When you're stuck in your humdrum life — doing your routine, thinking things like "come on, Hump Day!" — traveling can seem like the answer to all your beige colored prayers. A little Moroccan sun, a little romantic Parisian rain, a couple of glasses of wine underneath an Italian night, and you'll rediscover what it means to love life.
But you're forgetting one crucial thing: Traveling pretty much sucks. It's luggage fees and sweaty undershirts. It's getting on the wrong buses and showering underneath cold water. It's unpredictable, messy, and way more frustrating than a Pinterest quote scrawled over a pink-tinted mountain-scape leads you to believe. Before you run off to buy your next plane ticket outta here, let's go over all the times travel isn't like a Pinterest quote:
1. When It's Just You At The Corner Of The Bar
I'll admit, there are times where traveling alone is all kinds of romantic. It's just you, a map, and a Woody Allen-esque montage that has you looking through the scratched plexi-glass of a night train. One moment you're enjoying an espresso at a tiny table with your tiny cup, feeling content with your thoughts and the tickets in your wallet, and the next you're drinking hot tea out of a Styrofoam cup as you stand on a bridge and look out at a river you've only become acquainted with in textbooks and daydreams.
And that's all very good and true – until you find yourself in those down-times, where the montage takes a break and everything comes out of the romantic black-and-white tint and it's just you sitting in the corner booth of a bar, eating the last of your chips, wondering what the hell you should do with the rest of your day. You've already seen everything you wanted to see, you've already eaten dinner, and you feel lonely for company. But it's just you.
And so you take out your book, ready to re-read it for a second time, wondering what you're missing in the newest season of Bob's Burgers. Deep, sobering thoughts, guys.
2. There Will Be Moments Where You'll Be Tempted To Leave Your Suitcase At The Bus Station
You always overpack. There isn't a time where you don't overpack – whether you brought one sweater too many or decided to pack a velvet evening dress for god knows what – your suitcase will always be a little too full. And there will be moments where you'll be packing and unpacking and repacking it over and over and over.
That's when you start leaving sweaters behind at hostels. And throwing bras into bathroom garbage cans. And kicking that extra pair of shoes under the bed and out of your life. Because an empty suitcase is a happy suitcase and who cares what you wear anymore.
3. You'll Miss A Train And You Won't Find The Silver Lining In It
Whether it's because you got the times wrong or your bus got stuck in traffic or you didn't think to buy a ticket ahead of time, there'll be times where you'll be standing in the middle of a train station – people bustling around you, going to somewhere new and exciting or full of home – and you'll be in the middle of it all scowling and wondering what your next move should be: Crumple to the floor with rage, or go and find a bed (and a beer) for the night?
Bonus points if you're in a small town in the middle of who-knows-where and they don't do tourists or hostel rooms. Say hello to ancient cots and a chair underneath your doorknob as an acting lock. Like I said...you've got to squint to find the silver-lining in this one.
4. You'll Get Tired Of Being Swindled
Whether it's hopping into a cab that didn't turn on its meter, or a friendly guy on the corner helping you with directions only to lead you into his suit-making business down the street, there are going to be moments where you'll think the whole world is made out of swindlers and cheats.
Little old ladies will charge you triple for their sandwiches, your bag will get pick-pocketed while you're standing in the middle of a piazza and too busy being dazzled by history to notice, and cheeky little kids will ask you to buy them bags of rice more expensive than a Whole Foods in New York would charge. Have faith, you'll think. There are plenty of beautiful people in this world.
But none of them seem to be in this 20-mile radius.
5. Laundry Will Sometimes Be Impossible
You're pretty sure the last hostel washed your laundry load with nothing but hand sanitizer, your airbnb host is acting weird about sharing his softner with you, and the nearest laundromat is a whole bus ride away, all of which will make your hygiene level hit that of a high school boy's. This will consequently make you wear the same pair of socks well into a week, and have you imagining a black dust cloud trailing around you a la Pig-Pen from Peanuts. It'll be gross, and you'll be uncomfortable, and you'll miss your washing machine back home more than your mom. But it's either that or you go wash your stuff in the town square's fountain.
...Which, let's be honest, might be a viable option pretty soon.
6. Sometimes Roommates Will Be Total Arses
Whether it's a guy that hasn't washed his towel well into a month and made your bathroom smell like the stuff of dark nightmares, or you have a guy that sits all serial-killer-still in the bunk bed beneath you, sometimes you're going to have people sleeping an arm's length away from you that you'd rather not. And it's going to make you lie there, in your rickety bunk bed, thinking of your 600-thread count sheets at home and how you could maybe use your bobby-pin as a weapon if the time comes.
7. Sometimes Being Lost Has Zero Romance In It
All who wander aren't lost...and some that do are on the brink of a total panic attack. Sometimes you'll be walking home down a pitch black street at too late in the night and realize you forgot where your apartment was. Bonus points if they all look the same and you saw something move behind a mailbox. Other times you'll take a wrong turn about an hour back, and have no idea how to get back on the highway you were supposed to be on in the first place. This will make you want to keep driving straight until you can veer your car off a cliff because screw-this-this-is-stressful. Other times you'll be in a neighborhood you've always wanted to be in, only to find you have no idea what to do. Or see. Or eat. Or visit. And you'll want to sit on a curb and frustratedly stare at your hands, thinking of what your friends are up to back at home.
8. The Journey Sucks. There, I Said It.
You know the saying, “It's not the destination, it's the journey?” Let's talk about the journey, shall we? The 14 hours stuffed into the middle seat of a plane that serves microwaved chicken and peas during dinner, the 10-hour night bus ride that doesn't have reclining seats and seems to be made out of chicken wire and ill-wishes, the endless train ride with your bunk dangerously close to the industrial-strength ceiling fan, the missed buses, the shady train stations, the I'm-sorry-your-bag-is-too-heavy tummy sinks, the toddler kicking the living shit out of your seat like it owed him money, the woman discreetly barfing into a bag at the back of your bus, the taxi driver that thinks he's the villain in a John Travolta movie and careens through traffic like both of you had lost the will to live, the random trucks you jump into because screw it you're stranded otherwise....the journey, people. The journey is what it's all about.
As you can see, 85% of the time traveling straight-up sucks. Bags get lost, night buses become your new homes, you're in a constant state of making the next installment of the Taken franchise...but when you find yourself drinking Portuguese wine on rooftops with new friends you won't see again come tomorrow, or standing on the balcony of a half-century old library, or watching the sun break over the tops of trees like a Turner painting, it all becomes worth it.
It always does. It always is.