I have always traveled for what I and many considered “long periods of time”. Disappearing from “the real world” for a month, sometimes a month and a half, were things that I was used to do about once per year, sometimes twice, to fulfill my travel needs.
I always felt good about leaving for these lengths of time. Once the trip was done, I always felt like I had spent enough time getting to know a place, a country, and that I had visited the places that I wanted to see and gotten to know a country inside and out.
And when I made the decision to quit this so called “real world” to travel long-term, I thought it would be more of the same. I thought I knew what to expect…after all, I had travelled for “a long time” before. Nothing could surprise me right?…RIGHT???
HOLY SHIT WAS I WRONG!!!
I am now starting my 3rd month of travel and well, things are a very far cry from what I thought they would be when I think of my past travels.
Learning to Chill
In my past travel life I often used to cram as many cities and/or activities as I could. City tours, hikes, random exploration and getting lost. Every day was filled with something to do, to the extent that by the time my trip ended, I needed a vacation from my vacation.
I started this trip the same, and a few weeks ago I filled almost 2 weeks with activities each day. Trekking, city tour, visit to a farm, go to see this church, walk up to this viewpoint, then moved on to the next city and start all over.
Needless to say I. WAS. EXHAAAAAAUUUUUSSSSTED!!!!
My legs hated me and I hated myself for trying to cram so much stuff in so little time. My wallet didn’t hold me dearly either as I had spent more in two weeks than I now have in the last month.
Yes, money last longer when you do nothing.
Whether it is because I am older and get tired faster, or because I realized I had somewhat unlimited time ahead of me, I have now learned to take it easy.
While I still fill most of my week with exploration and other activities, I now take my time and spread some activities throughout the week. Most of all, I now look forward to lazy days when the only thing I do is to sit back and relax at the hostel, literally doing nothing and being the most antisocial person in the world.
I Can No Longer Handle Multiple People Dorms
There was a time when I didn’t mind staying in dorms to save a few bucks. Hell, I still stay in dorms to save a few bucks.
But the traveller I am today can no longer handle overcrowded dorm rooms.
I don’t mind sharing rooms…I really don’t. But now there is a limit as to how many people I can actually share a room with.
My old traveller self didn’t mind staying in large dorms where 10 or 16 people could fit.
Today, these are just too many people I could actually lose my shit on. 4 is my maximum…6 if the last hostel in town burned down and I have no other choice.
After all, who needs to take a bigger chance of being stuck with someone with little or no dorm-etiquette? Also, the combination of smells from 10 different people is way too much for me to handle.
Privacy Is Golden
And there are times when even a small dorm won’t do. No matter how small a room is or how many other travellers are actually in the room, sometimes I just want to be on my own.
That is when private rooms are no longer something that I shrug off because of the price, but rather something that I look forward to.
It’s true, booking a private room is more expensive, but having your own space is just priceless.
In Salento I booked a private room for myself which, after speaking with the owner, I got to pay the same price as a bed in a dorm.
I turned the room into a mess and threw my clothes just about everywhere in the room. But this was MY mess, nobody else’s.
Also, the feeling of coming and going at any time without worrying whether I was being too loud was priceless. Equally, the thought of not having to think about anyone coming in loudly in the middle of the night made my sleep so much better.
I Plan Less
My previous trips were characterized by hours of research on my destination country. Which cities to visit, which sights to see, which hostels to stay at, etc.
While I still allowed flexibility for a change of plans, I still had an idea on what my options if plans needed to change could be. I knew pretty much where I was going.
So far these last two months I have done little to almost no planning at all, only following other traveller’s recommendations on destinations.
I did not plan on coming to Colombia, and when I did I had little to no idea on where to go. As I’ve gone from city to city, I have met travellers who recommended most of the cities I have been to so far during this trip.
Pasto, Salento, San Gil…all cities recommended by other travelers which I did not know existed before I stepped foot into Colombia (except for Pasto, where I planned on staying one night and ended up staying 3).
That is not to say that I do not research what to do and what to see in the cities that I get recommended. But my travels have become more flexible and more exciting as I venture into the unknown. This also allows the city to surprise me, rather than me having expectations on what a place might offer.
Street Food is Sometimes Better Than Any Restaurant Meal
There was a time when I would AVOID eating street food. Before, I saw street food as somewhat unsanitary and unhealthy, until I decided to give it a chance in Peru, where I had multiple services of anticuchos (barbecued cow heart).
Since then I vowed to have street food at least once in every place I go. And you know what? I have yet to be sick from it (knock on wood, I hope I just did not jynx myself).
Chicken wings from a restaurant did get me sick!!! But not street food.
I Can No Longer Party Like a Rock Star
Back in my early travel days, going out was just an almost everyday expectation. Bar hopping, drinking games on Mondays…anything to get my party on.
It’s for the weak!!! I’ll sleep when I’m dead!!!
Those were quotes I used to tell to reason my need to part-ay!!!
Today? God I can no longer do it…at least not in the capacity I used to do it before.
Today I watch a movie too late, and my sleep is ruined for the next 2 days. A drinking night can just put me out of the game for a week!
While I still go out with people I meet, I am more mindful of my nights out and the damage these can do to me for the next few days. After all, who wants to be hangover in a dorm?
Things I Hope To Change As My Trip Continues
Making My Own Meals: Making your own meals is a huge money saver, even if eating out is inexpensive in various part of the world. I have not gotten to it yet, but I am hoping to get the motivation to start cooking my own food in hostels soon.
Try AirBnB & Couchsurfing Sites: This one will require getting myself out of my comfort zone. I know hostels, I know what to expect and how to deal with different situations, even in bad hostels. But what happens if your host in any of these places happens to be a weirdo, or a total asshole? It might take me time to give these I try, but it’s on the list of things to do.
Get More Into Extreme Sports: My 2 months of travel so far have been characterized by hiking…endless hiking, one which almost killed me. But this is what my next trip to San Gil is about. It has been dubbed as “Colombia’s Adventure Capital”, and I hope to do some whitewater rafting, paraglading, cave diving, and the sorts. I should be able to write about it in about a week, if all things go well 🙂
How have your travel habits changed with time?