People assume that when you’re traveling every day is kind of a paradise. And that’s fair, because it’s what we write about. We write about learning to paddle board, or having zip line adventures, or drinking with a seaside view. We post pictures of beautiful sunsets and new friends and swimming in the ocean.
But what about the days we don’t talk about? Travel is filled with incredible moments, but not every single day is all sunsets and waterfalls.
Can you travel the world on a very small budget? Absolutely! But not if you’re expecting to lay on a beach and drink margaritas non-stop. As a budget traveler, what you don’t spend in money you will make up for in time and energy. I consider this a fair trade, and most days it’s definitely worth it, but there are days when it doesn’t seem that way.
Even when you’re traveling, you’re still you. You still have bad days. You still get sick, or exhausted, or frustrated. Long-term travel is not just one big extended vacation; it’s a life that you’re living. And no life is perfect.
There are days where you get completely overwhelmed. Days when you want to scream “I just want some time to myself right now! Leave me alone to eat chocolate and read my book in peace!” but you can’t because you’re staying with a host and that means you have to be on your best behavior. Days where you seriously consider buying an over-priced plane ticket back home because all you want to do is sleep in your own bed and not have to pretend to be in a good mood.
Last week, I had one of those days. Or, I should say two.
First off, I woke up with GIANT bug bites all over my stomach. I mean, it looked like a mythical spider had laid a horde of poisonous eggs under my skin. It was roughly half the size of my palm and oozing. I won’t post a picture, just in case any of you feel like eating again. Ever.
I searched my tent high and low for the killer bug that had done this horrible thing, but my hunt turned up nothing. That meant that I would have to keep sleeping in a same tent with a monster insect on the loose.
Second, I was feeling really frustrated with the sheer amount of projects that keep getting added to my plate. While I can’t say enough good things about Workaway, sometimes not having any kind of a schedule in place is really hard to deal with.
There are days when I really need to crank out a post or do some social media. The to-do list for my website keeps growing exponentially, because there is just never enough time when you have to travel down a mountain to get a Wi-Fi signal. Not to mention that I’m trying to put together another website, assist with paddleboard tours and help people with their resumes (this is an increasingly popular request).
Third, we were trying to do a switch-over in the villa that my host rents out. (If you’re ever in Greece, seriously check out Villa Eleonorae because it really is stunning. It’s also booked at least a year in advance so get in early!)
Every Friday guests leave and new ones arrive, and in between we go down to help the cleaning lady a bit and grab some veggies out of the garden. Usually it goes pretty smoothly, but this week, one of the people staying there had been wearing some kind of sunblock with a self-tanner in it, and OMG…it was EVERYWHERE. On everything. On all the white bedding, all the towels, the pool chairs…
What should have been a simple load of laundry turned into hours of soaking and scrubbing and tons of wasted water (water is collected from the rain and used as sparingly as possible).
Then we ran out of gas on the way down the mountain, and had to walk to the nearest gas station. We were so flustered and hungry that we accidentally drove away without paying for the gas, so we had to drive back down the mountain and pay the lady. Oops.
The next day we went out on the paddle boards for an island-hopping excursion. Although we were out on the boards for about 6 hours and it was completely exhausting, we had some fun. We saw a school of jellyfish and some monk seals. I successfully navigated my board through 6 ft. swells and didn’t fall off once. We stopped and rested at a few cove beaches with huge rock archways towering over them.
And that’s where I made my first mistake of the day. When someone says to you, “hey, you want to reapply sunscreen?” the correct response is ALWAYS “good idea, I should do that.”
Never, never, never think that just because you don’t feel yourself burning you aren’t. I made a classic rookie error. “Nah, I want to get rid of these tan lines from my shorts.”
Holy mother of sunburn. Not only did ever muscle in my body ache by the time we got back but I felt like someone had taken a blow torch to my thighs. I just wanted to lay down in ice water and never get up again. Then I learned that we had just booked a paddle board lesson the next day…for 5 teenage girls.
At this point all I could think about doing was going to my tent, putting on sweatpants, and texting my favorite special person via WhatsApp. And…our stolen Wi-Fi signal was disabled.
I mean, come on, universe. Was that really necessary??
Maybe the universe knew what kind of a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day I was having. Maybe the Wi-Fi signal was gone because if it hadn’t been I might have booked a really expensive plane ticket back to Chicago right that moment.
I don’t mean to be complaining, because I never forget for a second how blessed I am to have this opportunity. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t rough patches.
So how do you deal with these feelings of “I just want to go home?”
1. Keep telling yourself that it’s just temporary. It WILL pass. When your (real or metaphorical) sunburn has subsided, it will fade into a nice tan, and you’ll go back to appreciating the awesomeness of the place that you’re in. (If it doesn’t and you stay stuck in your funk for weeks at a time, then it might be a sign that you really do need to go home. You’re not a failure, and there’s no shame in this. “No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang)
2. Take some time for yourself. It can be really hard to find “me time” on the road, even as a solo traveler. Especially for introverts like myself, we need our time to recharge. I don’t ever want to offend someone by saying I need to go do my own thing for a while, but sometimes it’s necessary to maintain your sanity. As long as you’re not leaving other people to do your workload (if you have one) go ahead and go off by yourself for a while.
3. Think of something that reminds you of home and do that. It might be a simple thing like going to Starbucks and ordering your favorite drink. Or forgoing local street food for one meal and getting McDonalds. Or teaching new friends a ritual you do with your friends at home. It’s okay. You’re not less of a traveler for wanting to feel like you’re back home for an hour.
4. Talk about something you love. When I was out on the paddle boards and feeling like my arms were going to fall off, I was getting really discouraged. I started talking about river kayaking, and the differences and similarities, and how I want to take the same whitewater course that my dad has taken someday. It took me back to some really happy moments and I felt re-energized. Tell people a story about your childhood dog, or your favorite high school memory. You’ll be amazed how this simple thing can boost your mood.
5. Give yourself a break. We all want to be positive all the time, but come on. This is reality and everyone has crappy days sometimes. Even while traveling through paradise. Let yourself have a bad day (just don’t take it out on others). Getting down on yourself for feeling bad because you’re not “appreciating every moment” is only going to make it worse. Acknowledge your feelings, give yourself some time to feel them, and then move on.
Bonus Tip: Write it down! Sit down and scribble out every single grievance you have (or put it into a 1,500 word blog post…) and you’ll feel instantly lighter. Write it down and let it go. 🙂
Even in paradise, you will have bad days, but they won’t last. Keep your head up, and offer support to any fellow travelers going through a rough patch!
What are some tips or tricks you have for dealing with the bad days on the road? Do you occasionally get the “I just want to go home” feeling? How do you deal with it?