We have traveled a lot in the past few years and many times our friends and family have said to us “you’re so lucky”, “you’re living the dream”, “I’m so jealous!” but little do they know the struggle traveling for prolonged periods can become. All they see are the beautiful instagram and facebook pictures of one scenic location to the next, meanwhile behind the camera there is a whole other not so beautiful story going on. So I’m going to give you a heads up on the annoying, unpleasant and not so glamorous side of traveling which guaranteed happens to everyone.
Traveling with a buddy? Not planning on planning?…
There is this romantic and adventurous mist which floats around the idea of traveling from the seat of your pants, not having a plan and going where the wind takes you, but in reality it never goes as smoothly as you’d dreamed about. For most people the logistics of traveling, especially for couples or friends can be quite tricky to navigate. You will always have different ideas on some things to your travel buddy, like what you want out of your travel experience, things you want to see/do and how much time should be spent in each destination. In my experience this can lead to a whole lot of arguments and frustration, neither of which you want on a trip or relaxing holiday.
Here compromise is key. Each write out a list of things you want to do/see and compare, then each select things on the others list that appeals to you most and use that as a starting point. You may not like museums but they might not like sporting events, in the end you can have a great time in a situation which at home you might not normally enjoy. Try having an open mind and remember tomorrow is another day, you can always do something different!
By coming up with a rough schedule that you both agree on, you can save yourself from unnecessary stress and tension allowing you to enjoy your time a lot more.
Travel days can really suck
Delayed flights, incorrect bus information, trains that stop every few hundred meters, its the worst. Moving from place to place almost always takes up an entire day, which when traveling on a time restriction can be super frustrating, you just want to be there already! By the time you check out of your accommodation or pack up your tent, go to the airport, train station or bus stop, then navigate your way to your next accommodation you can be left drained, tired and probably irritable. Unfortunately though its a fact of travel life, in order to get from one place to another you may have to wait around in airports and face delays or sit on a bus for hours and hours on end.
When traveling through the Balkans in 2017 we had to get a night bus leaving at 8pm from Kosovo into Montenegro arriving at 2am however the language barrier lead to a misunderstanding and we ended up on a bus we weren’t even sure was going to Montenegro at all. After several random stops through the night at slightly dodgy looking roadhouses we arrived in Montenegro but not in the city we wanted to be in…after hopping off the bus we saw that everything at the bus station was closed and we asked a security guard about getting to our destination which was a 2hr drive away. We found out that the buses would not start again for another 3hrs! We ended up sitting (along with quite a few other people) at the bus station in the dark and waited for the sunrise and the opportunity to get the next bus out of there. We arrived at our accommodation about 6 hours late and were very tired and grumpy not having slept for over 24hrs.
Unfortunately these things happen and most of the time there is nothing you can do but wait it out. However in order to avoid becoming tired and grumpy on your travel days try not to do too much sightseeing and just let yourself recover otherwise you’ll be wrecked for days to come. Sometimes it’s nice to have a day off from being the tourist, don’t feel guilty you weren’t cramming another monument into your already monument filled schedule. Find a nice place to eat, sort out things in preparation for the following day like places you want to visit, where you are in relation to those places and how to travel within the city/town/village (buses, trains, trams, walking etc) to these locations. This can also be a great time to cook for yourself if you can, a nice home cooked meal and a bottle of wine after spending too long on the road is a nice way to de-stress.
The chances of you getting sick or sustaining an injury while traveling are very high, whether it’s a common cold, a bout of food poisoning, getting blisters from too much walking or breaking a leg skiing it can really put a dampener on your travels.
On 3 separate occasions I have had food poisoning/gastro once having to spend 14 long hours on an overnight bus from Munich to Paris while trying not to poop my pants, longest night of my life. Another time I had a horrendous cold, my throat was like razor blades and I wasn’t able to eat for a couple of days. More recently I have met people in Canada that have gotten injured on the first day skiing and have had to fly directly home, do not pass GO do not collect $200.
These kinds of problems can slow you down or even end your trip all together and unfortunately there isn’t much you can do about them. All you can do is be prepared! Murphy’s Law; anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Having a reasonable first aid kit with essentials like ibuprofen, cold & flu tablets, gastro stop, re-hydrating tablets, band-aids and others is a good start, especially in countries where language barriers can be a real problem, it’s very difficult explaining what’s wrong in Slovenian believe me.
Another thing which may seem pretty obvious but worth noting is having travel insurance, it’s really important people! We have used quite a few companies in the past but in particular we tend to use Flexicover Travel Insurance Just make sure that the policy you are choosing covers things you need like driving a car or winter sports because a lot of basic packages will not cover these things so read the policy before you purchase to make sure it’s right for you.
Things being stolen or lost
Theft, especially in the hostel environment is sadly a pretty common occurrence. I don’t know how many times I’ve personally had or heard of a friend having anything from a cheap jumper to a Macbook pro stolen and then there are just the things you forget and leave behind, like clothes and phone chargers.
While there are things you can do to prevent this like…
Securely locking your belongings in your bag or a locker
Never leaving your valuables lying around unattended
Placing your wallet in your front pocket not the back pocket lads
Carrying a day pack or handbag that locks or isn’t easily opened
And checking your hotel room top to bottom before checkout
But even if you do all the right things you can still get unlucky and once again travel insurance is your best friend, so get on it!
We have stayed in some pretty questionable places… In the Greek islands we stayed in a tiny camping hut where insects ate us alive. In France we stayed in an apartment that was not much bigger than a double bed, to get into the shower you had to slide in sideways. In London we stayed in a hostel where one of the stayers in our room came back drunk on a number of occasions and appeared to have nightmares where he would start screaming and was nearly impossible to wake without copping a smack to the face.
Having some basic travel items with you can ease some accommodation situations but not all. Always have a few sets of ear plugs, sharing rooms is a pain so being able to get a good night sleep even if someone is snoring loudly has huge benefits. Eye masks mean when your roommate comes home at 4am and turns on the light to get into bed you are not awoken by light. A travel pillow is not just useful for long journeys but also handy when the accommodation has a suspiciously stained pillowcase for you. A summer sleeping bag is light and covers your body from any unwanted guests in your bed (some hostels will require you to leave your sleeping bag at the door in order to reduce the spread of bed bugs, if this happens to you its fine, it means the hostel takes bedbugs seriously and is a good thing) be sure to soak and wash your sleeping bag regularly.
Reading reviews of a place before booking is also a good idea, take bad reviews with a grain of salt though. If there have been 200 reviews and 10 people have rated it poorly I’d still be willing to give it a go. Just be sure to look for things like people mentioning security and the bedding, people will definitely mention things like bed bugs if there are any.
In the end though you will come across some dodgy places and while you may hate it at the time you’ll look back and laugh at how ridiculous it was, just think how good a story it will be to tell when you get home.
So why do it? Why not just stay at home where it’s safe and free of bed bugs? Because traveling gives us the opportunities to experience completely new ideas, perspectives, landscapes and moments in history. You receive an education in the beauty of the world and what it means to truly be a part of something much bigger than yourself.
So take the good with the bad and get out there!