I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret. Ready for it? OK…. most travellers don’t like to travel. There, I said it.
“What?!?!?” you’re thinking, “how can that be so? How can a traveller hate travelling?”
Now first of all, I didn’t say “hate,” I said “don’t like.” Don’t put words in my mouth. There’s a difference. Second of all, it’s the truth. Most travellers I know dread travel days.
Travel days mean early morning flights; figuring out the best deal out of a hundred possibilities to get from Point A to Point B; booking hostels online at the last minute; dealing with cancelled ATM cards; searching the streets for a hospedaje that doesn’t have a weird, musty smell; sleeping in airports; countless hours of waiting; getting ripped off by money exchangers at the border; worrying about pickpockets; watching your possessions like a hawk; checking to see if you still have your bus/train/plane ticket; getting dropped off on the highway in the middle of who-knows-where; 12 hour bus rides; overnight buses without seats or with crying babies; grumpy border guards and customs officials; checking to see if your passport is still in your pocket where you left it 10 minutes ago; endless compromises (for couples, anyways); all-around sleep deprivation; self-induced dehydration so you don’t have to pee before the next rest stop; border scams; filthy public toilets; trusting strangers; transfers and connections; body and bag searches; unwanted marriage proposals; drunk men threatening you on buses; pushy taxi drivers who won’t take no for an answer; sore butts and stiff necks; checking again to make sure your passport is still there; standing in the back of a chicken bus with someone’s hand on your butt and your head tilted at an unnatural angle to keep it from banging against the roof at each bump; hanging on for dear life in the back of a pickup; buying tickets in a foreign language; navigating 7 km of city streets by foot in 40°C weather because you’re too frugal to pay for a cab, loaded down with your backpack and a poorly chosen daybag design that leaves your neck raw and your shoulders aching – all without a map, a working or even a basic knowledge of the local language, nor the exact address of your hostel (OK, maybe that last bit’s just us).
The reality is travel is stressful. When everything you own is in a bag under a bus, you worry about it. Not so much because you’re attached to the stuff, but because you really don’t want to have to fork over the cash to replace it. When all the control of the situation is taken from you (such as when you leave, if the bus shows up, if you actually have seats, when the bathroom breaks are, how secure the baggage area is, etc.), you are bound to end up a little frazzled.
Travelling as a couple, Mike and I quickly realized that travel days would be the most challenging for our relationship. The stress and challenges we encounter pretty much guarantee a fight. Every decision on our RTW journey – from where to go, how long to stay, what to see, what hotel to stay at, where to eat, which type of cheese to buy – is a compromise. Add to that the stress of the actual travel day and we’re bickering left and right.
So why, then, do we travel?
Trust me – we didn’t quit our jobs and sell our belongings to ride buses around the world. We did it for the magic of arriving in a new city or country; the fun of checking out the lay of the land and exploring the streets; to get inspired; to take in the sights, smells, sounds, and quirks of different cultures; to experience the kindness of strangers; to taste new flavours; to make amazing new friends; to discover more about who we are; to experience everything that life has to offer; to find the beautiful and the good in the world.
These things are why we travel.
And they make all the other stuff worth going through.