Most people think we must be rich to be able to travel so much. Yes we’re definitely fortunate, but we might not be rich. When we’re planning for a trip, whether a short jaunt or slow travel, we watch every dollar before we leave, taking full advantage of the latest budgeting apps. I use similar technologies during my trip, too, to make sure I’m not overspending, and I rely on guides for affordable accommodation and budget-friendly travel tips. Sometimes travel is less trains and planes, and more paper and pen.
What we usually see on social media about travel are beautiful photos, with epic scenery and wide smile. But to be frank, every time before travel, we more or less feel nervous, wondering how things will go on and whether we’ve missed anything very important.
Travel is a choice, one that we prioritize over a million others. To be able to make this choice, we pennypinch until we have enough for the next adventure. Dropped my (still two-generations-old) iPhone? Well, a cracked screen isn’t a huge deal. New restaurant opening? Tempting, but I can eat cheaper at home.
I may not have the nicest things or the latest technology, but I have been able to rock climb in Thailand, learn to cook in Vietnam, and hike through the mountains around Macchu Picchu. Besides, who needs the newest fashion? To me, travel chic is always in.
There are few things more exciting than sitting down to plan our next trip. Where will I go? How I can get there? What can I eat there?
It’s fun to get wrapped up in planning, planning, and more planning. What’s not always so easy is changing those plans. But if the train’s four hours late, my bag got stolen, or I barely missed my flight, I have to. Sometimes it’s scary or frustrating, but by keeping an attitude of adventure and determination, unexpected changes might even become the best part of the trip. Travel is as much about changing plans as it is about making them.
We’ve heard the horror stories about traveling, especially when we travel alone. And that’s the key: research. I look deeply into every place I visit, and if I ever feel unsafe, I leave. No questions asked. Then I refer to Confession #3, embrace my inner last-minute-planner, and do what I can to adapt.
I know that at some point something will go wrong that I can’t anticipate or change. But that’s life, right? We do what we can to plan ahead, but at the end of the day, we know that not everything is in our hands. Relaxing and letting go are two skills not only essential for travel, but for life.
In addition to meeting some really interesting local people, I get to make friends with fellow travelers from around the globe. Fellow travelers teach me about their home countries, share experiences with me, and have some of best and most budget-friendly tips. If I meet the right group of people, I might even drop my plans to head on a new journey with them! Some of these chance encounters have turned into my very best friends.
Often the best advice comes not from the thousands of reviews on TripAdvisor, but from the people who actually live wherever I’m traveling. This means that I have to put myself out there by learning and speaking some of the local language. I know I’m pronouncing it wrong, and I’m probably using hilariously incorrect words, but hey, I’m trying!
It can be a struggle to communicate, but we learn so much from the local people. Seeing how appreciative people are that I can say “thank you” makes any embarrassment or fear worth it.
It may look like I’m on an extended holiday, but traveling is so much more than that. I’ve traveled for vacation, but I’ve also travelled to study or work abroad. Even when it is “just a vacation,” I’m working hard. Every day. Travel is exhilarating and exhausting, always filled with a million things I didn’t think of and things I couldn’t plan for. I’m enjoying every minute of it, but constantly learning, challenging myself, and expanding my worldview is definitely hard work.
Even though travel is my passion, I do get lonely sometimes. I miss my best friends, my family, my tex-mex, the smell of my hometown, the feeling of effortless belonging. Some days, like holidays or birthdays, can be really hard. But we’re also fortunate to live in the time of endlessly helpful travel and communication apps like WhatsApp, Viber, Line, and Skype, so I can pick up my phone and instantly connect with anyone. (Unless the 14-plus-hour time difference makes me wait out of compassion for my snoozing parents.)
Like any other emotion, homesickness always passes. And when it does, I’m still so happy to be where I am.
Travel has opened my eyes to the huge range of lives people lead—and are forced to lead—on this planet. To be able to travel as I have, I know that I am more fortunate than so many others. I may scrounge and save to be able to do it, but knowing how fortunate I am makes me especially conscious of the choices I make when I travel. I support local, responsible, and sustainable tourism efforts as much as possible.
It’s probably pretty clear by now that I love travel. I love the new foods, smells, people, and even those moments when I think, “What did I get myself into?” But at the same time, I know that travel isn’t right for everyone all the time. If you’re even slightly considering traveling, I encourage you to go for it. But if now isn’t the right time for you, that’s okay too.
If travel has taught me anything, it’s that the world is full of people who are similar and yet so astoundingly different, and the key to happiness is, as Joseph Campbell says, to follow your bliss.
I saved the most exciting confession for last: Who knows where I’ll end up at the end of these travels? Or what I’ll learn? Or how I’ll change? I certainly can’t anticipate even half of what lays before me, but what an exhilarating thought: to be part of a worldwide community of travelers, of people, all going somewhere with open minds to see and learn something new.
Can’t get enough traveling? Read more about the 12 ways travel makes you a better person.
Featured photo credit: Stephen Lewis via unsplash.com
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