I’m currently bed-bound in Vientiane; I’m experiencing possibly the worst flare up of Crohn’s disease I’ve ever had in my life and it’s transforming me into a little bit of a negative Nancy. When you’re ill you naturally feel sorry for yourself and it amplifies all of your issues, so I’ll say it- I’m HATING travelling right now. There, I said it and boy does it feel good to get it off my chest. I realise it’s just a phase, I’m poorly and nobody feels good when they’re ill and I know when I’m feeling better (please god let it be soon) I’ll be bouncing off the walls as usual, reeling for the next destination. But for now I’m sick and tired of everything. I want you all to know that backpacking isn’t the glamorous, amazing, easy life you see on Instagram pages- it’s often hard work and boy does it sometimes have its downsides.
I love travelling and I’ve worked my bum off to get here, so please don’t think I’m being ungrateful as I truly adore my life. BUT…for anybody thinking of backpacking, I want to give you the bigger picture because no matter how worth it this life may be, it’s not always hunky dory and some days are a struggle to get through (like the past week for me-Crohn’s you are KILLING ME!).
1. Getting ill
You are bound to be poorly at some point during your time travelling; whether it be Bangkok belly, a cold or something more serious, I hate to break it to you but it happens to all of us. Being ill whilst travelling has to be THE WORST thing ever; you may have to get on a plane or a bus and most of the time your travel plans can’t stop because you’re feeling under the weather- as much as you may want them to. Make sure you carry some form of medication or better yet a small first aid kit with you at all times. Things like; immodium, paracetamol and plasters can go a long way if you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere with no pharmacy for miles. If you have a chronic condition like me, then make sure you’re always prepared for the worst-not like me. I think I’ve now learnt my lesson and will always have proper medication and food that my stomach can actually digest with me. Seriously learn from my mistakes on this one because being ill in 40 degree heat is no fun.
2. Staying in hostels
Hostels can be a great place to meet friends and socialise with new people; they’re also the cheapest places to get a night’s sleep. However, sleeping in dorm rooms can get old quite quickly. It’s impossible to ever spend time alone, you always have to share a bathroom (not good for someone with my condition), you never get any peace and quiet and you’re forced to socialise with people- even when you don’t want to. There are some really good hostels out there, ones where you get your own plug, a shelf, a curtain around your bed and a night light (thrilling stuff right?), but there are also some downright disgusting ones. I’ve seen cockroach infested bathrooms, leaking toilets, 1 plug socket in a 20 bed dorm, 1 fan in a 20 bed dorm-or no fan at all and moldy smelly rooms. It can get pretty tiring. But, like I said they’re 100% worth it to keep costs down and I guess you get what you pay for.
3. Living out of a backpack
Smelly, creased clothes are what you will be wearing 99% of the time and there’s not a great deal you can do about it. Living our of a backpack means that you’ll have a limited choice of clothes you can wear, an eternal sense of regret of ‘why didn’t I pack x,y, or z?’ and of course the effort of actually carrying your home around like a turtle.
4. Having a budget
Having a strict budget it HARD WORK. No we can’t afford to go to that nice restaurant, no we can’t stay in a room with air con, no we can’t afford to fly to the next destination is really only half of the issue. Having a budget as tight as ours goes as far as; no we can’t afford laundry-wash your clothes in the sink, your clothes hang off you because we can’t afford to eat a lot? Too bad we can’t get more. Sometimes all I want to do is go shopping, eat at an expensive place, go to the cinema and live like a normal person. But then I remember that my life is worth it so I grit my teeth and battle on.
5. Travelling with a partner
Joe and I are practically the same person; it’s almost too sickly sweet to handle. We want to do the same things, go to the same places, eat the same food…9 times out of ten. It’s the 1 time out of 10 when things get hard. Fighting (or ‘compromising’) over decisions can get really tedious and tiring and often results in nobody getting what they want. Joe and I lived together for nearly 5 years prior to this trip so we know we can handle each other; make sure you’re 100000% sure of your travel partner before you get on a plane because honestly, it is going to test you.
6. No escaping the heat
If you’re planning on travelling tropical countries there is absolutely no way to prepare for just how hot you’re going to get. I know the heat can seem really tempting when you’re in the cold, drizzly England Winter (and sometimes Summer) but the heat here can get really unbearable. Much of the time, air con is simply not in our price range and there is really no way to escape the heat. It’s boiling hot in your dorm, boiling hot in common areas, outside and it doesn’t feel good to sweat 24/7. Your best bet is to find a cheap coffee shop with air con, buy a drink and sit there alllllll day. I know it doesn’t sound like a very cultured day, but when it’s this hot, if you step foot outside you will melt.
7. Actually travelling
Travelling is my arch nemesis, I find it impossible to entertain myself. There’s nothing I hate more than getting on a long haul plane, bus, train or boat (they’re the worst), I find it really hard to sit still for too long and I basically just get really really bored. If you’re like me then make sure you have things to entertain yourself, I have; a kindle jam packed with books, films and TV shows on my phone, albums to listen to and of course I have Joe to annoy.
I’m just going to put it out there…I’m SICK of eating crappy Asian food. I love cooking and I miss preparing my own foods, I’m also a fitness freak so I like to see exactly what is going in my mouth- which is nearly impossible to do here. We have little money so street food is mainly what we eat, which is delicious most of the time-if not greasy, fried and smothered in MSG.
9. Being a ‘Farang’
One of my favourite things about backpacking is experiencing other cultures and sometimes you feel like a newborn baby- you have to learn to do everything because it’s so different to what you’re used to. Having said that, much like a double edged sword it can also be one of the toughest parts of this experience. Sometimes you just want to do what you know but it’s hard to do that when you’re half way around the world. It can be exhausting to constantly think about your behaviour and actions as it can be really easy to offend other cultures. It can be tiring being the only white person in a place too, you get looked at like you’re a zoo animal.
10. Not being home
I miss my family. I don’t really get that home sick but I do miss my mum more than anything. I miss talking to her everyday, having lunch dates and her generally just being there. I also miss having the creature comforts that home provide you.
I know most of you will be thinking; you’ve only been out a couple of months get a grip. But like I said, I’m poorly and am in a Negative Nancy mood. Plus, despite the above ten factors, I wouldn’t change anything for the world I am having the best time of my life. I don’t want to fool anyone though, travelling can sometimes be hard; so next time you’re scrolling through somebodies social media feed, be it mine or another travel blogger just think that life isn’t always as peachy as it seems.
PS. I’ll make sure to post the 10 best things about travelling as soon as I’m out of my black hole of despair and can actually think straight.