Travelling can be both the most exhilarating, yet challenging experience of your lifetime. It's not easy making that initial decision to drop everything and head over to a country and culture you have never experienced before. In fact, making the decision can at times be the hardest part of the journey. Our comfort zones are oh so easy and the security of having friends, family, a job and money at arm's reach is a difficult situation to part from. So why do we do it? We know too well that feeling of accomplishment, independence and freedom that stems from an overseas trip. But there's no doubt - it's not always peaches and cream... Because actually... there are times that backpacking sucks...
1. Not knowing where the hell you are going
You've arrived in a new city. It's hectic. There are people everywhere and you stand out like a pineapple in a peanut farm. You have a vague idea of where your hostel is but the uncertainty makes your stomach churn. You convince yourself that "you've got this" and organise a shuttle bus or taxi to your accommodation. As you zoom you through a completely new world, you feel an unusual mix of excitement and uneasiness. Eek... it's begun!
2. You're not exactly at your most attractive
Yep. We all know this feeling. You can't go to the gym as you're travelling from place to place, your belly is filled with beer or goon 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you can't afford to cook a steak and it's too easy to just eat noodles or $5 Dominos. Not to mention you've been wearing the same clothes for 3 days straight and have yet to find time to do your washing in between all of the fun you've been having. You've left your best clothes at home and your hair looks like crap. The answer? Down another beer...
3. When things don't go to plan
Buses get cancelled, flights delayed, mother nature decides that she no longer likes you and sometimes there are actually bad backpackers that can ruin your travels. That blissful image of yourself lying on a sunny beach in paradise is now overcast by a dark cloud of rain and doom. You've lost your passport or your wallet, you're having visa issues, the Wi-Fi isn't working and you're lost in a new city. Someone has stolen your socks and you've just realised that you left your phone charger in your last destination (which is a 12 hour bus journey away). Yes we know... there is always something that inevitably goes wrong when travelling. And again... the answer? Deep breaths and beer.
4. Not having your crew behind you
Whether you are travelling solo or with a group of mates (lucky you), chances are that you have left the majority of your solid friends back at home. Although today's technology connects us instantaneously to our friends and family, there's still something slightly offputting about waving your goodbyes and jumping on a plane. You are forced to re-invent yourself and adapt to the new people and cultures around you. Your decisions have to be made on your own and you no longer have the comfort of your mates backing every bad decision you make.
5. When hostel life frustrates the sh*t out of you
You wouldn't have it any other way... drinking is acceptable seven days a week, the rooms are cheap and staying in a hostel is the best way to meet other travellers - it's an essential part of the backpacking experience. In your eyes - hostel life is how life in general should be: drunk, open, friendly and free. But sometimes you're just not in the mood, like the moment that someone enters the room at 3:00am and decides to turn on the light, or the moment you realise that somebody has stolen your food from the kitchen, or when you stumble into your room to find someone passed out on your bed, or awake to the couple in the bunk next to you getting freaky or that one time that you actually want to get an early night but you know you can't as the music and craziness downstairs is calling you... these moments actually suck and you wish nothing more than to be at home in your own room and in your own bed.
6. You're ALWAYS on a budget
Nothing frustrates you more than when you return home from your trip and people call you "lucky" for being able to travel. Little do they know that you worked your arse off and gave up a lot of fun stuff to save for your trip. Hence, you've had to budget throughout the entire journey. You've had to give up buying new clothes and things and factor every meal, drink, night out, transport option and tour into your budget. You've found yourself becoming frustrated and stressed at times about your funds and wonder if your budget will see you through to the end. You're sick of eating free hostel meals and cheap pizza and wearing the same crappy, smelly clothes over and over again. But hey, at least you're learning how to budget!
7. When you feel like you have no idea where your life is going and you should probably grow up
You've skyped with your parents or your mates at home. Up until this point you were floating through each day in a joyous, unpoppable bubble of euphoria. But then the questions begin to roll in... what about your career? What the hell did I spend all of my money on? Should I study something? Who the hell did I sleep with last night? What am I doing with my life? Should I spend my savings on another flight? Do I even want to go home? Life's uncertainties begin to overwhelm you.
Whenever any of these moments occur... take a deep breath, enjoy another beer and look around you. Remind yourself that you are here because you want to be and although you haven't chosen the path that you had envisioned for yourself when you were young... you know that you are going the right way.