Many people see travelling the world as a long vacation. Many refer to it as “living the dream”. And for the most part, they’re right; travelling the world is a dream that many have but very few can or do take the step forward towards it. But like everything there is a hard part to it, and very often it is the hardest part of long term travel that others do not know.
There are many things budget travellers simply must do without in order to maintain our continuous travelling. Even though for many of us we are living out our dream of travelling long term, “the dream” is not all sunny and rainbows as certain people picture it to be.
1. Sharing Rooms With Strangers
Everyone knows or at least has heard about dormitory rooms, or dorms.
Dorms are often the cheapest type of accommodation you can find in the long term travel world. Sleeping in dormitories, sharing the room with other travellers, is also a way to meet people who share the same interests as you.
But it is not always all that fancy. Sometimes the people you get to share a room with are not all that friendly, social, or worst yet they do not have any dorm-room etiquette.
Think about the snorers, late-night party goers, dirty (not messy) individuals. Think about sharing a room with a group travelling together who do not have anything better to do than to speak out loud when you’re trying to sleep. Worst, think about body odor…..
2. Cooking Your Own Food
I hate cooking, and this is mainly because of my almost non-existent cooking skills.
Back home I mainly prepare what I like to call “student meals” like pasta, fried steak and fries, and other easy things. The problem is that I have not been a student for years.
But in order to remain in budget while travelling, sometimes I have no choice but to make a grocery and cook my own food. A rotation of pasta, steak and fries, rice, cereal, then repeat.
I died in shame in Sogamoso when 2 young German girls were cooking magic in the kitchen. Cutting veggies, marinating chicken, boiling who knows what….so jealous.
3. Hot Showers Are A Luxury
I am always skeptical when the description of a hostel reads “hot water”, as the number of times I have been misled by this simple statement is now too high to count.
I have come across and gotten electrocuted by electrical showers, I have experienced “hot showers” available only between 3PM and 11PM (yes India, I’m looking at you), I have experienced “not cold” water (as opposed to “hot”).
Needless to say, anytime I find an actual hot shower, I feel like stretching my stay in the city only to stretch my enjoyment.
4. Overnight Buses Suck
And this is not to say that overnight buses are uncomfortable, no. I have actually travelled in some overnight buses which were more comfortable than some of the hostel beds I have slept on.
But the fact is that having to take an overnight bus to save some hostel money for one night does suck. Already an overnight journey is of at least 10 hours long. But not only that, whatever sleep you get in an overnight bus will never be a good night of sleep.
You will wake up every couple of minutes. You will keep an eye open all night making sure your belongings are safe. Going to the bathroom and not falling on your way there is an absolute challenge. And ending the day and starting the next wearing the same clothes worn overnight is not as sexy as no one thinks.
5. Taking A Photo Of Yourself
Oh lord have I struggled with this one!!! Travelling solo often poses a challenge when time comes to take a photo of oneself.
I dislike selfies and I am turned off by the idea of a selfie stick…..so don’t even go there.
Yes, asking people to take a picture of me is an option, but it is never really as good a picture as I would have wanted it. Now I’m not saying that I’m the best photographer out there, but I know how to take decent pictures. This unfortunately is not a skill everyone has, and I’ve often ended disappointed with the end result of pictures taken of me by strangers.
6. Decisions, Decisions
When you travel alone, all decisions are up to you. Every single decision on which city/town to go next, which hostel to stay at, where to eat, what to do today, what activities to do at any given moment, or when it’s time to take a rest.
On top of that, all the research that comes before making a decision is also ALL YOURS. Researching routes on getting to your next destination, choosing bus/train/plane schedules, researching activities, which ones are feasible and which ones are not.
All of the research that needs to get done and the decision making can be stressful and extenuating. Sometimes I am just glad to pair up with other travellers and let them make the research and decisions on what to do on any particular day.
7. Sometimes It Does Feel Lonely…
There is this little cliché saying amongst solo travellers that “you’re only lonely if you want to be”.
With the amount of travellers we meet and the number of interactions we go through from one city to the next, it’s true that it is sometimes hard to find time for oneself.
But it sometimes does get lonely out there. You sometimes miss the familiarity of home. You look around you and only see yourself alone in a strange place, even though there may be many people around you. It is then that you realize that you’d give anything to have a conversation with someone who really knows you.
8. …And You Miss The Comforts Of Home
Especially lazy weekends.
I remember waking up on Saturdays and staying in bed, doing nothing. Once I decided to get out of bed, it was sometimes simply to make some coffee and move to the living room for some Netflix & Chill time.
Now my mornings are spent figuring out what to do for the day, and where to go fetch for breakfast (in the event where one is not offered at the hostel).
Sleeping in your own bed and hugging your own pillow, getting food out of your fridge, washing your own clothes in your own washer and dryer….sometimes these things are the ones I miss the most.
9. Always Having The Same First-Time-We-Meet Conversation
“Where are you from?”
“How long have you been travelling?”
“Where have you been so far?”
It’s as if the first conversations between new travellers are always scripted. But don’t get me wrong, this is a great way to break the ice, but having to answer, or ask, these questions over and over and over….gets old quick.
10. The Road Is Filled With Goodbyes
One of the hardest parts of travelling is the amount of goodbyes we have to say.
In my travels I have met some of the most extraordinary people in the world. Like-minded individuals with whom I have found an awesome connection. Sometimes we might travel together for a bit, sometimes we’ll stick together for an additional couple of days, but at the end everyone knows that our days together are counted and that a goodbye awaits at the end.
11. Coming Back Home
Despite all the hard times and misadventures one might encounter while travelling, the hardest part is often coming back home, especially after a long trip.
Coming back home often has the feeling of coming back to a strange land. Coming back to a place you once knew but at the same time you are so unfamiliar with, not because it has changed but because YOU have changed so much.
Coming back home is also often a moment of realization, a moment when you come face-to-face with the person you were and the realization that you are no longer that individual.
And this is why many of us always end up leaving again.
What are your thoughts on the hardest part of long term travel? Am I spot-on, or did I miss a few things???