A lot of travel bloggers, myself included, like to focus on the fun, rewarding, exciting and generally all around amazing parts of travel. Why wouldn’t we? We’re people who gave up job security, comfort, and the approval of most professional adult people in order to travel the world. Obviously, we love to travel.
But even as a self-proclaimed travel lover, there are some realizations I come to – when I’m on the third hour of a road trip, drifting off to sleep in a new hotel, boarding the plane to go back home, or wherever else they strike – that bring me down. I usually try to accept them and go on, but I think it’s important to keep these realizations in mind.
Even more importantly, I think we should remember why these somewhat difficult truths about travel still make travel worth it in the long run.
You Will Lose Some Friends
No, some relationships won’t stand the test of time and distance, and that goes for friendships as well. It’s not necessarily because your friends were bad friends, or because they or you did something wrong. But when you’re out of the country and constantly changing time zones with limited data, it becomes hard to keep in touch.
Your friends want to confide in you, want your advice, want your help, and you’re missing one too many times. So they get closer to other people and get used to not seeing you or inviting you out – life goes on. But you come back expecting to find things the same, and that’s where disappointment kicks in.
It’s OK Because: You Will Keep the Friends You Need
I was going to say “the ones that matter”, but then I realized that was innacurate and shitty. You could have a great friendship with someone for years that either turns sour or results in the two of you drifting apart at some point; this doesn’t invalidate your previous bond and everything you went through together.
Past friends matter, but some people are only in your life for one phase of it. When you come back from your travels, I guarantee you, you will still reconnect with the people who should be in your future.
You Will Never See Everything
Oh sure, you can travel to every country in the world if you are really motivated. Guys like Lee Abbamonte and the kickass Audrey Walsworth have already done it, so check out their stories if you want to follow in their foorsteps. But you will never be able to see absolutely everything – the world is too big and life is too short. I hate the feeling I get when I am browsing around travel blogs, or websites, or magazines (now you’re getting a great idea of what I do with my spare time), and see a beautiful temple, street, or cool restaurant in a destination I just left, that I didn’t get to visit. That will keep happening the more you travel.
It’s OK Because: It Keeps the World Interesting
Part of the beauty of travel is what I call the “dreaming phase”: the part where you have heard a story, seen a picture, and have inserted this image in your head of something incredible you absolutely must see, but you haven’t visited it yet. Isn’t it better to always have such excitement and dreams about the world? How boring would the world be if you really thought you had seen everything worth seeing?
You Will Leave a Country for the Last Time
Because I am an insane human being, in each country I visit I decide that one day, I shall return. Whether it’s to spend more time there, live there for a bit, or just stop on through, I manage to somehow fall in love with 99% of the places I wander through and decide it CAN’T POSSIBLY be over – I will return, and we will be together again.
Right about now, I’m sure all my ex-boyfriends really appreciate the fact that this is not my approach to romance.
However, I have been to 33 countries so far and plan to visit many more, so you can start to see the logistical issues with re-visiting all my previous destinations and seeing the rest of the world as well. The disappointing truth is that sometimes when you leave a country, it will be the last time you set foot there.
It’s OK Because: Your Travels Will Be Much More Exciting
You know why we often explore so much more and do so much more on our travels than at home? Because we know it’s temporary. If you approach your travels knowing you may never see your destination again, you will appreciate each moment there that much more. I’ve promised myself to stay in the now and just enjoy each moment I get in a wonderful new place, instead of thinking about what I’ll do “next time” I’m back.
Extended Travel Can Cause Existential Crises
If this is just me, please don’t comment saying so, because I’d rather not get that little insight into my mind.
Let’s just say that, at least for me, solo, extended travel makes my mind go to weird places it rarely, if ever, goes to at home. When you have your job, your routine, your friends, and your family around you, some part of the incessant buzzing in your mind is always drowned out or put on the back burner.
But when you’re sitting alone in a coffee shop in a strange city, or looking out the window on the fifth hour of your train ride, there’s nothing to keep those thoughts at bay. Have you ever sat with your thoughts for an extended period of time? It’s terrible. You start to question absolutely everything, including what the hell you’re doing in your life, what the point of it all is, etc, etc.
It’s OK Because: You End Up With Clarity
The thousands of distractions in our daily life might stop us from really letting our anxieties and fears wash over us, but they also never let us think things through and get to the other, happier side. I’m going to give major credit to Louis CK here (watch this bit and you’ll understand), for saying a universal truth few of us have put into words – “When you let yourself feel sad, your body has happiness come in after. I was grateful to feel sad, and then I met it with true, profound happiness.”
When you’re too distracted by your daily life to even confront that initial sadness and worry, you never really get great breakthroughs and happiness either. This is what travel, along with the new space and perspective it brings, helps you achieve.
Travel Can Become a Crutch
My name is Joanna, and I am a travel addict. It’s true – travel and its associated escapism can become a kind of crutch. If your life and work enables you to travel and travel often, it’s easy to start leaning on that as a way of avoiding some issues at home or within yourself, instead of confronting your problems. That’s why it’s important to always keep in mind the motivations behind your travel: moving away from something is not the same as moving past it.
It’s OK Because: If You Handle it Right, It’s The Best One There Is
We all have different crutches and different ways of coping. Travel can be a welcome reprieve from stress and a nice temporary escape. If you use it to eventually deal with your fears, problems, and worries, rather than avoid them, travel is the best crutch you can get in this life (as opposed to say, food, alcohol, or heroin, from bad to worse).
After all, I love solo travel (as you may have read) for the space it gives you to think things through, gain perspective and sort out your life. As long as you keep the reasons why you’re traveling in mind, you can use your time gallivanting around the world to your benefit. So go hit the road!
I love starting discussions about travel, so – do you agree with this list? What harsh travel truth do you think could be added to it? Comment below!