We set off with excitement but may encounter some bumps along the way, writes Grace Ellis.
While being a world nomad opens up an abundance of new and exciting experiences, it's not always smooth sailing. Let's be honest, there are aspects to travelling you probably wish were less stressful, cheaper and simpler and there are some you wish you could just avoid altogether. But hey, it's all in the experience, right?
Being the travel "mum"
In every friendship there is a group mum. Regardless of gender, the group mum tends to be the friend who books the Uber or holds your hair back while you're vomiting after a big night out. When it comes to a travel mum, however, the role becomes so much more. Navigating a foreign country can be stressful enough, but when you travel with friends who have never gone a day without the guidance of their real mother you're in for a rough ride. Be prepared to become the organiser, the translator, the cleaner and the babysitter. It may even come to a point where you think, "f*** it, you're on your own now", but let's face it, you're the group mum for a reason — your moral compass will never let you ditch your friends.
Money, money, money
We can dream of basking in a sea of money in the French Riviera but the reality is travelling can take a huge financial toll. This means budgeting becomes an important aspect of the travel experience and if you're not serious about it, you'll probably miss out on some of the extraordinary sites you were so set on seeing. Some, including myself, learn this the hard way. It can be a gruelling challenge to say no to that fresh pain au chocolat or that second cup of creamy gelato, but learning to control the little money you do have means you'll be able to put it into a memorable experience, rather than just the treat you can buy in a supermarket at home. While I'm not saying you'll be able to afford every ridiculously expensive tourist attraction, as the Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger once said: "It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor."
Why do the things we love the most hurt us the most? This is the age-old question I ask myself every day as I scoff down my sixth row of chocolate. Food is undoubtedly a large part of the travel experience, but the next thing you know you've put on five kilos and have acne in places you never thought you could have it. Though you shouldn't feel guilty for treating yourself, you're not alone in wishing your metabolism was as good as when you were 15. By all means, eat that authentic Italian pizza and ask the waiter over for another glass of house sav, but be aware — it's a love-hate relationship and you'll always come out second best. Maybe chuck a piece of fruit into the mix every now and again - for balance.
Another downside to all that indulgent food is when it reaches the other end. I've had my fair share of travelling over the years and the one thing that is a consistent nightmare is finding a decent place to pee. Germ-ridden toilets seem to be the norm when it comes to public spaces, and while airports manage to maintain a degree of cleanliness in their restrooms, anti-bacterial wipes are a necessity for train stations, aeroplane lavatories, hostels and other communal spaces. Worst case scenario — avoid spicy food and become a master of the squat.
Scams and pickpockets
Wherever tourists roam, scammers and pickpockets are waiting to pray on their naivety. One person may ask you to sign a dodgy-looking form and donate to a deaf and mute children's foundation — this actually happened — while another person will quietly take things from your backpack or pockets. Although these crimes have become common knowledge, with main tourist attractions plastering warning signs everywhere, it does still happen — and it genuinely sucks. More than 400,000 people are pickpocketed every day: you don't want to be the person who has their possessions stolen and has to scramble to get an emergency passport. Use the electronic safe in your accommodation, carry only the essentials, and be alert.
Customs and Immigration
Regardless of how many times you set foot in an airport, making your way through Customs is never an enjoyable task. Having to wait for hours on end in a line doesn't exactly get your holiday off to an invigorating start. Having to take off your shoes, belt and jewellery for inspection before heading through a metal detector is not only tedious, but the whole experience always makes me break out in a sweat. Surely I'm not the only one who gets an unnecessary flood of anxiety that somehow, magically, a weapon or class-A drug will appear in my luggage across the x-ray?
The age-old list of travel hates will always include jet lag. Long-haul flights mess with your body clock and there's nothing worse than arriving at your destination only to be greeted by an overwhelming tiredness in the afternoon. With the severity of jet lag increasing as more time zones are crossed, adjusting to the new local time can sometimes take much longer than anticipated. If you're determined to stick to your plans and head to the beach straight away, it's probably best to pile on the sunscreen and sit under the shade because more than likely, you won't be able to resist the urge of a good doze.
Jet lag can be a nuisance but, unfortunately, until teleportation is invented, we're just going to have to deal with it.
Homesickness can hit at any time and its effects vary from person to person — but for some, the impact can be enough to send them packing. It could be the people, the food or the unfamiliar language, but the vast changes to your normal routine can be a bit of a culture shock and people either love it, or they hate it. Though, thankfully, it's never hit me hard enough to want to leave, feeling homesick happens to the best of us.
They say less is more when it comes to packing for a trip, but finding the balance between too much and too little can be a hard task, especially if you're travelling between seasons. If you're a traveller who carries a hiking pack, you'll understand the literal pain in the back lugging around your belongings can be.
Yet, somehow, I'll still end up returning home wearing four shirts, two jackets and a hat because I couldn't quite jam everything back into my luggage. Note to self: for every item bought, another needs to go.
While saying I loathe tourists would be a completely hypocritical statement, crowds of visitors at attractions are downright annoying. There also seems an unspoken rule that the concept of nicely lining up for attractions doesn't exist. Instead, tourists take an "every man for themselves" approach and you either get with the status quo or risk being trampled on.
Manoeuvring through sardine-tin crowds also happens when travelling via train or subway and can be a taxing task. If you're running late for your train, just catch the next one — you'll only end up sandwiched between the train doors and other commuters and, trust me, it's not a pleasant experience.