Just remember you’re in an amazing place, in a very unique position and it’s something the vast majority of people don’t get to experience.
I wasn’t having the best day in Portugal when a friend in Australia said this to cheer me up. He had a point. Several actually. And it made me feel better. For a while.
I’ve been away from Australia for exactly two and a half years. I finished work five months ago and have been travelling since (apart from a quick trip back to the UK to repack for winter).
I don’t consider myself “lucky” to travel as much as I do, but I definitely appreciate having the opportunity to see as much of the world as I have. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Sometimes travelling is challenging. I would go far to say that occasionally it sucks!
At the beginning of October I was ready to go home.
My laptop had just been stolen from my hostel room in Tirana, which is pretty crap for anyone. For a writer and a blogger it’s a nightmare.
I was upset and overwhelmed.
It was a big loss and the latest in a long line of hassles that had dogged my trip before I left for Serbia. I started looking at flights back to Scotland, toying with the idea of just popping back for a few days, replacing the laptop, getting my head together and then resuming my trip.
I hardly slept that night and at 5am checked my email to find ANOTHER request from Canadian Immigration regarding my working holiday visa application. The thought of producing the necessary paperwork while I was in Albania (sans-laptop) was enough to have me sobbing in my hostel bunk bed.
For the first time in more than two years I wanted to be at home. In Australia.
It was too much.
On my previous long-ish trips, I’ve been able to concentrate on enjoying travelling. I didn’t think too much about settling in Vancouver until I was about to fly to North America. There was a bit more pressure when I moved to the UK and I did apply for some jobs from the road, but only the really really good ones.
This time I haven’t been so lucky. The issues that come with wrapping up my life in the UK, preparing to move back to Canada and owning a house in Australia haunted me for months.
I won’t go into detail because that’s just boring, but I spent so much time during the first two months of my trip filling out paperwork, forking over a lot of cash unexpectedly, writing A LOT of emails and staying up late to get my property manager in Australia on the phone.
I arrived in Turkey mentally and physically exhausted. After dreaming of the country for YEARS I couldn’t muster the motivation to explore it.
I’d lost my spirit.
How badly did I want to move back to Canada anyway? I asked myself. How badly did I want to continue this trip? Would it have been the end of the world if I’d just packed up and gone home?
It took a while to recharge, although I wasn’t at what I’d consider “full strength” for the rest of the trip. In fact it’s taken a ridiculously lazy week in Finland with a friend to finally feel like myself again.
I confided in a few people when I started to feel a bit low and most were incredibly supportive, but others didn’t quite get it. I’m used to this. Like anything in life, travelling has its ups and downs. But whenever I so much as hinted that not everything was peachy, someone would remind me how lucky I was to be travelling in the first place. It’s as if I was being ungrateful. So I just stopped admitting what was going on.
When I’m asked “how are the travels going?” sometimes I lie.
Because no one wants to hear that spending nearly four months in non-English speaking countries, navigating a new city (usually by myself) every few days, constantly being conscious of my safety and always being surrounded by strangers takes its toll. Or that at times I was almost too stressed to enjoy myself. Or afraid to check my email in case there was another problem I’d have to deal with. Or that I was upset because I felt like my friends in Australia were starting to forget about me, but was alone so much of the time I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it.
I wrote most of this post a few months ago, but never felt ready to publish it. I think part of me felt that perhaps I was being ungrateful. That in the grand scheme of things a stolen laptop or some time-consuming emails was a small price to pay for being able to spend half a year travelling.
But that attitude isn’t helping anyone. There are a lot of people who experience similar things when travelling. I know this because I’ve met them. And each time they were shy when talking about the tough times. It was as if they felt they weren’t allowed to be negative.
When things don’t go as well as you’d like them to, it is important to focus on the positive. But it’s also important to cut yourself some slack and accept that life isn’t perfect when you’re at home, so why should it be any different when you’re travelling?