“Wanderlust” has become such a revered element of our culture in this day and age, and don’t get me wrong- I’m happy about that. With social media being prevalent and Pinterest assisting in the process, desiring to travel has become a popular topic of discussion. I love that our world is becoming smaller and more connected. It amazes me that a sixteen-hour flight can get someone almost anywhere in the world. However, there is more to traveling than appears on a person’s Instagram.
When looking at pictures of someone’s travels, it’s easy to assume that the entire journey was a magical experience. As an avid traveler, I find that people make assumptions that every aspect of my trip must have been glamorous. Right? Wrong!
Do I love traveling? Absolutely. Anyone who knows me is cognizant of the fact that I have adapted my entire lifestyle in order to pursue my goals. (My goals, by the way, are to travel to every single country in the world as well as hike the seven summits! If anyone who is a millionaire wants to fund my goals, please let me know.) However, the allure of traveling needs to be balanced out with a healthy understanding of the “negative” aspects of travel, so to speak.
Ten things no one ever tells you about traveling internationally:
1) You smell basically the entire time. No amount of deo can cover up two consecutive days of travel to arrive across the world!
2) You never know if you’ll have enough money, or have access to the money that you actually have. Credit card companies shut down cards all the time, even if the person has told his or her bank! It just happens. A quick tip is to always carry some cash to exchange if necessary. Spread it out among your belongings in case one of your bags gets stolen or misplaced.
3) What if my passport gets stolen? You’ve got to keep an eye on that sucker all the time. Now imagine being in a country known for pick-pocketing and see how low your blood pressure can remain!
4) Safety first. When you’re in another country, particularly one known for its danger, are you ever really safe? I have met some of the most incredible people in the world whilst traveling, but I have also met my fair share of creepers who have access to me at a time when I am particularly vulnerable because I am not in my home town.
5) There is always that one item that you forget. The good news is that most countries have the bare essentials. Plus, it’s kind of fun to rough it. It makes for a great story, and you’ll see how empowering it is to go without a seemingly “critical” item. You’ll soon realize that you really don’t need many material items at all, and it will adjust your mindset back home.
6)People will ask you about your trip, but they don’t really care about your answer. To a certain extent they do. However, they don’t want you to explain in great detail every single experience that you had on the trip. If they do, you have some great friends. What they do want are the highlights- a quick story or two about something particularly special or comical that transpired. You can’t fault these people for that; they did not experience the riveting moments that you did, and there’s no way that pictures or words will do those memories justice. Revel in those moments, journal about them for your own sake, and be prepared to try to summarize them in brief conversations. Enjoy the challenge and don’t take it personally when you realize that no one cares about your trip as much as you do!
7) There’s never enough time to see everything you want to see. You will have to make sacrifices every single day about what to do, and therefore what not to do. Go to a new place with a few ideas of what you want to do, but make sure to leave some time open to join in on adventures that you hear about once you arrive. Local suggestions are the best way to truly experience a new culture!
8) You will miss home. Your heart will ache for the familiar and those whom you love. Winnie the Pooh once articulated, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” There is nothing wrong with this, and if anything it makes you appreciate your roots so much more than you ever have before. Your loved ones will be waiting for you and cheering you on as you embark on your journey. Let them support you whilst you sojourn.
9) You will miss the incredible people whom you encounter. Your soul will meet kindred spirits from all walks of life in all places of the world. Cherish these people, keep in touch if it is an option, and focus on the present. Make memories! Enjoy time that you can spend with that person. Put your phone down and actually be present in the moment. And when it’s time to say goodbye, be prepared for it to feel as though your heart has been shattered into a million little pieces. Then… pick up the pieces and realize that your heart has actually grown to squeeze in room for these new lifelong friends. You’ll be amazed at some of the lasting connections you’ll make with people you only spend two days with.
10) You will never be the same. Even if you return back to the familiar place you missed so much, you are no longer the person you were when you left. That’s normal and healthy- would you want to have spent all of that money and time in another culture to return exactly the same? The whole point of traveling is to acquire a refined perspective on the world and on life. I saw a quote once that poignantly embodies this notion: “You will never be completely at home again because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” While it might sound sad, it’s actually one of the most incredible experiences in the world. What a treasure it is to know that your heart has so many places to call home and ample people to consider family.
So go… your experiences are waiting!