Hate is a strong word, but it perfectly describes how psychotically bi-polar I can be on the subject of travelling full time.
My husband and I have been travelling the world since we met, almost 5 years ago. While the adventure has been the best time of my life, it’s also caused more breakdowns than I can count. It’s not all roses and frolicking like it can appear to be on Instagram. I can say with all honesty, the full-time travel lifestyle has it’s ups and downs like any other way of life. I don’t think there is any way to get rid of the tear welling, teeth clenching, hair pulling frustrations of life.
I have written many posts and blogs about why I LOVE the full-time travel lifestyle, but that’s only half the story. I wanted to expose the darker half of full-time travel, the side that makes me lose my mind and scream out: “I just want to go home!”
What I HATE About Full-Time Travel
Running Out Of Everything
This is going to sound like the snivelling of a privileged little ‘first world’ brat, but I don’t care. It’s truly one of the HARDEST things for me to deal with – running out of everything and never finding anything familiar to replace it with. Especially in South East Asia.
Yes, I am a minimalist and I have perfected living with less, but let me tell you, it makes the FEW things I have left in my life even more important.
Let’s just say in Vietnam I run out of my favorite conditioner that helps keep my naturally curly hair frizz-free in humid climates. Crap.
Okay well I can just order some on Amazon right? NOPE, doesn’t exist here.
Great, well maybe a local salon? NOPE, they barely stock anything above Head and Shoulders.
Can a friend ship me some? NOPE, that will be $387.45 in shipping costs.
Sure, I guess I will just go without. No big deal right? It’s just hair… maybe the frizzy electrocuted look suits me.
Then the same thing happens with my foundation, eyebrow pencil, face cream, toner, contact lenses, face wash, and I start to fall apart at the seams.
In some places in the world finding tampons is next to impossible. Or what about a razor with more than one blade? HAHAHAHAHA, oh don’t make me laugh!
Again, I’m sure there are worse problems in the world than some chick who runs out of everything she likes, but it’s still hard for me. It’s tough to not have the things that make me confident and that help me keep a positive self-care routine going. I start using cheap alternatives that make my skin break out with a rash, using razors that slice and dice my body, and shampoo I can’t read the label of that makes my hair brittle and damaged. It sucks dude. It takes the wind right out of my sails. And because we are always on the go, I can’t pack extras. So… I just learn to make concession after concession, making this surprisingly hard on my psyche.
I actually start to daydream about finding a Sephora somewhere, kind of like seeing mirage in a hot desert. I swear I can almost see the black and white stripes from a distance, but in reality it’s just a corrugated iron roof shack selling karaoke speakers. Dang.
Wrinkled, Dirty and Missing Clothes
If you don’t like smelly, wrinkled, stained and damaged clothing spewing out of your overpacked suitcase, then you won’t like long-term travel. It’s a constant struggle of trying to de-wrinkle, clean and keep tabs on my clothes, many of them being my favorite items.
I spend 80% of my travel life in different hotels, most of which have a jaw-dropping fee for laundry. Really, it’s going to be $22 to wash this dress? Yeah I will just do it in the sink with some cheap hotel bar soap or trust the weird guy in the alley that will wash my entire wardrobe for $5.
So I either spend my entire day trying to blow dry my jeans with a tiny wall mounted hotel blow-dryer, or I DO go to the dodgy alley guy and half my clothes go missing, strangely most of my panties.
After half of my clothes go missing or are ruined beyond repair (I’ve not yet found a way to make dramatically shrunken clothes a fashion trend) I just stop washing them all together and end up smelling like a troll under a bridge.
I guess a benefit of going through these clothing woes is I have essentially broken any emotional attachment to any outfit I own. I am 99.9% certain it’s going to get ruined, stolen or stained beyond repair anyway.
I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to anyone I’ve met during my travels for the way I smelled.
Decision Making Fatigue
Back at home in Canada, Trevor and I would play everyone couples favorite game “I don’t know, what do you feel like eating?” a few times a week. Now that we are travelling full time, we get to play it three times a day! Oh the fun we have.
Some days I feel like I’m living back in the hunter-gatherer days. I have to set aside time each day to source and collect food, usually expending more energy to get the food than it gives me.
Again, living in hotels seems like it would be convenient to get food, until I see the prices! I wouldn’t pay $45 for a room service breakfast if it was my last meal. So instead I find a place roughly 4km away that has cheap and high rated food, lace up my sneakers, and rack up 10,000 steps getting lunch. Sounds like it would be a great way to get exercise and eat at the same time, until you do it non-stop. It’s not good for productivity, nor my sanity. There are moments when I want to close my TripAdvisor account and throw my phone out the window from trying to find good places to eat in a new city. It’s fun for about 3 days and then it’s the biggest pain in my ass. How am I supposed to get any work done when I am constantly getting lost in new cities, just trying to find some quinoa salad?
