travel account that selectively shows you nothing but breathtaking landscapes with the perfect sense of place and fun. A dream-like experience starts to form in our heads. Thanks Instagram for building up our hopes and showing us beautiful real places in a pretty filter!
Here I am, over a month into this trip and it's the greatest experience of my life. The ups and the downs. The smelly hostel rooms, cold showers, snow storms, blisters, new friends, old friends, exhaustion, tears of joy and tears of longing. All of it. Getting through the hard parts to enjoy the good moments is putting into practice the concept of living in the moment. This is something I've been working to incorporate into my thinking for a year now. While I'm improving, it's not perfect. Planning is required and doesn't always fall into place. I don't have high expectations and I'm truly loving all the moments along my journey, not just the good ones. (Okay I could have done without the stomach problems).
"pain is temporary, suffering is optional" - a wise person said this