Perfectly edited pictures, new places visited every month, new adventures, exciting experiences every day and winters in tropical paradise. That’s what lives of travellers look like on Instagram. Must be a dream, right? Is it though?
I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty sweet but it’s definitely not just the highlights visible from the outside. That’s why I want to break the barrier and show you the unglamorous side of it that is not usually dwelled on. Because after talking to a lot of travellers, I soon realised that we all share the same struggles. The ones not visible on those perfectly edited pictures. The ones you might not realise are there.
1. We don’t have more money than you
“I wish I could travel as much as you, but I don’t have enough money.”
Surprise, surprise, we don’t either!
A lot of people have a certain level of self-preservation imbedded in them, which prevents them from risking too much. They always think of ‘what if’. If they lost the job, if they got into trouble abroad, if they had an accident, if something happened, they want to have that back up money, they want to be ready for unexpected expenses.
That’s great, I guess. We don’t. We fly to other continents with 3000 AUD to our name and wipe our bank accounts while travelling SE Asia for three months before we realise that we should probably start working again. That’s one side of it.
On the other hand, people mistakenly think that you need A LOT of money to travel. This is a misconception that persists from the times when travelling wasn’t that common and the only way people did, was saving money for the whole year so they could splurge on a luxurious holiday. Of course, it depends on the country a lot, but travelling is not necessarily as expensive as you can make it to be. Find cheap flights, budget accomodation and worry about the details later.
Further, it’s not that we have more money than other people, we are just not scared to spend them. Rather than putting them into savings, we put them into our ‘travel money’ account that we are not afraid to wipe out a few months later. So in essence, we don’t have more money, we just have more courage and like to live more dangerously.
2. We all have travelling FOMO
This is something that I don’t think anyone from the outside realises. Yeah, we post beautiful pictures, we go places and it looks like we travel a lot. But I’ll tell you a secret, we don’t feel like that.
It’s because we meet many other people who have travelled so much more than us, we feel like we’ve barely started. When talking to others, we get travelling FOMO 24/7, we basically give each other travelling FOMO all the time without even realising.
When I got to Australia and have only visited Melbourne and Sydney, I used to get it all the time. People would ask me:
‘Have you been to Gold Coast? You have to visit Byron bay, it’s amazing! Go to Noosa and Fraser Island in the north, it’s so beautiful. Have you been to Whitsundays? It’s the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen in my whole life! Don’t miss the West Coast though, it’s the best to do a road trip there. Have you been to New Zealand and Tasmania? It’s so close, you should go!!’
I felt like a loser saying that I’ve only been to Melbourne and Sydney. Now I give other people who just arrived to Australia the same speech. The circle is complete.
The same story happens in Asia. Everyone in Vietnam has been in Cambodia and everyone in Saigon/Hoi An has done a few stops in the north that you haven’t had time for.
This can actually easily make you anxious. Have I skipped something crucial? Did I miss out?
The important thing to realise is that travelling is not trying to tick as many things off the the list as possible, it’s about your experience. And just because someone says “You HAVE TO go to Tasmania” , doesn’t mean you actually have to.
3. Sometimes, we have an existential crisis
One day you’re visiting the most beautiful beach in Australia and you think this is the best version of life there is. The next day you get treated like shit at your casual job because you’re just a traveller and you think “what the fuck am I doing with my life”.
We all love this nomadic life where the world is your oyster and you have so much freedom that you thought you could only ever dream of. But we all have moments when our friend from high school says that he is an “investment banker” and we look at our hospitality job where we drink beer until early morning every other day and the existential crisis hits us once more.
This is something that I have observed recently among so many of my friends and people I meet. Our lives are so good, we live by the beach, we have so little commitment and basically living the dream while we all constantly keep doubting ourselves that our lives are not serious enough. As if that was something that we should strive for. Funny, isn’t it?
But I believe that if we had a serious life, with career, a house and everything, we would still have existential crisis doubting whether we have enjoyed ourselves enough and whether we didn’t rush towards the seriousness too fast.
In summary, you cannot win anyway. So no worries.
4. There’s a lot we are willing to sacrifice in order to be able to travel
12 hour overnight layovers to save 50 dollars on a flight ticket.
Hostels so bad that you’re actually disgusted to cook in that kitchen but it’s fine because you’re only there for one night.
Trying to minimise your possessions (and failing, in my case) so that you can still move around with ease.
Weird Asian overnight buses stopping at dodgy toilets.
Not seeing your family for years.
Being able to pack your life into a suitcase and saying goodbye to your closest friends.
Asking for help, asking for directions, drinking at a bar by yourself .
And so on…
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Travelling is very different than going for a holiday. When travelling, you’re not really splurging or trying to switch off from your real life, you’re throwing yourself into unfamiliar situations and uncertainties. And that’s not always sunshine and rainbows. There are challenging situations where you need to ask for help, there are lonely moments and there are lows.
There’re daily luxuries you need to sacrifice, there are new challenges that you cannot be scared of waiting for you every day. But we think that they are worth it. The thrill of it is why we are addicted.
But the next time you’re watching someone’s stories from Thailand or Bali, bear in mind, there is a lot of shitty street food, questionable accomodation and tragically funny and dodgy situations going on behind the scenes.
5. Gypsy feet syndrome / We cannot settle
Closely related to the existential crisis point, we also share this “gypsy feet” condition that makes us unable to settle or plan our lives in any way.
One week I want to move to Tel Aviv, next month I’ll be set on Barcelona and after talking to someone from London, I’ll be planning to move there next. And three months later? Nobody knows, life is a mystery.
Which is fine, you know, but it’s a bit hard to plan your life around this condition, not that we would be keen on planning anyway.
By this point, I’m used to the fact that I need to ask my friends about their plans and ideas every month. Just because they wanted to stay in Melbourne forever a month ago doesn’t mean that they don’t want to move to Toronto now.
And it’s really funny because I think we are a bad influence on each other in this aspect. If I talk to one of my friends and he is passionately telling me how amazing it is to live in New York or Auckland, I don’t know, I’m very likely to be looking up flights and visa conditions on that day. And there are so many places left to explore that we haven’t yet. This island in Spain is good for summer season? And you’re going? And you say it’s easy to find a job? I’m going too!
The problem is that we cannot help ourselves. We feel like there are so many cool places in the world, so many options and we want to explore as many of them as possible. We don’t mind moving to the other side of the planet and to be honest, once you get a taste, you get addicted to the experience anyway.
Sometimes I just wonder how much easier it would be if I could be contempt with picking one place, staying there for a long time and not be tempted by anything else.
Easier, maybe, but how dull.
Bunch of nomads with commitment issues, that’s what we are.
Shameless Instagram plug: https://www.instagram.com/sunshine__susan/
Buy the flights,
worry about the details later.