The Other Part Of Travelling A Traveller Won’t Tell You About…

I recently read an article titled The Hardest Part Of Traveling No One Talks AboutIn the article, the author discusses the anxiety many travelers feel upon returning home. She rightfully points out that the sensation of feeling like a stranger despite being surrounded by familiar faces and sights, of not being understood, can be a deeply unsettling experience.

It is, she argues, the reason behind the infamous travel-bug, and why many of us itch to leave again the moment we have set foot at home.

What I found as intriguing as the original article though, were the scores of sharp comments directed at the author posted by both ex-travelers and those who have never dared to leave their shores of safety.

They accused her of being self-centered and ungrateful of the privilege she had been granted; not all of us can afford to travel, some said. I read them and strangely, despite understanding where the author came from and appreciate the fact that she had decided to open up about her feelings, I found myself agreeing with some of those same commentators who, blatantly, threw her under the wheels of their sarcasm and criticism.

And here is why;

Traveling is just not what it used to be!

These days you can jump online from the comfort of your bed -while munching on a bowl of cereal and occasionally dropping a spoonful on your T-shirt without anyone seeing- and book a flight to pretty much any destination in the world; Nepal, Madagascar, Iceland. You name it!

You fly there shedding tears on the latest Hollywood drama, and when you land, you realize that even such far-flung places have already been colonized by other travelers before you. There are internet-cafes and burger joints and the tacky 3-days-2-nights wilderness tours advertised on every wall.


Travelling 1
Not all travel is glamorous. Our group was beaten but not defeated on the way to Machu Picchu

Of course, there are moments that change you; but they don’t come easily.

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comforts of home and friends.”
– Cesare Pavese

And he is right. To some extent. Travelling can be a brutality, at least to start with. I woke up one morning in Antananarivo, Madagascar, as far from everyone and everything I knew as I had ever been, and there was a moment just then when I was incredibly scared and impossibly thrilled both at once. I had so much to learn, so many obstacles to overcome in that strange land, yet I felt OKAY knowing that I had nothing to prove to anyone. I felt porous, completely exposed, and open to possibilities. Unlike home, I had nobody to lean on, nobody to criticise me, nobody to ask questions.

And that was when I realized that vulnerability and strength are the two sides of the same coin.
Lessons like that are hard to learn anywhere else but on the road.

Yet the truth that many travelers do not want to admit to is that such moments of revelation are not as frequent as most of us would like to believe. No matter where or how far we go, routines have a way of creeping back into our lives. The sights that used to blow us away a few months earlier become the norm; Oh, there is another glacier, another waterfall. Sometimes, the more we travel, the less we see. Our hostel conversations turn into the mundane. Instead of getting to know each other and our dreams, we begin comparing the countries we’ve been to, the hikes we have done, the price of the cheapest meals we have found. And amidst haggling for the price of taxi rides and the routine of planning every day, the magic of travelling vanishes slowly.


Travelling 2
When all you have to guide you to Machu Picchu is this hand-drawn map. The scale not accurate

Sometimes, we think of ourselves as trailblazers; even if deep down we know that even the most remote place we visited had Wi-Fi. Sometimes we go home and it feels like nothing has changed. So we expect everyone to listen to our incredible stories without listening to the stories of those who stayed put. Sometimes we like to think we are the ones who have experienced the world and pity those who never left home. But do not judge us. I guess sometimes some of us -like me- need to reassure ourselves that traveling does do us good after all; that we aren’t falling behind everyone else we left behind.

I know. I know that we must learn to listen more, not only to those we meet in foreign lands but also to those at home. I know we must be more grateful for the things we have seen; the memories we have gathered. I know we must be humbler, demand less attention. I know we sometimes forget that the challenge is not to climb Everest, but rather to climb it and not tell everyone about it…
But do not judge us.

Traveller 4
Sharing profound moments with complete strangers

Do not judge us for not falling in line with the rest of society. Please remember that our restlessness – be it a gift or a curse–, is an expensive love affair with no permanent cure. Remember that we all took the leap of fate, without knowing what awaited us on the other side. We sacrifice our friends, our relationships, our homes and our 401K plans in pursuit of something we cannot quite define, but we know exists somewhere out there.

Please do not judge us for choosing this path, for we may not know exactly where we are going, but then again; “not all those who wander are lost…”.

11 thoughts on “The Other Part Of Travelling A Traveller Won’t Tell You About…

  1. A well-written and thought-provoking response to the mentioned article. Traveling may not be anything like it was back in the days of explorers, but that doesn’t make it any less impactful. When you travel to new places, you are forced to be more present in your actions and decision-making. You can’t fall back into a routine and follow old habits. For people that tend to ‘live inside their heads’, traveling allows them the necessary motivation to live in the moment and be aware of your surroundings. Almost everything is new around you, so you are similar to an infant who is absorbing all this information coming at them. When you put yourself in situations like that, it allows for life-changing experiences to occur and memories that you will remember for life. The key is to foster that inner curiosity and keep questioning new things around you.


    1. Thanks for taking the time to read this article Dick.
      You have raised a very good point; a good traveller manages to keep alive that light of inner curiosity. And as we seek the answers to satisfy that curiosity, we will learn things that we must allow to change us on the inside, rather than asking others to validate and comment on those changes in us.


  2. There are places without wifi, or even electricity, but they are a shock when you stumble upon them. I took a trip from the upper Irawaddy down to Mandalay for a week on local riverboats, and we spent the nights in little villages along the way that went dark with the sunset. I’ll be on the Amazon next week and expect to stumble upon similar off the grid places. Travel is not all jet planes, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. But it is surely an addiction, or, more kindly, a way of life.


    1. I really appreciate you taking the time to read my article and leave a comment.
      You have a very valid point there; fortunately, there are still places in the world where you can get off the grid at least for a few days. I just did a river boat journey on the Amazon to Iquitos, in Peru, and felt somewhat detached from the normal world.
      As you said, travelling is a way of life, and can certainly change the way one views the world, but a good traveller wouldn’t assume that just because one travels, who has lived a fuller, more enlightening life.
      Save travels in Amazon! 🙂


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