You have been warned, this post is going to be a moan. Verging on a rant actually. Yes I am aware I am being negative with no need and all you people reading this during your lunch break back in blighty will no doubt be rolling your eyes and leaving me comments later, but… long term travel gets to you.
Generally speaking, travelling is amazing. It broadens your mind, widens your focus, helps you to find yourself, runaway from things, run towards other things, overcome fear, pain, anxiety, be on a permanent holiday… the list is never ending. But, it ain’t all palm trees, pina colada and partying.
1. Travel makes you fat. Well me anyway. And yes, that’s an exaggeration. I’m not fat but, I’m not happy with my weight. I reached a point whilst back home at the end of 2014 when I was unhappy with my weight so I did something about it. I started running 3 times a week, I did resistance exercises, I ate super healthy and cut down portion size. I made healthier food choices. All told I lost 1.5 stone (that’s just over 9.5kg). For the first time in a long time, I was happy with myself. This put me in a better place mental health wise as well.
In just over 4 months, I have put this all back on. I owe this to the fact that as a vegetarian in Asia, options are limited. Everything is fried. Plus there are so many delicious new goods to try I don’t want to limit myself. “It might be the only time I get to try a deep fried, battered banana with chocolate sauce!” I exclaimed the first time I discovered one. It wasn’t. Far from it.
I live a sedentary life apart from the odd trek, mostly sitting on buses, or mopeds, or beaches. I also made the conscious decision to leave my running shoes and sports bra at home asking “when would I ever run in Asia?!” The answer is a lot. Or I could have if properly equipped. I’ve been kicking myself ever since. Asia is giving me wobbly bits and I’m not happy.
2. Linked to the above, vegetarianism in Vietnam is DIFFICULT. Most of Asia has been slightly awkward but Vietnam exceeded the expectations of difficulty. Bread and egg for breakfast everyday and maybe lunch too, if you’re lucky you’re vegetable noodles won’t have beef bits in the broth but normally they do, fried rice or noodles for dinner again? Nice and varied.
3. Public transport is like some kind of torture. So far Cambodia has been the worst but I’ve heard horror stories from Laos so maybe the worst is yet to come… 6 hour journeys that turn into 10, 5 people and and baby crammed into seats made for 3 and rude awakenings at 3am whilst still 40k outside your destination.
4. Not being able to flush the toilet paper. Initially this is just an odd thing you have to get yourself used to, constantly cursing when you put more down the toilet accidentally for the third or fourth time that day. Then you get used to it and wonder how you’ll ever break the habit. But also wonder about all those germs, seething away in the bin in the corner of the room. And what about the germs on the bin, the one you have to touch to put your paper in. Let me tell you, when you’re accommodation is a budget cost, those bins are not emptied frequently enough.
5. Developing a lethargic apathy towards beautiful once in a lifetime surroundings . This one is my worst. Wandering around a beautiful citadel, or the ruins of an old temple or an incredible waterfall and thinking “god I’m tired, my feet hurt and when is lunch?”. This is a once in a lifetime and I’ve spent more days than I care to mention being apathetic towards certain beautiful monuments because it just gets tiring. Running from one must-visit location to the next. Sometimes you just need a travel rest day or three. These sights also become the norm and the majesty of the moment is somehow lost in translation then. I also talk about this more in my post about trying to appreciate the now. I’m still guilty of struggling with that.
6. Tourist tax. This is definitely a thing. Sometimes it bothers me more than others. I heard the expression from a fellow traveller the other day that we are like walking wallets to the people in Asia and although it sounds a little harsh, I suppose it is true. Out here, my meagre pay check that sees me struggle through a month in Bristol, will more than get me by for a long time. Out here I am rich and they probably need the money more than I do. But sometimes, constantly getting scammed, entrance fees being three times the price as they are for locals and having to bargain to get the cost for less than you would even pay back in England is tiring.
7. Missing home. Missing my awesome city, my family, my crazy group of friends. This year it seems shit got real. 3 sets of friends are getting married and another couple just announced their engagement (congratulations Ben and Daisy!). I’m missing the weddings. A large handful turn 30, I’m missing the birthdays.
Secret cinema (an incredible, immersive, interactive cinematic screening of cult classic films in the UK) are putting on 28 Days Later. As you can see from my bio, I am a zombie addict. This is one of my all time favourite films. I’m crushed.
Boomtown festival is the year of the revolution and I’ve not missed a Glastonbury since I was 14. I know I can’t moan, I’m having the time of my life and I don’t want to go home, I just don’t want to miss all this awesomeness too. Stupid, I know. You know something is great when you are in a country you’ve wanted to visit for ten years, climbing up a mountain with incredible views and all you can think is “fuck”.
8. Not being able to be there for people at home who are struggling. I love you, I miss you and I’m here for you even though we might be world’s apart xxx
9. Sanitation levels The aforementioned toilet paper, the litter, the open sewers running down the beaches to the ocean, the dirty dorm beds, the kitchens you wish you’d seen before ordering that delicious dinner.
10. Planning is stressful. . Now this one might get you the worst, that I am bemoaning the freedom to choose which tropical paradise location I wish to visit next but seriously, I find it overwhelming stressful. Too many possible options, friends in other cities, countries too big with not enough time, too much FOMO (fear of missing out). Having fun on your travels is directly hinged on where you go, when and who you meet. I live in constant fear of making the wrong decision and screwing myself over. I’ve wasted hours in cafes leafing through the bible (Lonely Planet) and contacting other buddies on the road… “should I skip this? Should I go here? Will you still be there then?” It might sound ridiculous but that’s when my anxiety is its worst. Vietnam was easy, you go either up the country or down the country. Boom, done, check. Now I’ve landed in Laos and I’d forgotten. I spent an afternoon yesterday perusing the bible and finding out how, where, when and why. In the end I still didn’t me any decisions so I am in Luang Prabang still!
11. Sometimes, and just sometimes, it makes my anxiety worse. Trying something new, eating street food and worrying about getting fed meat and having to cause a scene in front of the people you just met half an hour ago, worrying what this new person thinks of you, having to say goodbye to new best friends, entering a new country. Fear of the unknown is increased ten fold and sometimes I just want to book into a private room and hide under my duvet with the air con on full watching The Walking Dead online. I don’t allow myself but that means I’ve often picked my fingers to shreds, am at a heightened nervousness or need to consume alcohol to calm down.
Disclaimer: I actually love it and never want to come home. Dear home team, please all come out here and travel with me instead?