Everybody including me, talks about how wonderful it is to have the journey of your life and all the cool pictures that you have taken and how beautiful and happy you look in all of them…. Nobody sees that behind the scenes there is effort, discomfort and a lot of sweat. Specially sweat, let’s be honest, there is a lot of that.
Half of the time while I am travelling I spend it eating or thinking where I am going to eat. Which is nice if you like food like me, but can be stressful at times. Because sometimes, you cannot choose what you are going to eat. Most of the times, the vast majority of the choices (at least the cheap ones, considering I am travelling on budget) are unhealthy and eating healthily becomes a nightmare or simply expensive. Other times, the food is not good although, I have to say this has only happened very punctually. And many many times, I have found myself eating from a place where I was almost sure I would get sick. But again, this hardly ever happened, my stomach is Asian-proof now.
What it is happening all the time is that I eat out. Something that hardly ever happens when you are settled somewhere and let’s be honest, what is a pleasure at home becomes the norm while travelling and it is not necessarily good. I miss cooking my own food. I miss to know what’s inside what I am eating. Hell, I miss to know what I am eating, because most of the times I will just point at something unknown and eat it. I miss going to the groceries and choosing what I will be eating, making something balanced out of it.
All this results on weight variation depending on how sick I got or how little choice there is. Not that I care much about that, as long I am healthy, but this combined with the lack of regular exercise is not good either.
I also miss western food at times, but I try to think I will never get the flavours I am having here whenever I am back. But let’s be honest. When you spend a whole day eating rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner and repeat next day, and the following….and like that for a couple of weeks until you can have a break of rice and substitute them with noodles. Or you are staying in a hostel with breakfast included and you get toast and butter. I know I will never look at a paella in the same way.
And on this matter, I consider myself one of the lucky ones! I feel sorry for all the vegetarians and vegans of this planet travelling around. The only real problem I face is to get a banana with my free breakfast, which I usually give away to some other traveller.
Now, the other half of the time travelling, is usually spent in transportation. Nobody talks about the queues you have to face, the touts at the stations, the busy buses with no comforts, the lack of personal space at times, the problems faced at immigration (I get stopped and pulled out a lot lately), the issues with security, the nightmare to keep a carry on luggage when flying, the sweat when carrying the backpack under the sun, the times you unpack and pack your bag…. I could go on forever.
To have a fair idea. I move every 3 days more or less, depending where I am and what I am doing. Sometimes I have to change hostels during those days because they get full or they have bedbugs or a thousand other reasons. Which means I am unpacking and packing at least 4 times. It is exhausting.
Then, I have to look for accommodation for the next place I am visiting or try my luck whenever I get there, depending on the situation. This requires time and effort whether through internet or at my arrival just by walking around with the backpack on. I also have to check how am going to get wherever I am going to. Although I sometimes don’t do it at all and most of the times I just have a rough idea (this is: name of the destination, preferred mean of transport and any possible transit or change I need to make). So, in a typical journey there will be involved at least a way to get to the station, which I will walk to it if the distance is walkable (it saves money and add up some extra effort, although at times the effort will be equally required to bargain a fair price for the ride). There will be also a bus, train or plane involved, usually whatever is cheaper. At least one of these will be getting me to my destination, but sometimes I will need to transfer and change buses two and three times, with the hassle of avoiding touts, finding the right bus, paying attention on where to get off, taking the backpack out and in several times or going through another security screen for the eleventh time… And finally, once my destination is reached, I ONLY need to figure out where exactly I got dropped, see where I want to go or where my accommodation is or in the worse cases, find an area where there is accommodation and ask and bargain around. All these can be translated into getting the backpack again and carry it, or bargain a tuktuk or similar or finding out where the local bus that takes you close to somewhere in a cheap way is stopping…. Anything really.
It gets funny when you have to do this l at night and you don’t find accommodation or after spending the night in a bus/train/plane where you didn’t get much sleep at all and you were woken up by somebody or by a noise or by arriving to somewhere you don’t even know where… Then, you are cranky and all you want is to get to your place as soon as possible but oh! Wait! Your place turns out to be crowded with cockroaches. Or bedbugs. Or maybe you only can check in at 12pm or 2pm or whatever time they tell you to but, it is still 6am and you get to hang out without a bed to stay, sweaty, smelly, cranky and tired. And you might get some sleep at a sofa at reception if you are lucky, or on the floor of the common area or wherever you can until people at the hostel wake up and wake you up again. And you still have the balls to think hey, I am in a new place! Let’s get some breakfast and explore the city a bit. Because the excitement is not washed away.
It didn’t matter if on the way they tried to tricked you, or you were held and interrogated at immigration control or you only got 3 or 4 hours of solid sleep or you arrived hungry, or sick or dying-sick… It didn’t matter if you were starred by a bunch of men. If you were intimidated or annoyed or if you got a boyfriend and/or marriage proposal on the way. Once more, you arrived, you are at a new place with more stories to tell and more adventures to live. With more illusion and excitement but also with the uncertainty of what is going to happen next. And that is where the magic happens. Maybe it is exactly what makea it special, the fact that you had to put effort to get there, as if you were climbing a mountain and after effort and sweat, you get to enjoy the views.
Don’t I get tired of all that? Of course. And then I try to settle down for 5 days or a week or whatever time I find comfortable in a place I like. Or I lay down in a hostel and watch a movie and do nothing in the whole day because I need holidays from travelling. Of course I do get tired. I also get tired of saying goodbye to amazing people I met and got attached to. It is painful and afterwards I find myself melancholic, with no intention of becoming social again. But after a few days I get itchy feet again and I can’t wait to make a move. To explore, to experience, to live. It is the gypsy life, and all the way through I keep a smile on my face.