Add in the struggles of a husband who just wants to eat steaks and burgers all the time when I am trying to find healthy options. Get the divorce papers ready folks.
That is just the daily decisions about where to eat, let alone the others that are constantly plaguing my mind:
“Where are we living next week?” “Did my Visa for entering this country come in on time?” “Where can I find ‘xyz’ that I desperately need?” “Do we have enough potable water to get through the day and not die of dehydration?”
It’s a non-stop onslaught of critical decisions that need to be made on a constant basis, some of which are actually serious, like safety issues. There are times when I want to curl up into a ball and just have someone tell me what I am doing next.
I get asked all the time “Do you ever miss having a house, a salary job and a normal life?”. Usually my gut reaction is to say NO, but sometimes I get stuck day-dreaming about how deliciously comfortable that all sounds, and I foam at the mouth and whisper “omg yesssss”.
Travelling full time means being uncomfortable full time. My surrounding are constantly changing day to day. New beds to sleep in, new cities to figure out, new foods to try and digest, new cultures to learn before making a major faux pas. It’s always uncomfortable. There might be tiny little moments of comfort, but nothing as comfortable as the kind of routine and familiarity ‘home’ can give me.
Uncomfortable has become my new norm, but it still feels…well… super uncomfortable. Every day I am finding myself in new situations, in new countries, with new rules and laws, new climates, and new routines. Then I sprinkle in a little extra discomfort with things like delayed flights, missing baggage, sketchy health clinic visits and taking a wrong turn into the dangerous part of town. Even accommodation can be uncomfortable. like a bed so hard it feels like a concrete torture device, or a room so filled with mosquitos I swear I’m leaving with malaria.
Things you didn’t even know could be uncomfortable become weird. Like food. It all looks so good and wonderful until you get food poisoning and you can’t quite figure out from where. So you stay away from all your favorite places to eat and just have Lay’s regular chips for each meal until your Salmonela-PTSD subsides.
Not Having A Routine
Unless I have decided to unpack my bag and stay somewhere for more than a few months, a daily routine is impossible to execute. I would have a better chance of learning Japanese than I would at having a productive routine while travelling. I envy my friends who are posting about their amazing self-care morning routines, complete with bulletproof coffee, meditation and gym. I haven’t even seen a gym that didn’t have rusted out machines or wasn’t outside in the 30°C heat in 6 months.
My daily routine usually gets formed around where I have to be, what time checkout is, when the next flight is, or what supplies I have to scavenge for next. I legit fantasize about having some sort of normal to-do list or familiar daily routine. We recently moved into a house in Vietnam for a 2 month stay (yay!) and my heart exploded when I found out it has a washing machine and I could do my own laundry on a regular basis. This is what my life has become, getting off on the idea of having some daily chores.
What a double edge sword. As a travel blogger, I need to actually TRAVEL and experience new destinations so I can write about them. The problem is, sometimes I get so burnt out by the travelling process that all I want to do is eat some microwavable ramen noodles in a hotel bed and cry. Not really the best working environment.
On the flip side, sometimes I am having so much dang fun just being a tourist that I completely forget I should be documenting and recording the things I am doing. I’m like a kid at Disneyland just running around all googly-eyed, shoving gelato in my face and queuing up at attractions, avoiding anything that resembles my actual job.
I think that travelling the world and being productive cannot co-exist in the same sentence. This is why I am trying a new system of working for 3 weeks, exploring for 1. However, this means I can really only travel to a new place once a month, maybe twice, for that formula to be effective. It’s turned my “Let’s go everywhere!” Bucket-list dreams into more of “Let’s find a few new places to go, but only once in a while” kind of deal.
Missing Out Back Home
To any of my friends and family who might be reading this, I’m sorry I can be a crappy friend! I miss your birthdays, anniversaries, new babies, engagements and seeing your exciting new chapters first hand. I watch it all online and give you a virtual high-five, but I’m not there in person and that sucks. The only consolation I can offer you is this- I will be your personal tour guide if you come visit me in some exotic location on the other side of the world and can offer you a place to stay. I’m also available on video chat no matter what corner of the earth I’m in, so let’s call each other more often!
I am always craving a girls night with the squad or spending face time with the fam, even the crazy ones!
All joking aside -missing out on life back ‘home’ does suck and it can be depressing from time to time. I get these waves of guilt and FOMO type feelings that can really be overwhelming. I never want to live in regret about time I didn’t get to spend with someone I care about.
Alright, I don’t ‘hate’ them, but wow I never realized how annoying our kind can be!
Let me give you an example:
Right now we are slow travelling in the beautiful and ultra picturesque village of Hoi An, Vietnam. Each day, in order to head out for food and supplies, we have to cross this famous bridge and each day there are 484020834684 tourists all trying to get the same shot. If we stopped to allow them to take the photo before crossing in front of them, we would NEVER get anywhere. A quick ‘walk to lunch’ would become 10 hours of trying to avoid being in photos.
