When planning a trip, we tend to only focus on the good times to come. We dream of beautiful sights and gorgeous weather, delicious meals and friendly people. While we’re daydreaming, we don’t want to think about the struggles we’ll face, even though they are also tied to the act of travelling.
Of course, whether we anticipate them or not, bad times will come. There will be awful weather and transportation delays. There will be language barriers and scams. If you’re travelling for long enough, there will be heartache and sorrow. They’re simply an unavoidable part of travel.
Maybe you’ll find yourself arriving somewhere in the pouring rain, only to realise that you can’t find your hotel and your phone is broken. Your bank card won’t work in any of the ATMs. You’ll be walking around hopelessly, desperate for food or shelter, but unable to find either without any money. With every corner you turn, you’ll feel increasingly frustrated, at loss for any sort of solution.
Maybe you’ll have missed your last bus, and will have to spend the night in the terminal. You’ll try to sleep on the cold, hard chair, doing your best to keep yourself warm as the temperature drops lower and lower. As soon as you start to drift to sleep despite your intense discomfort, an angry security guard will yell in your ear to wake you up, in a language you don’t understand, and the battle for sleep will begin again.
In that moment, you’ll wonder if it’s worth it.
Maybe you’ll arrive in a new city, your heart still aching for the person you just said goodbye to. You’ll be exhausted and sad from the night bus, and unwilling to deal with the people around you trying to sell you hotels, trinkets and tours. You’ll wander aimlessly for the next couple of days, hoping for a true connection. You’ll get nothing but catcalls and harassment in return, and you’ll feel too emotionally drained to do anything about it.
In that moment, you’ll want to go home.
But you shouldn’t.
Though those are moments that will make you want to kick and scream, they’re just as important as the good times that inspired you to travel in the first place.
A terrible experience helps you appreciate the good so much more. Just like you appreciate the view more after an arduous hike, you’ll appreciate your travel highs more if it took a bit of suffering to get you there.
Think of how comfortable a bed feels after a night on the bus, or how good it feels to be warm once you get out of the freezing rain. Think of how valuable a true friendship is after days of loneliness, or how free you’ll feel once there are no more plans to make, no decisions to take. Think of how much you’ll appreciate knowing a new language after all the blunders and miscommunication that brought you there.
Of course, think of how much additional confidence you’ll have after surviving it all! Your resilience and problem-solving skills will be tested, and you’ll only be tougher once you overcome all your challenges. There’s something special about having to deal with unpleasant situations when you’re already out of your comfort zone—it’s a lot more frustrating, but also a lot more rewarding.
You’ll learn from your mistakes and become a better traveller, one who plans a bit more wisely and reacts more instantly. You’ll know what to look out for and what to avoid. You’ll detect fault lines in your planning before you even hit the road. There’s no better teacher than failure.
Yes, there are travel moments you’ll absolutely despise. Those are the ones you need. No strong spirit was built exclusively on happiness and ease. Travel is just as much about challenge and frustration as it is about fun and relaxation. It’s all these little struggles that will shape you, that will allow your trip to turn you into a better and stronger person. When you finally go home, you’ll be much prouder of who you’ve become.
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With the tiniest bit of distance, your frustration and discomfort will fade away. You’ll be left with a story to laugh at, to wear as a badge of honour.
Don’t travel to escape life’s challenges; travel to embrace them. Travel to own them, to reap the rewards of having overcome them. Travel for the beach, and the 12-hour flight or bus ride that got you there. Travel for the ruins, and the thousand miscommunications it took to find them. Travel for the new friendships, and the tears you’ll shed when it’s time to say goodbye. It’s all part of the same package, and that package is the most beautiful gift you can give yourself.
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