The Not-So-Glamorous Side of Traveling

I write this as I sit alone in a bungalow in Gili Air, Indonesia, trying to dodge a cockroach bigger than the size of a golf ball. I won’t kill it because a) I feel bad and because b) it’s so big. I’m scared that the second I get close it will jump up on my face. So the only option is to ignore it, hide in my mosquito net, and hope it will find its way out soon. After paying a visit to me in the shower, and then hanging around my backpack while I tried to get dressed, it eventually did.

Last night, I didn’t get much sleep. The hostel I was at had bed bugs, and one girl in my room was making so much noise — not sure why — so I slept outside under a cabana thing. My toenails are creepily long. I desperately need a haircut because my ends are so dry. And to top it all off, my nightly activity will be to clean out my toiletry bag because shaving cream — that I ironically haven’t used since traveling — exploded in it. Oh, and then there was that dead lizard I spotted being carried out of my room by an army of ants. That was a nice surprise (not really), but actually quite considerate of the ants.

These are some of the problems you have to deal with when you travel for an extended period of time in a developing country. Life isn’t all butterflies and rainbows on the road. Yes, the sunsets, people, freedom and flexibility are great, but that doesn’t mean they don’t come with their own downfalls. Traveling like this requires a much bigger tolerance than I exhibited back home.

I wanted to write this post because I’ve been having a lot of conversations with fellow travelers about the unfortunate situations they’ve encountered while traveling. I’ve heard stories of car accidents, dengue fever, terrible scams, bed bugs, terrifying ferry rides, and more. But they’re still here. They still keep going because they want to and because the good times outweigh the bad times. It’s these stories that often lead to another conversation — about the sacrifices that are made to travel. The ones that are made to maintain this lifestyle. And the biggest one is giving up a ‘normal life’ — or at least what’s considered ‘normal’ by modern-day standards: settling down in one city, having a 9-5 job, you know the rest.

Compared to the people I’ve met traveling, I’m just a little guppy fish. I’ve only been traveling for about two months. People I’ve met have been traveling for several months, or even years after returning home to save more money and get back on the road again. I’ve also met people who through traveling realized that stability and a ‘normal life’ are what they prefer. This reminded me of what the monk told me in Chiang Mai: “With happiness comes suffering, the two are always attached.” Neither one can be experienced without the other. When you do something that you think will make you happier, there are still going to be unhappy times that come with it.

There’s no exception to being unemployed and traveling. I may not be feeling the stress of a job, but you can bet I’m stressed about money. I meet amazing people all the time, but I miss everyone from back home. I get to taste amazing food, but I’m always at risk for food poisoning or some weird bacterial infection. I see amazing stars at night, but I’m also getting eaten by mosquitoes and other weird bugs.

This doesn’t only apply to traveling though, it applies to everything in life. Nobody is perfect, and not one situation is perfect. I think it’s important to find happiness in the stresses you have no control over, and to remind yourself that with good times come bad times. The two are a package deal. It’s actually pretty simple.

responses to “The Not-So-Glamorous Side of Traveling” 2

  1. the bad always makes the good look a lot better doesn’t it? you are certainly getting an education in it all. stay healthy and strong and come back home soon. love Nana

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