Sometimes I Suck at Traveling

I love to travel, I really do. I think it brings wonderful experiences, makes you look at the world differently, and builds confidence. One of my main reasons for blogging is to encourage others to travel. But sometimes I suck at it. Sometimes I wonder what was going through my mind when I booked the trip. Sometimes I wish I was back home sleeping in my comfortable bed or sitting on my comfortable couch or showering without flip-flops on my feet. Sometimes I feel like I have no right to try to encourage anyone to travel when I’m so bad at it.

Things I get sick of real quick

It’s almost impossible to travel and not, in some way, end up outside of my comfort zone. Our current seven week trip in Southeast Asia has kicked me way out of my comfort zone more times than I can count. Deep down I know that’s a good thing, but in the moment while I’m dealing with those things, I get frustrated and sick of them very quickly. Here are a few examples, in case you’re interested.

I’m sick of having to wear flip-flops in the shower. Even aside from that, I’m sick of showers that are just a nozzle on the wall with nothing to keep the entire bathroom from getting soaked. I’m also sick of washing my hands in cold water because none of the sinks have hot water.

sometimes I suck at travel

I’m sick of uncomfortable beds. I never expect a bed to be as cozy as the one we have at home, but quite often we end up on a bed that is so hard I wake up sore the next day. We’ve also had a mattress so old it should’ve been replaced years ago, and a mattress so new the guesthouse owner wouldn’t let me take the plastic off it. Sleeping on a mattress with plastic still wrapped around it is not fun.

I’m sick of bugs. We’re in the tropics, there will be bugs, I get it. But I hate them. I’m sick of the flies trying to land in my food or buzzing around my face. I’m sick of the mosquitoes that always find the one teeny tiny patch of skin I missed with the bug spray, though they seem to ignore Andy almost completely even without bug spray. And that one bug that bit me on the back/bottom of my second toe? I hate that bug the most.

sometimes I suck at travel

I’m sick of having to throw my toilet paper in the trash can instead of directly in the toilet. In many, many parts of the world, the pipes just can’t handle toilet paper. I don’t quite understand the physics of why those pipes can handle everyone’s, um, waste, but a few squares of flimsy toilet paper clogs things up. Anyway, it grosses me out and it smells and I’m sick of it.

I’m sick of decisions. At home, things like where I’m going to sleep that night or what to eat are pretty simple. But on the road, the decisions are constant. My brain is tired from making so many decisions about picking the next destination, the next guesthouse, the next meal.

Things I keep screwing up

As much travel experience as I have, you’d think I’d stop making the same mistakes. You’d think that by now I’d know better, that I would remember the previous trips and do things differently this time around. But somehow it doesn’t work out that way. I’m a routine person, and I guess even my travel errors are, in some way, a routine.

I travel too quickly. Every time I tell myself, must travel slowly next time. But next time rolls around and we’re off to the races. I can’t go all the way to Thailand and sit on one island for three weeks, I tell myself. So we bounce around from one place to the next, and the constant motion wears me down.

sometimes I suck at travel

I don’t thoroughly research the location of the guesthouse we book. Sure, we read the reviews to make sure we’re staying in a safe area, to make sure the hotel itself sounds decent. But both of us keep forgetting to look for restaurants within a block or two, and too often we find ourselves walking 15 minutes just to find any option for lunch.

I forget that things almost always take longer than I think they will. Just because the bus from point A to point B says it will take seven hours does not mean it will actually take seven hours. More likely it will take eight, nine, or even 10 hours. Food almost never comes swiftly at a restaurant. Walking to lunch, packing our bags, even taking a shower all take more time than I think they will.

sometimes I suck at travel

I keep trying to use my normal logic in places where they have a different set of logic. Their normal is not my normal, and vice versa, so I get frustrated. We’re told our pick up is between 8:00 and 8:15 but they don’t actually arrive until 8:30. We don’t want to backtrack to the nearby mini mart to get water because we assume we’ll pass one on our way, but 20 minutes later we’re parched and sweaty and haven’t passed anyone selling water. We assume a bus ticket will get us either to the center of town or to the bus station, but instead we are dropped at a travel agency too far from the center to walk. Then we have to buy a transfer from them, then we feel ripped off.

Towards the end, I adjust

I’m starting to get better about some of these things now, though it didn’t happen until about a week or two before the end of our trip. I do wonder if, by taking these one to two month trips, we’re actually just traveling during the difficult time, that period at the beginning of a long trip when you’re adjusting to life on the road. When most long term travelers continue traveling and things start to get a little easier, it’s time for us to go home, and we start all over on the next trip.

I try to remind myself that showing you this side of travel is important too. That travel is not all sunsets and fruity cocktails. Unless you’re restricting yourself to a cruise or an all-inclusive resort, chances are you will run into things that will stress you out, frustrate you, or even make you angry. But I also try to remind myself it’s all worth it. It’s worth it when I experience something new that I could never experience at home. It’s worth it when I visit a place I’ve been dreaming of for months or years.

sometimes I suck at travel

It’s worth it when we’re eating amazing satay at a market in Penang, and the self-proclaimed “crazy” Chinese/Malaysian woman running the drinks restaurant we’re sitting at drags me over to a hawker selling Chinese pies that look like big dumplings filled with pork, onions and who knows what else.

And you know what, that was a damn good pie.