The Hardest Part About Traveling No One Talks About

Recently I read an article about the “hardest part about traveling.”

Here’s a quote:

But the sad part is once you’ve done your obligatory visits for being away for a year; you’re sitting in your childhood bedroom and realize nothing has changed. […]

[P]art of you is screaming don’t you understand how much I have changed? And I don’t mean hair, weight, dress or anything else that has to do with appearance. I mean what’s going on inside of your head. The way your dreams have changed, they way you perceive people differently, the habits you’re happy you lost, the new things that are important to you. You want everyone to recognize this and you want to share and discuss it, but there’s no way to describe the way your spirit evolves. […]

You feel angry. You feel lost. You have moments where you feel like it wasn’t worth it because nothing has changed but then you feel like it’s the only thing you’ve done that is important because it changed everything. What is the solution to this side of traveling? It’s like learning a foreign language that no one around you speaks so there is no way to communicate to them how you really feel.

Boo hoo.

After awhile everything becomes boring. It’s part of being good at adapting. It’s not our fault, and it’s exactly why Buddhism is so hard to follow–it’s all about being pleased with our present existence.

I’ll admit, I understood the message of the article, even sympathized a little bit. Once the travel bug bites, it’s like herpes, never going completely away, flaring up hard every so often.

Hanging out with travelers is fun, and I always have a connection with a traveler that I don’t with the majority of people.  We are curious about the world. We have stories to share. There is a mutual respect. Waiting on my flight to Iceland I met a pretentious academic, post doctorate, who had no interest in my grad school degree but was legitimately impressed that I had been to Albania. Go to Myanmar, he said. Cambodia has already been ruined. Nepal is out of the question after the earthquake. It’s done.

Is that all Nepal and Cambodia are? Places for travelers that have no value after too many tourists come or a beautiful city has been destroyed? Unlikely. Still, I have to admit I have similar thoughts about places I’ve been. Better hurry off to Sarajevo before its overrun with British stag partiers.

The travel lifestyle is not real life, and I’m sure if I was on the travel route for too long (though admittedly I haven’t felt this yet) I’d get sick of traveling, of all the backpackers craving adventure. The truth is is that traveling is a decadent thing, and travelers always need to be aware of this truth.

The author says that coming home and having people not understand “how much I have changed” is that hardest part of traveling. How self-centered. That’s a side effect of traveling that’s easy to deal with. The hardest parts of traveling for me has been the suffering I’ve seen. Seeing wild-eyed 10 year olds huffing glue in Romania. Walking through a Roma camp and looking at naked children living in filth. Passing the Hungarian homeless seeking shelter in telephone booths in the dead of winter.

It’s then I remember that I lead an incredibly privileged life and still find myself unsatisfied. Boo hoo.

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Tirana, Albania — Photo by Josh de Kooker

3 thoughts on “The Hardest Part About Traveling No One Talks About

  1. Or watching people playing dice and shooting heroin two blocks from apartments where one room costs 75% of my monthly income. Hello San Francisco.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Culture Shock: The Psychology of Moving Abroad (and Back) | King of nowhere

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