I am whacked in the head with selfie sticks, asked to be an impromptu photographer for their photo, or just barred from going on my merry way until they have their shot. It makes me realize how ridiculous this all is. I watch people climb over each other like crabs in a bucket, all trying to get the same shot, of which they will likely never look at again once it’s posted. I’m just trying to cross the bridge…it’s pandemonium.
I also overhear tourists losing their cool with locals, being rude to servers and belittling workers. I cannot believe how rude some tourists can be. I really lose my cool when I watch someone consciously throw a styrofoam container into a river, without even blinking. I want to karate-chop that loser right in the throat.
Putting up with careless and inconsiderate tourists is an endlessly frustrating part of full time travel.
I’m equally talking about the waste I am making, as well as the garbage I see all around me. Tourism creates a ton of pollution and it sucks knowing I am a big part of it. It’s something I have been consciously working on for a year now, but I know I still have a FAR way to go. Some days I am revolted with myself seeing how much waste I create and how much of it cannot be recycled. 90% of the hotels I have stayed in worldwide have NO recycling bins. They just take your bottles, cans and plastic containers and put them in the garbage with everything else. They don’t give you another option. You can’t even take the plastic with you to somewhere else outside the property, as no bins exist outside either.
I find myself chucking tiny single use shampoo bottles in the garbage, feeling myself lose 100 karma points each time.
Living in one place makes it much easier to adopt a zero waste lifestyle, but being on the road creates more trash than I could have ever imagined. I am making plastic-free swaps in my travel beauty regime and learning more about how to lower my footprint.
Not Feeling Well
When you’re under the weather and feeling sick, what do you do? Put on your comfiest bag-lady outfit, grab your fav blankie and curl up on your couch, binge watching classic movies all day. Your mom or significant other gets you the familiar medicines you need and serves you nostalgic chicken noodle soup with ginger ale. You feel like hell, but you couldn’t be any more safe and secure than you are in your little cold cocoon. Am I right?
Getting sick while travelling looks a little different. First off, in many less developed counties, cold medicine is a myth. Day and night combo pack? In my dreams! Some lady at a corner stall will whip me up some garlic, ginger and ‘unidentified’ molasses to chug, but that’s about all I’m getting. I have so much fun trying to find Kleenex that is over 1/2 ply. Oh and that movie I want to watch? The hotel’s WiFi isn’t strong enough to stream Netflix, so I’m stuck watching weird kung-fu movies with no subtitles until I pass out from my fever. I just want my mommy!
Wow, writing this post was much more effective than seeing a therapist, as I feel better already!
I know much of what I said was sarcastic, but I truly want everyone to know that my full-time travel life isn’t all jet setting into the sunset, and that’s OKAY. How do we truly know the good unless we experience the bad? Perspective, awareness and gratitude are the lessons that I take out of every stumbling block I come across.
I still stand by my decision to sell my house, 90% of my things, and travel the world with hubby. The wonderful things we experience travelling together far outweigh any of the negatives I ranted about above.
Having said that, I have changed my opinion on long-term, continuous travel. I think I am going to make some tweaks to the way I travel to minimize these negative sides and get me back to the real magic of adventure. Meeting new people, learning new languages, experiencing new cultures and making unforgettable memories. This is what I want more of, not worrying about small inconveniences that eventually lead to big burnout.
Cheers to another year of new adventures!
Trevor’s Personal Entry: Letting It Out In Vietnam
Living as a Nomad – How To Prepare For Full Time Travel
Slow Travel – Why We’ll Never Count Countries
How To Stay Fit and Healthy While Traveling
Thursday 30th of May 2019
Good read, can absolutely relate although I haven't had clothes go missing or get damaged, luckily. I usually only have 1-2 of any item so that could be disastrous. Also a great excuse to get something local though! Truly shocked to read that you travel with jeans! They take so long to dry! One tactic I use is to detour through a bigger city where I might find those hard to find items. I found a camera lens in Lhasa to replace one that broke (literally), for example. even there though I didn't see a lot of toiletry selection.
Sunday 3rd of March 2019
In vietnam right now and have run out of no-poo shampoo (I just use really cheap conditioner that has no cones) and assumed it can't be that hard to find cheap 'cone-less conditioner out here :|
Sporting the electrocuted look for now.
Saturday 2nd of March 2019
I really enjoyed reading this! We have been traveling full-time for several years now as well, and lately I've just been feeling so tired - for many of the reasons you listed above. Sometimes, a home base to travel out of sounds reeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaal nice.
Saturday 2nd of March 2019
Although I don't travel full time this was a awesome read. Never saw full time traveling this way. Don't think I would be able to do it since I really love working at a steady job and also love being around family and friends. But kudos to you for doing this for 5 years with your husband. Very nice.
Saturday 2nd of March 2019
This is a good read! As much as I love to travel, I definitely don't think I'm cut out for it full time! I like going to the gym, cooking food, and I like my job! Thanks for your honesty!