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19 In Cambodia/ Indonesia/ Laos/ Malaysia/ Thailand/ Travel/ Travel Talk

Let’s Get Real…

…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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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 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.

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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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Let's Get Real

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19 Comments

  • Reply
    ⋙ Look to This Day, For it is Life ⋘ - For the Love of Wanderlust
    May 3, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    […] wrote a post two weeks ago about how traveling wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but yesterday I dealt with the toughest hurdle I think I will ever face while traveling. […]

  • Reply
    Chantell
    April 27, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    Hi Paige, good luck on your trip! I love SE Asia and I know you are going to have a really awesome time. I can definitely understand your frustration though – Darrell and I had huge issues on a tour that we did from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi – the bus was way over crowded and delayed by hours so it shortened our whole day. The group were cranky and annoyed so we were all bickering with each other. Not much fun but we tried to make the most of it. Also I get you with squat toilets – I still have’t used on because I have always held on until there is a better option :).

    • Reply
      PaigeBrown
      May 4, 2016 at 1:37 pm

      Hi, Chantell. I’m already back, but the second half went really well. Every trip has moments, but I had this need to share that to be totally real and transparent! That bus ride from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi (and back) is just a mess! It’s so true that once you’re maxed out there’s nothing left to do but bicker whether or not you’re actually upset with that person. These are just the often unspoken “joys” of travel. Haha! I’m truly impressed that you haven’t used a squat toilet! Seriously!

  • Reply
    Laura @ Grassroots Nomad
    April 27, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    I completely get that! I am living in Guatemala and I’m so over eating beans and eggs for every meal. For me, I loooove food and it really makes my trip – so now that I don’t have delicious food to eat it is very depressing!

    • Reply
      PaigeBrown
      May 4, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      Laura, I can totally relate to that! I ate vegetarian a lot on this trip and everyone’s version of vegetarian was to plop a bowl of rice, noodles or fries in front of me. Luckily, I did get to experiment more when I had markets available and did find some delicious and cheap fruit! What part of Guatemala are you in? I am dying to go there!

  • Reply
    Shayan Naveed (@ShayanBkk)
    April 27, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    Travel does teach us a lot about ourselves and it does break boundaries/comfort zones but let me ask you this, when you get back to your own country, are you going to go back to your normal life and living in comfort or start living in more poorer parts of town with no AC, etc?

    I ask because, I don’t think I would. Although I’m open to adventures and roughing it out when needed, My wife and I prefer to travel only when we have money and can do so with a bit of comfort. That doesn’t go to say that we are going to stay in a luxury hotel every time or not explore the poorer parts of a city or mingle with locals…that is of course something we always do…but a good nights sleep and a comfortable travel is important to us.

    Thanks for being real about your experience.

    • Reply
      PaigeBrown
      May 4, 2016 at 1:44 pm

      I definitely still use A/C back home. Although, I don’t turn it on nearly as quickly because my tolerance is so much higher. Also, I’ve actually noticed that the thing I care less about it how nice a restaurant looks at home. I’m not eating at places with bugs crawling on tables or anything, but tiny places with worn down signs or buildings don’t intimidate me at all.
      A good nights sleep is definitely important and helps you enjoy your experience traveling when you’re full of energy. I did find that in the majority of the places I stayed we did get to rest really well.
      Thank you so much for adding to this conversation! Cheers!

  • Reply
    Pinay Flying High
    April 28, 2016 at 12:12 am

    Lol! It sounds really frustrating specially that bus ride without airconditioning, even for me who grew up in the Philippines. But I guess being a local, we know which companies have good functioning bus so I don’t get conned into using those which aren’t functioning well.

    I’ll never be able to get used to squat toilets though. At least I think so. :-/

    I hope you get on well with the rest of the trip.

    • Reply
      PaigeBrown
      May 4, 2016 at 1:45 pm

      I’m sure that helps a lot! I can handle no A/C if I have adequate space and can put the window down, but that ride was just too much! Thanks so much for reading and commenting! I’d love to know which bus companies are best in the Philippines though! I’m hoping to go back soon!

  • Reply
    Suma Jain
    April 28, 2016 at 7:24 am

    Totally relate with your article :). Being duo travellers, me and my sisters sometimes feel the need to spend time alone but its not quite possible while travelling. But then its all worth it for the memories we made together 🙂

    • Reply
      PaigeBrown
      May 4, 2016 at 1:52 pm

      It definitely is a struggle in the moment, but you’re absolutely right that the memories are something I wouldn’t trade for anything! We decided in Koh Tao that we needed a day apart – Stacey really needed it – and so we split up and she ended up wanting to hang out after an hour and I had a blast! Haha I’m glad that you guys can relate though. Cheers!

  • Reply
    Danielle Des
    April 28, 2016 at 8:47 am

    Traveling isn’t all sunshine and roses – that’s for sure. I’ve never used a squat toilet – but I don’t think I would be very fond of it either =/

  • Reply
    Kevin Wagar
    April 28, 2016 at 11:15 am

    I don’t think I’ve gone on a trip where some disaster or another hasn’t occurred. From horrible plane delays and detours to getting completely lost in the mountains, or one of my kids throwing up all over the inside of a cab. But in the end, tough times are brief and the best memories are what lives on 🙂

    • Reply
      PaigeBrown
      May 4, 2016 at 1:56 pm

      I’m with you – which makes me glad that I’m not alone a disaster on every trip! I haven’t thrown kids into the mix, but I’m a mess enough on my own that I’ll just be a tornado blowing through cities and countries! Haha. You’re absolutely right about those moments being brief and they’re some of the stories that everyone wants to hear!

  • Reply
    thewanderlusteur
    April 28, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    Oh, yes. While I was still a student, my then bf planned a lovely trip to Thailand as we were both interning in Asia; however, we didn’t get the train tickets back from Koh Samui into the city in advance to catch our flight (newbie move). As a result, I was stuck in the third class train car for a 11-hr ride with no a/c and drunken soldiers hitting on me. Worst experience ever. Now, I’m OCD on travel planning and research to prevent such happenings (but of course try to take any mishaps in stride). 🙂

  • Reply
    Marteen Lane
    April 28, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    i would not survive that bus trip! I get extremely irritated if there are two many people in my space and can’t tolerate it. I’m so glad you shared this side of travelling. Looking at pictures of beaches on instagram or reading a post about some exotic destination, people thing it’s so glamorous and forget that there is a downside.

    http://itsatravelfullife.com

    • Reply
      PaigeBrown
      May 4, 2016 at 1:58 pm

      I know! Instagram is very deceiving and I too am very guilty of that which is part of why I felt so inspired to write this post! Thank you so much for reading and joining the conversation! Cheers!

  • Reply
    Bailey K.
    April 28, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    The bus thing would be intolerable for me. I’m okay being hot and sweaty (I’m from Texas, after all), but it’s when a small place that isn’t well-ventilated and gets stuffy, I just can’t handle it.

    • Reply
      PaigeBrown
      May 4, 2016 at 1:48 pm

      It definitely made me cranky! I’m with you about being hot & sweaty (I was the entire time I was in Asia) but that was just awful. Luckily, it didn’t happen every single time we got in a bus. Thanks for reading. Cheers!

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