…Do I love traveling? Yes. Do I think it is one of the greatest experiences you can possibly have? Yes. Do I think it’s and important form of education? Absolutely. Would I trade any travel experience I’ve had? Hell no.
Does that mean that travel is always sunshine and rainbows? Not even close! I have had moments on every trip that I’ve thought, well, that isn’t ideal or that doesn’t sound right / fun. However, being on the road for the longest continuous stretch of my life, I can tell you that some things just get old.
For those who don’t know, my best friend and I are taking 3.5 months to backpack across a portion of SE Asia. We had our first real travel day today in a little over two weeks, and we had forgotten how annoying it really can be. Before we left Kanchanaburi we consulted guide books, blogs and even a travel agency to try to get the best deal to Koh Tao. We decided that we wanted a sleeper train over a sleeper bus (we always get the back of these things and never get a good night’s sleep, defeating the purpose of a sleeper bus). We also have made an agreement that we would take buses over minivans because we are always squashed in with way too many people and I have discovered on this trip that I really, REALLY like my personal space.
Our bus seemed perfectly fine. However, the air-conditioning was out. I can deal without A/C if the windows can go down…these did not. We were baking inside, no breeze and I was against the window that fried me from the almost-100-degree weather outside. The bus stopped every 5-10 minutes to let person after person on. After a while, the whole middle aisle was filled, in some places two-people wide. I had a consistent, gross layer of sweat over every inch of my body. This wasn’t a little city bus; this was a two-hour ride to Bangkok! It was so crazy to us! Stacey and I both had a moment where we were done with traveling. 48 days in and this beautiful thing that I love dearly had broken me down. Of course, once we were in our cab, we discussed all this and by the time we reached the train station we were ready for adventure again.
Having this mutual feeling today made me realize something… It is time to get real with you guys and share some of the things I don’t love about traveling:
- Trying to figure out not only how to get from place to place, but to do it without getting overcharged or flat-out scammed. It’s tough work to figure this out in the land of bartering & “western scams”. How do you know when to bite the bullet and take a chance on booking package transportation or when to independently get your bus to the train, your train to the bus & your bus to the ferry? How do you know what’s a fair price? How do you know if you even have a seat? There are so many more factors than I ever imagined and a lot of this takes time, but sometimes, like today, you just want something to be quick and easy.
- Lack of me-time. Stacey and I 100% agree that the benefits of traveling together far outweigh the downsides because there are truly very few cons. However, I have found that getting me-time is more difficult than I originally expected. While we get along really well, it’s hard to be around someone 24 hours a day for an extended period of time no matter who it is. We’re both people who really enjoy our own personal time, so we’ve decided to make a conscious effort to give ourselves more of this on the second half of the trip.
- Being sick away from home. I don’t feel like I’m a sickly person at all, but illness has come at me with a vengeance! I had a cold with a pretty decent fever in Don Det, I had a really serious case of Travelers Diarrhea (it’s a real thing) in Luang Prabang, I sprained the wrist I’ve broken twice at Safari Park & I’ve had this awful dry cough for about a week now. Seriously, I have not been sick this many times in the last year combined, but all of this has happened in the last 48 days! I’ve decided aside from not having my personal comforts while being sick (my own bed, my snuggly dog, etc.) I haven’t been able to adequately express all my symptoms to pharmacists and therefore probably haven’t been taking the medicines that would most quickly treat my illnesses. My favorite medicine-buying experience was in Don Det where I asked the lady running the local store if she had any medicine and then coughed for her. She pointed at the floor where there was a massive pile of pill packets on the floor- everything from ibuprofen to birth control to Fecol- the headache / runny nose / fever / cough medicine I’ve been taking on and off for a month now.
- Lack of personal space. I mentioned this in my introduction, but it is something that I had hoped to attain a tolerance for, but I think that my patience for it is actually going down. I’m so sorry, but I don’t want to have 5-6 people crammed into a minivan seat that’s supposed to hold 4 when it’s scorching hot and someone’s sweaty, stinky body is rubbing against my own sweaty, stinky body. I’m tired of standing in line for something and having someone standing so close behind me that anytime they move at all they bump into me. I’ve never noticed this before and perhaps a lot has to do with the heat, but I’ve not been able to get over it.
I’m sure a lot of this may seem strange or petty to you. I just felt like I needed to be real, to show you that I’m not delusional in thinking that nothing bad or irritating ever comes from traveling, to explain that while budget travel is very important to us, we do chose sanity and comfort over saving a dollar or two when it comes to these things. On a positive note, there are things that made me uncomfortable or left me with a case of culture shock at the beginning, but I’ve grown to accept them and often not even think about:
- Lack of cleanliness. It freaked me out for the first week or so that none of the kitchens we saw were clean, no one’s hands were washed, bathrooms were dirty, ect. This is something I truly do not even think about. I order food and don’t think twice, I bring my beloved paper soap to the bathrooms and continue on with life.
- Animals sharing your space. I was constantly on edge about the Asian animals. I would tell Stacey not to pet any cats because we didn’t have our rabies vaccine, and believe it or not, I actually asked a lady to remove a lizard from our room one night. Now, I hear a gecko and I hope he’s eaten all the mosquitos in the room. I pet the cute little puppies and I’ve even picked up a kitten or two. I’m still smart about the dogs I pet and I did get a bit on edge about the cockroach that I inadvertently shooed into my bed one morning, but after a couple screams and shaking out my sheets that evening, I decided I had to sleep and went for it.
- Squat toilets. Stacey has informed me that she’s still not over this, but I’m over it now. I dreaded going in these things, and while I don’t pull up to a place fingers crossed, hoping for a squat toilet, I just use it and move on.
- Not always having air-conditioning. I was FaceTimeing Matt earlier in the trip and I said to him, ”I thought this trip would teach me I could live without airconditiong, but I think it’s done the opposite, I cannot stand this heat.” Luckily, that has changed. Of course, if it’s only a dollar or so to upgrade to A/C we’ll take it if it’s exceptionally hot, but we’ve only had it half the nights here, and honestly, only 2 of them did I truly feel it affected my sleep.
I hope that you guys can relate to these experiences, and like us have accepted that these little things are just part of the journey. You have to take the sour with the sweet and remember that right around the corner is another amazing adventure if you let it happen. I just felt that I needed to be real and show you some of the behind-the-scenes moments that not everyone writes about.
What are some of the crazy things that you’ve gotten over? Or the things that you can’t get over? I’d love to hear from you guys; here’s your chance to get it off your chests.
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