Here is an honest story.
As a travel writer, I have filed endless stories over six continents. All of them have been true stories, though perhaps you couldn’t say that they were completely honest. That is the writer part - my job is to create something that sparks your wanderlust, lights you up, propels you to take a chance and just go. I stand by those stories. I must admit, however, that the many downsides to travel won’t often make it past my fast draft.
What I find interesting is that when people learn what I do for a living, they are often curious to hear about the hidden side of travel writing, the truth behind the Instagram filters. That is what makes this article different: unfiltered and unedited. Here are my confessions, hard truths about travel. Hereafter, three reasons not to travel (and why you should definitely do it anyway).
You won’t have much money.
I get asked about this often. Surprisingly so, as it’s not something generally thought of as polite conversation. I guess the dreamier aspects of the job provoke this line of questioning: how much do you earn? Over time I have settled on an answer: enough.
Any wayfarer or globetrotter who has lived on the road will relate to my reply. After a full-fledged love affair with travel you wont be left with much money. Yet you will find that you always manage to have enough. Your priorities get shaken up with everything else that you carry in that little backpack as you trek, surf and navigate the globe. I have come to realise that I have always craved wonder. Once I made wonder a priority I rejected the grand narratives of consumerism. When you travel you go so far with a lot less money and a whole lot more of the important stuff.
It’s bad for your health.
Paulo Coelho said that
“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; it is lethal.”
In some sense, I have to disagree. When I travel I miss my healthy routines: my gym classes, therapy sessions and a pantry stocked with wholefoods. Yes, in some cases, I swap these things for of Delhi Belly, or potato chips because they are the only thing I can afford to buy on the plane.
But that’s not the whole story. We need to stop associating holidays with gluttony and excess. In truth, when we travel we taste test our way around the world. When you rediscover your sense of taste you can reestablish your relationship to food, one that is based on zest rather than guilt.
The things you see along the way may be breathtaking, but they don’t have to leave you breathless. Travel so often involves a hike, a yoga class, surfing or skiing. Travel can actually be a great opportunity to work on your fitness. Travel might take you a long way from your healthy routines but it can bring you closer to a healthy lifestyle.
It is hard to settle back in to ‘real life’
Homecoming: Two words stitched together with a thousand stories.
This one is perhaps the hardest truth to say. The first time that I returned home after a year abroad was a really painful process for me. It is a hurtful truth because I know it isn’t fair to my friends and especially my family. I still have so much love for them and my home, but it isn’t where the heart is.
It’s normal to call a year away a “Gap Year’. I don’t think it should be.
The word Gap evokes a void, an emptiness in between. When we call it a Gap Year we suggest that it is a break from the real world - a schism in life, growth and learning.
Some hidden truths: Education doesn't stop when we finish studying. Life doesn’t begin at graduation. Reality isn’t suspended when we travel.
There is so much more to this, so many nuances and half truths about travel that get lost in the Pinterest worthy quotes. I could wax lyrical about delayed flights and seasickness, or dedicate an ode to mosquito repellent. But that is not my job. A travel writer's job is to find words for the moments that leave you speechless.
The true story: there are so many reasons not to travel but there are so many more reasons to throw these to the wind. Just go.