The realities of travel no one talks about

By Megan Stafford

Travel isn't all wonderful photos, new experiences, great food, and relaxation. In fact, there's a lot of stuff no one really talks about.

When you're alone, you have to reply on roadside bins and self-timers. Photo / 123RF
When you're alone, you have to reply on roadside bins and self-timers. Photo / 123RF

I wake up to the soothing song of a bird and the heat of another brilliant sunrise streaming through my window. A smile stretches across my face. I let out a joyful sigh. Another morning in paradise.

I wish I could say that was the truth, but it's just the imaginings of my friends who think now that I'm travelling that must be how all my mornings start.

If you're reading this and don't want to know the truth then you better leave now.

GO QUICK! BEFORE THE REALNESS HITS

You see, travel isn't all wonderful photos, new experiences, great food, new friends and relaxation. Far from it.

In fact, most of the time it's a lot of waiting, some stress, feelings of guilt and homesickness, or what I like to call, seeking the comfort of familiarity.

The stuff that no-one really talks about.

Or, if you do talk about it, you are told, "Make the most of it," and "I wish I was on holiday".

I'm all for not getting slumped down by circling negative thoughts, but I think we need to talk about the reality of travel more.

Because for me, travel isn't really a holiday. It's more a way of living.

It's not all about lusty Instagram photos, in fact I am terrible at those, or brag-worthy blog posts. When you travel, you have to make decisions constantly: where to stay, where to eat, what to see, where to go next, plane, bus or train.

And then you have to act on that decision.

For example, I knew that I was going to be working in Scotland for three weeks at an organic farm. After that, I had a few things lined up but nothing that I really wanted to do.

SO, I HAD TO MAKE A DECISION AND ACT ON IT

That meant researching not only the best value deal I could find for campervans but also what towns I would visit, where I would camp, what public facilities were available, ferry timetables, and things to do when I got there.

And even when you have a plan, like my weekend trips, there's the packing the night before, the scheduling to make sure you get to the airport or train station on time, the panic when you realise you're in the wrong place.

There's the asking someone for help in a foreign language, finding where you need to be and running to catch that train or bus that's about to leave without you.
There's the waiting in line as security goes through your bag, in front of the screens for your boarding gate to appear.

There's the searching for free Wi-Fi and then the bad connections as you try to reach out to home because it would be really good to see a familiar face right now.

There's the disappointments, the losing things, the sore shoulders, the 'why am I doing this' questions, the exhaustion.

And then there's the guilt because you are tired, but really you should be out there making the most of it.

There are the days you don't want to tell anybody about because you feel ashamed that you spent an entire day in Spain watching Netflix and resting.

IT ALL FEELS SO LONG AND PROTRACTED

When you are living the unfamiliar as your reality, time seems to extend itself and three weeks takes on the same length and breadth as three years in the familiar.

The person I was a month ago when I finished three weeks of campervanning solo around Scotland feels like a completely different version of the person I am now.

My reality then feels more distant than my reality living the 'norm' six months ago.

One of my friends said something that I thought perfectly encapsulated the realities of travels. He said: "There are days when stuff happens and you think that wasn't so great, but then we look back and think wow this trip is amazing."

That's how I feel about travel.

For the days that made you uncomfortable allowed you to carve out a space to be comfortable in new situations, with new people, and in new places.

Something in your thought process or perspective changed or shifted.

YOU GREW

As for the days that you feel guilty and shame, remember that resting is how you are going to make the most of travel because you need to be restored and energised to tackle the tough days.

Most of all, you discover that there is no right way to do anything. There are a thousand different ways and you can choose any one of them.

Just choose one and go.

You'll look back and be thankful you did.

Megan Stafford writes the blog Me'anda. Follow her on Instagram.

- news.com.au

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