Traveling is a privilege that few are afforded and an opportunity rarely seized. Therefore, I never want to take it for granted or complain about the fortunate position I’m in. So I put these 5 downsides to traveling on paper as things to be aware of and find solutions to take better care of myself.
Travel planning is my favorite part of any journey, but it’s also a lot of work to piece together all the parts of an itinerary from flight reservations and hotels to events and tours. Since I often travel solo, it can get a bit tiresome and difficult to organize, especially when I have to string together itineraries across multiple destinations and continents. Doing so while navigating language barriers and converting currencies adds an extra layer of obstacles. In this day and age though, that’s what smartphone apps are for, right? Sure, but I’ve learned this year that I can’t always rely on my phone to come to the rescue. Additionally, I don’t like depending on my phone or email inbox for storing itineraries, convenient as it may be. This is one of the most first world of first world problems, but sometimes, it’s nice to relieve myself of that responsibility to let someone do the planning for me.
Staying in hostels, joining group day tours are great ways to meet people and potential future travel partners. Being able to share special experiences with someone in person, even the most mundane moments on long flights and train rides or waiting in line, is something I’ve really come to cherish. Despite staying in hostels or AirBNBs, sometimes I do get lonely, even when I’m in a big group, because I’m not good at talking to people or joining conversations. I often feel like I have nothing to contribute so I’ll isolate myself in a corner or just sit and listen. Sometimes it would be nice to have a travel partner to talk through the daily frustrations, share observations, and encourage one another to look on the bright side. Do you ever get lonely while traveling? What do you do about it?
When I’m on the road for months at a time, I get what I call travel hypnosis or a case of “another day, another airport, another Instagram shot of an airplane wing”. There have been days where I wake up or I’m simply walking around and I completely forget where I am. It’s peaceful for the first two seconds, but it’s mostly disorienting. Sometimes I even forget what airport I’m in and where I’m flying to. When I frequently change location, everything starts to look the same no matter how much variety I pack into an itinerary, and I find myself having the same conversations with everyone. I imagine it’s the same sensation as being on auto-pilot or sleepwalking through life. It usually takes staying in one place for a month or longer to get grounded, find clarity again, and reignite my wanderlust.
As I get older, the effects of jet lag seem to get worse. It takes more time for my body to catch up to the timezone I’m in. This year alone, I’ve flown across the Pacific Ocean five times. Each time I land, it always feels like my organs and headspace got held up somewhere over the ocean and take 7-12 days to reach my body again. A lot of fatigue stems from waiting in airports, sitting on planes for hours at at time, absorbing all the energy and movement from all the people coming and going, and hauling bags to and fro. It’s incredible how no movement at all makes me just as tired and how dysfunctional I become in everyday life when I don’t get enough sleep. I’ve been getting better at combatting fatigue by getting lots of rest the first week after a long flight, staying hydrated on the plane, trying to sleep on planes, and bringing my own snacks.
Being on the road for much of 2016 meant living out of a suitcase, packing and unpacking, hanging things up, and laundry. So much laundry. Sometimes I didn’t have the right clothes for all weather conditions and occasions so I’d have to swing by my aunt and uncle’s home in Orlando to swap out clothes. Lesson learned? It’s more fun to go through a closet to pick out what to wear than a suitcase.
These are all the downsides that really got to me this year, as I went back and forth between living at my aunt and uncle’s house and bouncing around between destinations every 4-10 days. I love to travel, and that’s something I don’t anticipate changing anytime in the near future. However, I am learning to take better care of myself, and for me, that means packing more comforts from home, moving at a slower pace, and spending more time in one place.