The Dark Side of Travelling
At the time of writing, I am sitting in a café in sweet Paris, waiting for two o’clock to roll ’round, so I can check into my hotel. My teeth are unbrushed, I’ve barely slept, I have wicked indigestion and haven’t showered in 30 hours. Fairly certain the Parisian metro stations smell better than I do at this present point in time.
Travel doesn’t consist entirely of bike rides around foreign cities, hitting the town with all the new friends from your hostel room (possibly comprised entirely of Australians), sunsets over foreign cityscapes and the sampling of exotic cuisine. You’re more likely to get sick when you travel. You’re exhausted a lot of the time. You’ll be in conversation with some individual and find yourself thinking: “I’d rather put a campfire out with my face than spend one more second with this person.” One bad experience can ruin an entire city. You’ll be too hot. Too cold. Cranky. Broke.
Basically, almost everything that Instagram presents you with, is a lie.
Travelling, like most things in life, has a dark side. There will be moments when all you can do is think longingly of your own, clean, bug free bed, or your hometown, where everyone speaks your language and you don’t have to think twice about your day to day social interactions with the individuals around you. Your shared culture means you both just get it.
Darkness and despair cannot be entirely avoided, but here are a few key points I’ve learned (and am obviously still learning) that you can take into consideration:
You don’t have to see/do it all
It’s okay to skip out on somethings. Prioritise. What do you really want to see/do? Go do that. If you need a day by yourself in your hostel room, reading on your bed, don’t feel pressured to do anything otherwise.
You don’t have to see every tourist attraction, go out every night and stay out until sun breaks in the morning. Pulling a Cinderella and ghosting before midnight, or even hitting the hay at 9pm on a Friday night doesn’t make you any less of the radical person you already are.
This is a particularly important consideration to make when travelling with friends. You’re not beholden to do everything your mates want to do and vice versa. If you’re in Paris and they want to see the Catacombs, but you’re dying for stroll through Père La Chaise Cemetery (geddit?!), nothing is stopping you. Just don’t engage in conversation with any strange French men bearing dreadlocks and brandishing a stray feral cat when you get there.
Don’t push yourself too far
Burning out while travelling is easy to do and hard to bounce back from. I know I am especially guilty of this – I have the mentality of an eighteen year old, yet my body is twenty six going on eighty. My schedule is often crazy – exhibit A, thinking I could catch the night bus to Paris after a three day, thirty six hour work week, whilst believing I’d have enough energy to enjoy the following day.
Be kind to yourself and your body. They truly are a marvellous feat of engineering and we don’t treat them with the respect they both need and deserve.
Don’t sacrifice sleep
Sleep is the cornerstone of good health. Yet, we don’t give it the priority it requires. If you’re exhausted, you’re not going to enjoy the things you are experiencing at their full potential. You’re not you when you’re tired.
Don’t fall into the mentality of eating as if you’re on holiday
If you’re on some weekend getaway – go nuts. Eat what your heart desires, I say, because one to three days is hardly going to do any damage. Extended travel is a different story. At first it can be fun and tasty to consume everything your mouth comes into contact with. However, don’t spend the entire trip stuffing your face with chocolate, chips, hot dogs and hamburgers, as whatever you put into your body will be reflected in the performance that you get out of it. Try to keep up with your daily intake of vegetables, snack on nuts and fruit and keep hydrated.
Do your research
Ever got to a foreign city, realise you have no idea where you are, nor how to get to your next point of call and have no internet at your disposal to help you in your endeavour? Our generation are essentially hopeless without wifi – admittedly, I am clueless as to how people travelled without smartphones, despite having done it repeatedly in the past. That being said, a little forward planning is all you need to save the day. Plot out your route from the airport/train station/bus stop to your hotel/hostel/apartment using Google Maps or an app like Citymapper in advance, when wifi is available. Take screen shots of the route to help you in your endeavour. Handy hint – you don’t need 3/4G or wifi to use Google Maps – it will still present you with your current location on the map. OH, THE WONDERS OF TECHNOLOGY.
You only need to be a little organised to save yourself from future feelings of hopelessness and despair.
Don’t get too frustrated
Things aren’t always going to go your way. That’s just how life is. Rather than getting all hot and bothered, chill out. Find a cafe. Order some tea. Indulge in some people watching. Gather yourself and when you’re ready, head out into whatever marvellous city you happen to find yourself in and attack the problem with renewed vigour.